2013 Lexus GS 450h
2013 Lexus GS 450h. Click image to enlarge

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Review and interior photos by Paul Williams; exterior images courtesy Lexus

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2013 Lexus GS 450h

Carmel, California – You may be surprised to know that 2011 Canadian Lexus hybrid sales were up 26.5 percent from 2010, with hybrids representing almost one in five Lexus vehicles sold in this country. Clearly, hybrids are losing their status as “niche” vehicles.

At the recent 2013 Lexus GS press introduction in California, there were really two GS models presented. The conventional gasoline-powered GS 350 vehicles in rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions will make up the bulk of GS sales, but the hybrid version—the GS 450h—had enough unique features to warrant a full examination in its own right.

With the theme of this Lexus event focused on the brand’s new commitment to both luxury and performance, you might think that a hybrid version would fall short on power and handling. After all, with hybrids, fuel economy typically trumps power.

However, in comparison with the gasoline-powered GS 350 models, the rear-wheel-drive-only 2013 Lexus GS 450h is the fastest GS off the line, with a stated 0–100 km/h time of 5.4 seconds. This is an exceptionally quick car regardless of its motive power (the GS 350 RWD takes 5.8 seconds, and the GS 350 AWD requires 5.9 seconds).

2013 Lexus GS 450h
2013 Lexus GS 450h
2013 Lexus GS 450h. Click image to enlarge

Under the hood, the Lexus Hybrid Drive system uses an Atkinson cycle version of the GS 3.5-litre V6 engine in conjunction with a combination of electric motors/generators and a nickel-metal-hydride battery to make 338 net horsepower. Engine compression has been raised to 13:1, and engine noise is reduced with the fitment of a lightweight timing chain. Not quite a muscle car, but definitely a lean, clean, capable machine.

Like most hybrids, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to distribute power to the wheels, returning a projected average fuel consumption of 6.4 L/100km combined city/highway. A low 0.26 coefficient of drag contributes to the excellent fuel economy, which is improved by 30 percent compared with the outgoing model.

With an opening price of $64,650, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h is priced $12,000 below the previous model, yet delivers more standard features. It operates in driver-selectable Normal, Sport, Sport +, Eco and Electric-only (EV) modes and, from the Lexus perspective, delivers power normally associated with a 4.5-litre V8 engine, hence the 450h nomenclature.

The 2013 Lexus GS 450h shares the new Lexus exterior design highlighted by an all-new grille and front fascia. The so-called “spindle” grille is a more aggressive look for Lexus, signifying the brand’s move toward higher performance and potentially a younger buyer. Likewise the rear and interior are all new. The GS 450h wears model-specific wheels (17-inch wheels are standard; 18-inch are optional) and badging to distinguish it from the conventionally powered GS 350.

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