By Stewart Smith on 2012-06-10 - Stewart was the former motoring editor of the Coventry Telegraph and is now a freelance contributor to Eurekar. He is based in Scotland and specialises in First Drive reviews.
Hybrid for the
WHEN Toyota first launched its upmarket Lexus brand in 1993 it made other luxury car makers take a close look at the high quality attained, and some even used the Japanese product as their benchmark.
Lexus has continued to introduce some of the best quality products available and it is about to launch the fourth generation of its luxury Lexus GS executive saloon in the UK next month.
The GS 450h is the world's first front-engine/rear-wheel drive premium performance saloon to be equipped with a petrol engine/electric motor full hybrid system.
This model should be particularly appealing to the executive company car driver because the fuel consumption has been brought down by more than 20 per cent to 46.3mpg, with CO2 emissions falling to 141g/km.
And there is no loss of performance. The 341bhp V6 engine powers the GS 450h from 0 to 62mph in 5.9 seconds and its top speed is a limited 155mph.
More for the private buyer, the new GS 250 2.5-litre petrol engined V6 has been introduced. This unit develops 207bhp and hits 62mph in 8.6 seconds and will reach 143mph. Fuel consumption is a claimed 31.7 on a combined run and CO2 emissions are 207g/km.
I can see a big uptake for the hybrid model which will suit companies looking to cut costs without their executives having to give up the bonus of driving a class car.
Surprisingly, while most of the opposition from the likes of Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes offer diesel alternatives Lexus have no oil-burners in the new GS line-up but they maintain the hybrid option is the way to go.
On an extensive test route I found both the new petrol and hybrid versions to offer a pleasant driving experience.
Obviously the higher powered hybrid offered better performance but the GS 250 will suit the individual owner.
The hybrid is excellent around town, with the electric motor cutting in and out smoothly and silently. while the automatic six-speed box is especially smooth and you can use the paddle change as an althernative.
Despite its size and weight the big Lexus tackles bends with little body roll and there is just a hint of wind noise at high speed from the wing mirrors.
The press event was held in Germany and Austria on extremely smooth roads so it was difficult to judge whether the ride will be quite as pleasant on rough, pot-holed UK roads.
As far a styling goes, to my mind, the new GS hasn't undergone a dramatic change although Lexus says the exterior and interior are totally new.
It may not be as striking as its opponents but it is still a class act, particularly the new front which features a new spindle-shape arrangement of the upper and lower grilles. Brake cooling ducts positioned either side of the spindle grille add to the distinctive appearance.
The headlamp units are set on a higher plane than the grille and the lights themselves are underscored by new integrated LED daytime running lights.
I was less impressed with the rear of the GS which is a bit bland and without the Lexus badge on the back it would be difficult to know what it was.
The inside of the GS is superb with fully adjustable front seats and a simple cockpit layout without too many knobs and switches which is often overdone on other big executive motors.
It also has a very large multi-display screen measuring 12 inches which includes the built-in sat-nav, radio and phone displays. An optional extra is a head-up display.
Standard equipment includes full leather, heated/ventilated, electrically adjustable front seats Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running headlights and rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and start plus cruise control.
F Sport models are equipped with sports styling features, plus Lexus Dynamic Handling four-wheel steering system for the GS 450h F Sport.
The Premier specification can be taken to another level with the addition of LED headlamps and a preventive safety package featuring Adaptive Cruise Control and Pre-Crash Safety.
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