Lexus GS450h, 2009: The Weekly Driver Car Review

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Now entering its third year as a rare luxury sport sedan hybrid, the 2009 Lexus GS 450h is a desirable automobile that just happens to be a hybrid. There’s little, if any, consolation to its “green status” in any area of the car — acceleration to braking, handling to design. It’s a hybrid alright, with its small hybrid nameplate is so subtly positioned, how would anyone really know?

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It’s a heavy heavyweight in the premium sedan market. It features extraordinary technology, including some features other hybrids don’t offer. The GS 450h operates in gas-only or electric-only mode or a combination, for example, with little difference in performance but plenty of eco-friendly ambition.

The Weekly Driver’s Ratings

Acceleration (8)
Rating of 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds. In a hybrid? Impressive is an understatement.

Cargo Room (7)
Nicely configured and deep trunk, but where’s the light? Side pockets pull out for easy access. Front-seat cup holders a little snug.

Controls (6)
Elegant dials. Nothing too high-tech. Independent temperature controls “ping” when increased or decreased. Some numbers and switches and not-so-easy to reach, so there’s a learning curve.

Details (7)
Wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel, under seat lights, variable-transparency glass, premium wood and metal. It’s all fine, first-class workmanship. Optional navigation system ($1,500) is crisp and among the best I’ve seen. Mark Levinson sound system (14 speakers) is expensive ($1,780), but it’s sweet. Destination via voice command is part of what luxury is all about. My weekly drive was a vibrant, head-turning “Matador Red.” It’s one of the few red cars I’d purchase.

Front Seat (7)
Plenty of leg and head room. Comfortable seats, no blind spots. It feels like automotive home sweet home.

Rear Seat (5)
Perfect for two adults, snug for three. Head room and leg room above average.

Fuel Economy (6)
It’s a V6 with 340 horsepower. But it’s still a hybrid, and there’s a lot wrong with a hybrid sedan,]]> no matter how luxurious and powerful, that doesn’t get at least 30 mph.

Handling (8)
It’s in total control. Smooth and steady in town and on the open road.

Ride Quality (8)
It’s classified as a luxury sport sedan, and it’s perfectly categorized.

Quietness (9)
Is the engine on? It’s appreciable lack of noise is a blessing but also a potential curse. The GS 450h transitions between high and low electric drive without a sound. It starts, travels at low speeds and during low-loading all on its electric motor — and all is quiet. Fans and motors significantly reduce cabin noise and there’s little, if any, windshield hum via sound-absorbing asphalt sheets behind the instrument panel. You want quiet? You got quiet.

Total (71 out of 100)

The Weekly Driver’s final words

“The GS450h is a desirable luxury sedan, no doubt, and it stands up to others in its class. But it’s a shame the car weighs nearly 4,000 pounds. And as such, it would serve hybrid buyers better with better gas mileage.”

Class
Premium midsize

Primary competition
Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G37, Lexus ES 350, Infiniti M, Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo V70 as luxury sedans, but none are hybrids.

Standard equipment/option packages
Impressive lists and well they should be for a vehicle exceeding $60,000.
Visit: www.lexus.com.

Base Price Range
MSRP, $56,400.00; Price as driven, $60,705.00

Gas Mileage Estimates
22 mpg (city), 25 mpg (hwy.)

Warranty
Bumper to Bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/unlimited mileage; Roadside Assistance, 4 years/unlimited mileage; Hybrid components, 8 years/100,000 miles.

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