Sometimes you feel a little guilty about being in comfortable circumstances when trouble hits someplace else in the country. That’s the way we felt earlier this month while New England was digging out from the Blizzard of 2013.
My friends and colleagues in the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) had scheduled Feb. 9—Blizzard Day as it turned out—as ofﬁcial Winter Car of New England Test Day.
Two years ago, the national automotive press had a good laugh at our expense when we postponed test day because of a heavy snowstorm.
This year, despite the dire forecast, NEMPA ofﬁcials decided that test day was going to happen; that is, until the governor stepped in and wisely imposed a statewide driving ban, keeping the test cars off the roads.
Of course, the ban didn’t affect me. I was out driving many miles in today’s test car—the 2013 Lexus GS450h—the hybrid version of the Lexus GS350 midsize luxury sedan. But I was driving 1,500 miles away in Naples, FL, where the temperature was in the mid-70s, the roads were clear, and the humidity was low.
Last spring, when Lexus had a press introduction for the GS350 and GS450h in New Jersey, I came to a shocking (to me) realization: For the ﬁrst time, I clearly preferred the hybrid version of a vehicle to the traditionally powered one.
I was more than a little curious to see how that ﬁrst impression of the GS450h stood up during our reunion. Bottom line: I’m still in love with this car.
The vehicle offers an array of attractive features in addition to Lexus’s traditional conservative styling, a look that should keep the vehicle current for a decade.
Add luxurious cabin appointments, state-of-the-art (and easy-to-use) electronics, surprisingly good performance, best-in-class fuel economy, and (presumably) the Lexus standard of reliability. Given the Toyota-Lexus hybrid history, this should be a trouble-free vehicle.
Unlike its third cousin, the Toyota Prius, the GS450h isn’t an economy-ﬁrst vehicle. It’s a luxury-ﬁrst vehicle that happens to have a state-of-the-art hybrid system that adds power when needed and economy when appropriate, resulting in EPA mileage ratings of 29 city, 34 highway, and 31 in overall driving. In our Globe testing, we had lots of trafﬁcfree driving and averaged 33.2 mpg.
The GS450h doesn’t come cheaply. It’s only available in one trim level with an MSRP of $59,825, including destination.
Our test vehicle had an array of options, including blind spot warning ($500) and heads up display ($900), both of which I enjoyed and appreciated. An enhanced navigation system added $1,735 and the Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system another $1,380.
A $7,405 luxury package is the eye-opener that puts the GS450h over the top in its class, with a list of features that would run off this page but includes a night-vision system, 18-inch alloys, adaptive front lighting, heated (wood and leather) wheel, three-zone climate control, 18-way adjustable front seats (wish I had them for the drive back to Boston), and manual rear sunshades on the rear door windows (welcome in the Florida sunshine).
On the road, the 450h is a pleasure to drive. It offers ﬁve driving modes at the turn of a large knob on the center console:
• ECO. Changes instrument lighting to blue and adjusts climate and drive controls for fuel economy.
• EV. Allows all-electric operation for short distances if conditions permit.
• Sport and Sport+. Changes the instrument lighting to red and the ECO gauge into a tachometer while also turning this hybrid into a sports sedan by changing suspension and powertrain settings, making good use of the 338 horsepower produced by the engine and electric motor.
To say the interior is posh is to understate the quality mix of leather and wood appointments. It’s the automotive equivalent of a tony club setting that should appeal to most all buyers.
Mrs. G gave this Lexus her highest seal of approval, saying “I REALLY like this car.” Among her likes were the sunscreens on the side rear windows, the 18-way power passenger seat, and the large screen for the navigation/infotainment system.
The multimedia controller—think mouse—somehow manages to simplify the infotainment system’s choices and make them intuitive.
The battery pack is between the back seat and trunk, meaning the back seats don’t fold down for a cargo pass-through, but there’s ample rear seat comfort as we learned on a day trip to Marco Island, Everglades City, and Chokoloskee (look up that one).
Somehow we ﬁgure the GS450h would do quite well in winter testing as a rear-wheeldrive sedan with a set of snow tires added to its full array of traction and stability controls.
You’ll never feel guilty driving this vehicle, either. Sometimes you feel a manufacturer offers a hybrid version of a vehicle because they have to have one. Not this time.This time it’s the pick of a purebred litter.