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Driven: Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.

Driven: Lexus GS 300h F Sport
No diesel power here, so can the Lexus GS 300h truly convince as an alternative to those pesky German executive saloons?

   



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Lexus GS 300h F Sport

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: sharp looks, classy interior, hugely refined manners, seamless switching between EV and hybrid running, full EV town driving, great economy

Not so good: relatively small boot; 2.5 engine is raucous; the CVT, the CVT, the CVT...

Key Facts

Model tested: Lexus GS 300h F Sport
Pricing: £41,745 standard; £42,355 as tested
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with electric motor
Transmission: electronic CVT, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 115g/km
Combined economy: 56.5mpg
Top speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 181hp at 6,000rpm for petrol engine; 105kW (143hp) from electric motor; 223hp maximum combined output
Torque: 221Nm from 4,200- to 5,400rpm from petrol engine; 300Nm from 0rpm from electric motor; no system maximum torque quoted

Our view:

Lexus' insistence on avoiding diesel power in favour of petrol-electric hybrids has its advantages, not least of which is the development of the new RC F coupé - a brawny, BMW M4-challenging sports car that manages to overcome its one or two flaws with a normally-aspirated engine of such character that it is impossible not to love the car as a whole. Lexus can only punt out a 252g/km CO2 5.0-litre V8 like that because it has so many hybrids in its line-up, meaning that, as a range of vehicles, it will meet stringent EU average fleet emissions laws due to come into effect next year and by 2021.

The drawback of this no-diesel policy, though, becomes obvious just a few miles into driving any hybrid from either Lexus or parent company Toyota, and sadly this otherwise-superb GS 300h F Sport is similarly afflicted. It's the CVT gearbox, you see. We don't wish to start on a downer, but this really will be the crux of the matter for potential buyers. CVTs are picked in hybrids for their efficiency gains over either manual, automatic or dual-clutch transmissions, but they sacrifice a lot in terms of refinement and driving pleasure. This one is no different, making a terrible racket when you ask the GS 300h for full power. It's off-putting and isn't helped by a pretty drab note from the 2.5-litre, 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder engine it's connected to. So when you need all of the hybrid's power, be prepared for plenty of noise.

We mention this first because the rest of the package is hugely impressive. If you can resist depressing the throttle all the way, the rest of the time the GS's drivetrain is very civilised - quiet, torquey and good on fuel, aided by wind and road noise suppression of the highest quality. Stick to steady driving and the GS 300h is cathedral quiet. And, of course, it can run in full EV mode if you want it to. Granted, you need to be extremely light with the accelerator and doing less than 20mph, ideally, but you can keep the GS 300h silent in towns and cities, something its diesel rivals could only dream of.

We've tried a few F Sport Lexus models recently and usually the addition of the firmer suspension affects the ride too much to warrant the benefits of the sporty-looking exterior. But in this case, the GS manages to cover up lumps and bumps in the tarmac well. It also has surprisingly excellent steering, with some feel evident and fantastic body control, which all suggests that the GS F will be mega. In short, its dynamic performance, noisy full-bore CVT aside, is certainly suitable for the executive market.

Which brings us to the looks, and the GS is properly handsome. It's the most well-proportioned car in Lexus' current catalogue, with sharp front-end styling, a crisp rear end and a tidy profile. As an F Sport, it rides on 19-inch alloys that fill the arches beautifully, while the subtle body kit and neat boot lip spoiler set off the shape nicely. It looks particularly good in metallic F Sport White (£610 for metallic paint), the only option on our car.

And that brings us to the cabin, which is also deserving of superlatives. The same interior designer who went to town on the poor CT 200h's passenger compartment (where, on the F Sport iteration, a crazy 13 different textures and finishes adorn the front of the busy cockpit) was sensibly allowed nowhere near the GS 300's effort. And the results speak for themselves, as this is a classy affair, although we love the way the analogue clock has become a signifier for something upmarket; car manufacturers spent years phasing them out, but now they're making a comeback, the Lexus' item taking pride of place in the dash. Everything else on the GS 300h is well-positioned, there are loads of toys as part of the standard equipment list and the displays in the central dash-top screen are all perfectly legible and tidy. The one area that is compromised is the boot, as the battery pack obviously eats into cargo space.

We really like the GS 300h and would heartily recommend it for the silent EV running in towns alone, but for some buyers the drivetrain's lack of refinement in certain situations is going to be a deal-breaker. While comparative diesel models from rival manufacturers can never be as silent as the GS, neither do they bellow so painfully under hard acceleration. And indeed, the BMW and Mercedes-Benz hybrid rivals manage to eliminate such histrionics by using conventional automatic transmissions. That CVT will be the clincher on whether buyers - be they private or company car users - opt for the GS 300h, because in all other respects it's a damned fine car.

Alternatives:

Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro S line: no A6 e-tron as yet, so conventional diesel power only from Ingolstadt. With 218hp, the S line version does offer quattro all-wheel drive grip for £41,000-ish.

BMW ActiveHybrid 5: at £47,790, the hybrid 5 Series is much more expensive but does offer a more powerful, six-cylinder drivetrain. M Sport model costs even more money than this.

Mercedes-Benz E 300 BlueTec Hybrid: the most direct rival for the Lexus, it offers a slightly different take by pairing a 204hp diesel engine with 27hp of additional electric power. AMG Line model is £41,705, drivetrain is very smooth, economy figures better - 70.6mpg and 103g/km from the Merc.


Matt Robinson - 16 Jan 2015



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2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.



2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus GS 300h F Sport. Image by Lexus.
 






 

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