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First drive: Lexus GS 450h. Image by Lexus.

First drive: Lexus GS 450h
Lexus' all-new BMW 5 Series fighter is packed full of even more technology than ever. The GS goes on sale in summer 2012.


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| First Drive | Laguna Beach, USA | 2012 Lexus GS |

Overall rating: 3 3 3 3 3

Lexus would like us to think that the new GS is more exciting to drive, but it's a case of more of the same - it's a large and luxurious saloon capable of wafting its occupants over great distances with ease. Plus it's still brilliantly equipped and has more space to boot. The lack of a diesel engine will soon be remedied by the arrival of a small hybrid.

Key Facts

Model tested: Lexus GS 450h F Sport
Pricing: 50,000 (estimated)
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with electric motor
Transmission: six-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT), rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: BMW 535d, Mercedes-Benz E 350 CDI, Jaguar XF 3.0 D
CO2: 137g/km
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Power: 338bhp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 254lb.ft at 4,600rpm

In the Metal: 3 3 3 3 3

The future starts here, says Lexus. All models from now on will be much more exciting to look at and to drive. Is that true? Not really. On first impressions, the new front end, with its bold grille and LED daytime running lights, certainly looks more distinctive, but the rest of the design is rather bland. That said, F Sport versions get a neat body kit with 19-inch alloys that will go some way to tempting BMW 5 Series owners out of their M Sport-trimmed cars.

Inside, there's been a bigger leap forward. Thanks to an all-new rear-wheel drive chassis, overall dimensions are 20mm wider and 30mm taller than before, and there's a lot more space. You sit lower and there's decent room in the back for tall adults. Gone are the old-school wood veneers and beige leathers, and in their place come neat bamboo trims with dark hides and a Maserati-style clock in the dashboard. As a result it's much more modern and individual. Gone too are the numerous buttons - the new car is far simpler and benefits from a standard eight-inch display screen on the centre console, which can be upgraded to a 12.3-inch item (which is apparently the world's largest on a production car).

Driving it: 3 3 3 3 3

The old Lexus GS was a great way to waft about the place but it wasn't much fun to drive. That's what engineers have sought to change - and with wider tracks, double wishbone suspension at the front plus a multi-link rear, the new GS feels more stable and composed. The new electric power steering system has more weight while there's also adaptive damping, which means the ride is always super smooth. Add in Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ driving modes - which alter throttle and steering response - and you might hope the GS is closer than ever to a BMW 5 Series.

But while it's certainly better to drive, it's still most comfortable when cruising. Show it a tight set of turns and the big 1,800kg Lexus doesn't feel that agile or involving. Instead this car is still best enjoyed on the motorway where it excels. The F Sport version gets gizmos such as variable ratio steering (which alters the speed of the rack, meaning you can negotiate roundabouts with a wrist flick) and four-wheel steering, which also aids stability and turn-in. As a result there's no doubt the range-topping GS 450h F Sport handles well, even if it still feels rather numb - but it's also likely to cost 74,000. That's more than a BMW M5.

Does the power on tap make up for this? Well, the engine range consists of the flagship 338bhp 3.5-litre V6 hybrid GS 450h (and an entry-level 207bhp 2.5-litre V6) and it is rapid, doing 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds with lots of low-down urge and searing 50-70mph acceleration for easy overtaking. It's hushed on the motorway and you could happily spend many hours at the wheel, letting the miles drift by. Demand lots of acceleration though and the CVT gearbox responds hesitantly, ruining refinement by pegging the engine at droning high revs. What's more, while Lexus claims 47.8mpg (up from 36.7mpg) we're dubious the big GS will even get close to that in the real world - despite a full electric mode being available around town, most of the time the V6 engine is working hard. Lexus is aware it has lost ground to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz by having no diesel engine, and is seeking to rectify this with a new small capacity hybrid petrol option, which is said to be competitive with the BMW 520d on emissions and fuel economy.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

Lexus has always thrown the kitchen sink at its cars and the latest GS is no exception. It gets all the usual luxury car gadgets, such as four-zone climate control, Bluetooth and leather upholstery, satellite navigation, a rear parking camera and MP3 player integration. In addition, you can add an incredible 835-watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, a head-up display, adaptive front lighting and blind spot monitoring. Other safety equipment includes collision mitigation (which alerts the driver of approaching objects that may cause a crash), adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. Lexus' dealers are also the best in the business and will treat you like royalty when you show up for a service.

Worth Noting

Boot space was always the old car's Achilles heel. Well no longer. The hybrid's batteries have been moved so that they sit behind the rear seats and together with more compact multi-link rear suspension there's now 60 per cent more boot space, taking total capacity to 480 litres.


The new Lexus GS promises to offer more driving excitement and more style; the truth is that, while it's certainly better in both areas, it still majors on the strengths that have always drawn buyers. So it's very relaxing to drive and is absolutely packed to the rafters with luxury kit. Thankfully, it's now more spacious and has a much more upmarket cabin, but against high performance diesels from rival manufacturers - such as the BMW 535d M Sport - the flagship GS 450h is set to remain a niche player. The F Sport version is good but enormously expensive at 74,000. In addition to the entry-level 36,000 GS 250, Lexus needs its low emission small hybrid GS more than ever if the company is to grow sales.

Sam Hardy - 29 Nov 2011    - Lexus road tests
- Lexus news
- GS 450h images

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.

2012 Lexus GS F Sport. Image by Lexus.


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