A big thanks to Lexus New Zealand and Lexus Wellington located at 54 Kent Terrace, Mt Victoria, Wellington for helping to organise a brand new Lexus GS300H for our Road Tested Review.
After testing the ES300H at the start of the month I knew that the GS300H would be an interesting comparison. Not in the noticeable difference in visual looks, or targeted markets, as there’s just over $30k in the price difference. The one big difference between the two cars is that the ES is front wheel drive and the GS is rear wheel drive. I wondered if this would have a big effect on the hybrid efficiency of the vehicle and how you drive it.
The Test Drive
Hybrid vehicle technology in my opinion is a good fit for a manufacturer like Lexus. It complements their existing standards of build quality and refinement very well. I remember being once told that Rolls Royce pride themselves on such a whisper quiet car that the only thing you can hear when it travels along is the ticking hands of the dash-mounted clock. I have never had an opportunity to travel in a Rolls Royce, and if what they say is true this Lexus shares a few similar traits with them. It has a dash mounted clock similar to a Rolls, not that you can hear it, however you can’t hear much else either. This lexus has to be one of the quietest cars I have ever driven. If you’re not used to it, it can be very odd. During the several days I was reviewing this car it had been raining heavily in Wellington. I was quite surprised that the loudest thing I could hear when travelling along the motorway was the sound of the gathering water as it rolled across the drivers and passenger side windows. Part of this is due to the build quality, but the vast majority is due to the time and effort they have put into developing and testing its aerodynamics. After you have a look around the vehicle, opening doors and bonnets you notice that almost every gap is filled or padded with foam insulation. This not only makes the car more streamlined resulting in a drag coefficient of 0.26, it allows for a smoother flatter ride, all while being a whisper quiet experience for the driver and passengers.
The GS is a big car, similar size to the ES, but the GS feels bigger, and heavier. The exterior styling I found was very hit and miss. I asked a lot of people during the test what they thought and some like it and some just hated it, it was just like Marmite. I like some aspects of it, the main body had some nice clean sweeping lines which helped to give it a more interesting look, which was better in my mind than the softer ES, but there was still a bit of room for improvement. I would have liked to have seen the F-Sport body shape in person, as I thought it may have helped with some of these areas that did not work so well, like the left and right sides of the front bumper.
The steering lacked a bit of feel, I was not sure it this was due to the smooth ride or Lexus engineering it that way. The majority of the current lexus hybrids have three driving modes, Eco, Normal and Sport. In the GS the Eco and Normal modes run the same suspension and gear ratio setup, the only difference between the two is that in Eco mode throttle control is a lot more passive, feeding the power from the engine in a more efficient way. In sport mode there is a very noticeable change to the entire car, the suspension tightens up quite a lot reducing the lateral roll and giving the driver quite a grounded feel. In addition to this the engine and hybrid powertrain feed their combined full power to the rear wheels with a fast shifting gear ratio. I think the 300H is still lacking a lot of power and that this sports setup would be more beneficial and feel rewarding in the 450h with its additional 70kw and 130 Nm of torque.
Lexus say that the GS has the intensity of a V8 while being as a efficient as a V6 or smaller engine. I have driven and owned a lot of V8’s in my life, from HSV’s big American-style large litre v8’s to Audi and BMW’s more compact high-tech V8’s. One thing I can say for a fact is that this Lexus does not have the intensity of any V8 I have ever driven. The GS does have a good bit of power, more than enough to get it up to speed in a reasonable time, but 9.2 seconds to 100km is a long way off what I or anyone should call intense. I would say the GS 300H feels a lot more like a V6, and sounds just like the 4 cylinder that it is. But in saying all that, if you want something like an adrenaline pumping V8 you are not really going to be considering this hybrid are you? What you’re really after is efficiency and value for money. The big question is if the GS is as impressively efficient as its base model cousin the ES 300H.
The major difference between the ES and GS is that the GS has a rear wheel drive setup. So was it better to drive than having a front wheel drive hybrid? To be honest I think the 300H lacked enough power based on its heavier weight to really see a difference in RWD. This may be different in the 450H, but for now we won’t know. What I do know as I put the GS though similar kilometers, is that the GS is not as efficient as the ES. It heavier for one, which will have an effect on the overall efficiency, but it’s also oriented towards performance, and when in sport you can have a bit of harmless fun, so it is ultimately not as efficient as it could be. The GS still seems to outstrip any other manufacturer’s options in that regard, but I do have some other questions regarding the rear wheel drive system. My biggest one would be if moving the power to the rear wheels reduces the brake regeneration. Does the GS use all four wheels to regenerate energy into the battery or just the rear? If the GS only used the rear like the computer display indicates then aren’t we missing out on a massive amount of power that is being generated from the front wheels as those brakes are always more heavily used?
Inside the GS you can quite quickly see where a lot of the extra cost comes from compared to the ES. It’s very similar in design and build quality to the smaller IS model, which makes the larger GS a serious contender to the more expensive heavy-hitting full-size Euro brands. Very comfy and supportive front seats, and with the high center console and short-shift style gear stick you are left with a subtle performance feeling, like you are slightly set down into the cockpit of the vehicle. The majority of the controls could not be more straightforward to use. One thing I did miss out on mentioning on the ES which the GS also has is that the cruise control stalk is mounted on the wheel and not the steering wheel stalk, so when you rotate the wheel the cruise control stalk rotates with you. I didn’t think it was a bad thing, but it did seem strange.
What’s it up against.
The price and size of the GS makes it a lot easier to classify than the previous ES. To me it’s an alternative option to the base model euro brands, however the Lexus is very efficient and like the ES I feel you get more then the computer is telling you about. It also has a far superior standard options package, options which make the Euros quite a bit more expensive.
|Brand / Model||Engine||Power||Fuel L/100km||Luggage Capacity||Price Highest to Lowest|
|BMW 535i||3.0L Turbo Inline 6||225 Kw / 400 Nm||7.7 L||520 Litres||$132,000|
|Audi A6||3.0 L TDI Quattro||150 Kw / 450 Nm||5.7 L||530 Litres||$119,000|
|Mercedes E250||2.0 L Turbo Inline 4||155 Kw / 350 Nm||6.4 L||540 Litres||$114,000|
|Lexus GS 300H||2.5 L Hybrid||252 Kw / 221 Nm||5.2 L||451 Litres||$110,500|
Pros & Cons
What do we think ?
The GS is a nice car, nice in the same way that cereal is nice, it’s easy and efficient to prepare in the morning, tastes good and does what you want from it, but that’s about it. I had hoped for more from this car considering its price tag, more of what the IS had, and less of what the ES is. Yes its one of the better looking eco cars on the market, but only just. And would you want one over what Europe has to offer? If I was less of an automotive junkie perhaps, but until they make a car that actually feels like the intensity of a real V8, this is just not my cup of tea.
Rating – Chevron rating 3.5 out of 5
|Vehicle Type||Front Engine, RWD, Hybrid, 4 Door Luxury Sedan|
|Starting Price||$ 110.500 NZD|
|Tested Price||$ 110.500 NZD|
|Engine||2.5 L Inline 4, 133kW, 221 Nm|
|Hybrid System||Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor 164kw|
|Transmission||Continuously Variable Transmission|
|0 – 100 kph||9.2 seconds|
|Kerb Weight||1800 kg|
|Length x Width x Height||4850 x 1840 x 1455 mm|
|Cargo Capacity||451 Litres|
|Fuel Tank||66 litres|
|Fuel||Urban – 6.6 L/100km|
Motorway – 5.4 L/100km
Combined – 5.2 L/100km, 130 g/km CO2
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||Yet to be tested|