What's New for 2010
The 2010 Lexus GS 450h rings in the new year with technology upgrades inside and freshened styling outside, including a hybrid-exclusive new grille, clear taillamp covers and 18-inch alloy wheels.
For luxury car customers who appreciate comfort and efficiency in equal measure, Lexus offers something nobody else does -- a full range of hybrid models. The 2010 Lexus GS 450h represents the midsize, mid-priced entry in the hybrid fleet between the compact HS 250h and the flagship LS 600h. There's also an RX SUV model. Utilizing technology similar to them all, the GS 450h boasts the power of a V8 engine but with gas mileage closer to a V6. This may sound appealing in theory, but in reality, the hybrid GS is a questionable purchase decision.
Equipped with the Lexus Hybrid Drive system working in tandem with the company's eager 3.5-liter V6 engine, the sporty GS 450h offers up a healthy 340 horsepower for your right foot to engage. Fuel economy represents a 30 percent improvement over similarly responsive V8 sedans. However, don't expect a true fuel-sipping hybrid like the Prius or the Lexus HS 250h. The city fuel economy number of 22 mpg is definitely impressive, but the combined figure of 23 mpg is barely better than the V6-powered GS 350. The hybrid may be 2 seconds quicker in the 0-60-mph sprint, but since when are hybrid customers more concerned with performance than fuel economy?
Aside from its hybrid-specific instrumentation, blue badging, updated grille, taillamp covers and 18-inch alloys, the 2010 Lexus GS 450h appears much like its gas-powered GS 350 and 460 brethren. As the flagship of the GS line, the 450h is loaded with premium equipment and features the same rich styling, outstanding fit and finish, quiet cabin, and superb ride and handling as its siblings.
But all this goodness doesn't come cheap, and there's a question of value to consider. Aside from the cheaper GS 350 nearly matching its fuel economy, don't count on the GS 450h's fuel savings to offset its price premium. If you're set on buying a luxury-badged fuel sipper, we'd stick with the HS 250h or consider the clean diesel BMW 335d, which gets better gas mileage than the GS.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Lexus GS 450h is a midsize hybrid-powered luxury sport sedan offered in a single well-equipped trim level. Standard features include exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels, performance tires, adaptive variable suspension, automatic parking assist, automatic wipers, automatic and adaptive xenon headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, power front seats with memory and lumbar adjustment, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt--and-telescoping steering wheel trimmed in wood and leather, a power rear sunshade, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a back-up camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Safety Connect telematics service, and a 10-speaker audio system with six-CD changer, satellite radio and iPod interface.
The HDD Navigation package adds a hard-drive navigation system, rearview camera, real-time traffic, voice control and additional telematics services. Other options include run-flat tires, an advanced suspension (requires run-flat tires), adaptive cruise control (includes Pre-Collision System) and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound stereo.
Powertrains and Performance
The Lexus GS 450h's 3.5-liter V6 engine and high-output electric motor combine to generate up to 340 hp. Its power is transmitted seamlessly to the rear wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Like other full hybrids, the GS 450h can launch and operate at low speeds under electric power only, and then seamlessly engage the V6 when more get-up-and-go is needed. Its performance is impressive in either mode, with abundant V8-like power reserves on tap at any speed.
Lexus estimates the GS 450h goes from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, which would be better than average for a V8-powered midsize luxury sedan. Its EPA-estimated fuel economy is better than average for a V6-powered midsize luxury sedan at 22 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
Lexus strengthens its commitment to safety by adding standard Safety Connect telematics and active front headrests to the 2010 GS 450h. Other carryover features include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control, front and rear side-impact airbags, front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. The optional adaptive cruise control includes a pre-collision system that detects impending collisions and responds by pre-tensioning the seatbelts and activating brake assist. Run-flat tires are also available. The 2010 Lexus GS 450h is a top-ranked performer in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, receiving the highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 GS 450h's cabin reflects Lexus' reputation for fine craftsmanship, and sports supple leather upholstery accented with genuine wood and aluminum trim. Four average-sized adults will fit comfortably, but adding a fifth at the elevated rear center position can make for a tight fit in back. Likewise, headroom is fine for most, but taller occupants can feel more confined than in most competitor sedans.
Instrument panel displays and the optional high-resolution navigation touchscreen are easy to see and use, though the integrated audio system controls could be more intuitive. Another minor ergonomic shortcoming involves the highly polished wood trim, which can reflect distracting glare in bright sunlight. Due to the positioning of the hybrid battery, trunk space lags behind other GS models, with only 11 cubic feet available.
The 2010 Lexus GS 450h delivers finely balanced ride and handling, with a good blend of sport sedan precision and touring sedan composure. For more focused driving styles, the adaptive suspension serves up a soft, cushy ride in Comfort mode, yet firms up control noticeably in Sport mode when more responsiveness is called for. For enthusiasts who like to rock but not roll, the optional active stabilizer system counteracts body sway by determining the appropriate amount of force required, which it then applies to the front and rear stabilizer bars. Our only dynamic gripe involves the GS 450h's regenerative braking system, which presents a pedal that can feel overly sensitive and non-progressive to unfamiliar drivers. However, once you've adapted to its peculiar brake modulation, the GS 450h stops quickly and confidently.