Used 2013 Lexus GS 450h
Edmunds' Expert Review
The all-new 2013 Lexus GS 450h hybrid offers sharp handling, sharper styling, new features and added interior room. But the biggest change is the one you're likely to care about the most: a major increase in fuel efficiency.
The previous Lexus GS 450h boasted V8 power with V6 fuel economy, which was certainly a worthwhile technological achievement. Most hybrid vehicle buyers care more about mpg than mph, though. That's why they expect their gasoline-electric vehicle to be much thriftier than the comparatively paltry 23 mpg EPA combined achieved by the outgoing GS 450h. (You can probably see where this is going.)
The completely redesigned, next-generation 2013 Lexus GS 450h returns 31 mpg EPA combined thanks to improvements made to both the gasoline-powered engine and the electric motors. Forget V6 fuel economy; that's equal to the humble Mini Cooper. More impressively, this efficiency has not been achieved by making the GS 450h a Prius-like slug. It might be a wee bit slower and less powerful than before, but it can still accelerate quicker than the regular GS 350 and also comes close to V8-powered luxury sedans.
Fuel efficiency isn't the only improvement for the 2013 GS 450h, however. The radically redesigned styling inside and out is the most obvious change, and we think it transforms the GS from forgettable to eye-catching. Length and wheelbase remain the same, but the chassis is pulled out wider by about 2 inches. An improved rear suspension design and a redesigned battery pack allow for more trunk space, which was a sore spot in the old GS.
There are significant mechanical changes, too. Revised suspension geometry, a stiffer body structure and a quicker steering system help make the GS the best-handling Lexus this side of the IS F or LFA. Yes, even in hybrid form. In fact, the Adaptive Variable Suspension that's optional on the GS 350 is standard here, improving both ride and handling.
Besides the cabin's modern new look, interior designers imposed a diet on various components, shaving pounds to keep weight down even as they also added a slew of new features like the Remote Touch infotainment system and sport seats with multiple adjustments. Longtime Lexus buyers needn't worry about quality either, as the GS maintains the brand's reputation for high-quality materials and excellent build quality. The electronics controls are more complicated this year, though.
In total, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h is a vastly more appealing car than the outgoing model. It's both a better hybrid and a better luxury sedan. However, despite its more fuel-efficient powertrain, a GS hybrid is still a dubious decision if it's made strictly to save money. When similarly equipped, a new 450h costs about $11,500 more than the similarly new 350. According to EPA fuel economy estimates, you'd have to own the 450h 19 years in order to pay off the hybrid price premium using fuel savings alone. True, that's better than the 57 years required to break even with the old car -- and you do get extra power -- but that's still a big chunk of change.
If you're interested in more than simply reducing your consumption of gasoline, then the GS 450h is one of the best luxury sedans available in which to do so. We still recommend checking out the cheaper Infiniti M35h and diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec, but neither can quite match that impressive 31 mpg of the GS.
2013 Lexus GS 450h configurations
The 2013 Lexus GS 450h is the hybrid version of the regular GS 350 sedan, which is reviewed separately. There is only one body style and trim level available.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, adjustable drive settings, automatic and adaptive LED headlights, LED running lights, heated and auto-dimming mirrors, automatic wipers, a sunroof and keyless ignition/entry. Inside the cabin you get cruise control, "S-flow" automatic climate control (focuses air only to occupied seats), heated and ventilated eight-way power front seats with lumbar adjustment, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a heated power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a power rear sunshade. Electronic features include Bluetooth phone connectivity, text-to-speech text messaging, the Safety Connect emergency communications service and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The optional navigation system brings with it a larger central display screen, Bluetooth phonebook downloading capability, voice controls, real-time traffic and other information, and the Enform suite of smartphone app features. The Luxury package adds 18-inch wheels, additional front seat adjustments, passenger memory functions, rear climate and audio controls, manual rear side sunshades and upgraded leather upholstery. The Luxury package can also be had with heated rear seats and a night vision camera system.
Stand-alone options include different 18-inch wheels, a rearview camera, an automated parallel parking system, an active lane-departure prevention system, adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision warning system, blind-spot monitoring and a head-up display.
Performance & mpg
Powering the 2013 Lexus GS 450h are a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 and a pair of electric motors. A total system output of 338 horsepower is sent to the rear wheels through a specialized continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Lexus estimates that the GS 450h will go from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, a swift performance that slots in between six-cylinder and V8 midsize luxury sedans. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 29 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined.
Every 2013 Lexus GS 450h comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Also standard is the Lexus Safety Connect system, which includes automatic collision notification, an emergency assist button and stolen vehicle location services.
Optional features include a rearview camera, a night vision system, blind-spot monitoring and a lane-departure warning system that can steer you back into place should you fail to act. Adding 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.
As a luxury hybrid, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h goes about its business silently and efficiently, wrapping its occupants in a cocoon of serenity. If that's all you're expecting, then the GS delivers. However, it can provide a lot more than that. That hybrid powertrain may be efficient, but it also boasts surprisingly swift acceleration.
The adaptive variable suspension that's optional on the regular GS 350 is standard on the hybrid, and constantly adapts to road and driving conditions to provide the best ride and handling possible. The system is driver-adjustable to include Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus settings, and besides the suspension, it also controls steering effort, throttle response and stability control intervention. Just want that silent and efficient commute? Stick with Eco or Normal. Feeling feisty or want to show your BMW-owning buddy that hybrids can have some fun, too? Dial up Sport Plus.
Complementing its physical and dynamic makeover, the 2013 Lexus GS line also gets a revised cabin. In the best Lexus tradition, it's a finely crafted interior marked by soft leather and rich wood and aluminum trim. Befitting this caliber of luxury sport sedan are seats that are firm and cosseting in equal measure, and limited only by the degree of power adjustments you choose.
The cabin also offers more space, with slightly more head- and shoulder room. The front seat has been lowered, meaning you now feel like you're sitting in the GS, not on it, and taller drivers won't find their hair grazing the roof. Rear seat passengers will also appreciate nearly 3 inches more hiproom compared to the previous model. Trunk space is also improved, as the battery pack has been repackaged to salvage an extra 3 cubic feet of space. Total cargo volume of 13.2 cubes isn't great for a midsize sedan, but it's better than many hybrid sedans can provide.
The Remote Touch multimedia controller -- a mouselike device that allows the user to move among a variety of icons on a large centrally located screen-- has also been revised. It's a nifty technological achievement, but in practice, we've found it can draw your eyes away from the road for too long. We recommend trying it out thoroughly on a test-drive.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
The first-generation Lexus GS 450h didn't make sense to a lot of people.
Lexus promised V8 performance with V6 fuel economy. But hybrid geeks were thrown off by a combined mileage rating of only 23 mpg, while driving enthusiasts were put off by its lifeless steering, portly curb weight and intrusive stability control system.
It didn't help that the GS hybrid cost some $3,000 more than the V8-powered GS 460. Yeah, we woulda had a V8 for sure.
With the 2013 Lexus GS 450h, Toyota's luxury brand is taking a different approach. This time the emphasis is on fuel mileage, as in an estimated 35 percent improvement over the 2011 model. And this time around the GS hybrid is taking the place of the V8 model, so it's hybrid or nothing. Bold move.
The GS 450h continues as a series-parallel hybrid, which means it's capable of operating in electric-only, gas-only, or a combination of the two modes. Its 286-horsepower 3.5-liter gasoline V6 now uses the Atkinson cycle for greater fuel efficiency.
There's also an increased compression ratio (13.1:1, up from 11.8), a new mid-port intake tumble generator and Lexus' combo of direct and port injection, which Lexus calls D-4S. Although the Atkinson cycle is more efficient, the downside is that it has a narrower power band. No problem when you have a second power source on-board.
In the GS 450h the extra power comes from a water-cooled 30kW (41-hp) permanent electric motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. In Sport mode, the system voltage is bumped up, which raises the battery power to 52 hp (39 kW) for a total combined hp of 338. The gas engine and electric motor drive the rear wheels independently or in tandem, depending on what's needed.
Also helping to reduce fuel consumption is better cooling of the hybrid's power control unit. The GS's Eco mode takes it a step further by limiting the electric motor to a maximum of 500 volts. And lastly, the regenerative braking operation range has been expanded.
The result? An estimated 29 city, 34 highway and 31 combined mpg, a colossal improvement over the previous GS hybrid's numbers (22 city/25 highway/23 combined mpg). Even more impressive is the fact that Lexus claims that the new 2013 Lexus GS 450h will hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and carry on to a top speed of 131 mph. It may be more efficient, but it's certainly not any slower.
Stiffer and Lighter
Just like the 2013 GS 350, the new GS 450h carries over an identical wheelbase and overall length, but is 2 inches wider and 1.2 inches taller in an effort to gain some interior space. It worked, as head-, knee and foot room are all reasonable now for slightly above average-size adults. That goes for the backseat as well. Lexus engineers also created more trunk room by vertically stacking the battery pack, so cargo room is up by nearly 3 cubic feet.
The 2013 Lexus GS 450h has more than just all-new sheet metal. The body is also 14 percent stiffer due to an increased number of spot and laser welds. Meanwhile, the interior was put on a strict diet, with the engineers told to lighten every material possible to make up for the car being slightly larger and stuffed with more features.
We were told at the car's press launch that the 2013 model is in fact 14 kilograms (31 pounds) lighter than the 2011 model, but a quick check of Lexus' own specs lists the 2011 model's curb weight as 4,134 pounds versus the 2013 car's 4,190 pounds. Maybe it's new math.
The interior of the previous GS 450h was hardly its weak point, but Lexus sought to improve it for 2013 anyway with an all-new design and a higher grade of materials.
A couple of things stand out: First, Lexus lowered the comfortable driver seat a small amount so that you sit more in the GS, not on it. Second, the GS 450h comes with a bamboo steering wheel and trim pieces, which Lexus says "reinforce the sustainability of the GS 450h." Whatever, it's cool, especially because it's left au naturel, without the usual wood clearcoat.
The materials generally are a step up from the previous GS, although a few of the plastic buttons (particularly for the HVAC controls on the center stack) feel a little cheap and don't quite match the tactility of the rest of the cabin.
Order the optional navigation system and you'll get a gigantic 12.3-inch display screen, controlled via a second generation of Lexus' Remote Touch controller, a device that looks and acts like a computer mouse. You'll also have the handiness of the Lexus Enform App Suite, which lets you access your mobile phone apps through the display screen, for searches with Bing, OpenTable (restaurant reservations), MovieTickets.com, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Yelp (restaurant/business reviews) and of course Facebook.
The 2013 Lexus GS 450h shares its updated chassis with the standard GS 350. That means a wider track, increased use of aluminum for the front double wishbones and a multilink setup in back that uses a new rear subframe and more aggressive geometry.
But the big news is that Lexus' Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system comes standard on the hybrid model. It's a softer setup than on the GS 350 F Sport, but the principle is the same: The shocks are constantly adapting to road and driving conditions and they're driver-adjustable.
Toggling the Drive Mode selector lets you choose among Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus. The first three mostly deal with throttle calibration, but Sport Plus dials back steering boost and firms up the shocks, while raising the stability control's intervention point (a Lexus official told us it could be fully defeated, but no amount of button pushing/holding did the trick).
On a fast and twisty back road, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h felt heavy and a bit ponderous through turns in the Sport setting. There's a definite feeling of some major weight being thrown over to one side as you enter high-speed bends. But cue up Sport Plus and there's a big difference in terms of body roll, precision and confidence, and the weighting of the steering is heavier and more precise.
Driving around town, the first thing you notice is that, well, it simply doesn't have the smooth, supple feel and sound of a V8. In other words, it's not a great replacement, at least if you're more than an A-to-B type of person.
The electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) still rubberbands a bit and there's still some steady-state throttle surge. The brakes are far from linear, too, as they have an abrupt initial tip-in, then become difficult to modulate for a smooth stop.
Drive it casually, though, and the GS 450h is reasonably quiet and seamless. Floor the throttle and, although the CVT hangs the revs up high, it surprises you with how deceptively it gets up to speed, and the force with which it keeps pushing forward.
The Bottom Line
The 2013 Lexus GS 450h will begin production at the Tahara, Japan, plant in late April/early May of next year. Pricing is a long ways off from being set, but a reasonable guess is around $60,000 (the current model begins at $58,950).
This is an improved GS hybrid for sure, if not in pure drivability then in terms of interior quality, design and definitely handling due to the standard-issue adaptive suspension. Lexus isn't expecting the GS 450h to set the world on fire with sales numbers. It's guessing that the GS 450h will account for less than 10 percent of the total GS mix.
Sales expectations aside, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h at least makes sense this time around. It's still got the sauce to back up its rep as a performance hybrid, but now it gets the kind of fuel economy for which owners could actually be smug about. And isn't that the point of hybrids anyway?
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
Used 2013 Lexus GS 450h Overview
The Used 2013 Lexus GS 450h is offered in the following submodels: GS 450h Sedan. Available styles include 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT).
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Should I lease or buy a 2013 Lexus GS 450h?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.