2009 Lexus GS 450h Review


2009 Lexus GS450h

The first time I saw the third-generation Lexus GS, I didn’t like it one bit.

Compared to the previous generation’s sharp, aggressive lines, the current GS seemed to lack any real visual punch. In particular, I really disliked the rear third of the car, and constantly referred to it as “frumpy” at any opportunity. At one point, I actually admitted to liking the ES design more.

Fast forward to the present, and I find myself in a contradictory situation — I think the GS will be my next car.

It happened gradually, but broken down, it goes like this:

  • By way of the Mercedes CLS, the fastback design really started to appeal to me. The GS shape may not be as dynamic as the CLS, but repeated exposure has me appreciating the sedan’s subtlety over the more dramatic Mercedes.
  • I have developed a thing for hybrids. The short periods of absolute silence, the crazy torque, the gas mileage game, it all adds up to a technology I would really like in my next car. Considering that I have no intention of driving an RXh and the LS 600hL is enormous and astronomically priced, there’s only one option remaining.
  • After a couple years of driving the LS 400, I want something fun to drive without sacrificing the comfort and size I’m used to.

Take these points into account, and the GS is an obvious choice. The only problem? I had never driven one until last week. Time to find out if the love is real.

Exterior

There was a Lexus commercial, admittedly for the ES 350, that declared that “behind every detail is a detail.” This thought stuck with me while examining the GS 450’s exterior. No matter the angle, there was always a minor design element that stood out, and it’s the cumulation of these details that make the GS so unique. Case in point, here’s where the rear bumper, tail light and quarter panel meet:

2009 Lexus GS450h Detail Shot

Some of the best aspects of the GS are a result of bridging the design with the previous generation. Both the headlights and tail lights are a great example of this:

2009 Lexus GS450h Headlight

2009 Lexus GS450h Tail Light

Beyond that, I was completely taken with the unique GS hybrid wheel design, which bring a much needed sharpness to the sports sedan:

2009 Lexus GS450h Wheel Design

After a few days with the GS, I did finally identify what caused my initial dislike. It was the crease between the hood and the front fender (highlighted in green):

2009 Lexus GS450h Dislike

Combined with the raise in the hood, this crease creates an imbalance in the overall shape, and makes the rear seem overly large.

Interior

2009 Lexus GS450h Steering Wheel

Whereas the materials in the IS 250 were soft and pleasant, the GS 450h felt tough, even harsh. The entire interior had a hard edge, bringing to mind the GS’ German competitors. That’s not to say it was uncomfortable, nothing could be further from the truth. The perforated leather seats were firm but extremely accommodating, and even after multiple days of extended driving sessions, I never felt sore or stiff, and neither did any of my passengers.

The Red Walnut wood trim added some much needed color, and the sloping center console was nicely arranged, even though the black plastic had a habit of picking up dust and fingerprints. As the centerpiece of the dash, the touchscreen was bright and responsive, Too bad it was missing a significant chunk of utility without the optional navigation package, though I would have been hard pressed to change the display from the Consumption screen.

One of the interesting touches in the hybrid GS is the absence of a RPM gauge, in its place is a kW meter used for displaying the electric motor usage:

2009 Lexus GS450h kW Meter

What stood out most in the GS 450h was the sound. There was the absolute silence of sitting at a stop light, the engine entirely off. The moment when the engine cuts back in and you hear the V6 engine note, accompanied by a strange wispy whir caused by the electric motor, which grows to a distant siren as you brake. It really is something.

Performance

The best thing about driving the GS 450h is how its driving experience can be broken down into three very distinct modes:

1. The Gamer: Using a combination of the Consumption display and the dynamic mileage calculator, it’s possible to drive the GS 450h as though playing a video game. Of course, it’s important not to let this become a detriment to the drivers around you, this driving mode does add considerable enjoyment to rush hour traffic, where any major delays result in major bonuses to fuel economy.

2. The Cruiser: Rest your wrist up on the wood wheel, turn up the sound system, crack the sunroof just a bit, and you could probably drive forever. The Normal suspension mode captures just the right mixture of comfort and firmness that make long trips a total joy.

3. The Demon: Flip the Hybrid Power switch, toggle the Sports suspension, and this car turns into a pure terror. The electric motor becomes a much more eager participant in the driving experience, to a point where the speed feels explosive. The tighter suspension actually seemed to shrink the size of the car, making it much easier to push your way through difficult corners.

The GS 450h’s brakes are tied into charging the electric motor, so I was expecting the brake feel to be artificial and grabby, but that wasn’t the case at all. To be sure, there was significant, abrupt stopping power if needed, but the brakes were easy to modulate.

Best of all, even with significant time spent in Demon mode, my average gas mileage was 9.1l/100km, or 31mpg.

Conclusion

In the end, my only complaints are minor. The switch from gas engine to electric while sitting at a stop was quite noticeable, enough to feel that awful sensation of a engine stall (which isn’t all that far from the truth). In addition, the electric engine can be quite vocal, though I attribute this more to my habit of driving with the stereo off.

The only other thing I also would liked is a little more interaction with the hybrid mode. The Consumption screen was informative, but only in a basic sense. The thing that was missing most was a baseline to compare my gas “score”. For the future, I hope an EV mode, where only the electric engine is used until the battery runs out, makes its way to the GS sometime soon.

These were just small issues compared to the overall experience. It’s hard to overstate how useful it is to be able to customize the GS 450h to almost any driving condition — really, the only thing missing was an AWD option — and I was very impressed with the hybrid performance and near-silence.

With all that in mind, do I still plan to make the GS 450h my next car? Absolutely.

Special thanks to Lexus Canada for providing this GS 450h for review.

Comments


Comments


  1. Beautiful pics and beautiful color/combo

    I too thought about the hybrid, but the growl from the V8 counterpart is just too hard to pass.

    I can’t wait for you to get this car, so this site might be slightly biased toward GS for news and development =D

  2. Funny… I remember viewing a video of the GS 450h when it first embargoed on Lexus.com, and the lady said that the hybrid was AWD. Did they change their mind because of fuel efficiency, or am I only dreaming?

  3. The Lexus GS has been my favorite car since the second generation GS. My mom owned the GS350 for about a couple years and it was the time I fell in love with that car (a very fun car to learn to drive on). There are plenty of cars I liked but this was the only one that I actually loved! It was the perfect combination of comfort and sport, and was amazing with the extra power button, and that was only the 350!

    My mom recently got rid of the GS in favor of an ES because she didn’t really drive it the way it was meant to. And honestly you can see the difference in price and car, they are sooooo different. The ES is boring to me, the GS is more the type of car I like. Unfortunately I don’t have the budget for the GS, not now anyways, hopefully I will have it soon because I can’t stand seeing this car drive by and me not owning it.

  4. I agree with your conclusion. While I had (and still to some extent have) an odd feeling for the design, it is IMO the best Lexus all factors considered (incl. price). I got the chance to drive all Lexus hybrids + IS250 on the same day last fall. The LS was very nice, but too distant. The RX lacked agility and sharpness (frankly I was a bit disappointed) The IS was underpowered (350 not available here). The GS was the absolute winner, comfortable, powerful, sharp and even felt quite compact when pushed.

  5. Wow, you really did look closely at the car! I never thought about the intricacy of the details.

    I initially did not like the current generation Lexus cars. Mainly the IS I didn’t like the most because it seemed to “curvy” to me. I also felt the rear third of the GS was too “curvy” and from certain angles the car seemed bulky. After thinking about it though, the 2nd-gen GS does look good but a bit dated. I do miss the cluster (?) tail light design on the 2nd-gen GS though.

    I’m also considering GS as my next car but the finances is an obstacle.

  6. The GS 450h is definitely RWD, so you must have been dreaming. wink

    (Which wouldn’t be much different from my average dream—90% of my dreams involve the L badge. wink )

  7. Thanks for the compliments, I bought a new camera specifically to take photos of the review vehicles.

    Choosing between the 460 and 450h would be difficult, but as I mentioned in the review, I really enjoyed the hybrid.

    (Believe me, you should be seeing more and more GS coverage, just wait until I get into the real research stage.)

  8. One thing I didn’t mention in the review was how hard it was to give the keys back to Lexus Canada.. sad

  9. While I do miss the entirely separate tail lights from the 2GS, I think the 3GS did a good job of incorporating the look.

    It’s such a unique vehicle to follow behind, I find it has a lot more character than the BMW 5 or Mercedes E.

  10. That’s exactly it—there are definitely some odd angles with the GS, but all of its other benefits make it so appealing.

  11. I agree, the E class and 5 series also try to compete against the ES category and it just doesn’t work. It will be really interesting to see where Lexus decides to go with the GS. Hopefully you can find some more information about the next generation

  12. glad you like it if i were u id get one with PBI, of course. ;D GS is my 3rd fave Lexus

  13. heheh the Gamer…that’s my real name, believe it or not, its pronounced Ga like God and mer like lemur.

  14. Another great review, krew. To my eyes this car looks absolutely stunning from any angle, but it looks small out on the road compared to a 5-series or A6. Also don’t forget that GS is actually shorter & lower than ES while having only the same width. To those torn between the 460 & 450h, I can say ‘trunk space’- hybrid batteries reduce trunk volume by almost 2 cu ft in 450h compared to 460.

  15. Believe me, I have my ear to the ground.

  16. Yeah, even with the 40% improvement over the 2008 model, the GSh trunk was still pretty small, and that’s definitely a tradeoff with the hybrids. Luckily, I rarely use my trunk. wink

  17. if i were you, krew, i would go for the 460. there’s not many of them on the street. sure, the hybrid throw in is nice, but the pure roar of the 460’s 4.6 liter 342 hp V8 is just beautiful. true that you may never use all that power but the only difference in gas mileage is 1. just 1 mpg different then the hybrid and you also get more trunk space. not to mention it costs less and the PBI is just 200 more but u save over 3 grand by choosing the 460. also, you get more exterior color options
    now, the image appearence is the 460’s grille is a bit more bulky and the side black thing beneath the doors is lighter on the 460. the grille beneath the 460 is much sleeker. the 460 offers 4 more colors than the 450h,and half the 450h’s colors are basically just grey. they both share mercury metallic, starfire pearl, opaline pearl,matador red mica, and obsidian. however the 450h has only the three greys, two blacks, and one red. the 460, on the other hand has gold almond metallic, verdigris mica, black sapphire pearl, and smokey granite mica.

    bottom line, i would take the 460 with PBI and in obsidian.

  18. ya i remember it too

  19. Lovely review. I’ve followed this car intensely since its debut. For me it was the best of both worlds and the next evolution in the GS line. While everyone does traditional small engine/large engine, here was Lexus providing the world with the worlds first (and still is) RWD hybrid.

    The car is not for everyone, it doesn’t drive like a traditional car and yet, it does drive like a traditional car. Lexus has somehow figured out hot to take the sport luxury automobile to the next level in regards to merging performance and economy.

    Last month I purchased an 07 GS 450h. I’ve owned many Lexus vehicles and this one just makes me grin not only b/c of the usual Lexus qualities, but the new hybrid ones.

    Is it the perfect car? No. It is perfect for me smile

  20. Absolutely, the driving experience is what sold me on the car—with that unique balance of performance and economy, it gives a different meaning to being a “hybrid”.

  21. Lexus GS 450H reveiw

    Thanks for sharing the useful information.I am crazy for this 2009 Lexus GS 450H car.I really like this 2009 Lexus GS 450H car.Its all features are mind blowing such as the standard model are leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats with driver memory settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, wood interior trim etc.According to safety test, Lexus GS 450H scored the top rating which is great.For more details refer http://www.automotivecraze.com/2009-lexus-gs-450h-luxury-sedan-review/

  22. The GS is a highly refined motor-vehicle that is also extremely technologically advanced. And as with all Lexus products, benefits from impeccable build quality.

    However, here in Australia ... we have the GS300, GS450h and GS460 available but i would like to see the GS300 replaced with the more powerful GS350.

    All-in-all ... a great car !!

  23. Great review.  I own an 09 version and agree it is a truly remarkable vehicle.  You touched on one key feature - the computer restricts usage of the hybrid battery to between 80-100% of charge.  This is to protect the battery from total run down which is necessary but 80% seems to conservative.  You would be able to run the electric drive much longer in stop and go traffic if the battery could be run down to say 50%.  I wonder if there is a way to re-program/override this?

    PS - 460 vs 450h?  A no-brainer.  The 450h is 0.2 secs quicker to 60mph with the fuel economy of a small six.