Performance Goes Green
Rewind a few years ago and the owners of Hybrids were ridiculed beyond belief. The economy was humming along and gas prices were stable. Then in the wake of some natural disasters and political movement, the price of gas blazed past $1.00/L (around $4.00USD / gal.) and suddenly green offerings were becoming very attractive but still void of any luxury perks. Enter the World’s first Hybrid sport sedan – the Lexus GS450h. The GS has always been aimed squarely at the 5-series, A6 and E-Class buyers of the world. Now Lexus has changed tack to open the door to consumers looking to not only cut fuel costs (dramatically) but in a vehicle that has a presence on the streets. The big money Toyota invested in their Hybrid Synergy Drive program is coming to fruition as the GS continues to define the class despite being launched in late ’06.
At $62,500 the price certainly isn’t for everyone however, Lexus didn’t cut any corners on the luxury appointments either. The first generation GS450h (MSRP $76,900) was fully jammed but our ’09 offered only the Ultra Premium Package, which compliments the high-tech Lexus well. included the legendary Mark Levinson sound system topping out with a whopping 14 speakers to immerse occupants in sound. The package also includes: Navigation, Backup cam and sensors, rear side air bags and a spoiler.
Long criticized for their inferiority to the German interiors, Lexus has certainly stormed into the pack of front runners with authority. Higher end materials and fabrics are complimented by chromed accents and luxurious woodgrain. The leather seats feature high-adjustability and are ventilated for all-season comfort. Lexus has followed suit and integrated many of their controls into the touch-screen LCD a practice that can take some getting used to as you figure out the interface. Lexus is, what we consider best in class considering cabin insulation making road noise and mechanical noise non-existent, especially in electric mode.
When we say quiet, we’re not
exaggerating,the GS450h makes
no noise at rest and barely
a whisper while rolling
around a parking lot!
One of the collateral issues with owning this Hybrid is that pedestrians will literally walk right in front of your moving car. Why? Well they don’t hear it coming and bustling pedestrian traffic has become reliant on approaching sound,s rather than going through the hassle of actually looking where they walk. But step on the gas and it definitely will fire up the motor quickly and the car lurches forward with a growl of acceleration.
The 3.5L V6 under the lid is equipped with VVT-i variable timing and positioned in parallel configuration. This means the car can generate combined horsepower to total 339 ponies when both the engine and the electric motor are cranking at optimal ranges. The 292hp with 267lb-ft of torque V6 is augmented by a 197hp electric motor which delivers 202lb-ft from only 1rpm! The engine is coupled to a longitudinal CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) which houses the electric motor and the complex gearing to enable all of the power inputs and outputs to play nice. One of the benefits of this system is that this engine requires no starter, no alternator or drive belts to drag the engine down. All this technology will get the big 4100-pound sedan out of the hole in a hurry (5.5-seconds 0-60mph) with the instant-on torque of the electric blending into the wider powerband of the V6. The cumulative horsepower is just three ponies less than the larger displacement (and more expensive) GS460 with a gas-hungry V8 lurking under the hood. Naturally, cranking that type of power out of the gas motor demands that only premium be used and we noticed more and more Lexus / Toyota product being engineered to sip the good stuff.
And sip they do. This mid-luxury sedan only consumes 8.7L/100km city with a scant 7.8L/100 on the highway. Since I live and work downtown it saw a lot of ‘city’ and was in pure electric mode much of the time. At the end of the test, the GS used only half the tank for an entire week when every other press vehicle had to be filled at some point. One of the benefits to the Lexus Hybrid Drive system is the intelligent Power Control Unit managing the generator, the motor and the engine. It allocates adequate charge and power output where needed, even the regenerative braking system adds to the charging capabilities by engaging electromagnetic clutches (along with standard disc brakes) to decelerate and charge at the same time.
You would never know you were driving a rather portly Hybrid with all of the Lexus mechanics and electronically-controlled wizardry. Riding on an independent double wishbone suspension, the Lexus is equipped with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) that changes setting on the fly for ideal handling. The Lexus Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) also plays a big role in adjusting the steering throttle and braking to suit driving styles. What all these acronyms equate to is a sharp steering sedan but with a bit more dive than expected.
The GS460h can generate combined horsepower to total 339 ponies when both the engine and the electric motor are cranking at optimal ranges. The 292hp with 267lb-ft of torque V6 is augmented by a 197hp electric motor which delivers 202lb-ft from only 1rpm!
Lexus has achieved many milestones in their history and the GS450h has definitely started a whole new class others will follow. While the World accepts this pivotal product many OEMs have plenty of catching up to do.