• 2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven

    Christian drives the GS450h; will he be disappointed by another Lexus hybrid?
LISTEN 11:22

The GS is the second-largest sedan you can buy from Lexus, and it is one of the most luxurious. It comes loaded with all the leather, wood and technology you would expect from the brand, but it comes with something most Lexus models are missing; a touch of anger and performance. Lexus sells the GS with an adjustable sports suspension, an F Sport model and even a hybrid that promises to let you have fun.

Lexus has proven that it can do some great things with the F brand, but I had to laugh at the idea of a fun hybrid from the brand. Low and behold a Starfire Pearl colored GS450h rolled into my driveway for me to beat and cane on for a whole week. After experiencing what Porsche can do with the Panamera Hybrid, I was interested to see if Lexus could make a hybrid that was “fun.”

It has more than 300 horsepower, promises more than 30 mpg, and it looks great to boot. If there was ever going to be a hybrid from the Toyotafamily that I would enjoy, it would be this one. Let’s jump and in and drop the hammer; it’s time to see what this thing is made of.

Read on to find out more about the 2014 Lexus GS450h

  • 2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven
  • Year:
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  • Displacement:
    3.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5.7 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    138 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • car fuel:
  • body style:


2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The centermost creases on the hood flow directly into the grille, where a soft curve helps direct the line into the outward splay of the spindle nose.

With every Lexus that rolls through my driveway, I find myself staring at that “spindle” grille trying to decide if I like it or not. It seems to work well on some models like the IS, but poorly on other like the RX. I don’t think the GS is the best looking in the family, but it does seem to wear the nose better than most. I think this has more to do with the restrained size of the chrome outline that rings three-quarters of the small grille. There also seems to be a touch more aggression in the GS, which I enjoy.

If you stare directly at the nose, you will notice that there are several subtle body lines and design flourishes that melt together. The centermost creases on the hood flow directly into the grille, where a soft curve helps direct the line into the outward splay of the spindle nose. The headlamp housings mirror the same sharp cuts of the grille, and the round HID assemblies in those lamps add a nice dash of contrast to the sharp look overall.

Sadly, aside from the sharp, 19-inch alloy wheels, the rest of the car is fairly plain. The sides have only a few interesting features, and the rear is a large collection of generic shapes with only one or two small design touches to make it stand out.


2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven Interior
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2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven Interior
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2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven Interior
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Lexus has used this to its advantage. Instead of a single screen of information, there is room to show what would normally be two different screens.

The cabin of any Lexus is always a strong point, and the GS450h is no exception. The saddle-colored leather carries the color designation of “Flaxen,” and when it is mated to the nice black dash and the bamboo veneer, it looks quite stunning. It feels much more organic and luxurious than the traditional black cave that makes up most German luxury cars. I do wish the wood was a bit nicer though. Lexus claims that it uses real wood, but the bamboo finish looks painted on. It seems rather cheap in what is otherwise a remarkable cabin.

Some of the more notable pieces of equipment in this hybrid include a set of heated and cooled front seats that have an auto function. So you can leave them on constantly, and the car will decide what setting you need. The main infotainment screen is massive, as it should be in a car this caliber, and thanks to Lexus’ little mouse control interface, it is not terrible to use. The screen is exceptionally wide, and Lexus has used this to its advantage. Instead of a single screen of information, there is room to show what would normally be two different screens. It defaults to radio and satellite navi.

The seats are very comfortable thanks to their adjustability. There are, by my count, 20 different directions of adjustment if you count the headrest. You can get the seat to be just so. It is probably my favorite part of the whole cabin. This hybrid also has some sporting intentions so just behind the shift knob is a selector switch to toggle between the four driving modes; Eco, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+.

There is a power rear sunshade and manual operated sunshades on both rear doors to keep those in the rear seats comfortable in the hot summer sun, or just to add an extra bit of privacy. Rear passengers can also control the audio system and climate system with a set of controls that are integrated into the center fold-down armrest.


2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven Drivetrain
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When you switch the GS into Sport S+ and hammer it, you are given real performance.

Toyota is very proud of its hybrid technology, and for good reason. On the whole, you are going to get a smoother driving and more fuel-efficient hybrid experience with a Toyota system. They don’t have a great reputation for fun though. Well the Lexus GS450h is looking to change that. I already talked about the adjustable seat bolsters and the Sport mode toggles, but there is more to the GS450h than that.

First off, it does make use of the larger 3.5-liter V-6 engine for its hybrid setup, like the RX crossover. That means that when combined with the battery boost, the GS has 338 horsepower on tap. It does still have a CVT, but all that horsepower is not sent to the front wheels. Oh no. As a proper luxury sedan, the GS sends all the horsepower to the rear wheels exclusively. When you switch the GS into Sport S+ and hammer it, you are given real performance. The zero to 60 mph sprint is over in 5.6 seconds, and you can keep going until you hit a top speed of 138 mph.

The CVT also has a sport shift mode that makes it more willing to rev high and provide extra speed. There are also paddle shifters on the steering wheel to give you access to “gears.”

Of course, this is still a hybrid, so fuel economy is important. Lexus claims the GS450h is good for 29 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg combined. During my testing, I did see highway numbers as high as 34.4, but after a week of abusing this thing I ended with a combined total of 30 mpg.


2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven Emblems and Logo Exterior
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The Lexus GS carries an almost reasonable base price of $47,700, but you have to step up to $59,600 to take home a hybrid version. Our car also came with the Blind Spot Monitor system, heads up display, Luxury package, HDD navigation package, park assist and power trunk. Together those options totaled almost $10,000. Our tester’s final price after destination rang up at $70k even.

Driving Impressions

I was looking forward to having another RWD hybrid sedan like the Panamera. I found myself enamored with the Porsche’s performance combined with fuel economy. Sadly, the Lexus GS450h is not quite as great as the Porsche, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t impress me.

It may only have 338 horsepower, but thanks to loads of low-end torque and the surprisingly responsive CVT transmission, you can gather speed when you want to. The tightened suspension is so much better than the standard wobbly floppy mode that I never drove anywhere with the car in anything but Sport S+. Even when cruising the highway, I preferred the more planted feel of the sports suspension setting.

Steering in the GS450h is adequate, but not exceptional. Like most electrical systems with this level of variability, Lexus was able to nail turn in speed and weight, but there is no feedback in any form from the front wheels. One day a mainstream manufacturer will get this right. Until then, we are stuck with numb steering controls.

I’m not sure what the treadwear rating is on the tires that Lexus has fitted this thing with, but I think they may be somewhere in the 9000 range. There just never seemed to be any real lateral grip from the rubber. It made things far more entertaining as you could get a bit of slide in any sharp turn while staying within the legal limit, but don’t expect to tear up your local autocross.

With the near-infinitely adjustable seat, throaty exhaust note from the engine and the solid entertainment systems I could easily spend days on end driving this machine. It is that good. Again, it isn’t as good as the Panamera S E-Hybrid, but it only costs half as much.


BMW 535d

2014 BMW 5-Series High Resolution Exterior
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The BMW 5 Series is a natural competitor to the GS. They are both positioned in the mid-point of their respective sedan families, and they are both created to be a near perfect blend of fun and civility. The 535d is the best choice when looking for another option to the GS450h, as the diesel engine provides exceptional fuel economy, but it doesn’t have to suffer the weight penalty a bank of batteries provides. The EPA rates the 535d at 38 mpg on the highway. If you take a peek, that makes the oil-burning BMW much more fuel efficient than the Lexus.

You do sacrifice some power and speed though. The 3.0-liter, V-6 diesel in the BMW may be good for 413 pound-feet of torque, but it only has 255 horsepower. Thanks to this power deficit, the Lexus beats it to 60 mph and has a higher top speed.

The BMW is rear wheel drive like the Lexus, but the BMW will be a much better handling machine.


2014 Lexus GS450h - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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I was prepared to dislike the GS450h, just as I had disliked the RX hybrid. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a car that fulfilled all its promises. It was fun when I wanted it to be, fuel efficient even I wasn’t trying to be, and it was extremely well built and luxurious. There is little more you can ask for in a car. I do wish it was a touch cheaper, and I wish the steering was a tad sharper, but in the grand scheme of things, the GS450h is much better than I thought it had any right to be.

The only problem I really have with the GS450h is that it was so nice to drive that I can’t stop thinking about how nice it must be to get behind the wheel of the even larger, faster and nicer LS600h.

I’m sorry I hated on your RX350h so badly, Lexus. You have proved to me that you can make one damned-good hybrid when you set your mind to it.

  • Leave it
    • Wood interior trim looks a bit cheap
    • CVT is good, but not as nice as a proper automatic
    • Traction control systems can’t be fully defeated
Christian Moe
Christian Moe
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