A sporty hybrid disguised as a large luxury sedan

The Lexus GS has been on U.S. shores since 1993, and since then has grown both in size and in luxury. That growth has occurred over four generations with various mid-cycle refreshes in between. The first generational change took place in 1997. The design lasted until 2000 when a refresh debuted for the 2001 model year. Five years later, the third generation GS debuted for the 2006 model year. The fourth and current generation debuted for the 2013 model year and just recently received its mid-cycle refresh for the 2016 model year.

This most recent iteration of the GS sedan brings the large Lexus Spindle grille that’s found across the brand’s lineup. The new face is more aggressive and striking, suggesting the Lexus GS is no longer a soft, cushy cruiser built for the retirement crowd. In fact, the GS has broken that mold. The car’s more youthful and muscular stance now places it more squarely against competitors like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.

Adding to that muscular stance is the optional F Sport package. Check that box and the grille trades its horizontal chrome trim for an X-pattern mesh and larger air inlets down low. F Sport-specific wheels and badges are also added. Comparably, the F Sport package is like BMW’s M Sport – both add sporty features but aren’t the range-topping performance iterations. Leave that to BMW’s M division and Lexus’ F brand. And yes, the GS does offer a full-on GS F version, all-new for 2016, with a 467-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8.

However, I recently found the 2016 GS 450h F Sport in my driveway. As you might suspect, the “h” stands for hybrid. This version packs a V-6 and a battery pack, along with the eagle-eyed F Sport package for good measure. In a sense, the GS 450h F Sport is a true jack-of-all-trades. Keep reading to see what it’s like to live with.

Continue reading for the full driven review

  • 2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Transmission:
    CVT
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    338
  • MPG(Cty):
    29
  • MPG(Hwy):
    34
  • Energy:
    Gasoline/Electric Hybrid
  • Displacement:
    3.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5.6 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front Engine; Rear Drive
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Video Walk-Around


Exterior

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The 2016 GS has certainly grown up when compared to the previous model year. The Spindle grille makes for a more impressive first impression. Love it or hate it, there’s nothing else that looks like a modern Lexus – and for that, you’ve got to give Lexus designers credit.

Love it or hate it, there’s nothing else that looks like a modern Lexus – and for that, you’ve got to give Lexus designers credit.

Credit is also due for the attention to detail seen around the car. One look at the headlight assemblies and you’ll understand what I mean. Lexus calls them Triple Beam LED headlights, and for good reason. The three pods within the clear lens make for an impressive show, both day and night. The turn signals are incorporated just below the second and third light pods, and wrap around the side of the car. Down below, the daytime running lights in Lexus’ fishhook design are also fully LED, and give the car an impressive face during the day.

The same can be said for the taillights out back. They’re also LED units and feature three distinct lines that flow downward and turn toward the center of the car, recalling the fishhook shape from the DRLs. The taillights’ clear lenses also allow the designers to incorporate other detailing within the light assembly.

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Beyond lighting and the grille, the 2016 GS’ looks largely carry over from 2015. The sloping hood, large doors, tall greenhouse, and short overhangs give the car a big footprint. Though the body has plenty of soft edges, the sharp lines found within the 2016 updates give the GS a well balanced look.

Opting for the F Sport package brings the X-patterned grille mesh, the 19-inch, split-five-spoke alloy wheels, and a bespoke lower rear fascia with chrome trim and a small spoiler lip along the trunk lid.

The GS 450h’s hybrid drivetrain is identifiable thanks to a bevy of badges, including the blue Lexus emblems, a hybrid badge along the rocker panel, and of course, the GS 450h badge on the trunk. These days, “h” is generally understood to stand for hybrid.

The car’s overall appearance is very appealing. Its sporty nature shines through thanks to the few F Sport add-ons and despite the various hybrid badges.

Interior

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Interior
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Lexus designers didn’t forget about the interior with the 2016 updates. The sedan now features a new steering wheel, updated IS-like gauge cluster, updated software for the Enform system, and new interior trim and color choices.

The sedan now features a new steering wheel, updated IS-like gauge cluster, updated software for the Enform system, and new interior trim and color choices.

From behind the wheel, you’ll first notice the, well, the wheel. It features a slew of controls for things like the radio, driver information screen in the gauge cluster, voice command and phone buttons, and controls for the adaptive cruise control. Its new design is also cleaner and more refined than the outgoing wheel. Then there’s the gauge cluster.

Gone are the two analog gauges with the small driver information screen. A gauge cluster that recalls the Lexus IS sedan and RC coupe’s cluster, both of which were inspired by the mighty Lexus LFA, replaces it. Unlike the IS and RC, the GS’ center gauge does not slide sideways to reveal a third TFT screen. It remains stationary, but its display changes depending on which drive mode is currently selected.

The screen to the left gives a host of vehicle information, including energy flow (hybrid only), a g-meter (F Sport only), radio and phone info, tire pressure, and any system warnings. Controls for this screen are on the right stalk of the steering wheel. To the right of the center screen are two analog gauges for coolant temperature and fuel level.

Sitting top and center of the dashboard is a 12.3-inch infotainment screen. Introduced in 2015, the large screen carries over for 2016, but with updated software that allows for a full-screen map mode and more viewing options in the split screen mode. There’s also new menu buttons along the right side of the screen for faster navigation. As I mention in the video walk-around, I’ve always though Lexus’ Enform systems prematurely outdated looking. This version, however, seems to escape that feeling despite its similarity to previous versions. I just liked it better.

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Interior
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Regardless of my opinions, the Enform system works well and is fairly straight forward – even for non-techy people. The mouse-like controller on the center console is the main input method. With some practice, the joystick is easy to use. I will say though, that turning the joystick’s feedback down to its lowest setting makes it even easier to use. Maximum feedback makes the joystick vibrate like crazy.

In practice, the interior is wonderfully useful.

My tester’s interior came with the optional Rioja Red leather seats and Naguri Aluminum trim. The combination furthers the car’s sporty feel. I really love the 3D appearance and texture of the aluminum trim. It gives the car a more exclusive feel than the traditional wood accents.

In practice, the interior is wonderfully useful. The driver’s seat has 16-way power functions that allow for minute adjustments for the perfect fit. The power-operated steering column further allows for the perfect driving position. The HVAC system is easy to use, but only after learning the smallish buttons. I really enjoyed the automatic temperature controlled seats, which adjusts to match the temperature setting from the air conditioner.

Rear seat comfort is also very good. Leg and headroom are generous, and a folding center armrest and air vents keep passengers happy. The driver also has control of a power-operated sunshade that covers the rear window.

Drivetrain

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution
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The GS sedan offers several powertrain choices, but this hybrid comes packing a 3.5-liter V-6 and a water-cooled permanent-magnet electric motor. The gasoline engine uses the Atkinson combustion cycle and variable valve timing for high efficiency, while still delivering a respectable amount of power. Combined with the electric motor, the total system output is 338 horsepower. That makes the hybrid the most powerful non-F GS in the lineup by 27 horses.

In my week with the car, which did include plenty of spirited driving, I averaged 28.0 mpg.

Power is routed to a planetary-type continuously variable transmission that drives the rear wheels. Though CVTs aren’t generally good at manual shifting from the driver, the GS 450h F Sport provides paddle shifters and a +/- function on the gear shifter. Manually shifting is best left for downshifting on long grades, but the CVT does respond better to manual shifts than other CVTs I’ve sampled.

Of course, the GS 450h is a hybrid, and fuel economy is important. The EPA rates this car at 29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. In my week with the car, which did include plenty of spirited driving, I averaged 28.0 mpg.

Suspension & Brakes

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Opting for the F Sport package adds the Adaptive Variable Suspension system to the car. When moving between drive modes, which include Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+, the suspension becomes progressively stiffer. In Sport+ mode, the GS feels well planted and tightly sprung. Corners are carved with ease and body roll is minimal. Conversely, in Eco mode, the GS rides like soft butter. The suspension soaks up road imperfections and interstate expansion joints like nothing.

The F Sport package also upgrades the braking system. Large, two-piece, 14-inch rotors are mounted up front, with four-piston calipers. Regenerative braking is unperceivable and pedal feel is linear with a quick response. The F Sport package also makes standard Bridgestone summer performance tires.

Safety

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Interior
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The 2016 GS 450h comes with a host of standard safety features, including 10 airbags, stability control, ABS, brake assist, traction control, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross-traffic Alert.

Available as an option is Lexus’ Safety System+, which combines Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam, and All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the 2016 GS sedan as “Good” in the moderate overlap front, side, and roof strength tests.

Price

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The entry-level GS fitted with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder starts at $45,600. Opting for the GS 450h brings the price to $63,000 and adding the F Sport package further pushes the price to $68,000.

My tester came packed with options, including the Lexus Safety System+ ($1,795), Mark Levinson sound system ($1,380), power-operating trunk ($400), and Intuitive Park Assist ($500). Add on the $950 destination charge, and the total comes to $73,150.

Competition

BMW ActiveHybrid 5

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The 5 Series is about as iconic as a premium sedan can get. It offers a range of options and tons of standard features that make it worthy of the BMW badge. For those wanting the greenest 5 Series, BMW offers the ActiveHybrid 5. It comes powered by a turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder making 300 horsepower. A lithium-ion battery pack offers full-electric power up to 37 mph, while an eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels. The EPA rates the ActiveHybrid 5 at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Prices for the 2016 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 start at $62,100.

Read our full review here.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Like the BMW 5 Series, the Panamera is available in a variety of powertrain configurations, including a hybrid. Porsche’s hybrid, however, is of the plug-in variety and offers 20 miles of all-electric range before the gasoline engine kicks in . Speaking of which, the gas engine is a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 making 333 horsepower. Add in the 95-horsepower, 229-pound-feet of torque electric motor, and the Panamera boasts a totally output of 416 horsepower and 435 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels.

Porsche is proud of the E-Hybrid, though, and its base price starts at $99,975. That’s quite a bit more expensive than either the Lexus or BMW, but the Porsche is quite a bit more powerful.

Read our full review here.

Conclusion

2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The updates for the 2016 model year bring a welcomed change for the GS sedan. No longer does it look subtle and soft-spoken – no, the GS is now an in-your-face sedan with attitude. Getting the F Sport package only increases that attitude. The GS now stands out rather than blending in. It’s more eye candy than sensible sedan. And that’s exactly what Lexus needed the GS to become.

The competition is strong in this full-size luxury sedan class, so standing out is important. Disenchanted BMW and Mercedes owners might be giving Lexus a close look – and from what I’ve seen of the GS 450h F Sport, they should be pleasantly surprised by what they find.

All told, the GS 450h F Sport makes for a great combination of sport and hybrid efficiency. It combines a solid suspension system with a powerful drivetrain, RWD, and a respectable CVT for a luxury sedan that isn’t afraid of curvy roads. While it might not be the master of the “hybrid” or “sport” trades, the GS 450h F Sport does a good job at being the jack of them.

  • Leave it
    • Gets expensive with options
    • CVT isn’t the best for sporty endeavors
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