Whoosh Disguised as a Hybrid Sports Sedan
In our recent review of the Lexus 2016 ES 300h we noted that hybrid was more suited for touring or highway cruising than cornering and performance. When concocting the 2016 GS 450h F Sport, Lexus probably said something like, “Hey, wait a minute, you want more performance from a hybrid?” and gave us this fast, smooth, luxurious sports sedan that, oh by-the-way gets excellent fuel economy.
The 2016 GS 450h F Sport is powered by the Lexus Hybrid Drive system of a 3.5L, 24-valve double overhead-cam (DOHC) gasoline-powered V6 engine, plus a water-cooled 134-kW electric motor. Total engine output is 338 hp and 257 lb-ft of torque. All this power and torque goes through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters, driving the rear wheels. Running on 91 octane, EPA fuel economy for the GS 450h F Sport is rated at 29 city/34 highway/31 combined mpg. I drove 418 miles and averaged 32.1 mpg, exceeding the EPA estimates. The GS 450h has some of the best fuel economy numbers among sport sedans.
The Lexus Hybrid Drive system automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric/gasoline engine, and gasoline-only engine power. The transitions which can be monitored by viewing the dash gauges are seamless and smooth, partially because of the fluid-filled front engine mounts that reduce noise and vibration. When driving a hybrid, I like the option to select the electric-only (or EV) mode, especially when cruising around town in stop-and-go traffic. The GS 450h has this option, but for the most part it is unnecessary to manually make this selection as the computer gets the GS 450h into EV mode when it should be there.
The hybrid system’s nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery is charged through the regenerative charging system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and electric motors.
The center console-mounted Drive Mode Select dial on the GS 450h allows the driver to choose between ECO, Snow, Normal, Sport, Sport+ and the before-mentioned EV—all of which have a indicator light on the instrument cluster. Of these settings, I spent most of my highway time in ECO, which maximized throttle response for the best fuel economy. Normal is a compromise for efficiency, ride and handling, but the reason you will buy and be excited about owning a GS 450h F Sport are the two Sport modes, assuming of course you like to accelerate and corner fast.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The Lexus GS line-up consists of six models: 200t; 200t F Sport; 350; 350 F Sport; 450h, and the 450h F Sport, which was what Clean Fleet Report was testing. With Lexus saying the GS 450h F
Sport provides “added grins when driving,” you get the idea they are serious about the performance offered in this hybrid sports sedan. Each of the GS models offers something unique, but if you are looking for a hybrid sports sedan to get you and your friends around in style, comfort and with respectable performance, then this is the car for you.
The 2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport is a fine car, with “fine” being used in the complimentary and laudatory sense a wine enthusiast uses to describe a vintage bottle they have just quaffed. Nothing is below par with the 450h F Sport, starting with the suspension of coil springs, stabilizer bars and gas-pressurized shocks front and rear. For more precise handling, there are Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) and Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) where the driver can select shock absorber dampening. The speed-sensing rack-and-pinion steering with electric assist was programmed for good driver feedback, and the 19-inch, five-spoke machine-finished alloy wheels had staggered Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tires: 265/35R/19 on the rear and 235/40R/19 on the front. Bridgestone says its “Potenza RE050 tire is developed for high performance sports cars, coupes and sedans…for impressive cornering performance in dry and wet conditions.” Not only did these tires stick when pushed hard and were smooth on SoCal freeways at 70+ mph, but their being staggered just looked very, very cool!
As far as performance, the GS 450h F Sport did consistent 0 – 60 runs in the 5.5-second range when using the Sport+ drive mode, with the CVT and paddle shifters yielding comparable numbers. But when encountering tight turns in my local mountains, the paddle shifters helped keep the rev band where it was the most useful to power the rear wheels. This was important because the 257 lb-ft of torque was maximum at 4,500 rpms, with redline at 6,000 rpms. Using the paddle shifters to artificially keep the CVT from finding a more efficient operating zone was crucial to getting the most performance from the car. Lexus says the GS 450h F Sport has a 137 mph top speed, but I was a good boy and did not try to confirm what would have been a fun experiment.
Lexus knows stopping is important so they outfitted the F Sport with 14-inch two-piece hi-friction front rotors with four piston calipers. The result were straight and consistent stops enhanced by traction and vehicle stability control and an electronically controlled brake system that incorporates regenerative control and power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. If you are not familiar with hybrid technology, when coming to a stop, the combination of the regenerative braking and the hybrid motor made a noticeable, but not unpleasant, whine.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Saying it “epitomizes the intersection of style and refinement,” Lexus freshened the 2016 GS 450h with a new front bumper, rocker panels, revised taillights, new Bi-LED headlights and new rear trim. But all of these take a second glance to the signature, satin chrome-trimmed Lexus Spindle grille. You have to have a definite opinion on it…no fence sitting allowed. I like this aggressive styling as it sets the GS 450h F Sport apart from others in its class, making a youthful and muscular statement.
The F Sport gets bespoke badging, mesh front grille inserts, unique front bumper, lower front valance and a rear lip spoiler, the latter of which helps contribute to a low 0.27 Cd.
Driving Experience: Interior
The F Sport package adds upgrades to an already premium GS interior. So what is expected of a luxury car interior? How about fine leather, wood, brushed aluminum and state-of-the-art electronics all presented with a high level of fit, finish, craftsmanship and attention to detail. This and more is found in the 2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport, starting with the comfort level of the seats, which is what new car buyers consider to be a must. Our red heated and ventilated, leather-trimmed front seats for both driver and passenger seats are power 10-way adjustable. Usually the passenger gets less power adjustments or none at all…nice going Lexus! For the driver, the power tilt, telescoping and collapsible steering column, the wood and leather steering wheel (that included controls for the audio, telephone and voice controls) made it easy to find a comfortable seating position. The driver’s seat also has three memory settings.
All controls are convenient to reach and use, and the gauges are easy to see and read on a very well laid-out and attractive dash. The black dash is set-off with top stitching, wood and leather, plus aluminum and piano black trim accents. The two large round gauges (separated by the 4.2-inch multi-information display) are deep set under a hood to reduce glare, with the right gauge the speedometer and the left monitoring energy use for the EV system. When selecting the Sport or Sport+ drive mode, the right gauge becomes a tach.
The rear cabin is roomy, as in tall people fit easily, and has HVAC vents, a power port and directional reading lights. The rear seat back does not fold down but there is a folding armrest with a storage area. Behind the back seat is a power rear sunshade that automatically retracts when putting the car in reverse and rises when in Park or one of the drive modes. I came to appreciate the shade for the privacy and cooling it provided.
Our GS 450h F Sport came standard with navigation and the Lexus Enform App Suite, both viewed on a 12.3-inch color multi-media screen that also was the heart of the optional Mark Levinson
premium surround sound audio system, which had a 835-watt amplifier and 17 speakers. This infotainment (entertainment and information) system had a short learning curve and requires little driver attention to operate the Remote Touch Controller that controls navigation, Siri Eyes Free, SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM radio with iPod/MP3 playback capability. The CD slot also doubles to play a DVD and the FM/AMHD is a cache radio that offers the ability to pause and playback 10 minutes of programming. The SiriusXM service is included for 90 days. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB ports, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and hands-free phone capability. The auto-dimming rearview mirror was Homelink equipped and the Gracenote voice recognition technology for the telephone, text-to speech and navigation worked well.
The cockpit design is driver friendly, featuring a dual-zone automatic climate system (with rear vents), digital and analog clocks, a center console storage box and cup holders. The interior also has a power tilt and sliding moonroof, power windows with one touch up/down, power door locks, Smart Access with push button stop/start, 12V power outlets, individual front and rear reading lamps, heated electrochromic auto-dimming outside rearview mirrors with reverse tilt-down functions and puddle lamps.
Safety and Convenience
The GS 450h is well-equipped with active and passive safety features including 10 air bags, the Lexus Enform App Suite (one-year subscription included), LED daytime front running lights, tire pressure monitoring system, water-repellent front door glass, rain-sensing wipers with deicers, remote entry and electric trunk and fuel filler door releases with valet lock-out.
Also included is all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic collision notification, fluid-filled front engine mounts, stolen vehicle locator, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, first aid kit, intuitive parking assist, hill start control, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, rearview camera, the previously mentioned four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. The pre-collision system uses a combination of millimeter-wave radar and front facing cameras to detect vehicles and pedestrians.
The 2016 Lexus GS 450h has not been rated by the US Government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS.)
The 2016 Lexus GS 450h has a base MSRP of $63,080, with the F Sport priced at $68,125. Clean Fleet Report’s GS 450h F Sport, with option packages, had a MSRP of $71,040. All prices do not
include the $940 delivery, processing and handling fee.
The 2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport comes with these warranties:
- Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
- Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
- Hybrid-related Component Coverage – Eight years/100,000 miles
- Comprehensive – Three years/36,000 miles
- Corrosion Perforation – Six years/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Assistance – Four years/Unlimited miles
- Complimentary First and Second Scheduled Maintenance Service
- Lodging for Emergency Breakdowns, 100 miles from home
Observations: 2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport
I review a few dozen cars a year and for the most part returning them to the manufacturer doesn’t elicit a pause. However, at the end of my 10 days in the 2016 Lexus GS 450h F Sport, I was trying to come up with ways to finagle more time in this very nice car. Lexus would hear nothing of it, so with a hearty sigh I handed over the keys, leaving me with fond memories.
I was impressed with the power, handling, comfort, technology and the smoothness of the Lexus Hybrid Drive System that delivered excellent fuel economy. Lexus is to be recognized for putting all the bits and pieces into a hybrid sports sedan that competes strongly against non-hybrid cars such as the Jaguar XF, Audi A6, Cadillac CTS and BMW 5-Series.
The only way you will know for sure is to visit your Lexus dealership and take a lengthy test drive to experience the different drive modes, handling, performance and interior comfort. Have them walk you through all the features, technology and options, especially taking the time to explain the hybrid technology in detail. I am confident you will be impressed.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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