The hills were alive with the sound of Hybrid as the European launch of the Lexus GS took to the Austrian Alps.
The 4th generation GS finally looks like a car meaning to do business with its rivals. The previous generations have looked quite understated, almost boring and not really a model you’d actually remember belonged to the Lexus brand. Until now.
The designers have seen the light and etched something that would make a Sensei proud.
Even the GS Chief Engineer, Yoshihiko Kanamori, mentioned that when driving the previous GS on the freeway, he would have to flash his lights to ask people to move out of the way. Now they move straight away.
With its scalloped front, spindle grille and L-shaped LED running lights, it certainly looks aggressive. But I also think it has a touch of the BMW 5-Series in looks too.
Lexus to me, means luxury and opening the door it’s here in abundance. The plush leather interior, which is certainly spacious, screams for you to jump in, shut the doors and sit there in a zombie-like trance taking it all in.
Eighteen-way electric adjustment on the Premier trim will make sure nobody could complain about having a bad back. There is even support under your thighs and I suddenly started to feel I was either sat in the dentists chair, or just about to get a pedicure.
Seats are also ventilated. So need warming up? It can be done. Need cooling down? No problem. A slightly weird sensation having cold air on your derriere when driving. The air-con system in the car uses Nanoe technology, so it purifies the air, whilst deodorising and moisturising. The car will also close vents to areas of the car not in use. Clever.
And there are more treats in the car, especially visual ones. A clock on the instrument panel is made from a single billet of aluminium and the multimedia display screen measures a whopping 12.3 inches, the largest in a car today. It was like having an iPad stuck to the dash. Controlled by a touch interface, it’s like navigating with a mouse.
With the common feature nowadays of the power button, you do feel like you’re in a cockpit rather than a car when you switch on the GS. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear ‘flight GS 450h, you are clear for take off’ being uttered into the car through the surround sound of the Mark Levinson 835 watt, 17-speaker system.
A Drive Mode Select system allows you to decide how you want to get the best qualities out of the car. Eco, Normal, Sport and on the F-Sport and Premier models, Sport Plus will change the ride accordingly.
The GS 450h is a 3.5-litre petrol and electric motor full hybrid system. Power output is 341bhp and accelerating from 0-62mph takes just 5.9 seconds.
Driving through Germany and cruising the autobahns is where the GS really shows its worth. It seamlessly mixed it up with the influx of Mercedes and Audis and had no hesitation in eating up the long stretches of road. With a top speed electronically limited to 155 mph, engine noise is minimal and the D-4S direct injection improves torque across the rev range.
The GS 250 is powered by a performance-tuned 2.5-litre V6, developing 207bhp. 0-62mph takes 8.6 seconds, but I preferred the Hybrid as we found it really noisy when putting our foot to the floor.
Driving through the twisty mountainous roads of the Austrian Alps and the Adaptive Variable Suspension makes the ride more comfortable and stable. The speed limits through the country change so often and at 40km/h Eco mode would kick in and the car would run in electric mode, excellent for conserving fuel.
The F-Sport is for those wanting stiffer suspension, sportier transmission and wanting to throw it around tight bends without flinching. Knock it into sport mode and the nice blue Eco mode indicator on the dash turns into a fiery red and becomes a rev counter and as long as your temperament doesn’t change with it, then you’ll get on just fine.
An added feature is the heads up display, which shows your speed in digits and the rev counter beamed onto the front window. It is so incredibly clear and avoids you having to look down to the dials.
The array of safety gimmicks contribute to the extra excitement factor when driving the car. Yes, I know I need to get out more. Driving aids such as Lane-Keep Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Pre-Crash Safety system, all do what they say on the tin and with 10 airbags, including force control sensors on the front one, being wrapped in cotton wool comes to mind.
There are new grade names for the trim levels: Premier, F-Sport, Luxury and SE, but like all Lexus, you could have the SE and still be benefitting, such are the array of options as standard. You’d find it hard to get them on its rivals, without denting your bank balance.
The rear seats are comfortable enough, although I can never understand why manufacturers continue to put five belts in a car when the middle seat is pretty useless. This has a back that is the pulldown armrest and sitting there my head, even though I’m of average height, was just below the ceiling. No room for giraffes.
A huge plus point is the boot in the 450h, which is over 50% bigger, so for all those golf lovers, you can now get a couple of bags in the back.
As a leader in the E Premium segment in CO2 emissions, which have fallen to 141g/km, combined fuel consumption is 46.3mpg. With Lexus announcing that they’re working on a smaller capacity, more affordable hybrid version for the GS, then what is the price of luxury?
The 250 SE comes in at £32,995. But if you’re going to buy premium, then for £50,995 you can buy the 450h Premier and experience the full luxuriousness the designers in Japan have created.
I may not be the target buyer for the GS, but I can’t sing the praises high enough of this refined car. If you’ve always been a BMW or Mercedes sort of person, then I think it’s high time you considered the Japanese brand.
It maybe a bold statement for them to say they’re ‘Creating Amazing’, but once you try the GS, you might end up agreeing.