If you want a powerful executive car that won’t cost the earth to run, the default choice is usually something German and diesel. However, the Lexus GS 450h provides a refreshing alternative to the mainstream. And now, thanks to an all-new chassis and fresh design, it’s even more appealing.
Thanks to its hybrid system, the GS emits less CO2 than its diesel rivals, yet it still delivers plenty of performance. The smooth 3.5-litre V6 combines with the electric motor to deliver 341bhp, making 0-62mph possible in just 5.9 seconds. Sadly, while throttle response is instant, the CVT gearbox means that under hard acceleration the engine tends to make a lot of noise.
This, though, is the only complaint about the GS’s refinement. On the whole it’s almost totally silent when cruising, especially at low speeds, where it can run on electric power alone.
This ability means that you can get close to the claimed economy, or even top it – we saw an average 47mpg on the trip computer during one journey. However, the GS 450h isn’t as efficient as a German diesel when it comes to sustained high-speed runs.
It’s not as spacious, either, as the rear-mounted batteries eat into boot space. Combine this with slightly tight rear headroom, and the Lexus can’t match the Mercedes E-Class for carrying people and their luggage.
The GS is hard to fault in terms of quality, though. The fit and finish is impeccable, the seats unrivalled for comfort, and even the entry Luxury model has all the toys you need, such as heated and cooled seats, sat-nav and a rear parking camera. Higher spec cars get adaptive dampers, but the standard set-up is perfectly acceptable, as it provides a smooth ride and composed, if not exactly dynamic, handling.
And that sums up the GS450h. It’s not a class leader, but by carving its own niche it provides an interesting alternative to the more obvious European choices.