Until now, Lexus hasn’t had a GS capable of standing toe to toe with tax-friendly favourites like the 119g/km BMW 520d. But that’s all about to change with the new GS300h which, on paper, is a company car buyer’s dream.
Using the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol and electric motor combination, with 220bhp, as the IS300h, it returns a class-leading 60.1mpg and 109g/km of CO2 in new entry-level SE trim, or 57.6mpg and 113g/km in Luxury, F Sport or top-spec Premier trim driven here (blame the standard 19-inch wheels for that).
The upshot, taking into account the tax breaks for petrol engines over diesels, is that for a higher-rate tax payer the GS300h SE costs £7,662 less in BIK over three years than a BMW 520d.
For some, that fact alone is enough to seal the deal, but has the class-leading efficiency come at the expense of the driving experience? Well, it depends what you’re looking for - if you’re the type that enjoys threading your way down a fast B-road, the BMW is still streets ahead, but if making serene progress is your thing, then the Lexus stands alone.
We criticised this hybrid powertrain in the IS300h because Lexus pitched that car as a dynamic equal to the BMW 3 Series; it wasn’t. But behind the wheel of the GS, the way the CVT ‘box removes any steps or jerks in the power delivery, and the hushed operation of the four-cylinder engine with a distant whine from the motor, fits the Lexus philosophy well.
Drive the GS on part throttle and the refinement and ride quality (so long as you avoid Sport+ mode, which firms up the adaptive dampers that are standard on F-Sport and Premier models) is far better than the 520d.
A large part of Lexus’ appeal is the stunning interior build quality, and the GS doesn’t disappoint. The materials on our test car were exemplary (the knurled knobs for the superb Mark Levinson stereo are a particular highlight), while the mouse-style Remote Touch interface and huge display screen are a pleasure to use - even if the menu layout could do with some work.
Push the accelerator to the floor though, and things start to unravel - there’s the familiar whine from the CVT gearbox, accleration is pedestrian and the car continues to surge forward for a second when you back off the throttle. Using the wheel-mounted paddles is a pointless exercise too - the transmission reacts too slowly and there’s no significant change in the revs.
But here’s the thing. Lexus claims it’s has never had a single customer complaint about the CVT’s slow reactions, which means buyers simply don’t care. You choose a Lexus because you want something different from the big three German manufacturers, that helps you to relax and promotes an easy life. And in that respect the GS300h is a resounding success.