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Lexus GS 450h SE-L

We hit road to see if luxurious hybrid is still worth considering

GREAT performance in virtual silence – that’s one area in which the GS 450h excels. It’s incredibly fast and hugely refined. But while it still has the pace, the rest of the experience hasn’t moved on. It’s a little better to look at and sit in, yet isn’t as efficient as it should be, has a small boot and will soon no longer be exempt from the Congestion Charge. A diesel saloon is a better buy.

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HAS the shine gone from Lexus’ luxury hybrid? The GS 450h trails diesel rivals such as the new BMW 5-Series on efficiency, while it will no longer be exempt from the Congestion Charge in London, under new proposals.

[video src="AE_02Sep10_LexusGS450h.jpg" image="391975" /]

So, does it still make sense?

Lexus certainly thinks so. It’s just updated the petrol-electric model – and Auto Express has driven it. There are now only two variants in the simplified range: SE and SE-L. Both get a tweaked grille and fresh rear lights with a ‘hybrid blue’ tint, while the SE has new 17-inch alloys and the SE-L revised 18-inch wheels.

Inside, the changes are just as subtle. The same hybrid blue shade graces the power button’s backlighting, and a new leather upholstery option features, with contrasting black stitching and maple wood grain trim.

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The car wasn’t short on toys before, but it now has a 40GB hard drive-based sat-nav system, complete with 10GB of music storage. Owners can play tunes from this through a stunning 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, which incorporates DVD playback, while active headrests are now included as part of a wholesale range of safety kit.

Refined

Under the bonnet, the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is boosted by a 650V electric motor. This runs off batteries mounted directly above the rear axle – cutting boot space to only 280 litres. Total output is 341bhp, and as a result, the GS 450h is fast and very refined.

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Press the start button, and the car whirrs into life in almost complete silence. Although the electric motor can drive the GS on its own, the petrol unit operates too for most of the time.

All that electrical assistance means instant torque – from idle, the driver has 275Nm at their disposal. Floor the throttle, and the Lexus will cover 0-62mph in only 5.9 seconds. Once you’re up and running it offers supercar-style overtaking punch, while if you want more a Power switch sharpens throttle response.

But the GS is left behind by the BMW 530d at the pumps.

The claimed combined economy of 37.2mpg is trounced by the diesel’s 45.6mpg, while the Lexus emits 180g/km of CO2 to the 5-Series’ 160g/km.

Through corners, the GS doesn’t impress, either. A sport button firms up the dampers, yet the steering is too light and lacking in feel to offer real fun.

Rival: BMW 530d
The latest 5-Series diesel is so tax-efficient, fast and refined, it questions why any buyer would plump for a hybrid. What’s more, it offers a hugely practical cabin and brilliant driving dynamics. The Lexus has more standard kit – but then, at around £8,500 more expensive, so it should.

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