Quick Drive: 2010 Lexus GS450h

By Winding Road Staff

July 07, 2010

Lexus’ GS is starting to get a bit long in the tooth, especially when looking at the new BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the recently refreshed Audi A6. As well as models like the upcoming Saab 9-5, new Volvo S60, or the Cadillac CTS. Despite the age gap, the GS remains a pleasant sedan for the busy mid-level executive. It is also the only vehicle in its class to be offered as a hybrid, which is exactly what we have.

In terms of hybrids, the Lexus GS450h is easily my favorite to drive (that may change, as I’m still waiting to get behind the wheel of Honda’s CR-Z). The great thing about vehicles with powerful electric motors, like the GS, is that all of the torque is produced at 0 rpm, which means launching away from a red light provides diesel-like acceleration. Couple that acceleration with the 3.5-liter V-6, and the GS450h feels more powerful than it actually is.

The biggest chink in the GS450h’s armor is its age, which is not disguised well. The styling, interior, and infotainment systems all feel dated. None of it is bad, it is simply not at the same level as the competition. The other main issue is the price; the GS450h’s base price of $56,550 is only eclipsed by the much newer (and V-8 equipped) Audi A6 and BMW 550i. I simply could not justify the price of a GS450h, when newer products are available at a similar price.

—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager

The GS hybrid was pleasantly surprising. It offered the same upscale interior appointments one expects from a higher-end Lexus. The cooled, perforated leather seats were a particularly nice touch during the warm, humid weather. Some of the materials might not be as good as the competition, but comfort, technology, and storage are all there.

0-60 comes smoothly in a claimed 5.2 seconds, but it feels a smidge quicker than that. There’s plenty of twist from the get-go, and the hybrid drivetrain feels really capable at all speeds. I had fun getting into the accelerator of this hybrid.

You’ve probably heard us whine about continuously variable transmissions before. You won’t hear it from me here. The GS had plenty of power to overcome the high-rev buzziness usually associated with such equipment. This CVT transferred power steadily and un-laboriously.

The ride was pretty much as one would expect from a luxury sedan—soft and lifeless. Even in sport setting, it was super smooth and uncommunicative. The same goes for the steering. It was still fun to drive despite this, thanks to the 340 total horsepower directed to the rear wheels.

—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor

I think that the GS hybrid is a perfect example of a car whose character is massively influenced by the way that it delivers power to the road.

The 3.5-liter V-6 and electric motor work in tandem to not only give the GS the feeling of V-8 power, but also a great deal of torque at low revs. Based only on the output numbers of 292 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, one wouldn’t really be able to guess at just how hard this two-ton sedan pulls away from a dead stop. In addition to giving that instant-on power down low, the electric motor also manages seamless transitions with the gas engine—a totally smooth experience. Acceleration in the mid-range is really impressive, too.

The powertrain, coupled with a cabin that is super comfortable, makes the GS almost a perfect, laid-back cruising/commuting machine. I still think that the interior styling and technology is a level below the impressive standards set by Audi and BMW, however. Lexus cabins just don’t feel as immediately desirable. On the other hand, this is one of the most whisper quite sedans I’ve driven in some time—not a bad thing for this segment.
The GS450h isn’t going to end up high on our Involvement Index anytime soon, but I have to admit that I was quite happy, overall, behind the wheel.

—Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief


  • Electric motor provides instant torque, application of power is smooth and quick
  • This is one CVT that works very well within the powertrain package
  • Extremely comfortable interior


  • The GS is starting to show its age, could use an update
  • Suspension doesn’t communicate with the driver
  • Price is high compared to newer competition