2013 Lexus GS 450h: First Drive Page 2

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2013 Lexus GS 450h First Drive. [Photos: Antony Ingram]

2013 Lexus GS 450h First Drive. [Photos: Antony Ingram]

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Sporty, luxurious and economical?

Out on the road, the GS 450h continues to impress. Leaving Munich airport on our test drive, the first sixty miles of driving took in some of Germany's autobahns, including those with de-restricted sections. With the paraphrased mantra "When in Germany, do as the Germans" on our minds, we pushed pedal to carpet and felt the full combined 341 horsepower from the hybrid-assisted 3.5-liter V-6 do its thing.

Ordinarily, continuously variable transmissions can be a little vexing, mooing away without much progress to show for all the noise. This certainly isn't the case in the 450h, which picks itself up and thrusts you towards the horizon. It doesn't take long to reach your chosen speed, at which point the revs die down again and leave you doing whisper-quiet triple-figure speeds. From rest, 60 mph arrives in 5.9 seconds, and top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.

The old GS was rarely out of its depth at highway speeds, so most of the new car's improvements can actually be appreciated when the going gets twisty. Our F Sport car was loaded with technology to improve cornering, including Variable Gear Ratio Steering, Dynamic Rear Steering, and Adaptive Variable Suspension.

Combined, they conspire to make the F Sport feel nimble and responsive around Austria's twisty Alpine roads. Even selecting Sport mode--accompanied by a red glow from the instruments and the hybrid drive indicator being replaced by a tachometer--fails to upset the ride quality, but adds a useful extra dose of steering feel and firmer suspension.

Perhaps the icing on the cake was our economy, following a mix of continued 30 to 60 mph driving conditions between towns, and a spirited drive through the Austrian Alps.

EPA combined economy is 31 mpg, with 29 city, 34 highway. Our drive saw an average of 36.7 mpg, before 80-90 mph highway driving knocked it down to an overall average of 34 mpg. At those sort of speeds, the fuel display was showing gas mileage of around 27 mpg.

2013 Lexus GS 450h First Drive. [Photos: Antony Ingram]

2013 Lexus GS 450h First Drive. [Photos: Antony Ingram]

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That the car can be enjoyed as much as we did on Austria's picturesque roads and Germany's high-speed autobahns, but still achieve that sort of economy, is certainly something to be praised.

Hybrid without the compromises?

Priced from $58,950, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h is around $3,000 cheaper than the upcoming BMW ActiveHybrid 5-Series. It's also about $5,000 more than the 2012 Infiniti M35h, but gets better gas mileage and is a little easier on the eye.

In reality, buyers in this market will choose based on badge preference, but in Europe at least Lexus is aiming for 60 percent conquest sales--i.e. sales stolen from other makers. That's an ambitious target in the German-biased European market, but in the U.S. we don't see the GS 450h having much trouble asserting itself as the top-selling luxury hybrid model.

Performance is par for the class, real-world efficiency is excellent and it's a better car to drive, look at and sit in than its predecessor. If you're looking for that perfect mix of performance, luxury and fuel efficiency, you've just found it.

Lexus provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.

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