“Round & round ( It won’t be long )” Neil Young.
It made an awful lot of sense for Lexus to put their 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and CVT gearbox, first seen in the smaller IS300h, into the GS rang. It also replaces the GS250 V6 petrol model that has been available since the latest GS was launched, which when you look at the cold hard facts, makes this move completely logical
The 300h is actually the second hybrid in the GS line-up, with the six-cylinder GS450h, which I tested last year being the other. Reading back through my GS450h & IS300h reviews, it was clear that I liked both. However this cheaper GS model has much lower running costs than the 450h & therefore will broaden it’s appeal particularly in the highly competitive company car market. Retailing at a generous ££31,495 the GS300h is competitively priced as well, particularly when put up against the ‘Kraut Rock’ alternatives.
My test car was the very sensible entry level SE trimmed 300h, which is the model to have if you want to save money. With an official average combined fuel economy of 60.1 mpg & CO2 emissions of just 109g/km, if you lease this car it will mean that you will only pay tax on just 13% of the car’s value, compared to the 520d, which will cost you at 18%. Obviously, if you go for a higher model in the range in either Luxury or F-Sport trims, these figures will go down & up accordingly, but having driven the SE I really do think it’s all the car you need, unless you desperately want leather or metallic paint.
The GS does look from some angles, very much like the last BMW 5 Series, so it’s not as round as an Audi & looks far more like a BMW than a Mercedes. It is beautifully crafted if a little bland inside. There isn’t any bling one associates with BMW, Audi or Mercedes, just a sensible dashboard & an easy to use intuitive Lexus media system, containing your HDD sat nav, Bluetooth, Radio/DAB tuner/CD/i Pod connection & rear view camera with guide motor. There’s a 12 speaker audio system to enjoy, with a DVD player as well as the very helpful cruise control, front & rear parking sensors & LED interior lighting. Lexus have always prided them selves on offering customers a well specced vehicle & even this the entry level GS ticks this box.
The car’s sloping roofline means tall adults will find rear headroom a little tight, but the driving position is excellent and so is driver comfort, with both front passengers benefitting from electrically adjustable heated seats. The suspension is wonderful & whether the motorway or pot holed a roads are your preferred route, the GS will make it feel like your traveling on air. If you spend a lot of time driving in the city or through the suburbs, the GS300h is a very refined device. The auto CVT box has caused many a journo to exclaim their disappointment, but I have no doubt that these old-fashioned petrol heads didn’t like cars with power steering or five forward gears. It is different to a diesel auto box, but it’s so easy to use & live with I wouldn’t mind betting that Lexus customers have never complained about the slight delay one experiences when you kick down on the accelerator. On gentle acceleration its petrol-electric hybrid system is quite silent & from standstill to 40 mph it moves forward in a surprisingly urgent way. Compare this to the competition of diesel executive saloons, which are noisier across the board & you have a car that is unbelievably satisfying to drive.
Hybrids boot space is often compromised by the electric motor on board & the GS is no different with only 451 litres on offer, less than the competition. Having said that, I filled it with 12 supermarket shopping bags & there was still room for more & you’d comfortably fit two large suitcases in, so I don’t think that this will be a deal breaker for most customers looking at the GS.
Ultimately, Lexus as well as Toyota have thrown in their all with Hybrid technology & this type of system certainly does offer a compelling argument for saving company car drivers large sums of money. The GS300h may not hare around B roads nor will it accelerate like Usain Bolt ; it actually hits 62 mph in 9.2 seconds, but this is wholly missing the point. The GS300h will offer you luxury & comfort, whilst al the while saving you money. Driving one is also a relaxing experience compared to a diesel so if you eat up the motorway miles, going from meeting to meeting, the petrol-electric-hybrid system should appeal.
Very much a square peg in a round hole & all the better for it 4/5.