In 23 minutes or less. [fimg=left]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/523/GS_450h_Dark.jpg[/fimg]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - April 8, 2012 2013 Lexus GS 450h showing an enticing dark side – At $58,950 (unchanged from the previous generation) and rated at 29/34 mpgUS city/highway, it will surely disrupt the status quo in the mid luxury segment. Las Vegas -- Sin city and home to the notorious one armed bandit, it was recently host to a unique luxury vehicle destined to “steal” some of the market owned by the European luxury offerings for many years. The 2013 Lexus GS450h is the new ringer in town and the patsies are none other than the ubiquitous Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series. Equipped with a second generation Lexus Hybrid Drive system, the 2013 GS 450h will arrive at Lexus dealerships in May. 2007 vs. 2013 The previous generation GS quickly gained traction amongst the performance luxury crowd in its initial release year but faltered as the 2008-2009 recession began in earnest. As the downturn continued to worsen, sales entered a sharp nosedive. Although an excellent touring sedan with comfortable driving position, all the latest toys for its era, and even respectable fuel economy for its class, it was somewhat blasé both inside and out and never came close to living up to the Grand Touring Sedan label. As the US marketplace climbed out of the recessionary throngs however, sales of mid-level luxury vehicles have surpassed general sales increases handily. The saying that “a rising tide raises all boats” is certainly as true for the GS as it is for everything else in the mid-luxury class segment. GS sales 2007 through 2011 2007 - 23,381 2008 - 15,759 2009 - 7,430 2010 - 7,059 2011 - 3,746 2012 - 5,048 through the first 3 months. 2013 vs. 2007 Lexus GS 450h Comparison The third generation GS 450h incorporated a naturally-aspirated 339 HP 3.5L V6 mated to a first generation hybrid drive system. The combination allowed for a blistering 0 to 60 time of just 5.2 sec while providing an EPA fuel economy rating of 22/25 mpgUS city/highway. The all-new fourth generation GS 450h also incorporates a naturally-aspirated 3.5L V6 and includes both DI and PFI with 338 HP mated to a second generation hybrid drive system. This combination takes .4 seconds longer to reach 60 but provides a fuel economy boost of almost 35% -- raising the EPA rating to 29/34 mpgUS city/highway. A fuel efficiency boost of this magnitude is well worth the minimal loss of sprint time. Meet the 2013 Lexus GS 450h The 2013 GS was revealed to critical acclaim from the public at last summer’s Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach with a circuit debut later that fall at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The all-new GS 450h sport sedan features Lexus’ all-new design with signature spindle grille and an entirely new level of driving dynamics... with a surprisingly simple goal. Lexus intends to make the GS the vehicle to choose amongst the mid-luxury offerings including the Mercedes Benz E-Class, the BMW 5-Series and the Audi A6. For 2013, the all-new GS 450h benefits from a larger cargo capacity while being built upon an almost identical exterior footprint. The all-new GS 450h features Lexus Drive Mode Select. With a Normal, Eco, Sport S, Sport S+ and EV mode, you would have to be a different kind of purist not to find a desired level of performance from the selections afforded by this drivetrain. 2013 Lexus GS 450h Specifications The 2013 Lexus GS 450h is available in just one very well equipped trim. Complete specifications, pricing, standard and optional equipment including a standard and optional list of features not found in competitors' offerings can be found on the 2013 Lexus GS 450h – Specifications page. 2013 Lexus GS 450h Exterior The all-new GS 450h is Lexus’ best attempt yet to attract the grand touring sport enthusiast to the Lexus marque. The vehicle stands out from the crowd with a new signature front fascia proudly identifying it as a Lexus. The “spindle grille” with its trapezoidal contours sets the GS apart from the rest. A large Lexus badge set precisely in the center, sculpted front disc brake air inlets located on the outer edges of the lower grille, and large wraparound headlight lenses with a swooping LED DRL configuration add to the “aggressive look” of the all-new Lexus. Exclusive to the hybrid model is an available three-lamp design that combines high and low beam LED lamps as well as turn signals into a single horizontal row. From the side, the lower sill cutout with hybrid badging located at the rear wheel and accented wheel arches add a distinguished flair to the GS 450h profile. At the rear, the GS 450h adopts hockey stick shaped LED tail lamp highlights, an integrated rear spoiler at the trunk lip and a highlight in disguise -- concealed tailpipes for an exceedingly clean appearance. Aggressive yet dignified, exactly what a Lexus GS should be. 2013 Lexus GS 450h Interior It’s a Lexus so it has to be good right? Absolutely! If the all new GS’ interior can be described with a phrase, it is "Welcoming with simple elegance." A horizontal-themed instrument panel highlights the expansive interior layout. As with the Camry Hybrid, Lexus designers sculpted the roof profile and front pillars to increase the driver’s field of vision. Attention was paid to rear passenger room to increase head-, knee-, and legroom along with foot space over the previous generation GS. Standard equipment includes a new energy-saving auto climate control system called S-Flow utilizing an occupant-detection system to focus airflow only to areas actually occupied in the 2013 GS. The finely crafted cabin is complemented with ambient lighting welcoming the user. New white LED lights are sequentially lit to illuminate the areas around doors, the center console, and foot-wells. The driver and front passenger will enjoy the appearance of the new high-resolution central control display. The hybrid also includes bamboo accents on the steering rim as well as other interior surfaces. The drive mode select switch updates the left instrument panel display to show the Hybrid System Indicator with ECO, Charge, Hybrid ECO, and Power indication areas when Normal or ECO Mode is selected. When SPORT S or SPORT S+ Mode is selected, the tachometer is displayed. Some of the GS 450h’s highlights are a cargo volume that has been increased by almost 25 percent, improved trunk access with a six and a half inch wider opening, and an analog, metal trimmed clock centrally located in the front dash illuminating the instant a door is unlocked and gradually fading when passengers disembark. A low-light was Lexus next-generation Remote Touch 2.0 with one-push confirmation intended to provide smooth operation and control. 10 of the 23 minutes we spent in the GS 450h were occupied with operating the Lexus Enform infotainment system. You can operate the climate, audio, phone, infotainment and navigation system via onscreen menus selected by the center console mounted controller. While Remote Touch was designed to reduce eye movement and minimize distraction, the method of selection with this new remote configuration failed to achieve its goal. In the previous generation system a hard mounted, mouse like device was attached to the center console and you moved it in 2 dimensions to navigate the central dash display then used your right thumb to select. With the new system, you move a square disc in two dimensions mounted on a three dimensional gimbal. Once you have navigated to a selection on the central display, you push down on the controller to select. Pressing down often causes the pointer moves off of your selection, however. Even when lowering the sensitivity to its lowest setting, movement of the pointer during selection was nearly unavoidable. Learn to use the voice commands and save yourself a whole lot of distraction and frustration in this vehicle. While the GS 450h arrives with a standard 10-way electric adjustable seat, I was seated in the 18-way adjustable unit similar to that offered in an Audi A8. If you cannot find a comfortable position within the vast array of adjustments offered with that option, you cannot possibly be human! Another high end standard feature of the GS 450h is the cold weather package incorporating a heated steering wheel, headlamp washers, windshield-wiper deicer, and water-repellent front-door glass. None this was tested during the mid 60 degree F, sunny day in Las Vegas. All told, the GS 450h’s interior offers everything that the Mercedes Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series do with a more welcoming upscale ambiance and a higher level of technology content at your fingertips. High quality materials and the latest appointments make for a luxurious and satisfying interior. About the GS 450h’s Infotainment The 2013 Lexus GS 450h includes a host of standard entertainment and connectivity advancements, including enhanced Bluetooth capability with automatic phonebook download and streaming audio, DVD audio and video capability, MP3 sound enhancement, 5.1 simulated surround-sound from normal two channel sources such as MP3 files and CDs, and a high-resolution eight-inch control display centrally located high in the instrument panel. An SMS text-to-speech feature allows the driver to hear text messages and send preset responses with a compatible smart phone. HD Radio with iTunes tagging and a three-month trial subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio are standard. The Gracenote Media management system creates dynamic music playlists and a voice recognition solution recognizes nicknames (and even some mispronunciations!) for music artists. The 2013 Lexus GS 450h when equipped with the Navi package includes an easy to read 12.3-inch(!) high-resolution split-screen multimedia display and Lexus’ next-generation Lexus Enform with Safety Connect. The Lexus Enform Application Suite includes DestinationAssist, eDestination; Facebook location check-in; Yelp; voice-recognition application support including Bing, OpenTable, MovieTickets.com, Pandora, iHeart Radio, NavTraffic, NavWeather, Sports, and Stocks. 2013 Lexus GS 450h Drivetrain The new GS 450h engine and hybrid drive system has been enhanced for 2013 to provide best-in-class fuel economy. With a total system output of 338 HP, the GS 450h accelerates to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. As with all Lexus hybrid vehicles, the new GS 450h is a full hybrid capable of operating in gas electric-only modes, as well as a combination of the two. Its Lexus Hybrid Drive system features a silky smooth running, next generation D-4S direct and port fuel injection system with Atkinson cycle 3.5L V6 engine mated to a compact, high-output, water-cooled, permanent magnet electric motor powered by the high performance NiMH battery pack. Both power-plants drive the rear wheels both independently and in tandem, as needed. Improved fuel efficiency is achieved through a high volumetric expansion ratio of 13:1, a new mid-port intake tumble generator and the adoption of a Lexus four-stroke, direct injection technology (D-4S). With one high pressure injector installed in the combustion chamber used during non-idle power modes and a second mounted in the port fuel injection intake port (PFI and used at idle), D-4S combines the strengths of both direct and port injection, while minimizing fuel consumption and emissions. Lexus’ LHD is standard fare with MG2 acting as the traction motor for slower speed propulsion and regenerative braking while the smaller MG1 acts as both a generator (recharging the battery while underway) and a speed control within the planetary gear set itself. The cooling performance of the hybrid system’s Power Control Unit (PCU) has been improved through the adoption of dual cooling paths and a single piece, integrated DC/DC converter. The PCU boosts motor drive voltage to a maximum of 650V in Sport mode and limits it to a maximum of 500V in Eco mode under normal driving conditions. Engine noise, vibration, and friction have been lowered through the use of a lightweight timing chain. The electric motor features lighter mounts and reduced friction. The system’s regenerative braking operation range has been expanded, contributing to further improvements in fuel efficiency. In addition, the battery layout has been redesigned to allow more luggage space. [fimg=left]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/501/2013_Lexus_GS450h_-_81_1_mpg.jpg[/fimg]2013 Lexus GS 450h Preview Drive Fuel Economy Results This was where another 9 minutes was spent behind the wheel of the 2013 GS 450h traversing approximately 3 miles in a loop around the Las Vegas parking lot. Due to the very short run with at least 2/3 of the distance on the pack, the 81.1 mpg result is nowhere near representative of the actual capabilities of this car. With good weather and no traffic on this short loop, no more could have been in the GS 450h’s favor. We will need some time behind the wheel over a few tens to hundreds of miles to get a feel for its true fuel economy capability. In the mean time, the following Ride and Handling section should wake up anyone interested in a mid-luxury vehicle with strengths found in the all-new GS 450h. 2013 Lexus GS 450h Ride and Handling To set the table, a number of brand new 2013 Lexus GS 350s, 350 F-Sports and GS 450hs were pitted head to head with a number of new Mercedes E-Class and BMW 528is on a lengthier obstacle course. While the Lexus GS series has never been known for its track handling prowess, this is ancient history with the emergence of the 2013 GS series. The first obstacle was a short straightway into a high speed chicane followed by a long > 180 degree standard inside raceway turn. The Mercedes E-Class felt comfortable up to about 45 mph at which point the rear end started feeling disconnected. By 50 mph, I was forced into constant steering corrections and seriously considered backing off the accelerator. At 55 mph, the E-Class driving dynamics proved to be anything but the famed Mercedes superlative highway competency and I truly felt higher speeds would be ill-advised. Besides the poor handling, the shifter on the column and seating adjustments felt far out of the ordinary. The BMW 528i ran through these two sections approaching 60 mph before having to add small corrections to the wheel to keep it on the selected path. It felt capable at that speed but it was beginning to demand excessive concentration to maintain the line I wanted. Inside, it was the typically well thought out BMW with its DriveConnect system begging to be played with. With only a few laps at speeds approaching traction breach, it was best to focus on the track and obstacles ahead instead. And then the all-new 2013 GS 450h arrived. I am only going to mention that the GS 350, GS 450h, and the GS 350 F-Sport can be equipped with Lexus Adaptive Variable Suspension as part of Luxury & F SPORT packages. In addition, the very advanced (optional) Lexus Dynamic Handling system (LDH) with Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) for the front and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) for the rear will turn this already tight cornering mid-luxury grand touring sedan into an autocross or short track monster. It will not have the ponies of a BMW M or Mercedes AMG tuned vehicle but it will provide cornering beyond the level you would ever experience in your standard commute. That said, the GS 450h I was driving was “NOT” equipped with the super handling LDH system and performed superlatively! At 60 mph, the GS 450h felt comfortable due to the minimal body roll and concentration needed to keep the car on the path I intended it to take. Once through that section, a hard braking area into a junction approaching a T configuration in order to experience an accident avoidance maneuver while being hard on the binders, and a quick but short throw of the vehicle to another track within a few feet of entry into the box. The GS 450h and 528i felt comfortable through the section with the E-Class displaying a highly irregular rear end movement? A final long left hand sweeper to accelerate to your heart’s content toward the finish was all that was left at which point we were afforded the opportunity to swap into as many vehicles as possible within the limited time available. My time was extremely limited with another 2 minutes behind the windscreen of the GS 450h circling this track. The next area was an Autocross circuit where I was able to take two < 1-minute laps on a standard very tight cone riddled course. The GS 450h brakes well, it accelerates hard, and turns as you see fit. Not exactly the kind of thing I get much out of and I doubt it would make or break a preview in just two minutes anyway. All told, if you are shopping for a Mercedes E-Class because you believe it handles well, look no further than your local Lexus dealership for a true world class handling champion. Leave the E-Class for the less spirited all-highway drives, but even in that environment it still would not compare favorably against a GS 450h. When compared to the BMW 5-Series, the GS 450h provided better road feel, more confidence, and was a clear winner on the accident avoidance track indicating it will be superior in any inopportune real world driving condition you may encounter. Again this was not an M but I was truly impressed by how far Lexus has come with a fuel efficient and now almost track rated Touring sedan. 2013 Lexus GS 450h Safety The GS is equipped with 10 airbags, including a knee airbag for driver and front passenger, outboard rear seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags and new Whiplash Injury Lessening front seats. A Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system integrates and manages the Star Safety System which includes ABS, vehicle stability control (VSC) + traction control (TRAC), Brake Assist (BA), Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) plus Smart Stop (Brake Override) and Hill-Start Assist Control (HSA). Available options include a Pre-Collision System (PCS), which uses the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control System to provide early warning of upcoming objects threatening collision. The system also uses an infrared camera to monitor the driver’s eyes. In the event that the driver does not appear to be looking forward when a collision appears imminent, the system will initiate warnings at an earlier threshold. If the driver still does not respond and make the appropriate maneuver, the system will initiate braking intervention up to 1.2 seconds prior to impact in an effort to help lessen the severity of any collision. With available Lexus Dynamic Handling, PCS will help further mitigate the occurrence of a collision. Other optional safety systems include a Night Vision System that enhances driver visibility at night; Heads Up Display; a Blind Spot Monitor that helps detect vehicles in rear/side blind spots; and Lane Keep Assist (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW). LKA provides a small amount of active steering torque to help maintain course, while the LDW feature alerts the driver if the system detects that the vehicle is beginning to drift out of the lane. 2013 Lexus GS 450h Preliminary Conclusions Just 23 minutes... While not enough time to even partially evaluate what the GS 450h offers a future customer, it was enough to tell me that BMW and especially Mercedes had better bring their A-Game on their next iterations because this gambler called the GS 450h just emptied those luxury marques' wallets and took both to the cleaners! With the improvements in EPA fuel economy, vastly improved ride and handling, plus road feel never before experienced in a hybrid vehicle of any type, the all new 2013 GS 450h deserves a close look from those considering its European competitors. How it stacks up against the Inifiniti M35h in a head to head is unknown but if it were my $’s, the Mercedes Benz 3-pointed star would be missing at least one customer and BMW would need a vast improvement in fuel economy to make me even consider its offering in this class of vehicle. 23 minutes with the 2013 Lexus GS 450h A truly excellent handling car with decent fuel economy providing everything a luxury owner could possibly expect.