A twist of technology
A twist of technology

Just six weeks after releasing its latest GS350 series sedans, Lexus has launched the new GS450H Hybrid sports saloon.

The new car replaces a model that cost around $120,000 with one that is wider, more dynamic, laced with technology and comes with a $20,000 price cut.

While Lexus engineers have added some serious performance features to the GS platform, the accountants have seriously reduced the Hybrid price.

I drove each of the three GS Hybrid models around north-east Victoria last week on roads that highlighted major changes to a sedan previously known for innovative technology but being short on driving dynamics.

Quite rightly, the 450H can now claim to be the GS flagship. It outperforms, outhandles and outfeatures its conventionally powered cousins, all for an additional $10,000 but less environmental guilt. Lexus has developed a new 3.5-litre V6 engine and matched it to the electric motor and CVT transmission that mixes power and torque seamlessly.

Feature-wise the Lexus is loaded with enough acronyms to consume several alphabets. The brake system is linked to active cruise control, crash reduction systems and stability control.

A rear-wheel steering system on the F-Sport model steers opposite to the front wheels up to 80km/h and in the same direction over that speed.

Maximum steer angle is only two degrees but it's enough to shrink the turning circle when darting around the city and sharpen up the steering when you're in a hurry.

Inside is probably where most Lexus owners will recognise home.

The designers have laced the trim with reflections of luxury that include an optional bamboo steering wheel, lashings of leather, satin-finish metal highlights and a bewildering array of controls for the huge multimedia screen and driving mode selectors.

GS450H buyers will get a comprehensive delivery presentation when they pick up their car. The "bigger than the Bible" owner's manual is daunting, with hundreds of pages of screen shots and button maps.

Or you could just ask your eight-year-old to show you.

Ultimately, quality is "the" factor that overrides everything else in a Lexus. Everything on the GS fits perfectly and owners will feel pampered in a lounge-room environment.

The seats have a huge range of adjustment, the doors shut with a very British clunk (except nothing falls off) and wind noise is not permitted.

Modernity prevails over tradition - you don't start and stop the Lexus, you use a button and switch it on and off.

Highlighting the technology is the extraordinary capability of the electric motor.

In Eco mode, Lexus claims the car powers all the way to 50km/h independently of the petrol V6, and can do that for around 2km, depending on the state of the battery pack.

But when you flick the selection dial to Sport or Sport+ mode, the car changes character instantly.

Twitching the throttle brings instant power, the steering tightens and suspension firms.

On a decent length of twisty country road you can explore three cars in one with the twist of a dial. That's why the latest Lexus Hybrid has the broadest appeal in a highly contested mid-range luxury market.

The German diesels may have comparable fuel efficiency, but the GS450H will satisfy owners who have other interests at least as important as pure fuel economy.

The West Australian

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