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February 27, 2007 > LEXUS GS 450h

LEXUS GS 450h

I have to admit that this is the first hybrid vehicle I have ever driven. A hybrid vehicle combines power from two different sources to operate more efficiently. I had no idea what to expect and was very surprised and pleased. This is a very good vehicle, and should be selling for $65K+.

For the 2007 model year, Lexus introduced the GS 450h as a new model. It is the world's first hybrid-powered, performance, luxury sports sedan; V-8 like performance combined with better fuel economy. Lexus also offers a hybrid drive system in its new RX 400h SUV.

Let's start with driving impressions and get to the technology later. The GS 450h is a large car (4100 lbs.) that is not afraid to get up and go. 0 to 60 mph only takes 5.2 seconds. It handles and brakes very well for a larger car. Most of the time, I used the "Sport" setting for the ride control and the "Power" setting for the drive train. Sport setting stiffens the shock absorbers, and Power setting allows better acceleration. This car accelerated well from any speed and its performance surprised me.

The GS 450h has all the luxury and safety systems that you would expect in a $65K vehicle. These include a voice recognition navigation system, stability control, multiple airbags, a theft detection system, and an excellent sound system. It even has a Pre-Collision System that can help reduce collision damage and injury. A radar unit can detect impending collisions, and then makes numerous changes to the GS 450h's operating systems to try to avoid an accident or reduce the extent of damage.

Now, let's spend a few minutes on the drive train technology. The GS 450h combines a 3.5-liter V-6 with 2 electric motor-generator (MG) sets. One MG doubles as a starter motor and charges the 288-volt Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack.

The other MG is the electric drive motor for the car. While backing up, in stop and go traffic, and at low forward speeds (usually below 20 mph), it is the only thing driving the car. When you speed up, the gasoline engine starts and takes over power production. During high acceleration periods, both the engine and the MG set drive the rear wheels to rocket the GS 450h forward (This description is not 100% technically correct, but it is simpler to understand than the complex interactions of the many physical and electronic components). The V-6 is rated at 292 HP with the combined system rated as 340 HP.

Another key technological feature necessary to make all work well is the new Lexus Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission. It takes the power input from the engine and/or the MG set and combines them into a smooth, seamless, jerk-less acceleration profile. You cannot feel the transmission shifting gears, because it is not shifting.

The MG drive set also handles the function of regenerative braking. During "foot off the throttle" coasting and brake application, the car's wheels flow energy into this MG set which uses it to charge the battery pack.

Does all the hybrid technology work? The EPA ratings for the GS 450h are 25mpg city and 28mpg highway. This is about 30% better than luxury cars with similar performance. (Yes, I know that none of us can match the EPA ratings in real world driving. However, they are accurate when comparing one vehicle's EPA numbers to another vehicle's EPA numbers.) The GS 450h also achieves California's Super-Low Emissions Vehicle rating.

The basic Lexus bumper-to-bumper warrantee is 4 years or 50,000 miles. Power train coverage is 6 years or 70,000 miles and hybrid-related components have an 8-year or 100,000 mile warrantee.

The base price of a GS 450h is $54,900. The Lexus GS 430 is the closest non-hybrid at a base of $52,375. The options on our test 450h raised its MSRP to $65,794. If you are looking for a 5-passenger luxury car that has good fuel economy coupled with strong performance, you need to visit the nearest Lexus dealer.


By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists
RRYAN@FRK.COM

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RT 2007 / LEXUS 450 GSh

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