Hybrid V6 Lexus better than V8

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 07:10 10/08/2012
Fairfax NZ

Mean green Lexus machine.

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It doesn't come as any great surprise that Lexus New Zealand has dropped the 4.6-litre V8 model from its GS lineup.

There's little need for it - because there's another GS that might be powered by ''only'' a 3.5-litre V6, but has performance that is superior to a V8.

And it does it so economically, too. Despite the fact this car can roar from a standstill to 100 kmh in 6.1 seconds, and on to a top speed of 250 kmh, it will sip petrol at an average rate of just 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

So how can it do this? It's because it is a hybrid.

The Lexus GS450h has a 3.5-litre Atkinson Cycle V6 petrol engine that on its own develops 213 kilowatts of power and 345 newton metres of torque.

The engine is connected to a 650-volt electric drive motor which offers 147kW and 275Nm, and when the pair combine forces they take the available system output up to 252kW - which is just a smidgen short of the 255kW that used to be developed by the former 4.6-litre GS460 V8.

LEXUS GS450H F-SPORT

POWER PLANT: 3.5-litre Atkinson Cycle V6 petrol engine, 213 kW at 6000 rpm, 345 Nm at 4600 rpm. 650 volt Hybrid synergy drive electric motor. Total combined system output 252 kW.

RUNNING GEAR: Rear-wheel drive. Continuously variable automatic transmission with six- speed manual override. Double wishbone front suspension, multi-link setup at the rear. Lexus Dynamic Handling System.

HOW BIG: Length 4850mm, width 1840mm, height 1455mm, wheelbase 2850mm.

HOW MUCH: $142,900.

WHAT'S GOOD: Good looks, full luxury, superb hybrid performance, excellent fuel economy for the car's size.

WHAT'S NOT: Boot is smaller than standard GS, and location of the hybrid system's battery pack means there is no rear-seat split/fold function, but the cargo room is still much better than before.

OUR VERDICT: This car is a worthy alternative to the German luxury product.

But wait, it gets better. Whereas the aforementioned V8 produced 459Nm of torque, this hybrid develops an estimated 1000 of them. And, thanks to the influence of the electric motor, the torque is available virtually from idle, which is one reason why this car offers such sparkling acceleration.

And here's something even better again.

The Lexus GS450h we've just had for road test was an F-Sport version, which is equipped with all sorts of performance-oriented goodies, including sports suspension, adaptive variable suspension, a dynamic handling system with rear-wheel steer, and considerably larger brakes.

The car also boasts a Drive Mode selector that lets the driver choose between Eco, Normal, and up to what is known as Sport+ which changes the characteristics of the engine, transmission, steering and suspension.

So ... if you pop the Drive Mode into Sport+, move the electronic continuously variable automatic transmission into manual mode and use paddles on the steering wheel to drop down into first or second gear, slow down to a near- stop, then floor the accelerator, this car will light up big-time.

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But if you don't wish to drive in this manner, then the GS450h can equally be operated very sedately and economically, and a 600 km journey behind the wheel of the car quickly showed it up to easily have sufficient luxury on board to make it a very enjoyable ride.

This latest model is the fourth-generation GS, and its new bodyshell features the ''spindle'' grille that is progressively being introduced to all Lexus models.

The interior is bigger than before, with those in the front seats enjoying more legroom and up to 30mm more headroom, while rear seat knee room has improved by 20mm. And luggage space - traditionally a hassle with hybrids because of the room taken up by battery packs - has been improved by an impressive 45 per cent so that it now offers 465 litres, which isn't that far down on the 532 litres in the boot of the standard models.

Several new technologies make their debut in the latest GS.

There's a comprehensive multi-media system featuring a large 12.3-inch display screen, advanced Bluetooth capability, and satellite navigation.

The car also has an ''S-flow'' energy-saving air-conditioning system that has sanitising technology, while what Lexus calls its Remote Touch interface has been improved.

This is a computer mouse-like button, complete with armrest, that can be used to control everything from the audio to the air conditioning.

It all adds up to what I think is a great car.

In recent times, the Lexus GS has played such second-fiddle to the higher-profile German luxury product that it has been virtually anonymous. Much of the reason for that has been because of its body shape, which simply hasn't been that recognisable.

This new version looks considerably better - especially the F-Sport version with all its aerodynamic add-ons - and this hybrid version's performance potential is the equal of anything else on the market.

- Taranaki Daily News

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