Toyota and Lexus have long been the stalwart pioneers of using hybrid technology for some of their passenger car ranges to reduce CO2 emissions, improve fuel economy and boost performance, and where they led others now follow.
The growth in Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (AFVs) as the industry calls them covering hybrids, petrol/diesel hybrids, plug-ins, pure electric, hydrogen and fuel-cell has been significant.
In the UK more than 250,000 Toyota/Lexus hybrids have been sold since the Prius was launched. Lexus was the first luxury car brand to offer hybrid power and currently they make up 99% of Lexus UK sales through eight different model ranges.
|So apart from a few turbocharged petrol powered models in their range, hybrid models rule-the-roost and Lexus is definitely a diesel free brand. Hybrid powered models has resulted in six years of record UK sales for Lexus.
The Lexus GS is designated as a D-segment, premium sports four door saloon and the only one of its type two offer the choice of two full hybrid powertrains – the GS 300h and GS 450h.
My test version, the 300h Executive Edition, is the latest addition to the line-up.
|Last year in the UK AFV sales grew by 22% to almost 89,000 new car registrations. In March 2017, the new ’17 plate’ registration month, AFV sales achieved a 31% growth and for the first three months of this year nearly 33,500 AFVs have been sold in the UK. It’s a similar growth pattern in Europe as well.
Global sales of Toyota and their luxury brand Lexus models have passed the 10 million mark since the first Prius hybrid was launched in 1999. Today the two brands offer 33 different hybrid model types sold in 90 countries worldwide.
It’s also the most appealing model cost wise with a 2.5-litre four cylinder 178bhp petrol engine and a 141bhp electric motor. In addition to its comprehensive specification the new Executive Edition is even more impressive for its low running and tax costs. The low tax costs are ideal in this sector for both retail customers and company car drivers.
Both the GS 300h and higher capacity 450h saloons have an electronic continuously variable CVT auto transmission as standard with drive to the rear wheels. The full hybrid system can operate in electric power only mode for a relatively short distance as well as continuously working in tandem with the petrol engine to maximise fuel efficiency and it provides added performance during acceleration.
During deceleration and under braking the electric motor works as a generator and feeds the high capacity battery. The electronically controlled CVT auto gearbox has a six-step gearchange function which gives the characteristics of a conventional ‘automatic’. In addition there are four normal driving modes of Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow plus an EV mode for short distance driving using only electric power.
There is no plug-in electric facility for these GS hybrid models which would extend the electric power only driving range and lower CO2 emissions further, but it would significantly increase the price.
During my week of test driving, using all types of roads and traffic conditions, the real-life fuel economy figures was 47.2mpg. Given the GS 300h has a 2.5-litre petrol engine and the significant size and weight of the car, it was impressive and on a par with diesel model fuel consumption in this sector but it was still not very close to the official Combined Cycle 64.2mpg figure although the economy potential comes in the form of tax savings.
Ride comfort was good providing a composed performance and ironing out impacts from potholes. Road noise intrusion was minimal and the engine hushed even at legal maximum cruising speed. In the handling department the GS 300h isn’t as agile as its German competitors, it feels a large and lazy car, more suited for effortless, tireless comfortable ‘cruising’ than sports handling.
That said overall it is an easy car to live with. It looks good with its Lexus trademark large spindle front grille flanked by three-lamp LED headlights clusters. At 4,880mm in length and 1,840mm wide it looks a substantial sized four door saloon with a stylish coupe roofline and wide haunches. At the rear is a 450-litre boot which is not the easiest to load because of its internal ‘T’ shape dictated by the battery storage and rear suspension design. The boot floor is significantly lower than the rear sill so heavy items have to be lifted up and over and down into the boot.
The cockpit is driver focussed and a bit ‘old-school’ compared to minimalist layouts such as the latest BMW 5 Series as an example. However it looks and feels of high quality and the centrally facia mounted analogue clock harks back to iconic classic motoring days.
There is a large 12.3-inch multimedia display screen centrally positioned within the facia which allows access to the numerous technologies and connectivity systems on-board. It’s simple to use although the Remote Touch controller similar to a computer mouse, I found to be erratic and too sensitive at times.
The sat-nav system also had niggles showing speed restrictions where they weren’t any and on several occasions offered detours because of heavy traffic which again didn’t manifest themselves so it was probably due for a software update but the DAB radio and sound system was superb.
Although the Executive Edition spec model I tried was the entry-point model the equipment level was first class. It comes as standard with immaculate leather upholstery, heated front seats, Premium Navigation, LED headlamps, smart entry with push-button start, parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, Drive Mode select, Vehicle Dynamics selector, electric windows and door mirrors, air-con and much more. Also included on all the latest GS models is the Lexus Safety System+ which includes Pre-Crash Safety with pedestrian detection, Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Keep Assist and Automatic High Beam headlights.
There is no doubt hybrid technology is here to stay and will be used in some form or other for most cars as the industry has to meet more and more stringent emission issues.
Toyota/Lexus adopted it first, even pioneered it, and the GS 300h is a good example of how hybrid systems can be integrated into passenger cars easily, they are not intrusive to use or that costly to buy and definitely provide lower running costs and reduce emissions.
Lexus GS 300h Executive Edition, 4-door sports salon £36,125
Drivetrain: 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder normally aspirated 178bhp petrol engine with a 141bhp electric motor, six-step CVT continuously variable automatic transmission with four driving modes, rear wheel drive
Performance: 119mph, 0-62mph 9.0-seconds, Combined Cycle 64.2mph (47.2mpg on test), CO2 104g/km, VED road tax £130, BiK company car tax 19%
Insurance group: 26E Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,880mm, W 1,840mm, H 1,455mm, boot space 450-litres, 4-doors/5-seats
For: Petrol/electric hybrid power driving refinement, good real-life fuel economy, low CO2 emissions mean low VED road tax and company car tax costs, comfortable ride, high specification, beautifully built, good kerb appeal
Against: Odd shaped boot interior, sat-nav niggles re phantom speed restrictions and queuing traffic warnings, not as agile in the handling department as a new BMW 5 Series but it has a better ride quality, only a 3-year warranty compared to parent company Toyota’s 5-year warranty which includes their hybrid models.
© David Miles