Lexus is not building its first hybrid, and this amply shows in the latest Lexus we tested. The marque has gained vast experience in building hybrid cars, and of course our expectations were high indeed. Does the elegant and sporting Lexus GS300h F Sport Line live up to its promises? Just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
We already presented the GS 300h on our pages, and we already mentioned that this Lexus has the second generation hybrid system under its bonnet. The electric motor is quite powerful and indeed when driving at constant speeds on city boulevards at say 70 kph, the electric motor is very often the only power source propelling the car in utter silence and refinement, let it be said!
The combustion engine is however not an antiquated piece of equipment at all. On the contrary, it embodies the latest state of the art developments in petrol combustion engine technology.
This four cylinder 2,5 litre engine has 16 valves and a DOHC layout, functions along the Atkinson cycle, and features the latest generation D-4S fuel injection system. It has dual VVT-i and a highly efficient Exhaust Gas Recirculation system (EGR). It operates smoothly, has a rather pleasant exhaust note when pushed harder , and like all Toyota/Lexus petrol engines likes to be revved a bit when it is called on duty.
This shows already when one simply looks at the technical data of this unit: maximum power is delivered at 6000 rpm, but then with this efficient 2,5 litre big four, not less than 133 kW or 181 HP is available at the flywheel. Total system power of this Lexus is 223 HP. This is good for an acceleration form 0 to 100 in merely 9,2 seconds and a top speed of 190 km/h.
The torque is not immense with 211 Nm available between 4200 and 5400 rpm, so the engine is actually most efficient when it is revving above 4000 rpm, like a "classic" high performance DOHC unit did decades ago. Of course, in a hybrid system, the hefty torque delivered by the electric motor amply compensates for any lack of pulling power in the lower rev ranges, and it must be said that the torque curve of the engine is rather flat throughout the rev range.
Driving the hybrid is believing...
Indeed, one has to be drive this Lexus to experience how close to perfection this hybrid system has become. It functions in "eco" and "normal" mode utterly smooth, and there is always ample power at hand. This smoothness is even true for the "sport " and sport S+, where the Adaptive Variable Suspension will set also to sportier settings, and the power steering will also be more responsive. .
The difference with the other modes lies in a greater responsiveness on throttle movements, i.e. the engine cuts in rather sooner than later.
All this smoothness is greatly helped by the electronically controlled CVT transmission, which chooses the ideal rev range for the engine in all circumstances and driving situations where it has to deliver power to the wheels. Of course, the system chooses expertly when the engine delivers power and/or charges the batteries.
All this means excellent economy , and when driving with anticipation, the hybrid Lexus delivers economy figures which are nothing short of astonishing, given its weight and (engine) size. Lexus quotes an average consumption of 4,7 litres on 100 km, with CO2 emissions of just 109 g/km. When driving with some concentration and anticipation, it is rather easy to reach and even improve on these figures.
But the beauty of the hybrid system lies also elsewhere: it is when driven briskly and with spirit that the hybrid system still warrants quite reasonable consumption figures, with the kinetic energy recuperation when decelerating and braking coming fully into play, and the electric motor assisting the engine under acceleration. Consumption under these circumstances rarely if ever surpasses say 7 litres, rather staying in the 6 to 6,5 litres/100 km range.
Admittedly, a modern Diesel unit would very much do the same, but not with the same uncanny zen-like mechanical and acoustic smoothness. And then we do not even talk about emissions and the fact that this car can drive in electric mode and is therefore useable in emission-restricted areas.
Versatile instrument lay-out
The interior finish and the quality of the used materials is beyond reproach, and what we especially liked was the instrument lay-out which adapts itself to the chosen driving mode. In the "normal" mode it shows the amount of power used, and indicates whether you are driving "eco" or not. In "power" mode, the instrument cluster now shows two classic round dials, which show car speed and engine revs. It couldn't be more natural, indeed classic, timelessly elegant. The lettering is also very classic, and reminiscent of the early Toyota coupés. Just right!
In sports mode, the left hand dial changes into a rev counter, and the instruments now receive a red illumination from the cluster lighting system!
Good road behaviour and agility
Although this Lexus does not invite you to throw it around corners, it certainly does everything you will ever ask for, and it is an ideal companion for all you fancy, whether it's everyday city driving, or short travels and long voyages in the purest gran turismo style. Its chassis won't let you down in any of those circumstances, whether you fancy slow boulevard driving or a bout of high speed motoring on the Autobahnen.
Comfort and damping is very good indeed, firmness is just about right, and the same can be said of the seats, where very soon an ideal seating position is found. The setting of the drivers’ seat has been studied for some 5 years, according to the manufacturer… and the specially designed sports seat for the driver of this F sport line model can be set in not less than 16 positions.
We also like the host of driving assistance systems fitted on our test car, with first and foremost the radar operated distance control system biased very much on safety, which was very comforting indeed.
This is in our eyes an accessory which should be fitted standard on every car, and we can only hope that engineers and system suppliers will find soon the proper economies of scale to push prices down and make it ever more accessible. Human lives are worth it!
The Lexus is also equipped with so-called Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, and this system links the assistance systems for braking, stability and chassis/suspension management to one harmoniously responsive unit. This is especially important in critical situations and on slippery road surfaces.
A word of praise also deserves the excellent Mark LEVINSON® audio equipment; Not less than 2000 man hours have been spent on designing ad positioning the speakers to the interior of the Lexus. Through the 7.1 surround sound system not less than 835 Watt audio power is available.
If you want an elegant looking, well proportioned, beautifully finished and mechanically very refined passenger car, this is your choice. The dynamic smoothness and perfection of its hybrid system will charm you every day you drive it, and also the environment will love your purchase!
The menu can be easily and intuitively selected by a mouse-type selector buttion which one can shift in four directions...
Add to this the creature comfort, ease of use and well established reliability and low service and maintenance costs, and it is clear that purely from a rational point of view, this Lexus certainly merits to be taken into consideration...
Hans Knol ten Bensel