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2009 Lexus GS Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Lexus GS Hybrid was new.


Performance: 8.9

The days of hoping a hybrid can roughly approximate the experience of driving a conventional car are over. The Lexus GS 450 Hybrid is competitive with the best from Germany, the U.S. and Japan both on the commute and on the testing track. Still, some say the driving experience is limited by electrically-assisted steering that can feel artificial.

  • "The only midsize luxury sport sedan with a hybrid powertrain, the 2009 Lexus GS 450h delivers the performance of a V8-powered sport sedan while sipping fuel like a midsize V6 family cruiser." -- Edmunds
  • "Well-mannered, well-controlled, well-isolated and admirably quick, the 2009 Lexus GS 450h's exceptional blend of personality traits makes it an excellent all-around performer." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The GS 450h provides dazzling performance and top-notch luxury all in an eco-friendly hybrid wrapper." -- CNET
  • The GS 450h is "antithetical to the whole purpose of a hybrid car. It's a beautiful car with plenty of speed, but the trade-off is that all that power hurts its fuel economy." -- BusinessWeek

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 GS 450h combines a 3.5-liter V6 engine with an electric motor for a total power output of 340 horsepower -- more than base versions of the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Power is sent to the wheels through a Continuously Variable Transmission. Because the electric motor makes torque available instantly, reviewers say acceleration is impressive even in a class filled with fast cars. But unlike V8s from other manufacturers, this car is an Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle. It gets an EPA rating of 22/25 mpg -- perhaps less than many buyers would expect from a hybrid, but more than expected from a large luxury car.

  • "The gas/electric powertrain lacks the immediate kick of a V8, but 450h does surge ahead with dispatch. A test example did 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Overall, the hybrid system calls little attention to itself." -- Consumer Guide
  • "A sport sedan with graceful about-town capabilities and blazing acceleration on demand."-- Forbes
  • "Fast, quiet and smooth." -- Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • "Designed to maximize performance rather than fuel economy." Fuel efficiency is "marginally better than that of many other performance sedans, but not by such a huge margin that it will be winning any prizes soon from Greenpeace." -- BusinessWeek
  • "Rather than a jolt-ridden sequence of upshifts, the car accelerates with preternatural calm - a bit like a train." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

The Lexus GS 450 Hybrid has a technologically-advanced Adaptive Variable Suspension, allowing the car's computer to continuously adapt suspension tuning to road conditions. Auto writers are almost universally impressed with the ride. But the car's steering splits the press. It's an electrically-assisted, speed-sensitive steering system. Some test drivers like the way it makes steering effortless. Others complain that it numbs the driving experience and keeps the car from the ranks of true sport sedans. Regenerative brakes help to recharge the car's batteries but still perform roughly like normal disc brakes.

  • "Apart from its hybrid-specific instrumentation, wheels and badging, the 2009 Lexus GS 450h looks and feels much like its GS 350 and GS 460 stablemates. This means a nice handling and ride balance....brake modulation could be smoother." -- Edmunds
  • "Corners with precision, and handles with supreme ease." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The total absence of feel in the electric power steering reminded one tester of an early-'80s Lincoln Town Car. In active driving, the continuously variable transmission never stopped hunting, and in league with the waxing and waning of the power system, it created a sonorous racket described by another chronicler as ‘somewhere between a gas turbine and a vacuum cleaner." -- Car and Driver
  • "Handling is not up to German standards." -- BusinessWeek
  • Brake pedal feel is "a little sensitive because of the regenerative brake system." -- MSN

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