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2010 Lexus GS Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2010 Lexus GS Hybrid was new.


Performance: 8.8

Seeing the hybrid badge on the trunk of the 2010 GS 450h, buyers might expect to find a de-powered sedan that emphasizes fuel economy over raw performance. Surprisingly, the GS Hybrid is a sharp performer. It combines the low-end torque of an electric motor with the higher-revving power of a V6 to match the output of the V8s many rivals build – but easily beats them all in fuel economy. Reviewers say its handling isn’t up to the high standards of German sedans like the BMW 5-Series or Audi A6 – but only driving enthusiasts are likely to complain about the performance of this hybrid.

  • "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
  • "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

Most hybrid cars compromise power in favor of fuel economy.  Not this one. The 2010 GS 450h boasts a total of 340 horsepower – more than base editions of the BMW 5-Series or Audi A6. It gets that power from a 3.5-liter V6 engine mated with an electric motor, sending power to the rear wheels through a Continuously Variable Transmission.

Electric motors provide virtually all of their torque instantly, instead of building power in an arc like gasoline engines. Combining both, the GS Hybrid offers very smooth power delivery. Reviewers say acceleration is impressive, even when compared to the V8s offered by some rivals. The GS, however, gets an EPA rating of 22/25 mpg – something no other large luxury car can match.

  • "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
  • "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 and GS Hybrid have different steering systems. The electronically-assisted steering of the hybrid edition has a lighter feel than the hydraulically-assisted steering of the standard car. Whether or not it works for you is largely a matter of taste. Some reviewers like the light effort, while others say it is too light and removed from the road. Most like the balance of the suspension, but virtually all reviewers say that the GS 450h lacks the handling poise of European rivals like the BMW 5-Series.

Regenerative brakes help to recharge the car's batteries, but reviewers say the brakes found on the GS Hybrid feel more conventional than most regenerative braking systems.

  • "Steering is quick enough on all GS models, but it can feel a bit over assisted on the hybrid." -- Consumer Guide
  • "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
  • "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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