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2013 Lexus GS Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Lexus GS Hybrid was new.


Performance: 8.0

Critics agree that the 2013 Lexus GS 450h excels with a powerful hybrid drivetrain and exceptional fuel economy. However, the GS Hybrid also stumbles into some of the common pitfalls of hybrid luxury cars. Not all reviewers like the GS 450h’s regenerative brakes, and one critic notes that its continuously variable transmission (CVT) is not as responsive as the automatic transmission in the gas-only GS 350. And when the road gets twisty, some test drivers think that the GS Hybrid feels less agile than rivals like the Infiniti M35h.

  • "No matter the model, GS has a sporty, satisfying exhaust note during acceleration but is nearly silent at cruise." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "Drive it casually, though, and the GS 450h is reasonably quiet and seamless." -- Edmunds 
  • "Fuel economy, estimated at 29/34 city/highway, is better than that of the Infiniti M35h and the Mercedes E350 BlueTEC." -- Motor Trend 
  • "The model that most impressed me was the GS450h. Equipped with a hybrid system that mates an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V-6 with an electric motor, the GS450h produces a combined 338 hp." -- Road and Track 
  • "However, the continuously variable automatic transmission isn't as smooth as the six-speed automatic. It allows for quicker acceleration but doesn't feel as natural when driving aggressively." -- Cars.com 
  • "Turning to matters of greater importance, our initial impression was that the GS 450h felt a lot heavier than the standard GS. Indeed, at 4,190 pounds there's nearly 400 more pounds of Lexus in the hybrid. When we did punch up the Sport-Plus mode to try and make the car feel smaller, it helped, but there was still no confusing the hybrid for the standard GS. Good thing most owners aren't going to have both cars parked side-by-side in their driveway." -- Autoblog 

Acceleration and Power

With a combined output of 338 horsepower coming from its hybrid powertrain, test drivers agree that the 2013 GS Hybrid is fast enough to satisfy most drivers, and thanks to its additional 32 horsepower, it’s also quicker than the non-hybrid GS 350. Under the hood, a 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motors provide power through a CVT and rear-wheel drive. According to the EPA, the 2013 GS 450h gets 29/34 mpg city/highway. That’s a healthy bump from the 2011 model’s 22/25 mpg city/highway estimates, and it’s also better than the fuel economy of the Infiniti M Hybrid, which averages 27/32 mpg city/highway.

In general, reviewers are wowed by the GS 450h’s combination of power and fuel economy. However, one auto writer says that its CVT feels unresponsive.

  • "While not exactly as powerful as its competitors' V-8 offerings, the hybrid setup's additional low-end torque should help the GS450h achieve 60 mph about a tenth quicker than the GS350." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Any GS feels strong from a stop, and has more than adequate power for highway merges and passing. The GS 450h is a bit quicker, but the difference is not that dramatic." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "The electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) still rubberbands a bit and there's still some steady-state throttle surge." -- Edmunds 
  • "While boasting a zero-to-60-mph time of 5.6 seconds (according to Lexus), the GS450h gets an amazing 29/34 mpg, and 31 mpg combined. This is about 7 percent better than the current GS450h." -- Road and Track 
  • "Luckily, the GS 450h feels fast. The hybrid system puts out more total power than the gas version, 338 total hp, and even with less torque (254 pounds feet) power comes on quickly." -- Cars.com 
  • "But thanks to the almost-instant torque of the GS 450h's electric motors, the car can leap off the line with a good bit of aggression, though dead-stop acceleration in a hybrid is always going to feel different than it would in a V8." -- Autoblog 

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers agree that while the GS 450h has decent handling, the added weight of its hybrid components makes it less agile than its gas-only sibling, the GS 350. An adaptive suspension is standard, and while some say that it handles well in Sport+ mode, other critics counter that if you dial the suspension back to its less aggressive settings, the GS 450h can feel heavy and ponderous. Additionally, not all critics like the GS Hybrid’s regenerative brakes. Some think they feel exceptionally good, while others counter that once the regenerative function starts to capture energy, pedal feel disappears and they become difficult to modulate.

  • "It also demands fewer tradeoffs, with regenerative brakes that are far easier to modulate than before -- they still don't feel as natural as conventional brakes, but they're not bad for regenerative brakes." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Subtle body motions are noticeable, particularly with the available adaptive suspension." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "On a fast and twisty back road, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h felt heavy and a bit ponderous through turns in the Sport setting. There's a definite feeling of some major weight being thrown over to one side as you enter high-speed bends. But cue up Sport Plus and there's a big difference in terms of body roll, precision and confidence, and the weighting of the steering is heavier and more precise." -- Edmunds 
  • "Braking is incredibly good, however, a complaint I often have in hybrid models. Most owners won't even notice the regenerative brakes." -- Cars.com 
  • "The brakes, on the other hand, still feel like regenerative brakes. They bite like real brakes, but then the hybrid system's computer takes over the car's deceleration and your attempts at modulating them will go for naught. This is probably the biggest impediment towards making a hybrid sports sedan feel ‘right,’ and suffice it to say that Lexus has yet to find that magic." -- Autoblog

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