2014 Lexus GS300h first drive review
* Second hybrid for Lexus' 5 Series rival * 109g/km of CO2 and 60.1mpg * On sale January from 31,495...
This is the new Lexus GS300h, a petrol-electric rival to the BMW 5 Series that has the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and CVT gearbox as the smaller IS300h. It also replaces the GS250 V6 petrol model that has been available since the latest GS was launched.
With the six-cylinder GS450h already on sale, the 300h is actually the second hybrid in the GS line-up. However this cheaper model has much lower running costs, so it will be more appealing to anyone staring down the barrel of company car tax.
Opt for entry-level SE trim and you’re looking at an official average of 60.1mpg, while CO2 emissions of 109g/km leave you paying tax on just 13% of the car’s value.
Emissions do suffer slightly if you move up to the ritzier Luxury and F-Sport trims, but the figures still look more advantageous than diesel rivals’. For instance, the BMW 520d sits in the 18% tax band and delivers 57.6mpg, according to Government tests.
What’s the 2014 Lexus GS300h like to drive?
If you spend a lot of time driving in the city or through the suburbs, the GS300h is a very refined device.
On gentle acceleration its petrol-electric hybrid system is near silent, plus it flits between standstill and extra-urban speeds in a creamy and surprisingly urgent way. It's a pleasant antidote to diesel executive saloons, which are noisier in every case.
Sadly, getting up to motorway speeds or overtaking isn't so relaxing. As in other Lexus hybrids with a CVT gearbox, the revs rise faster than the road speeds when you put your foot down, which creates a whining sound and is slightly unsettling. Mind you, once you’re up to speed, the GS300h settles right down again.
Other Lexus characteristics are also in evidence. The steering and brake pedal both feel a little lifeless, and the 300h has the same slightly jarring ride quality as the GS450h.
More positively, the GS feels composed and stable, even through tight bends, but cruising is far more its forte than frenetic B-road driving.
What’s the 2014 Lexus GS300h like inside?
Let's deal with the few negatives first.
Hybrid systems can play havoc with boot space because of the need to accommodate batteries, and sure enough the GS300h has a smaller-than-average luggage compartment that’s an awkward T-shape.
The car’s sloping roofline means tall adults will find rear headroom a little tight, too, but the driving position is excellent and so is driver comfort.
The dash looks rather un-Germanic which could be a good thing depending on your point of view, but at least craftsmanship and style are easily on a par with German rivals', and the layout of most of the controls is hard to fault.
Sadly, as in other Lexus models, you operate the infotainment system by moving a cursor with a mouse-style controller, an arrangement that’s both fiddly and distracting. At least screen clarity is first class.
Should I buy one?
For the first time Lexus has a high-quality executive saloon that can be considered a genuine alternative to the BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF.
It's not as good to drive as either, nor as spacious. However the impressive running costs for company car drivers are hard to overlook, as is the relative novelty of being able to pick a petrol engine over a diesel. The GS300h is worth serious consideration.
What Car? says…