The Lexus brand has become synonymous with luxury internationally and this vehicle is no exception. From the swooping coupe-like lines to the soft – touch leather interior, this vehicle oozes elegance. This particular version of the GS is a hybrid. The Hybrid technology effectively uses an electric, as well as, a petrol engine. There is a 3 litre V6 petrol engine coupled with a 150kw electric motor (equivalent to a small pocket rocket) that works separately as well as concurrently. Hence the reason for the 450 badge.
The ingenious setup of the engine is such that on start up, and at very low speeds, the vehicle runs off the electric motor, the instant you require more power or increase your speed, the petrol motor automatically comes alive. This combination of petrol and electric motor reduces carbon emissions by approximately 70%, but, also gives the vehicle some very unique characteristics, including high torque power for overtaking yet absolute silence when parking. In fact, the vehicle is so quiet at parking speeds that most pedestrians will not hear the vehicle pulling in or out of the parking bay. The Hybrid technology does have a drawback though; the large battery pack unfortunately takes up a large portion of the boot space. However, as a colleague of mine mentioned, that should not be a problem as he felt like a minister in this car, thus the luggage will be in the 4X4 in front!
Inside, the one unique selling point of Lexus is that it does not offer optional extras; you either buy the standard “s” or luxury “se” version of the vehicle. The vehicle I tested was the “se” version, so rearview camera (for easy reversing), sunroof, xenon headlight, navigation as well as the “Mark Levison” sound system are all standard. The leather seats are soft, comfortable and include a heating and cooling option, so your body is always just at the right temperature. The vehicle is definitely a four seater, this is thanks to the high propshaft tunnel (better known as the centre hump) which restricts legroom for a third person in the rear.
Outside, I think Lexus has struck a good balance between elegance and sportiness. The double rectangular headlights with silver surrounds add that exclusive touch. Two tone mag wheels are commonly seen on sporty or modified vehicles, but, again, Lexus has got the balance just right in making these wheels look exclusively sporty.
On the road, the vehicle was an absolute pleasure to drive, but don’t expect low fuel bills though, as the vehicle still has a petrol engine. The stop/start of the petrol motor is effortless, in fact you may not even realise when it switches between these two states, were it not for the central energy display. A first for me though was a power (KW) meter instead of a rev counter. The vehicle also uses a CVT (continuous variable transmission) gearbox, which effectively means that there are no gear changes, just smooth acceleration.
Overall I think this vehicle has changed my perception of Hybrid technology even though this does not come cheap, with the test vehicle costing just over R700,000. Given the growing trend of going “green” or in vehicle terms “blue” to save our planet, it’s perhaps a small price to pay.
Azim Omar CA(SA)