When Toyota told me they were going to drop off a $79,000 Lexus GS hybrid on my doorstep, I got a little excited. I really liked the last Lexus I drove, and this one demanded another $30K over that one. This was supposed to be one of the sportiest of Lexii, after all, and it was supposed to be the car that delivered V8 levels of sports sedan-y grunt with all the eco-conscious friendliness of an NEV around town. That, and $79,000 Lexus. For that kind of scratch, the 2014 Lexus GS450h had to be a cut or two above, say, a $38,000 Toyota Avalon Hybrid (which is made by the same company, even). It had to.
So, what kind of transcendent, “worth double the money” experience does driving the 2014 Lexus GS450h Hybrid offer that’s, you know, worth the money?
Lexus GS450h | Outside
Visually, the 2014 Lexus GS450h has almost zero presence. When the Lexus was parked next to the Chevy Spark I was testing at the same time, two separate neighbors (one drives an E64 BMW 6 series, the other a 2014 VW Jetta TDi) came over to talk about the Spark. Neither one asked about the GS, both declined the offer of a ride in it, and both asked if we could take out the Spark.
Note to Lexus: that’s not a good sign.
Stylistically, too, the Lexus GS450h didn’t seem to know what it was all about. The styling seemed very Infiniti G35 to me – only softer, and jellybeanier, without the visual mass or “edginess” of the Infiniti or the Audis and BMWs that Lexus buyers are sure to be cross-shopping this car against. Despite the milquetoast styling of the GS’ rear and profile, the front end of the caris dominated by the sort of hyper-aggressive big mouth grille that barely works on cars like the Mitsubishi Evo, and doesn’t work at all on the GS.
Lexus GS450h | Inside
Things start to look up for the GS once you step inside. The wood, the leather, the stitching, the headliner, and everything else you’re supposed to touch is top-notch. The material quality is everything you’d expect from a new Lexus. Adjusting the seats is pretty straightforward, and (once you get them dialed in) they are excellent, and there’s plenty of room front and rear for four adults to cruise comfortably on extended highway journeys.
In my opinion, the contrast between the dark leather and metals and light woods really works – but that, too, got mixed reviews. The wife, for example, hated the GS450h’s interior layout. Like, really, weirdly hated it. “I could see guys liking it,” she said. “The kind of guys who hit on their nanny.”
After that little gem of a one-sentence review, she refused to go anywhere in the Lexus. Which, honestly, was fine with me, because …
Lexus GS450h | Infotainment
… the infotainment system is horrible.
For those of you who bemoan the fact that so many modern car reviews have become, in essence, infotainment system reviews, consider this your stop. That’s because this is an $80,000, 2014 Lexus GS450h Hybrid sports sedan – a car that is supposed to be this technologically advanced, premium, high-end thing – but its driving experience utterly and completely let down by its overly involved infotainment system. The infotainment system is such a pain in the a**, in fact, that my hatred of it dominates my memory of this car.
Sharp-eyed readers of Gas 2 might remember that the CT200h F Sport I drove last winter had a similar infotainment system, and that I found its center console mouse-y thing to be fairly intuitive. So, what changed?
When I drove the CT200h, I knew where I was going. Armed with a fancy-schmancy Lexus GS450h, however, I made the mistake of wanting to take the thing somewhere I don’t usually go: Geneva, IL.
Geneva, for those of you not in the know, is a small, upscale Western suburb of Chicago about 30 miles outside the city that’s known for its restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, and for being located right on the gorgeous Fox River. The wife and I got married out in Geneva, and hadn’t been out there since – so, time to get on the GPS and … wait, what?
Clicking doesn’t do what you think it will. Neither does “Menu”. A few wrong clicks, and you’re downloading service bulletins. Meanwhile, that icon that says “Destination Assist” that looks like it will connect you, OnStar-style, to someone who can’t help, like, at all. Once I finally got to a map screen, shown, it was not only off – that happens, and usually clears up once you start moving – but the directions it gave me on the move didn’t make any sense.
Less than 20 minutes into the drive, I was frantically clicking at the Lexus’ mouse to cancel the directions – this whole time, by the way, looking at the screen and not, you know, at the road. Thank God the 2014 Lexus GS450h earned a spot on the IIHS’ 2014 top safety pic- wait. It didn’t? Fantastic.
Lexus GS450h | Final Thoughts
I always hear that, if you have nothing nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. That’s not the case here, and the 2014 Lexus GS450h isn’t a totally bad car. Despite the fact that I didn’t drive it very much, I consistently out-performed the EPA’s 31 MPG combined rating (per the car’s trip computer), and the 338 HP GS Hybrid responded quite positively to stabs at the throttle in both “Sport” and “Normal” driving modes. In Eco and EV modes the GS cruised around Oak Park noiselessly enough, and the transition to ICE power was utterly seamless. As a machine, then, it’s a fantastic thing.
As a thing that you’re supposed to interact with, however?
More than any other tester I’ve driven this past year, it filled me with the idea that an artificial intelligence could be totally malicious and filled with hate. I was thrilled to give the Lexus GS450h and its awful mouse-ball deal back to its corporate masters, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t read this review/remember where I live.
That said, if you’re in the market for a high-end, premium luxury hybrid experience and you want the kind of build quality and dealership experience that only the Japanese seem capable of delivering, the same company that makes the Lexus GS450h makes exactly the car you’re looking for. It’s called the Toyota Avalon. It’s smoother, quieter, built to the same high standard, has a non-hateful radio, and your neighbors won’t know it was only half the price.
Original content from Gas 2.