The 2013 Lexus GS is the newest vehicle in the automaker's fleet. Its muscular proportions and design elements are indicative of the automaker's continuing efforts to de-stodgify the brand.
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Lexus' new corporate grille suits the GS' sporty nature well. However, the 450h hybrid model's nose is a bit toned down from the F-Sport's front end, which we'll see later.
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Simplified taillights wrap around the corners and horizontal elements, such as the chrome bar over the license plate, serve to visually flatten and widen the sedan.
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The GS' rear-wheel-drive architecture survives unmolested in the hybrid trim level.
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Left to its own devices, the GS 450h is a comfortable cruiser. The ride is controlled, neither floaty or harsh, and the cabin is quiet.
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The quietness of the cabin is particularly emphasized when the 450h is operating under full electric mode.
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While the 450h does have a tailpipe, Lexus choses to hide it from view behind this diffuser to emphasize that this is a car that's all about fewer tailpipe emissions.
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17-inch wheels encircle 13.1-inch brakes on the front end (with 12.2-inch stoppers out back). Use a light pedal foot, however, and you'll also be able to take advantage of the regenerative braking system.
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Look under the hood and you'll find a 3.5-liter, Atkinson-cycle V-6 engine that works in tandem with the electric motor. The total system output of the Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) system is 338 horsepower.
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The HSD system justifies its added complexity with an EPA-estimated 29 city mpg, 34 highway mpg, and 31 mpg combined.
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I was able to test the GS Hybrid on public roads on a course that included highway cruising and a few curvy back roads. The largish sport sedan tackled both situations with its dignity intact, but the hybrid system's ECVT just didn't feel up to the task of true performance driving.
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One of the best parts of driving the GS 450h, however, was simply sitting in its cabin.
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Lexus uses a wide range of visually interesting materials to construct the cabin--from exposed bamboo to semi-matte-finished metals to soft leather.
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The bucket seats are a bit wide for driving with zest, but they are comfortable, heated, and feature multiple power adjustment points.
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The center console is home to a wide range of controls for the power train, suspension, and infotainment system.
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This selector gives drivers access to the GS' five driving modes. Eco de-emphasizes power in favor of efficiency, Normal is the baseline tune, Sport emphasizes increased throttle response and engine output, and Sport+ brings the adaptive suspension into the mix at its most aggressive setting. Finally, EV mode attempts to keep the hybrid system in full electric operation at low speeds.
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The analog clock is a halmark of the luxury sedan segment, so of course the GS has one.
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At the top of the GS' dashboard is this massive 12.3-inch wide-screen display. It's so big that Lexus was able to divide it into two zones that allow for the monitoring of two different infotainment functions simultaneously.
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So, when you shift over into Sport mode, the display can show this without obstructing the audio source or map.
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The main menu screen is populated with seven main areas of interaction including phone, media, and navigation.
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Users interact with the infotainment system using Lexus' remote touch controller, a joystick that features haptic feedback. I have a bit of love-hate relationship with this controller, at times finding it remarkably easy to use and at others being frustrated by it.
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In its split-screen configuration, the interface is able to display audio source info and a full map without either portion feeling cramped.
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A bank of physical controls just below the upper brow give quick access to climate controls.
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The GS 450h comes standard with a Lexus 12-speaker Premium Surround Sound System with XM Satellite and HD Radio. USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth calling and audio streaming are also standard.
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The bamboo steering wheel is heated and features paddle shifters.
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The instrument cluster displays the hybrid system's power and regeneration status normally. However, switch to Sport or Sport+ mode and that gauge is replaced with tachometer.
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