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Car Tech Video: 2014 Lexus GS 450h

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Car Tech Video: 2014 Lexus GS 450h

8:03 /

The 2014 Lexus GS 450h features many techie goodies, but how does it stack up against its luxury competition? CNET's Wayne Cunningham takes one for a test drive.

When I'm reviewing a car, I often consider would I want to take it on a road trip? You know, spending 10 hours a day in the driver's seat, traveling across vast expanses. But with the 2014 Lexus GS 450h, the answer is definitely a "yes." The 2014 Lexus GS 450h has two things that really recommend it for a road trip. One, it's got a very nice driving feel. It's a luxury car. And two, it's very economical. You wouldn't necessarily consider a luxury car to be economical that have a hybrid system like this one. It's sort of like a billionaire shopping for groceries at Trader Joe's. But it all comes together nicely in this car. There's a couple of design cues that distinguish the GS 450h from the GS 350. One, this 450h has a slight bluish cast with the Lexus emblem up front. That's supposed to be in blue skies, kinda green tech kinda thing. And we also, of course, have hybrid badges down this side, as well. Now, let me give you a refresher course how a hybrid gasoline electric system works in a car. We've got a gasoline engine, we've got an electric motor, and we've got a battery pack. Now, when you slow down or hit the brakes, that kinetic energy is actually captured and generated and turned into electricity and stored in the battery. When you go forward, when you hit the accelerator, the energy from the battery is sent to the electric motor, and that's used to help push the car forward. Gasoline engine also comes in to push the car forward. And depending on the situation, you're gonna be driving under fully electric power under both the electric motor and the gasoline engine or just the gasoline engine. Now, in this GS 450h, we've got a really robust hybrid system. The gasoline engine, it's a 3.5-liter V6. This engine does 286 horsepower, 254 pound feet of torque. For valve timing, it uses an Atkinson cycle. That's actually-- reuses the power a little bit, but it's more efficient. Now, with these systems, Lexus is fairly honest about the total horsepower, total output of the system. They didn't just add the horsepower from the engine and the motor together. They do a calculation that gets them to a total system output. In this case, 338 horsepower. That's not bad for a car of this size. And Lexus says it will go from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. Now, let's get in the cabin and check the tech. I really like the cabin inside this GS 450h. Lexus has done, well, their usual job of nice, luxury appointments. But one thing I particularly like is they've gone using bamboo for these trimmed pieces here. And they use a satin finish on this, which gives it a really natural feel. I like this so much better than the really high glossed wood surfaces you find in some cars. One really cool feature that I've not seen on other cars are these automatic seat heating and cooling controls. And if you just hit the seat heating one once, it puts it into automatic mode. What that will do is it will look at the temperature you've set in the climate controls, and automatically adjusts the seat heating or cooling, depending on the outside temperature. Now, we have the shifter here. This controls what Toyota Lexus has used in their hybrid vehicles for a long time as their transmission. It's actually a planetary gear set. It's sort of an electronically controlled variable transmission. You can start over here to a sport mode. We also have a manual shift mode, which seems kinda weird 'cause there's no actual gears here. But they do include eight program shift points. So, it mimics what an 8-speed would do. And I can select those gears by either pushing up for an upshift or down for downshift. I also have these paddles on the wheel. Along with that, we also have different drive modes. So, we've got this dial controller here on the console, we have two sport settings. We've got Sport if I turn it once to the right, and Sport Plus if I turn it once more. Now, when I do that, there's a little bit of magic that happens on the instrument cluster. Whether if I'm in Normal mode or Eco mode, I have a speedometer on the right and on the left side, I have this power gauge. This shows when the car is charging through regenerative braking, shows when it's in Eco mode, or it shows that I'm really on the power. But when I move it to Sport mode, this thing suddenly changes into a tachometer. It's pretty cool. It's a nifty little feature. I like it. For the infotainment system here, we've seen this controller here before in Lexus vehicles. This is what they call Remote Touch. It's actually sort of a mouse-like thing. You move this little pad around and it moves a cursor on this huge 12.3-inch screen. It's not my favorite because when you move it around, it's really easy to sort of skip what you're looking for when you move the different-- move the different options on the screen. And next to the Menu button, I also have the Map button. So, I can go directly to my maps. I like that feature. Now, in this auxiliary screen, I can do some basic controls. Like on the Audio screen, I can change audio sources or I can skip tracks. I can go to the climate control screen and actually choose temperature and stuff like that. I don't know why I'd wanna do it there when it's really easy to do it with the panel on the dashboard here. You know, the maps look pretty good. One weird thing with Toyota Lexus is they don't do perspective view maps. They only do plan view maps. That's looking straight down on it. And you get north up or the direction of the car. But you can't get on any other kind of map on here. If I wanna choose a destination, I actually have to hit the Menu button and go over here and choose the destination icon. Some of the usual destination options like address entry, point of interest, destination assist is actually there, Telematic Systems. I can actually push a button and call an operator, and they can send a destination to the car. And here, if I choose the little apps folder, I get a series of apps that are actually connected to my phone. For audio sources, even though on this main menu screen, they separate radio and media-- which is a little bit annoying. When you go to the actual audio screen, it's all the same. And you can actually choose any of the audio sources from the screen. All of this music is playing through a Mark Levinson audio system. That's an upgrade in this car. Seventeen speakers. It's a good-sounding system. It's very well-balanced, and you can get good distinct highs, you can get pretty deep bass that will shake some of the panels, depending on what tracks you're playing. One thing I noticed, I was driving down the freeway, fairly flat freeway, 70 miles an hour, and I was seeing the trip computer giving an average rating of-- it was approaching 40 miles per gallon. I was really impressed by that. So, I assume that's what a lot of your driving is that your total average will probably be in the mid-30s or so. And that's excellent for a car of this size. This is electric power steering. Fairly easy to turn at low speeds. I mean, there's not a lot of feel here. At higher speeds, it hefts up a bit. Generally, it's just a very comfortable, easy, uncomplicated car to drive. The suspension gives it a nice ride quality. It's a really [unk] it's not soft, but it damps out the bumps really well. It's a little bit springy. And I really enjoy the feel of this car. The accelerator wasn't always there. Didn't always have the power on tab because the hybrid system was a little fussy that way. But ultimately, you know, what I feel that this car does best is just cruises. All right. Let's price out our 2014 Lexus GS 450h. Base price comes in at $60,430. Now, options may vary by region. But in California, you only really have three choices. There's three luxury option packages. Now, at the base level, the lowest price, one which is at $10,562, you get the Mark Levinson stereo, you get navigation, you get LED headlights. You even get a head-up display. Now, if you go up to the top global package, $15,000 package, you add some driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. If you want those, extra $5,000. If not, you're about $10,000 over. Total price comes in about $72,000. So, $72,000 is a hefty price for a car, but I really like this GS 450h. It's a good all-around car. It's not a lot of fuss, it has a lot of good technolgy. It's comfortable to drive to work every day, and it's definitely a car I wouldn't mind taking on a road trip across the country.

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