An Answer To A Question Nobody Asked?
For – Beautifully made.
Against – Lacklustre performance, reduced boot space.
Despite being constantly near the top of reliability and customer satisfaction charts, Toyota’s premium brand Lexus has struggled to catch on in Europe against the might of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
After nearly 25 years Lexus achieved a European market share of just 0.2 per cent in 2013 against 5.6 per cent for Audi, 5. Per cent for BMW and 5.0 per cent for Mercedes. The situation is a little better in Britain where Lexus achieved 0.4 per cent of the market, unchanged from the previous year.
The Mercedes E-Class rivalling Lexus GS was first launched in 1993 with a 3.0-litre petrol engine, and a 4.3-litre petrol engine was added in 1998. In the mid-2000s Lexus committed itself to hybrid technology and the V6 450h full hybrid was launched, followed in 2014 by the 4-cylinder 300h tested here. Lexus now only offers non-hybrid engines in the Mercedes C-Class competing IS with a 4-cylinder petrol engine and the Mercedes S-Class rivalling LS with a V8-cylinder petrol.
If the Lexus GS 300h only had to compete with the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class hybrids it would do very well but unfortunately there is a huge range of premium German diesel saloons which are at least as economical as the GS but with much better performance and no worries about battery replacement costs.
While there is the V6 450h version if you are looking for performance, the acceleration and top speed of the GS is disappointing. In normal driving the performance is fine, happily cruising at the legal limit on motorways in near silence and quietly gaining speed on give-and-take roads. It is just when real acceleration is required to pass a line of trucks that the 300h is found wanting. Its lack of grunt is surprising when its effectively 300 PS when both petrol engine and electric motor are engaged. A 2 litre petrol BMW 5 Series is much quicker with just 184 PS hitting 146 mph and reaching 62mph in 7 seconds against 119mph and 9.2seconds for the Lexus.
The Lexus is very spacious and particularly comfortable and even the luggage compartment is just about adequate despite having to accommodate the batteries. The quality of the 300h is right up to Lexus standards and interior fit and finish is exceptional. The only slight problem is that the wood and leather are so perfect that they look like plastic, which is a shame when the quality is so high.
Packed with high-tech kit
A great thing about Japanese premium cars is that they are so well equipped and do not rely on 20 pages of options to make the specification acceptable The GS 300h Premier comes with 19-inch alloys, 10 airbags, electric steering wheel adjustment, Mark Levinson 17-speaker sound system with DAB radio and DVD player, cruise control, push button start, parking sensors, HID (xenon) headlamps, and 18-way electrically adjustable, heated front seats. There is also leather upholstery, satellite navigation, a new colour head-up display and LED fog lamps.
The GS range’s comprehensive array of active, passive and preventive safety features is also extended, with addition of a Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which uses the same radar technology as the Blind Spot Monitor to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from either side when reversing out of a parking space.
The truly massive multimedia screen is controlled via an unusual mouse-style pad which moves a cursor around the screen. This is a bit hit-and-miss in action and can be quite distracting if you’re trying to select certain functions while driving.
This fourth generation Lexus GS saloon has more interior space for passengers: legroom up front has improved and there is an extra 30mm of headroom for the driver and front seat passenger. Rear passengers will be happy too; knee room in the rear is up by 20mm and there is an increase of 25mm in headroom.
|Lexus GS 300h Premier|
|Engine:||2.5 litre, 4-cylinder petrol and 650volt electric motor|
|Power:||178hp at 6,000rpm plus 141hp electric motor|
|Torque:||221 Nm @ 4,200 – 5,400rpm plus 300Nm electric motor|
|Acceleration:||0-62 mph-100 km/h – 9.2|
|Top Speed:||119 mph-192 km/h|
|Fuel Consumption:||claimed combined – 57.6 mpg-4.9 l/km|
|Emissions class:||Euro V|
|Suspension:||Double wishbone/multi link|
|Warranty:||3-years-60,000 miles (5-years /60,000 miles for hybrid components)|
|Boot capacity:||451 litres|
|Competition:||BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6, Infiniti|
|Against:||Lacklustre performance, reduced boot space|
© Robert Couldwell