Review: 2013 Lexus GS 450h – Managing Multiple Personalities

2013 lexus gs 450h hybrid

The 2013 Lexus GS 450h is the Hybrid of the all new redesigned GS family and it aims to combine luxury, sporty performance, and efficiency all in one sleek package.  Is it possible to successfully combine all these qualities together?  The 2013 GS 450h surely hopes so.  Lets go further into the details and figure out how this Lexus manages these multiple personalities.

2013 lexus gs 450h hybrid front grill
The all LED headlight are exclusive to the 2013 GS 450h Hybrid

The exterior is all new for 2013.  The new corporate spindle grill joins the GS lineup, but in this case, it makes a more aggressive statement as it protrudes out in an effort to gulp as much air as possible.  The GS 450h Hybrid also has exclusive LED headlights that look mean and are not available on the GS 350.  The profile is as sleek as ever and the rear design is clean and perhaps a little more conservative.  The Hybrid GS hides its exhaust pipes under the rear valance to make a stronger green statement of efficiency.  The 18 inch split-nine-spoke alloy wheels on my test car convey a more sophisticated and efficient look.  More sporty looking 18 inch split-five-spoke wheels are also available, and I would have preferred those more aggressive looking wheels.

2013 lexus gs 450h hybrid bamboo interior
Soft leather throughout and exclusive Bamboo trim

The redesign continues on the inside.  It’s here where the luxurious personality of the Lexus GS is most evident.  It’s 112.2 inch wheelbase is shorter than most of the competitors in its class, but the legroom is among the most spacious.  Also, the large center armrest immediately tells you that this car is wide and has plenty of hip room for all occupants.  In fact, this new model rides on a 2-inch wider track.  My test car had the optional Luxury package that adds Bamboo trim, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, rear seat climate and audio controls, and 17 speaker Mark Levinson premium surround sound system along with many other features.  Lexus is quick to point out that Bamboo trim adds an extra feel of luxury and that Bamboo is a more environmentally friendly wood.

2013 lexus gs 450h hybrid dash
The 2013 GS 450h interior is elegant, clean, and luxurious

I think Lexus really nailed the interior design.  It’s elegant, uncluttered, comfortable, and control are simple to understand and to use.  There is a giant 12.3 inch high resolution main display screen.  It’s controlled by Lexus’ familiar joystick/mouse controller on the center console.  The large and wide screen is unique to this segment and makes the interior look even wider and more spacious.  The driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive to allow for spirited driving, which comes in handy considering the performance characteristics of this Sport Hybrid.


2013 lexus gs 450h hybrid engine motor
Combines system power – 338 horsepower.

The 2013 GS 450h is a part of an emerging class of premium Hybrid vehicles that put greater emphasis on performance, rather than MPG efficiency.  First of all, the GS 450h is still a rear wheel drive sedan.  Sorry, AWD is not available on the Hybrid GS.  And instead of using a 4-cylinder gasoline power-plant from the Camry Hybrid and the Lexus ES 300h, the GS aims for greater power and uses the latest 3.5 liter V6 Atkinson cycle direct injection motor.  This is the first time where Atkinson cycle efficient combustion technology has been combined with direct fuel injection.  Of course, a pair of electric motors and trunk mounted batteries complete the Hybrid system.  All this boils down to very clean SULEV-II emissions rating and 338 combined system horsepower.  What does this mean?  Well, this sedan has very addicting acceleration.  The power train instantly responds to accelerator input, and acceleration comes on quick and strong.  The 450h is rated at 5.6 second 0-60 MPH sprint, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than the GS 350 F-Sport, despite the extra 395 lbs of heft that the Hybrid carries.

2013 lexus gs 450h profile

No question, the GS 450h has the horsepower and acceleration to back up the sport-performance sedan personality.  How about the ride and handling?  Well, this Lexus shines here as well.  The ride is Lexus quite and very comfortable, but show it some corners and it rewards with confidence inspiring steering feel and neutral cornering ability.  The 2013 model has four distinct vehicle modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport +.  These modes are supposed to tweak steering, transmission, suspension, and throttle response characteristics to achieve these different levels.  In reality, I found it very difficult to tell the difference between these modes.  Perhaps, the only perceptible changes are in the steering and transmission mappings.  As you dial in more Sport, the steering feels quicker and more precise and the CVT transmission acts more aggressively.  The CVT emulates gear changes and also allows you to manually select “gears” via paddle shifters.  This CVT implementation is good, but I think the CVT found in the Nissan Maxima SV does a little better job at executing the sporty mode.

I left the car primarily in Eco mode and still found the acceleration and handling fun and satisfactory.  I also found myself using a heavy foot on accelerations.  It’s just that much fun!  So how much does this fun cost at the pump?  Don’t expect Prius efficiency from this Sport Hybrid.  EPA rates it at 29 city/34 highway, 31 combined MPG.  This may not sound that impressive, but it trumps all competitors in this segment.  After a week and more than 300 miles of mixed city/highway driving, I managed a respectable 30.5 MPG average.  The car still had about 100 miles of range left when I was done.  So, you can have a 338 horsepower performance luxury sedan cake, and eat it too – to the tune of 30 MPG average.

Starting Retail Price City/Hwy MPG HP / Lb-Ft Seconds 0-60 mph
2013 Lexus GS 450h $59,845 29/34 338/254 5.6
2013 BMW ActiveHybrid5 $61,100 23/30  335/330 5.7
2013 Infiniti M35h $55,545  27/32  360/258  under 6.0 (5.2)
2013 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid $55,800  24/30  329/ TBD
2013 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid $96,150 24/30 380/428  5.7

Yep, GS 450h is quicker than the Porsche Panamera Hybrid.  However, the undisputed rocket ship of the Sport Hybrids is still the Infiniti M 35h.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the Lexus GS 450h a Buy It! The final sticker price on my test car was $69,754.  This included the optional Luxury package.  This price tag is steep, but still comparable to the competition once you load up on all the options.  In the end, the GS 450h masterfully combines luxury, performance, and efficiency into an elegant and fun to drive package.  Nicely done.

Please enjoy this fun TFLcar comparison video, where Roman and Nathan put this GS 450h up against its arch-rival – the 2013 Infiniti M 35h.

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, and software engineer. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering with a car in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.