2009 Lexus GS 450h Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
June 14, 2009

The hybrid powertrain in the 2009 Lexus 450h is very responsive, but a tight interior and lackluster real-world fuel economy detracts from the appeal.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Lexus 450h in order to give you an expert opinion. Then TheCarConnection.com's auto experts researched available road tests on the new Lexus 450h to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

The 2009 Lexus GS 450h rewards you with satisfying performance while earning nods from your eco-minded friends, but your wallet will be worse for the wear.

The hybrid system in the 2009 Lexus GS 450h is calibrated for performance, rather than absolute fuel economy. The system uses a combination of a gasoline engine and electric power, and it charges the battery system with the engine and during braking. It’s also a full-hybrid system, meaning you can crawl ahead in slow traffic using electric power only. Because the 450h is tuned for performance, the EPA estimates are 22 mpg city, 25 highway versus the Lexus GS 350’s 19/27 mpg; according to the experience of owners and TheCarConnection.com's editors, the hybrid’s real-world mileage is even lower.

Driving the 2009 Lexus GS 450h is what you’d expect from a sport sedan. The powertrain combines a 292-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with an electric motor system propelling the rear wheels. Altogether, the hybrid powertrain makes 339 horsepower and can push the 450h to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds—faster than the V-8-powered GS 460. The shifter has a manual mode that simulates six different gears, and there's impressive stability in corners, even when the road surface turns rough, thanks to the double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear. The electric-assist steering is well weighted, but it doesn't convey much road feel.

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The 2009 Lexus GS 450h gets a conservatively styled but sporty-feeling instrument panel, while seldom-used controls are kept out of the way in a drawer. The GS interior is a major drawback, as it sorely lacks backseat space, and headroom is limited in front. The ride isn't always perfect either; it can be harsh on rough patches and railroad crossings.

The insurance industry-supported IIHS tests the nonhybrid GS sedan and gives it the top "good" rating in both frontal and side impacts, with a "marginal" rating in the seat-based rear-impact test. Front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and dual front knee airbags are standard on the 2009 Lexus GS 450h. Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), a stability control system that closely integrates the steering and brakes, is also standard. Included with the optional laser cruise control is the Pre-Collision System (PCS), which prepares safety systems for an anticipated collision.

The options list includes an excellent navigation system with voice address entry, laser cruise control, and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with DVD audio/video capability. Another noteworthy option is the active stabilizer system—which provides the advantage of a heavier stabilizer bar almost instantaneously without sacrificing ride quality. And there's no shortage of high-technology features inside to live up to the image of a sport sedan for green geeks. Standard features on the 2009 Lexus GS 450h include keyless entry, adaptive front lighting, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and front ventilated and cooled seats.

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2009 Lexus GS 450h

Styling

Outwardly, TheCarConnection.com spies few differences between the hybrid 2009 Lexus GS 450h and its gasoline-powered sibling.

The 2009 Lexus GS 450h retains the styling cues of the gasoline-powered version.

Because it shares so much with the good-looking GS line, this Lexus 2009 model's styling "is sexier than that of many other hybrids," says the reviewer at ForbesAutos. Autoblog points out "visual differences, for the astute Lexus admirer, include 18-inch light-alloy wheels," adding that "the badge on the trunk will also reflect the [Lexus 2009] hybrid powertrain"; beyond this, "all other features, including dimensions, match with the standard GS 430." Cars.com also remarks that the 2009 Lexus GS 450h is "virtually identical to the GS 350 and GS 460 sedans...[sporting] Lexus' now-familiar face with its steeply raked headlights and thick C-pillars."

Edmunds reports the GS hybrid has "rakish styling." Cars.com feels "the GS is more futuristic than its predecessor, touting its long hood and set-back cabin.” Kelley Blue Book says "the GS brings a legitimate sense of design passion to its sleekly flowing sheetmetal that arguably qualifies it as the best-looking Lexus sedan."

Edmunds also describes the interior of the 2009 Lexus in glowing terms: "genuine wood and aluminum trim complements the rich leather seating surfaces," though "the highly polished wood can reflect glare annoyingly at times." Cars.com notes this Lexus 2009 model's interior "is identical to other GS models." This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Car and Driver points out: "like other Lexuses, this one features a beautifully finished interior."

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2009 Lexus GS 450h

Performance

The 2009 Lexus GS 450h has reasonably good handling, but its hybrid powertrain doesn’t provide a substantial fuel-economy gain over the gas-powered version.

The 2009 Lexus GS 450h performs as well as a V-8—but doesn’t get much better fuel economy than its V-6 would alone.

ConsumerGuide notes that the "hybrid powertrain lacks immediate kick of V8, but does surge ahead with dispatch," an impression confirmed in Car and Driver: "when all the ponies and volts are online, the 450h is capable of respectable haste." According to Cars.com, this 2009 Lexus's "direct-injection, 3.5-liter V-6 engine is shared with Lexus' smaller IS 350 sedan," which teams up "with two electric motors—one providing power during startup, the other boosting acceleration—for a combined 339 hp."

Automobile Magazine points out "gasoline and electric propulsion units really do work as a single entity." Autoblog reports this Lexus 2009 vehicle is "tuned for even more performance and has the rear-wheel drive to handle it." Between the gasoline and electric motors, the power plant "will produce more than 300 horsepower and get the hybrid moving to 60 mph in less than six seconds—almost equal to the…V-8."

Automobile also notes that "the continuously variable transmission acts more like a standard automatic in its engine-braking abilities—just slide the lever over into 'S' and toggle down through six 'gears.'" This source adds that the "faux downshifting doesn't help with acceleration, but the GS doesn't need it." Car and Driver complains, "the continuously variable transmission never stopped hunting."

The 2009 Lexus 450h does "far less polluting than the diesel Benz—even the Bluetec version," says Automobile. Fuel economy is reasonable at EPA ratings of 22 mpg city and 25 mpg highway—but considering this Lexus 2009 vehicle is a hybrid, "[not] exactly a quantum leap…nor are they as good as the Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI's 27/37 mpg."

ConsumerGuide acknowledges that this Lexus 2009 model is "comfortably unruffled on smooth pavement" but points out "minor float over large humps." Brakes provide "strong stopping control, but...pedal action is either too mushy or too sensitive." Edmunds says that "[the] unusual pedal feel is quickly taken in stride, however, and the regenerative braking system otherwise stops the 2-ton GS 450h quickly and with reassuring authority." Car and Driver complains of "numb steering," adding that "the total absence of feel in the electric power steering reminded one tester of an early-'80s Lincoln Town Car."

According to ForbesAutos, "a sophisticated Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system coordinates the car's electronic power steering, stability control and electronic brake system," allowing it to deliver "good road feel, ride comfort and cornering."

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2009 Lexus GS 450h

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Lexus GS 450h pays a price for its sexy styling and hybrid powertrain—namely, a cramped trunk and rear seat.

For a luxury car, the 2009 Lexus GS 450h could offer a lot more in terms of trunk space—not to mention peace and quiet.

Noise levels aboard the 2009 Lexus 450h are unacceptable for a luxury car in this price range. ConsumerGuide says that while this Lexus 2009 model "equals most any class rival for hushed refinement," it notes "coarse-surface tire thrum." Car and Driver reports that "with the waxing and waning of the power system, the [CV transmission] created a sonorous racket described by another chronicler as 'somewhere between a gas turbine and a vacuum cleaner.'"

Despite these noisy shortcomings, the 2009 450h retains the upscale interior materials of its siblings. Car and Driver acknowledges "the GS 450h excels in small details." Edmunds notes "a luxurious and well-crafted cabin" but adds "the control-oriented drop-down dash panel to the left of the steering wheel can get in the way of the driver's exit if left open."

Sacrifices to storage and space are necessary due to the battery placement in the 2009 Lexus GS 450h. Cars.com warns "due to intrusion from the hybrid system's two battery packs, trunk volume shrinks from 12.7 cubic feet in non-hybrid GS models to 7.5 cubic feet in the GS 450h." In addition, "bulky rear wheel arches intrude," and the "small opening makes for awkward loading," according to ConsumerGuide. This 2009 Lexus's harshest critic, Car and Driver, nonetheless concedes that "damped lids ease open to reveal small nooks, [and] hinged panels enhance the usefulness of door pockets."

ConsumerGuide notes that "six-footers get ample leg room, but only average head clearance...taller-still drivers will feel cramped." This source attests, however, that "seats are all-day comfortable." ForbesAutos confirms this impression: "seating is comfortable, though taller riders may not find enough backseat legroom or front-seat headroom." According to Edmunds, this Lexus 2009 model is "spacious enough for five passengers," but "accommodates four more comfortably as the elevated rear center cushion makes for a tighter fit in the middle position."

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2009 Lexus GS 450h

Safety

In most opinions gathered by TheCarConnection.com, the 2009 Lexus GS 450h provides superior levels of safety for its occupants.

While no testing has been conducted on the 2009 Lexus 450h by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives it top ratings in front and side impact tests, allowing occupants to feel safe and secure while traveling.

According to Cars.com, those who purchase this particular Lexus 2009 vehicle will find "VDIM coordinates the electronic stability system, antilock brakes, electronic steering and electronic brakes to aid driver control" as standard equipment. Also, the 2009 Lexus has "a full complement of electronic safety features [that] centers around the [2009] Lexus' Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system."

"Adaptive cruise control [that] can sense impending collisions and alert the driver," and "an adaptive front lighting system swivels the headlights several degrees during turns to better illuminate corners” are all optional safety equipment on the 2009 Lexus.

According to ForbesAutos, the 2009 450h has some minor visibility problems, including a "high dashboard and windowsills hamper...outward visibility." On the other hand, Kelley Blue Book remarks that a "well-proportioned glass area provides good outward visibility." In addition, Kelley Blue Book reports installed on the 2009 Lexus GS 450h are "xenon HID headlamps and quick-responding LED taillamps [that] make it easier for you to see and be seen, day or night."

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2009 Lexus GS 450h

Features

TheCarConnection.com notes a full range of standard equipment and luxury extras available for the 2009 Lexus GS 450h.

The 2009 Lexus GS 450h should satisfy virtually anyone who likes power assists and high-tech extras; audiophiles will definitely want the Mark Levinson sound system.

According to Edmunds, the 2009 GS hybrid "comes equipped with a full array of standard premium luxury features such as 18-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, adaptive xenon headlights and a sunroof," as well as "leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, interior wood trim, Bluetooth, a back-up camera, keyless ignition and a 10-speaker audio system with in-dash CD changer and auxiliary audio jack."

Cars.com notes "additional sound dampening and an acoustically tuned windshield" are available, and reports that options on the 2009 Lexus 450h "include a navigation system and a 14-speaker audio system." Edmunds calls the Mark Levinson audio system "phenomenal." This source states that "conventional summer (performance) tires are standard," but remarks that Lexus 2009 buyers "have the option of getting either summer or all-season run-flat tires"—a reminder that some will want two sets of tires.

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7.8
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Styling 8.0
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Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 9.0
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