Five minutes. That is about how long it took to throw everything I thought I knew about hybrid-powered cars with CVT transmissions out the window.
Although there are a few hybrids about to hit the market like BMW’s i8, Porsche’s 918, and McLaren’s P1 that will completely redefine the concept, my long standing impression is that manufacturers have strived to attain excellent fuel economy while allowing performance, and in many cases aesthetics, to be placed on the back burner.
Granted my experience with hybrids has been limited to test-drives, I did own a compact SUV that employed a buzzy, whiney, awkward “shifting”, prone to failure and expensive to replace CVT transmission to send power to the front wheels. My fingers-crossed experience with that truck had me swear off purchasing another vehicle with a CVT. In a taxonomy of “cars to own someday,” a hybrid-powered CVT equipped sedan would fall somewhere between the Yugo GVC and a rusty Cadillac Cimarron. Five minutes behind the wheel of the 338 horsepower, 31 combined mpg (29 city/34 highway), 2014 Lexus GS450h had me rethinking the list.
The 2014 Lexus GS450h combines the world’s first direct-injected Atkinson-cycle 3.5 Liter Four Cam 24-Valve V-6 engine and dual hybrid-motor system with a silky smooth Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT), allowing the car to reach 60 mph in only 5.6 seconds. Even more amazing than the acceleration is the civilized manner in which it does it.
The GS450h is so refined that even my lead foot and Sport + mode driving hardly coaxed a complaint from my normally vocal passengers. Even when driven fast, accelerating quickly, and turning sharply, the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) helped keep the Lexus poised, retaining complete composure. Over the week that I reviewed the GS450h the most popular response from the backseat was, “Dad, this car is so smooth.” And believe me, that is amazing.
The exterior styling of the Lexus GS series is, to me anyways, a wonderful combination of luxury and sport. The rich “Starfire Pearl” paint has a soft sparkle in direct sunlight and comes to life under the glow of the lamps in dimly lit parking garage. The 19” 9-spoke alloy wheels complement the paint color and are just the right diameter for the dimensions of the car. The aggressive front fascia houses the LED headlamps with pop-up washers, LED daytime running lamps and a dynamic auto-leveling system that adds a nice level of visibility during evening rides.
Starting the 2014 Lexus GS450h is almost as entertaining as driving the car. The push button start begins an elaborate sequence of movements and system checks. The heated and ventilated 10 way adjustable perforated leather power front seats return to the position where you last set them and the bamboo and leather wrapped heated steering wheel lowers itself into a comfortable driving position. The 12.3-inch high-resolution screen that projects the backup camera images and navigation/entertainment system comes to life, eventually settling on your favorite pre-set combination of navigation, audio, and systems information. On the outside of the car, the LED headlamps run through an adjustment start-up progression that, when projected on my garage door, reminded me of an orchestra director, waving the baton in preparation of a symphonic piece.
The week that I was reviewing the 2014 Lexus GS450h coincided with my children’s spring break. For a few months, we had been planning a trip from Jacksonville to Cape Canaveral, Florida to visit the Kennedy Space Center. And although the Lexus is great around town, whether I was picking up the kids from school, driving the family to church, or getting groceries, it was during the 300 mile round trip that the Lexus really shined.
The 2014 Lexus GS450h loves the highway. The heads up display projects pertinent information on the windshield, allowing your eyes to stay fixed on the road. I appreciated the way the display interacted with the cars navigation system, projecting turn-by-turn information on the windshield. In combination with the buttons on the steering wheel, rarely an instance requires the driver to take their eyes off the road. The blind spot monitors and rain sensing automatic wipers act as a thankless co-pilot, alerting you to surrounding traffic and flicking the wipers on and off as needed.
The vehicle is extremely intelligent, assisting the driver in almost every area. The Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) with Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), ABS brakes, brake assist, and Traction Control (TRAC) continuously monitor your driving conditions, making millions of adjustments to keep you safe, and in control of the vehicle at all times.
On the return trip from Cape Canaveral, there was a back up on 95 north, close to downtown Jacksonville. If you live in Jacksonville, I doubt this comes as much of a surprise. As I navigated the stop and go traffic, the Lexus, without any prompting on my part, placed itself in EV (electronic vehicle) mode. The hybrid motor, in combination with the CVT transmission, was smooth off the stops and extremely quiet. I opened the sunroof, turned up the music streaming from Bluetooth of my iPhone, and made the best of it. Even more soothing than the comfortable car and crystal clear audio, was the fact that I was saving gas and money!
The 2014 Lexus GS450h is an amazing car. The combination of good looks, great performance, luxurious interior, and incredible gas mileage make it hard to beat.
The 2014 Lexus GS450h retails for $59,600.00. With the blind spot monitor, heads up display, luxury package, HDD navigation, one-touch power truck, intuitive park assist and delivery charges, the car that I reviewed cost $70,000.00.
Copyright: 2014 AutomotiveAddicts.com
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