On Test: Lexus GS300h

Watch the video review here

Does a car project an image? Of course it does. It’s just like that suit you wear to the office.

We all like to give an impression, especially when it comes to business – In the corporate world, how you come across is vital if it means winning a contract or keeping the one you’ve got.

So what impression does the Lexus GS300h hybrid give?

Cars can play a significant role in our working lives. Flashy, sensible, different or bland, they potentially signal what the person behind the wheel might be like.

German automobiles tend to say you’ve done okay for yourself; so when you consider that this new GS300h is pitched against BMWs and Audis, you might imagine Lexus has simply imitated the look of these ubiquitous but high status symbol motors.

Well, I’m really pleased to report that the Japanese automaker has done a lot more than that.

On sale in the UK since early 2014, the GS300h’s sleek surfacing and sporting proportions make the car stand out from, say, the Beemers, Audis and Mercs.

The latest GS does more than look and feel good though. You see, company car bosses like to slash costs and the easiest way to do that is to reduce emissions. That typically means a diesel engine – but Lexus does things differently. Its latest GS 300h model aims to battle with cars like the BMW 520d, but with a 2 and a half litre petrol-hybrid engine instead of an oil-burner.

On paper, it  certainly  adds up. Despite being a big saloon, annual road tax is the about the same price as you’d pay for many small hatchbacks. Fuel economy stacks up well too – the official figure for this ‘Luxury’ model is 57.6mpg, which is on par with cars like the Audi A6 2.0 TDI and Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI.

And because the GS300h runs on petrol, it comes with the added advantage of reduced costs at the pumps, and a lower Benefit in Kind company car tax rate. The Lexus is even keenly priced, with this model costing just over £37 and a half grand.

Of course, as with all things, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The GS300h might look ideal to an accountant hunched over a dusty ledger, but it’s not much use if it falls on its face in the real world. Thankfully, it’s a comfortable car that should appeal to most drivers.

That starts from the moment you clamber into the cabin – it’s nicely laid out and the driving position is pleasing with plenty of adjustment.  Rear passenger space is alright, and there are some nice touches like air-con controls for rear-seaters. Add to that an overall feeling of quality and there’s a lot to smile about.

It has a push button start and as this is a hybrid, you have to check out the instrument binnacle to know you’re ready to drive off – it’s as silent as a graveyard.  There’s no noise when stationary or moving at low speed because in those situations the Lexus will operate on battery juice alone.

It’s a chilled-out car to drive in almost all situations, but it’s most at home on motorway stretches. However, it’s not without its downsides; the engine starts to complain noisily when you ask it to overtake or when you bury your foot in the carpet off a slip road to join fast flowing traffic.

In fact, pressing on with any gusto is an issue with the GS300h – and that’s down to the Continuously Variable transmission – or CVT auto gearbox – which is more at home on a gentle drive than a hardcore hammering.

0-62mph arrives in 9.2 seconds and top speed is 119mph – so if you’re after a driver’s car, the GS300h is best avoided.

The steering doesn’t offer much feedback and while there are paddles to take control of the gearbox they’re rather redundant. However, the car’s chilled character is helped by a sexy suspension set up which floats over most lumps and bumps, even over pothole ridden UK road surfaces. The Lexus has different driving modes to choose from too – with Eco, Normal and Sport and EV settings.

So, while the GS300h might not be the most adrenaline inducing motor to throw down a twisty country lane, it’s great on long stretches of tarmac. Add to that low running costs and cheap as chips company car tax and there’s lots to write home about. Not everyone will find it as tempting as its German competitors, but those who do have nothing to fret about.

Lexus GS300h Luxury

Price: £37,495

Engine: 2.5-litre 6-cylinder petrol/electric

Gearbox: CVT Auto

Power/Torque: 243bhp; 163lb/ft

Economy/Emissions: 57.6mpg; 113g/km of Co2

0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Top speed: 119 mph

What do you think?

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