BMW 5 Series 2014 review: first drive
BMW's 5 Series has long been a class benchmark, successfully balancing its requisite size and luxury with a dynamic edge that often evades its rivals.
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The statement is getting old and tired, but bears repeating - Lexus needs to attract younger buyers; ideally yesterday. While the affable local MD, Sean Hanley, has been known to scoff at his German competition for their definition of luxury, they're taking the buyers Lexus wants with their niche-filling model range.
Lexus made their first foray into going younger with this GS, which has been around a year or so. It's much sharper looking, looks like it's related to halo cars like the LF-A and IS-F but also carries the 'h' tag - hybrid. Younger person friendly? We've got one for three months to find out.
The GS300h range kicks off with the Luxury at $79,000 before topping out at a heady $102,000 for the Sport Luxury. We've got the mid-spec F Sport, which starts at $87,000 before options.
The standard equipment list is long. There are heated and cooled front sports seats, the driver's seat has a memory function, a 12-speaker stereo with sat-nav and DAB, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, bi-xenon active headlights, keyless entry and start, multi-function steering wheel controls, auto-wipers, voice recognition and voice recognition. Our car also has the $6000 Enhancement Pack 2 - adding head-up display, sunroof and active cruise control.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Lexuses is the infotainment system. As with the CT200h and ES line, there's a fabulously irritating mouse clicker on the centre console that is painful to use. The interface is dated (but works very well once you're used to it) and offers a range of functions.
The 12-speaker audio is crisp and clear, especially when you've got the DAB digital radio going, which in these early days seems excellent at resisting drop-outs. We will report on this again as we spend our months with the car.
The screen also hosts the now de-rigeur diagram of the car showing where the power is flowing - into or out of the electric and internal combustion engine. That keeps passengers entertained for hours.
The Lexus F Sport version takes the sharp-looking GS and adds black honeycomb to the signature Lexus spindle-grille, arguably improving the look of the car. The F Sport pack also comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, lower suspension and a generally more aggressive look.
From some angles some of the bulging is a bit awkward, but down low and dead ahead, it looks like it might eat you. The LED daytime running lights add a high-tech feel as do the LED rears. It looks the part, just like every Lexus bar the ES or non F Sport CT200h.
Here's where it gets really complicated. The 300h combines a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor.
The petrol unit develops up to 100 kW and the electric motor reaches a peak of 130kW. This doesn't mean a combined 230 kW because of the two power sources develop their peaks at different revs - Lexus quotes a maximum combined power output of 164kW.
What Lexus won't do is quote a combined torque figure. Electric motors produce torque instantly and the 300h has 300Nm from the electric motor and 221 Nm from the petrol. Again, you don't add the two together (that would be an impressive 521Nm) but neither will Lexus quote a total torque figure.
Drive goes through the rear wheels, with a CVT automatic carrying the power from the two sources. The automatic can be overridden by paddle shifters which allow you to switch between pre-determined ratios if you disagree with the ratio chosen by the computer.
Drive goes through the rear wheels, with an auto carrying the power from the two power sources. Lexus claims 5.2 litres per hundred kilometres for the combined cycle.
There's airbags everywhere in here: ten to be exact, including side and curtain airbags for both rows of passengers as well as knee bags for both front occupants. Added to that are the usual ABS/EBD, traction and stability control and pre-tensioned seatbelts.
There's no ANCAP performance rating because the GS has not been tested by either ANCAP or EuroNCAP. We will be extremely surprised if it isn’t given a five-star rating.
If you're hoping for a cheaper 5 Series or E-Class rival in the dynamics department, this isn't it. The 300h can't match the punch of even the 520d's diesel engine or the performance of the traditional automatics in the German competitors.
Where the Lexus does excel is comfort and refinement. It's an incredibly quiet car, no matter which combination of power sources is in operation, as long as you keep the accelerator away from the carpet.
Even in F Sport trim, you'll waft around, with only really serious bumps affecting your impression of being shut away from the world. It is in every sense a Lexus in that regard, comparing favourably with the hushed, almost silent cabin of the larger LS460.
While Lexus claims you can get around purely on electric power, don't think you'll be purring through town with a smug green look on your face - as soon as you get any sort of momentum, the petrol engine cuts in and you're pumping out the CO2 again.
So far, we've only had the GS to try around the city, where it has performed admirably, if slowly - the 9.2 second dash to 100km/h sounds slightly optimistic and going for gaps requires the occasional deep breath.
|GS250 F Sport||2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$34,320 – 40,810||2014 Lexus GS 2014 GS250 F Sport Pricing and Specs|
|GS300h Hybrid F Sport||2.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO||$31,460 – 37,950||2014 Lexus GS 2014 GS300h Hybrid F Sport Pricing and Specs|
|GS300h Hybrid Luxury||2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$28,600 – 34,430||2014 Lexus GS 2014 GS300h Hybrid Luxury Pricing and Specs|
|GS300h Hybrid Sports Luxury||2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$37,840 – 44,550||2014 Lexus GS 2014 GS300h Hybrid Sports Luxury Pricing and Specs|
“For the first of its three months, we haven't exactly exercised the GS but it has done a terrific job of carrying us around to various mundane, domestic activities like work, school and shopping. The huge list of standard features makes the cabin a nice place to be and even in horrible stop-start traffic is calming.Over the next couple of months we'll stretch it a bit, with longer trips planned and an eagle eye on the fuel consumption. We've so far averaged 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres almost exclusively in Sydney peak hours, so it's doing well.We'll see if we come to not only admire, but love the GS over the next ten weeks.”