BMW 5 Series 2014 review: road test
Halfway through a seven-year stint as the enviable car bay filler in Australia's corporate garage, BMW raises the bar.
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By any measure the Lexus GS450h is a top-shelf prestige sedan. And with its second generation car priced from $99,900 Lexus says the premium on hybrid technology is all but gone.
Drivetrains aside, the standard specification for the three-model range is better value than its German-based rivals and the quality of the ride and interior is on a par.
That gear runs from 10 airbags to xenon headlamps, a moonroof, heated and vented front seats with 12-way adjustment, head-up display and adaptive suspension dampers.
The biggest point of difference for the Lexus, though, is the method of locomotion that differentiates it from the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The second-generation of the hybrid drivetrain is more efficient than ever, with official fuel use of just 6.3 litres for 100km. And that is starting to resonate with luxury car buyers. Lexus won't nominate a number for GS sales but it is a niche but growing market.
If hi-tech toys tick the boxes, so will the Lexus. The top-range Sports Luxury packs a massive 12.3-inch screen. That's bragging rights in this class but it is also a smart way to show other functions even when the satnav display is on.
The drivetrain uses the same 3.5-litre V6 found in the regular GS350 but for hybrid application it has been modified to extract maximum efficiency. The total power from the V6 petrol engine is 254kW, and acceleration to 100km/h is a more-than-respectable 5.9 seconds.
The interior gadgets are virtually indistinguishable in application or effectiveness from the Euro rivals, from bind-spot assistance to driver drowsiness monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Depending on the model, the seats adjust in 12 or 18 ways — either approach enough to ensure comfort. Toss in xenon or LED headlamps and there is a lot to like about the new GS range.
So who buys a Japanese luxury model that ranges in price from $100,000 to $122,000 — and why? Lexus CEO Tony Cramb says the average GS buyer has an income of $402,000 and wants a vehicle with the latest and greatest features.
"Buyers in this class have owned luxury cars before and are generally looking to stand out from the crowd," he says. They will do that in the GS. The revised front looks more aggressive than its Euro rivals and Lexus focused on improving the handling and ride for this model after feedback from customers and journalists.
Adaptive suspension damping is standard across the range and the suspension itself has been overhauled to boost responsiveness. Inside, the infotainment display dominates the dash and there's a mouse-style control unit on the centre console to navigate through the menus.
The four driving modes — from Eco, Normal, Sports and Sports + — adjust throttle and transmission response from enviro-slushy to revhead sharp. An EV-only mode will power the vehicle for 2km at speeds up to 50km/h.
On the road the GS feels as refined and relaxing as buyers could want in a prestige car. It isn't built to tackle hairpins but the four-wheel steering gives it an edge across Victoria's Black Spur.
It turns in as quickly as a motorbike and can take a couple of corners to adjust to. That is matched by a reasonably direct steering wheel — go the no-cost bamboo option if you really want to stand out — and suspension that squashes most irregularities out of the cabin.
It is a cossetted place to be. Wind noise is all but non-existent and tyre roar is muted even on coarse chip bitumen. The dreaded CVT drone can faintly be heard, but only under hard acceleration.
This is not, however, a five-seat car — not unless the fifth member is a small child or a contortionist. The middle rear pew would do for a trip to the local shops but I wouldn't like to perch there for much longer. The drive experience is supremely competent without being quite as engaging as it can be in a Merc or a BMW. It is not that the Lexus does anything wrong, it just does it differently.
It's a precision watch that works perfectly in any situation. but doesn't have the character of the scratched timepiece that you've been wearing forever. Not too many mid-sized buyers flog their cars, however, and when it comes to the comfort, it is hard to argue with the Lexus's price.
Lexus may still be the road less travelled but it is becoming a smarter route with every new model.
|GS250 F Sport||2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$21,230 – 26,840||2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS250 F Sport Pricing and Specs|
|GS450h Hybrid||3.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO||$24,640 – 30,360||2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450h Hybrid Pricing and Specs|
|GS450h Hybrid F Sport||3.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$25,520 – 31,570||2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450h Hybrid F Sport Pricing and Specs|
|GS450h Hybrid Luxury||3.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$22,770 – 28,160||2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450h Hybrid Luxury Pricing and Specs|