Massive 12.3-inch display; App Suite brings full smartphone functionality to you car; Gorgeous exterior and interior; Good gas mileage for V6; Intuitive Park Assist feature; Exhilarating yet quiet ride
Finicky Enform controller; Blind Spot Monitor can be distracting in heavy traffic; Enform App Suite requires monthly subscription
Lexus' 2013 GS 450h packs an enormous 12.3-inch display and the company's Lexus App Suite into a hybrid that will leave your friends green with envy.
Luxury cars are generally the best place to turn when you're looking to get your hands on the latest in in-car technology. Case in point: Lexus' $58,950 ($68,007 as tested) GS450h. This hybrid luxury sedan features a ginormous 12.5-inch display, multiple drive modes and smartphone connectivity, complete with its own app suite. We haven't seen a car packed with this much technology since the last Transformers movie. So is the GS the best teched-out luxury sedan money can buy? Check it out.
The GS's hood rises on the sides and dips in the center, giving it the look of coiled viper ready to strike. Its body panels are a little bland for a car that's so beautiful up front, but Lexus more than makes up for it around back with large tail light covers that shrink as they draw closer to the GS's centerpoint.
Our GS's plush seats were swaddled in a cream-colored leather that nicely matched the bamboo wood trim around the steering wheel and lining the dash. If you're disappointed when you slip behind the driver's seat of this car, you better check your pulse.
In addition to its massive screen, the GS 450h also sports a smaller display mounted in the center of the instrument panel that provided us with crucial vehicle information, like tire pressure, average miles per gallon, miles per hour and even when the gas or electric engines were powering the wheel stack.
To navigate the system, drivers use a mouse-like controller situated to the right of the gear selector in the GS450h's center console. To make using the controller feel more ergonomically sound, Lexus places a leather-coated (of course) forearm rest that you can lean on while manipulating the controller.
Maps and Navigation
From the Destination menu, you can enter an address, search previous destinations, locate points of interest and use Lexus' Destination Assistance service to help you locate specific businesses. Once an address is entered, you have the option of choosing from several different map layouts, including a turn-by-turn list and intersection list. With the turns list, the display is divided into three sections, one with the map view, one with the turns list and the last with the Enform auxiliary control panel. Looking at all of this information at once can be overwhelming at first, but we quickly became acclimated to it.
Satellite and Audio
XM NavWeather provides the three-day forecast for your area as well as a doppler radar image of the United States. The radar image, however, isn't very sharp and displayed storm systems as green blobs.
Pairing our phone with the Lexus was rather straightforward. We activated our handset's Bluetooth connection, set the Enform system to discover, and paired the devices. From the phone menu you can quickly access your connected smartphone to see your contacts and recent calls.
Voice control options, accessible via a steering wheel mounted control, let us dictate any number of orders to the GS, including addresses, specific bands we wanted to listen to and more.
To use the Enform App Suite, sync your phone with the GS450h via Bluetooth and open the Enform app on your phone. The Lexus Enform logo will then cover your phone's screen, preventing you from accessing your handset while driving. Each of the apps function as they would on your smartphone, although some to a greater degree than others.
Before using Enform App Suite, users should check to see if their smartphones can support the system, via Lexus' convenient compatibility feature at Lexus.com. It's also advisable to use a phone with a 4G data connection to power the suite rather than a slower 3G connection. With our Droid X, which is only capable of using 3G connectivity, we noticed a significant amount of lag when trying to access different features within various apps. With a 4G connection, lag wasn't an issue.
Our Lexus also came equipped with Intuitive Park Assist, which uses sensors located around the front and rear bumpers to detect objects within a certain distance from the car. Get too close and the Intuitive Park Assist sensor will begin beeping loudly. It's a great feature that is sure to help drivers who are less than experienced with parallel parking. When left on while driving, however, the feature can become bothersome, especially in stop-and-go traffic. Thankfully, Lexus had the presence of mind to include a dedicated button located in the center console for activating and deactivating this feature.
Like many of today's new vehicles, the Lexus GS450h also includes a Blind Spot Monitor that is capable of detecting vehicles and objects in your blind spot. When an object or car is detected, an amber icon will light up in the side view mirror closest to the obstruction. If you flip your turn signal on in the direction of the vehicle or object, the Blind Spot Monitor icon will begin rapidly flashing.
We found the system to be extremely useful while driving on highways and through heavily trafficked city streets, but like Intuitive Park Assist, the monitor can become overwhelming when stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Switching the feature off was as easy as pressing the dedicated Blind Spot Monitor Button located to the left of the steering wheel.
There are four drive modes available in the GS450h, each of which either help increase your miles per gallon or lower the time it takes to go from 0-60 MPH, 5.6 seconds according to Lexus. Changing modes is as simple as twisting the Drive Mode Select knob situated in the center console behind the gear selector. Turn the selector to the left and you'll put the GS into Eco mode, reducing throttle response and power output and cycling the HVAC system between recirculating air and drawing in fresh air.
Push down on the Drive Mode Select knob and the GS will enter Normal mode. The Hybrid System Indicator will stay in the instrument cluster, but the blue backlighting will slowly turn on and off based on how efficiently you're driving. We tended to use this mode for general driving.
The real fun starts when you twist the Drive Mode Select to the right and set the GS to Sport and Sport+ modes. In both modes, the soothing blue backlighting of the instrument panel and Hybrid System Indicator give way to testosterone-laden panel, complete with fiery red backlighting and a bright red-and-white tachometer. Engine mapping also changes to provide you with a more spirited drive, while Sport+ mode adds to that by tightening the GS450h's suspension. How often did we take advantage of Sport and Sport+ mode? We'd rather not say.
Of course, if you're more interested in saving gas, you can press the EV Mode button next to the Drive Mode Select. In this mode, the GS will run exclusively on battery power until either its reserves are drained or you reach a specific speed, at which point the gas engine will take over. While in EV Mode, we were able to cruise our quiet New Jersey neighborhood without making a sound.
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