As an avid viewer of BBC’s excellent Top Gear, and in true James May style, I confess sometimes to enjoying the challenge of just how many miles to the gallon I can get from a car with a dashboard computer readout.
Recently in a Fiat 500 1.3 diesel sport, and with some very delicate right footwork, I managed 99.9mpg, admittedly with lots of freewheeling. I might have achieved more but 99.9 is the maximum to which the computer would go.
On brisk urban driving I still achieved over 55mpg which is not at all bad. At the other end of the scale, I admit to being something of a petrol head, and on Sunday had another GP kart win at North East Karting’s excellent Warden Law Circuit near Sunderland, which sets me up nicely for a hectic week in my 9 - 5 (how I wish I could actually, if only once, achieve those hours!) job as a Solicitor.
Work hard but play harder was a maxim taught to me by a well-known entrepreneur many years ago, and in many respects I still think he was right. So what on earth does all this have to do with the Lexus GS450h F Sport? Well, let me start with the James May bit.
Press the brake and the start button, and if there’s enough charge, this being a hybrid, it’s total silence. Even more impressive, if you’re gentle with the right foot, is the equally silent glide as you pull away – right up until the moment when the engine wakes up and, well to me at least, spoils it a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Lexus cars. I had a GS eleven years ago for a while, and the LS remains for me one of the best kept secrets in luxury motoring.
Above all however it was the excellence of the Lexus after sales customer service that remains the abiding memory, and how I wish some other prestige motor manufacturers were even half as good.
So how was the GS450h F Sport? My nine year old son thought the front, below bumper level, was reminiscent of a Lamborghini Aventador, that the wheels were similar to those on a Maserati I’d been driving recently, and that the front day time driving lights were very Audi.
My wife on the other hand, when I’d covered up the badges and sat her in the driver’s seat, thought it was another brand, which in a £50,000 plus car was a bit of a blow. When I asked her why, she said simply that it smelt of plastic not leather, and had plastic dash inserts.
I pointed out that the dash inserts were actually aluminium. I liked the multimedia display, which would keep Mr May happy too with its performance data displays betraying precisely how you’ve been driving recently! Its centre console mounted mouse is much easier to use than the BMW 5 Series knob, which I have to admit I’ve never truly mastered.
I liked the digital dash, which looks like an analogue dash but isn’t. I admit I only realised this for certain after half an hour or so of trying to achieve some serious fuel consumption figures, and then switching from Eco to Sport and Sport+ mode, whereupon the Eco dial changed to a Rev Counter.
I drove it also at night when the instrument and media light show is very impressive, as too is the sound system. However, whenever I got out of the car, my hands were tingling a little as a result of a vibration through the steering wheel, which I suspect is a consequence of the ultra low profile tyres on the sporting 19 inch rims and toggling between Sport and Eco mode.
By the time the car was returned, I’d driven it both gently and aggressively, changing from Eco to Sport and Sport+ modes regularly, with both urban and motorway driving, and still got an average of nearly 30 mpg which I reckon is pretty good.
I suspect if I used my right foot rather more gently, I could do a lot better. Would I buy one? The Lexus GS450h F Sport is clearly aimed squarely at competition from BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar, to name but a few, in a market where performance, quality, and that certain wow factor are paramount.
If I drove regularly in London, its hybrid credentials would make it a serious contender to avoid the scourge of the congestion charge, and let’s not forget that other cities are already committed to moving in the same direction.
The Lexus GS450h F Sport that Tim drove is priced at £50,995 OTR and was provided by Lexus Newcastle
Tel: 0191 215 0404.