Just to prove what a stealthy hybrid this car is, I walked right past it on day one of the show, having to return on day two to take pictures. I thought they had the standard GS on display. That stealth heralds the new breed of hybrid that focuses on performance just as much as getting better fuel economy like the first-to-market Honda Accord Hybrid.
Unlike the Accord, the GS 450h is tuned for even more performance and has the rear-wheel drive to handle it. Straying from the regular Lexus naming scheme (like the RX 400h before it) the GS 450h does not have a 4.5-liter V-8 engine, but a 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a high-output, permanent magnet electric motor that performs like a 4.5 V-8. Clever.
The engine, when mated with the high-torque electric motor will produce more than 300 horsepower and get the hybrid moving to 60 mph in less than six seconds almost equal to the GS 430 V-8. The immediate power delivery of the electric motor helps the car in the 30-to-50 mph passing maneuvers. Fuel economy numbers should average in the high twenties and will most likely be certified as a Super Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle.
Visual differences, for the astute Lexus admirer, include 18-inch light-alloy wheels and a new power meter that replaces the tachometer. Of course the badge on the trunk will also reflect the hybrid powertrain. All other features, including dimensions, match with the standard GS 430.
Pricing has not been announced, but if we follow the RX 400h?s lead, the price should go up between $8-10,000; $5,000 for the hybrid powertrain and a handful of features that would be optional on the non-hybrid models. That would put the GS 450h in the $55-60,000 dollar range, a steep number indeed. The GS 450h should start appearing at dealers in the spring of 2006 so you have some time to start scrimping.