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P1000588The pho­tos were beguil­ing. A large stone fire­place, com­fy loun­gers, a swim­ming pool and expans­ive views stretch­ing over Hawke’s Bay — the prom­ise of a per­fect week­end hol­i­day home, or anti­dote to the usu­al Wel­ling­ton week­end hum­drum, in oth­er words.

No indul­gent week­end is com­plete without the appro­pri­ate wheels, and none of us was dis­ap­poin­ted to be clam­our­ing aboard a pristine, liquid-sil­ver Lex­us GS 300h. Replete with cur­rent Lex­us liv­ery, the GS is a hand­some car and I was con­fid­ent it would stand us in good stead for the some­times haughty folk of Havelock.

But it was the drive that was fore­most in my mind as we got under­way. I get to review a great many cars, but frus­trat­ingly, it’s not often I really get to stretch their legs — so to speak. The GS would be an exception.

It is an inter­est­ing pro­pos­i­tion too, com­bin­ing the latest hybrid tech­no­logy with all the attrib­utes of a largeish, lux­ury sedan. Think more BMW 5 Series than 7, but at around $110k, a bit more afford­able and with plenty of room to spread out in, and the prom­ise of the fuel eco­nomy of a much smal­ler vehicle.

It was the ride, though, that first impressed. It’s genu­inely cos­set­ing, and even on the Wair­ar­apa B‑roads there was min­im­al road noise and only min­im­al intru­sion from the odd broken sur­face to cause unwel­come dis­trac­tion to the GS’s occupants.

As with all hybrids, you have to get used to run­ning on a com­bin­a­tion of bat­tery power and the ICE (intern­al com­bus­tion engine). It’s not an espe­cially demand­ing run up to Hawke’s Bay, and by the time we hit Wood­ville I was in wel­come receipt of encour­aging fuel-con­sump­tion fig­ures, fur­ther inspired by the real-time data the Lex­us help­fully provides. The aver­age of around 6.5 litres/100km was reas­sur­ing giv­en the size of the GS.

But as night began to des­cend, and with well over 100km to our des­tin­a­tion, more spir­ited driv­ing was called for. To keep the GS hon­est, you really need to give the throttle plenty of nudge, while the trans­mis­sion — geared for effi­ciency — doesn’t do much to help the cause.

But press on we did, encoun­ter­ing less and less traffic as the miles ticked by. It was solidly dark by the time we reached Hawke’s Bay prop­er, but des­pite the slightly out-of-town loc­a­tion, we were read­ily guided to our ren­ted lux­ury pad by the GS’s large and effect­ive sat­nav screen. Sadly, it was no use at all as I scrabbled around in the dark try­ing to find the prom­ised door key.

The house, once we breached its defences, proved very accom­mod­at­ing indeed. Perched in a com­mand­ing pos­i­tion over­look­ing the Tukituki River, it has a genu­inely breath­tak­ing vista, along with com­fort­able but lux­uri­ous fur­nish­ings, mean­ing it was the per­fect place to unwind from a long week and four hours on the road. The Lex­us, mean­while, looked right at home in pride of place on the long driveway.

The week­end sun was so warm­ing, I even felt brave enough to take a dip in the (unheated as it turned out) lodge swim­ming pool. Cold is not a word that does justice to that par­tic­u­lar body of water… which just made me all the more grate­ful for the Lexus’s heated pews on the drive home.

Con­clu­sion: An under­stated bit of lux­ury kit. What it lacks in flash, it makes up for with good old-fash­ioned Toyota reli­ab­il­ity and build qual­ity. Hybrid makes sense from the wal­let per­spect­ive, but the heart says buy the paci­er GS450h.


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