The 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.