In the quest for alternative power sources Toyota and Lexus have been at the forefront of the development of petrol/electric hybrid technology for many years. While Toyota concentrated on conservative models such as the Prius, Lexus took it a step further by using electric power to add sporting performance.
At first glance this approach may have seemed odd but in fact hybrids actually make more sense in large cars than in small ones because a fuel saving of around 25 per cent in a large engine will benefit the environment far more than trimming the same percentage from a small one.
Though people who can afford expensive vehicles don’t have the same fuel cost concerns than buyers of cheaper ones, more and more of them are starting to see CO2 emission reductions as a more significant issue.
Interestingly, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche now also producing luxury sports hybrids.
The Lexus LS range was given an upgrade in early 2013 with a more adventurous look to it, extra power to all models as well as the option of F-Sport styling and performance enhancement features with both the LS 460 and the new, standard wheelbase, LS 600h.
The LS 600hL remained on sale with, as before, the choice of two rear bucket seats or a traditional three-seat bench.
Premium luxury cars such as the big Germans and the Lexus LS have traditionally come with quite conservative styling as befits their buyer’s status so the new angular wide-mouth treatment is quite an exciting change and one that we loved.
There inclusion of the F-Sport package adds a second dimension to the hybrid nature of the LS 600h because it allows the car to be driven in five different modes: Normal, Eco, Comfort, Sport S and Sport S+. The last two modes are an interesting move because, as with the styling changes, they direct the LS more in the direction of the driver than the chauffeur and his executive passenger(s). Less likely to be an issue in egalitarian Australia than in more status-conscious overseas countries. Indeed, many Asian owners of the Lexus hybrids will never drive their own cars.
The Lexus LS models make consumate cruising vehicles with an almost floating feeling such is the level of comfort and noise suppression. Twiddle to knob to the Sport S or Sport S+ settings and you feel noticeable changes in the driving dynamics with firmer suspension through the Active Stabiliser System, tighter steering and drivetrain.
While these enhancements do improve driving enjoyment the big Lexuses are a long
way from being sporty – they’re far too large and heavy for that. Nevertheless the gap between the superior performance of cars the BMW 7 Series has been closed and the dynamics of the new LS models largely through a stiffer chassis than before.
Interior space in the standard wheelbase F-Sport is acceptable for a pair of adults in the rear seat but with boot space restricted by the batteries to just 370 litres.
Fuel consumption during our test of the LS 600h sat just over 10 litres per 100 kilometres during freeway segments and around 12 overall, quite impressive numbers for such a large vehicle.
We could fill several more pages describing the equipment and technology within the Lexus LS but rather than do so, we’ll pick out a few highlights and let your local dealer walk you through the rest.
Rear-seat passengers get access to most of the car’s infotainment features from the console located on the armrest between the rear seats, no doubt designed for the Chairman of the Board en route between business meetings and listening in to stock market reports.
The front seat console employs a rectangular floating ‘mouse’ which we found much more difficult to use than the typical round one. It doesn’t come easily to hand and is so twitchy that it’s necessary to take your eyes of the road to use it.
With on-road prices starting above a quarter of a million dollars the Lexus LS 600h is obviously aimed at an elite category of buyer for whom only the best will do. Those who appreciate technology will love it.
LS 600h F-Sport 5.0-litre petrol/electric hybrid four-door sedan: $217,900 (automatic)
LS 600h L 5.0-litre petrol/electric hybrid five-seat four-door sedan: $249,900 (automatic)
LS 600h L 5.0-litre petrol/electric hybrid four-seat four-door sedan: $259,900 (automatic)
Note: Prices do not include government or dealer charges. Contact your local Lexus dealer for driveaway prices.
ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Standard in all models
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking Sensors: Standard in all models
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models
SPECIFICATIONS (Lexus LS 600h F Sport 5.0-litre petrol/electric hybrid four-door sedan)
Engine Capacity: 4.969 litres
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 11.8:1
Bore/Stroke: 94.0 x 89.5 mm
Maximum Power: 290 kW @ 6400 rpm (327 kW combined)
Maximum Torque: 520 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Driven Wheels: Rear
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: CVT
Final Drive Ratio: 3.916:1
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES: Length: 5059 mm
Wheelbase: 2970 mm
Width: 1875 mm
Height: 1470 mm
Turning Circle: 11.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 2270-2340 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 84 litres
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES: Front Suspension: Independent, multi-link with upper and lower ball joint, adaptive air suspension with automatic height control
Rear Suspension: Independent, multi-link, adaptive air suspension with automatic height control
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc
0-100 km/h Acceleration: 5.7 seconds
FUEL CONSUMPTION/EMISSION RATINGS:
Fuel Type: Petrol 95RON
Fuel Consumption – Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.6 L/100 km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS: Greenhouse Rating: 6.5/10
Air Pollution Rating: 8.5/10
Four years/100,000 km