Frank S. Washington, Fri, 07 Aug 2009 02:41:17 PDT
PASADENA, Calif., - Why create a $104,000 hybrid sedan aimed at folks who couldn't care less about the price of gasoline? That was the question Lexus answered here as it debuted the LS600h L, the top of line hybrid model of its new flagship.
Lexus told us that the LS600h L was for super affluent consumers in the US. Despite the automaker's success, it is the No.1 selling luxury brand, Lexus has never had a product aimed at these buyers.
Hybrids come in all shapes and forms and Lexus produces more models than any other automaker. Although hybrids can be configured to save gas, they can also be configured to deliver performance and that's what the Lexus LS600h L does.
The bottom line is, according to Lexus, that the big sedan delivers V12 like performance using a V8 engine combined with electric motors. It isn't any old V8. In fact, the 5.0- liter direct injection V8 is the largest engine that Lexus has ever produced.
Combined with its electric motors, the engine of the LS600h L makes 438 horsepower and 385 pounds- feet of torque. The power- plant was mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.
Engineers made it quite clear that there are no belts or pulleys, the LS600h L's CVT was electronically controlled. That translated into super quiet operation which contributed to the silent running, a hallmark of Lexus, we experienced while driving through the Angeles National Forest.
The LS600h L was heavier, by about 750 lbs, than the LS460 L. The L in both cases stands for long- wheel- base. Half of the extra weight was accounted for by the electric motors and the hybrid's battery pack. However, the rest could be attributed to the options.
A bunch of optional equipment is standard on the LS600h L. Amongst its creature comforts were a premium audio system, a navigation system, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, power trunk, intuitive parking, leather trimmed instrument panel and a heated wood steering wheel.
It also had all- wheel- drive. Many think AWD is for inclement weather. It is but it is also great for performance. Power going to all four wheels translated into the LS 460g L's precise handling and stability in the curves.
The LS600h L was rated super ultra low emission meaning its emissions were 70 percent cleaner than its competition. And while environmentally friendly, it could get from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, cover a quarter of a mile in 13.8 seconds and it had a top speed that was electronically limited to 130 mph.
That sort of performance is pretty impressive and its even more eye popping when we considered that the Lexus LS600h L weighed just a little bit more than 5,000 lbs. Again, we are back to the weight.
We felt the extra heft but it didn't impact the way that the LS600h L handled. Some of that was due the car's air suspension which is standard. As explained to us, it made it made it unnecessary to beef up a regular suspension.
The LS600h L road smoothly, flattened the bumps and the lumps and braked well. Although it probably won't matter, the LS600h L had an EPA rating of a combined 21 mpg.
When the car goes on sale this summer, the LS600h L will add to the automotive lore that is Lexus.