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Thread: 2008 Lexus LS600h hybrid

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2008 Lexus LS600h hybrid

    The feel of a 747 on take-off roll - the thrust of four GE turbofans pressing you back into your seat - is not the sensation you expect from a hybrid. It's supposed to be all about the economy, stupid.


    Well, sort of.

    The Lexus LS600h is a different kind of hybrid. First of all, it's the flagship of the Lexus line - the biggest, most expensive (and yes, most powerful) Lexus of them all. Other hybrids have been more modest; more frugal. Designed to lower operating costs/fuel usage primarily - with considerations about power/performance/luxury of secondary importance.

    But the LS600h is a green machine for those with lots of green - a no-compromises ultra-luxury sedan that is only incidentally economical. It is a way for the very affluent to give something back - without giving anything up.


    This is a big car (5,000-plus lbs., empty, 212.7 inch wheelbase, almost 203 inches long) so it needs a big engine. Lexus gave it two. The first is a 5.0 liter gas-burning V-8; the second a high-torque electric motor/electric battery pack. The car can run on either - or both - and the combined output of the two powerplants is 438 horsepower.

    Lexus engineers wanted the power/performance of a six-liter V-12 (hence, "LS600h") with the fuel efficiency of a 5 liter V-8.

    On the first point, mission accomplished. The massive Lexus is capable of reaching 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. Top end is seriously illegal - and easily accessible. Just like you'd expect from a six figure, six liter V-12 powered dreadnought.

    What's unexpected is the mileage - which comes in at 20 city/22 highway. Not great - but not obnoxious, either. Better than a V-8 powered mid-sized SUV, in fact. And way better than the seriously profligate 13 city/20 highway a V-12 BMW 750i accosts you with. Audi's A8L with the 6 liter W12 engine is another real hog - in the teens in both city (13 mpg) and highway (19 mpg) driving. Another competitor, the Mercedes S600, is even more egregious - barely in double digits, city-wise (11 mpg). On the highway, the S600 manages only 17 mpg - 3 mpgs less than the LS600 delivers in city driving.

    This may not seem like all that much on a per gallon basis - at least, given that we're talking about cars costing $100,000 and more and who really gives a damn at that price point, right? If you're buying a car at this level, are you really worried about ho much gas costs?

    Probably not.

    But no matter how fat your wallet me be, you'll appreciate range - and not having to stop for gas so often. The LS600h can go 440-plus miles on a full tank, in-city. That beats the highway range of the Benz S600 (404 miles) and is almost twice the range of the ravenous Mercedes in stop and go, city-type driving (260 miles).The 760Li runs dry in 302 miles in city-type driving; 466 miles on the highway. That's a little better, but in city-type driving especially, the Lexus has a huge advantage in terms of how often you have to make pit stops.

    The LS600 also features all-wheel-drive and an industry-first eight-speed automatic transmission.


    The LS600h is only offered in limousine-style long wheelbase form, unlike the non-hybrid LS460 - which comes in both standard and long-wheelbase L forms. The extra 5 inches of wheelbase (121.7 inches vs. 116.9 for the LS460) give the LS600h the ride quality of, well, a limo - especially for rear seat occupants, who get the kind stretching out room you used to find in Mafia-style Detroit rollers like the '70s-era Cadillac Fleetwood but which is uncommon today - even in very high-priced large sedans. Roll up the privacy screens (side doors and rear glass), recline the seats a bit, turn on the optional massage function and and head off to the Land of Nod. It's just as comfy up front - and the driver will enjoy the ease of "one-finger" electric (and heated) steering, plus radar-assisted cruise control that adjust the car's following speed in relation to traffic up ahead.

    The suspension is adjustable and has settings for "comfort" and "sport" - but "sport" is still very comfortable and "comfort" not especially sporty. This is not a car for the corners - but why would you buy a huge boat for that purpose anyhow? The LS600h is a road yacht designed for serene, ultra-quiet transpo in a cocoon of opulence.

    Nonetheless, at reasonable speeds the car is reasonably responsive; but lean on it hard and the tires will screech and you'll soon feel all that weight (5,049 lbs of it, or about 800 lbs. more than the non-hybrid, standard wheelbase LS460) beginning slosh around. Still, given what it is - and how heavy it is - the LS600h gives a much better account of itself than you'd expect. To appreciate that, you have to drive something like a '70s-era Fleetwood (or even a '90s-era deVille).

    In comparison, the LS600h is a Corvette in the corners.


    Like every LS before it, the LS600h is a handsome-looking, obviously high-end but but not ostentatious large sedan. It is clearly expensive - but not gratuitously flashy. It's a car for people with serious money who don't feel a need to make a major public display of that fact. Its size and understated elegance get the point across well enough.

    I found the interior to be less intimidating than some other cars in this segment; lots of buttons and gadgets, yes - but most are easy enough to figure out and - more importantly - easy enough to use once you figure out what they do. The leather padded dash is a real work of art; several sections that appear to be hand-fitted, then stitched to one another like a fine attache case. Naturally, there is push button starting (you keep a remote transmitter on your person) and the action on every switch, every lever, every little door/cover has been tuned to deliver the tactile sensations of a $10,000 watch. No rude snaps from "on" to "off"... gentle clicks instead.

    Only the tiny trunk detracts from the LS600h's munificence. It is a mere 12 cubic feet (and thus actually smaller than the 18 cubic foot trunk in the standard wheelbase, non-hybrid LS460). The reason for this is the LS600h's hybrid gear - electric motors/batteries - which are tucked in behind and beneath the rear seats.

    The absence of a huge trunk - something you'd expect in a long-wheelbase ultra-luxury sedan - is probably the LS600h's weakest point - and the one area where there has been a functional compromise.


    The Lexus LS set a new standard for Blue Chip value when it first appeared. Unlike most cars - even most ultra-luxury cars - it did not depreciate like Enron stock the moment it left the dealer's lot. Not only did it hold its value, it cost literally tens of thousands less than equivalent German-brand sedans. The economics of it were impossible to ignore - and Lexus made a killing catering to former Benz and BMW owners who were sick of being taken for suckers.

    Lexus quality - and value - are just as solid today. The brand ranks consistently at the top of all consumer surveys and enjoys low depreciation rates that anyone who values his or her money (and rich people tend to be smart with their money) will appreciate. The '08 LS600h is not an inexpensive car - but its base price of $104,000 is (again) literally tens of thousands less than the equivalent long-wheelbase versions of the Mercedes S-Class ($144,200) and BMW 7 ($122,600) as well as the Audi A8L W12 ($120,000).

    As far as safety, few things on four wheels are more crashworthy than a modern full-size ultra-premium sedan. Even without all the added equipment - standard side impact and curtain air bags for both rows, front seat knee air bags, anti-whiplash head rests, state of the art electronic stability control, high-capacity ABS brakes, etc. - the sheer mass of a car like the LS600h makes it one of the safest places to be.


    For such a massive dreadnought, its performance that seems to upend physical laws. Thrust is immediate and forceful in any gear, at any speed - but the mid-range pull that's available has to be felt to be believed. Punch it at 70 and the prow rises slightly and the car surges forward - just like a 747 on take-off roll. Before you have time to think, you'll be well into the land of the Triple Digits.

    The aircraft analogy isn't just automotive pressie editorial license, either. The upshifts of the eight-speed automatic are almost imperceptible, so all you sense is this seemingly unending forward thrust that literally does press your back into the seats.

    Amenities are what you'd expect - no, demand - for your $100k. A fantastic Mark Levinson ultra-premium audio system with 19 speakers, custom surround sound and a 30 gigabyte hard drive for storing music files is standard. So is the latest generation Lexus GPS system, high-visibility Optitron lighting for the instrumentation, 19 inch wheels, heated and cooled front seats, premium leather and wood interior materials - with extras such as an Executive Package that adds a rear-seat wood table for dining or working on the laptop as you go.

    The now-famous Lexus "self-park" feature is also available- and while it's interesting from an engineering point of view it's also kind of fussy and takes a long time to get the job done relative to just doing the deed yourself. Really now - if you can't handle parking a car yourself, should you even be driving?

    The hybrid side of the LS600h, on the other hand, is a marvel of technology. Like the other Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the system is capable of operating the vehicle on battery power alone at lower speeds - and when it cuts in for supplemental boost, all you notice is bottomless power on tap. There are no clunks or transitions or noises of any kind. In fact, you have to watch the tachometer to be aware the gas engine has cut off (which it does when the car is stopped in traffic or just coasting at lower speeds, etc.) Even the AC is driven electrically - eliminating the need for the engine to cut on when sitting in traffic in order to keep the interior cool on a hot summer day.

    Lexus seems to have built this car with the possibility of upgrading it to either full electric or plug-in hybrid capability at some point, too. You'll notice an "EV" switch on the lower left dash. Push it and the info screen says "EV mode not currently available." But maybe it will be at some time in the future?

    Bottom line: This car is a compelling alternative to other V-12 uber-sedans that cost more but don't offer as much. The LS600h matches them on performance while equalling or surpassing them on luxury - and it does it with the twist of being at least relatively "green" - at least, compared to the profligate consumption of its main competitors.

    The fact that it's also the best value in its class only sweetens the pot.


  2. #2
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    Feb 2007

    Re: 2008 Lexus LS600h hybrid

    Just posted this article with pictures on the main page:

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