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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By Joe Wiesenfelder
May 1, 2006
Vehicle Overview The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L is the first car to combine a V-8 gasoline engine with an electric motor for improved gas mileage and robust acceleration. The 600h is a hybrid version of the 2007 LS 460L
Exterior The LS 600h L differs little from the LS 460 in its exterior appearance. Aside from the model badge on the trunk lid, the word HYBRID appears on the trim near the bottom of the rear doors.
Interior The 600h L shares the gas-only L model's interior appointments. Special to the hybrid is a power-flow diagram on the dashboard's central LCD screen. Even nicer, the basics are repeated in color graphics between the speedometer and tachometer. The car's hybrid nature eliminates none of the model's gee-whiz features, the most awe-inspiring of which is a self-parking system that relies on the car's rearview camera. If it operates the same as the Prius system sold in Japan, drivers will look at the image on the dashboard display and use a joystick to position a box outline over the target space. The driver then operates the brake alone and the car does the rest.
Other advantages aren't visible, but they might prove to be audible: Lexus points out that the hybrid drivetrain operates quieter than a gas-only engine, which could set for the LS a new benchmark in what is already the quietest cabin available.
Under the Hood With the addition of the LS 600h L, Lexus now refers to the hybrid system in its luxury models as Lexus Hybrid Drive, replacing Hybrid Synergy Drive, which will continue to describe the Toyota version. The LS is the first vehicle in the world to mate an electric drive system to a V-8 engine, in this case a new 5.0-liter. The system as a whole generates "more than 430 horsepower," according to Lexus. The LS 460's 4.6-liter V-8 puts out 380 hp. The overall effect of the hybrid system compares to the performance of a V-12 engine, Lexus says.
The 600h introduces all-wheel drive to the LS family, which historically has been rear-wheel drive. Lexus says the transmission is a new continuously variable transmission, which includes the selectable modes of the company's conventional models: "PWR" (power) and "SNOW," for slick surfaces, in addition to a regular "Hybrid" mode.
Hybrids are known for their gas mileage and, increasingly, their spirited acceleration. After all this attention and explanation, the two things Lexus isn't yet reporting: fuel economy and acceleration times.
Safety The LS 600h L includes all the standard safety features of the LS 460L. Roughly when the hybrid hits the market, Lexus will debut on all its LS models the Advanced Pre-Collision System, which helps detect obstacles in the car's path, including pedestrians. It uses a forward-looking radar sensor and two cameras to view the road ahead. A third camera on the steering column monitors the driver's face. (This car has more cameras than Britney's front lawn.) If the driver's head is turned and an obstacle is ahead, the system chimes a warning and flashes a light, then applies the brakes gently if there's no response. It also tightens the seat belt retractors and moves the brake pads closer to the discs in preparation for a panic stop or collision. An additional safety feature, the face camera is also capable of informing you if you're not looking your best before you go out in public. OK, not that last thing, but everything else is true. And it really does park itself.