New Models - Lexus LS
First drive: Hybrid Lexus limo not quite electrifying
Lap of luxury: Hybrid LS adds electric power, all-wheel-drive and 120mm.
The hybrid limo is now a reality, but does the LS600hL offer more than bragging rights?
13 November 2007
LEXUS has introduced its new technological tour-de-force to Australia, promising supercar power and Camry-beating fuel consumption.
The LS600hL proves hybrid technology is not limited to miserly small-cars and can also be used to give large luxury cars extra power while retaining excellent fuel consumption figures.
It is the most powerful model in the Lexus range and is also the most expensive, starting from $233,000 for the standard five-seat version and $240,000 for the even more luxurious four-seater.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lexus expects the LS600hL to account for just one per cent of its Australian sales.
“A vehicle of this calibre is not intended to be a volume-seller,” said Lexus Australia chief executive John Roca. “It is reserved for the fortunate few who enjoy the best of everything.”
Rivalling the best long-wheelbase luxury sedans from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the LS600hL is a fascinating example of advanced engineering.
Lexus is no doubt pushing the boundaries of hybrid technology, combining a 290kW 5.0-litre V8 with an electric motor that can produce 165kW and 300Nm.
Peak power is limited to 327kW, which is considerably more than the 307kW 6.0-litre V8 that powers HSV models.
Loaded with luxury gear and hybrid components, the LS600hL crushes the scales at a whopping 2430kg.
Even so, it still manages to deliver a combined fuel consumption figure of just 9.3L/100km (ADR81/01), which is 0.6L/100km better than a four-cylinder Camry.
The LS600hL manages to sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds, which is impressive for such a heavy vehicle. Even so, that is 0.6 seconds slower than the significantly cheaper LS460 which makes do with a regular V8.
The mega-LS runs an efficient continuously variable automatic transmission linked to a constant AWD system that uses a mechanical Torsen centre differential.
In most conditions, 40 per cent of drive goes to the front and 60 per cent goes to the rear, but the system can send up to 50 per cent of power to the front and up to 70 per cent to the rear.
The V8 engine is a quad-cam unit using direct-injection and variable inlet and exhaust valve timing. It delivers its 290kW peak at 6400rpm and pumps out 520Nm of torque at 4000rpm.
The LS600hL can run on its 650-volt battery alone up to around 40km/h. Lexus is using a new sealed nickel metal hydride battery which is charged partly through regenerative braking.
The LS600hL represents the pinnacle of Lexus luxury and aims to pamper both the driver and the rear passenger. It is 120mm longer than the regular LS, opening up even more legroom for the rear passengers.
Owners who prefer to spend most of their time in the back seat are offered the choice of two rear seats rather than three, including a reclining Ottoman chair that is heated or cooled and also has a massage function. It even has a built-in airbag to stop the passenger from sliding forward (submarining), which takes the airbag count to 11.
If a passenger enters the vehicle feeling particularly hot, one of 11 sensors will detect his or her body temperature and lower the temperature in that section of the vehicle accordingly. The four-zone climate-control system features 20 air vents.
While the LS600hL goes out of its way to look after rear-seat occupants, it also makes life incredibly easy for the driver.
Drivers can park the car using the rear-view camera – or hand over control to the Lexus, which uses the camera and ultrasonic sensors to reverse the car automatically into either a parallel or 90 degree space. The car does the steering and moves the car backwards at up to 4km/h; all the driver has to do is bring the vehicle to a halt with the brake pedal.
Steering in all situations, especially in tight spots, is made easier by the standard variable gear ratio power steering. The system is just like the one that made its debut on the 2003 BMW 5 Series and it adjusts the steering ratio so that it takes less effort to steer the car at low speeds, while retaining a safe ratio for higher-speed steering.
For example, at low-speeds the new system means it only takes 2.3 steering wheel rotations to go from lock to lock, while at higher speeds it take 3.7 turns to do the same.
The steering system is not a regular hydraulic system, but an electric system that is more efficient.
The LS600hL has a multi-link front suspension with upper and lower ball joints and a five-link rear set-up utilising forged aluminium arms and employing adjustable air dampers. The latter uses a series of sensors, which detect engine revs, front wheel rate, steering, nose height and vertical acceleration to proactively adjust the dampers using one of five levels of resistance.
Customers can press the Sport button, which gives the suspension a sportier setting and also reduces the steering gear ratio by 10 per cent.
The LS600hL sits on big 19-inch alloy wheels and runs four-pot front callipers clasping onto 357mm discs and rear two-pot callipers and 335mm discs.
Its body is made largely from steel, apart from the aluminium bonnet, but 40 per cent is high tensile steel.
The range-topping LS is a big car that is 5150mm long, 1875mm wide, 1480mm tall and has a wheelbase of 3090mm.
Hybrid components take up some of the existing boot space, reducing luggage space from 400 litres to 330 litres. This compares to the boot of the previous LS model, the LS430, which had a cavernous 573 litres.
The top-shelf Lexus runs LED low-beam lights which also swivel to project the light in the direction the car is headed.
It does not match its luxury rivals when it comes to night-vision, with no such feature offered.
Other technology that did make it includes adaptive cruise control that slows or accelerates the car when it senses a vehicle in front, keyless entry and start and an electric bootlid.
The interior features a herd of leather trim that adorns the seats, doors and dashboard, while woodgrain and metal highlights are also featured.
Information and DVDs are displayed on a high resolution dash-mounted eight-inch LCD screen, while the rear passengers can also watch DVDs with a rear-mounted screen. Top quality sound is delivered by the Mark Levinson system with 19 speakers and 5.1 surround sound.
Lexus LS600hL sedan pricing:
|LS600hL 5-seater (a)
|LS600hL 4-seater (a)
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