Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on November 30, 2009
Got $105,000 in loose change and a malleable idea of green? Then Lexus has just the vehicle for you. Also, want to hang out?
Primped and primed just in time for the holiday season, the LS 600h L is the most expensive Lexus ever built. Expect only a few valet parked at the Malibu Green Drinks. Only 2,000 are planned to be sold in North America.
The 600h is meant to target buyers of luxury sedan flagships from Mercedes, BMW and Audi. But perhaps sensing that a different approach is in order in an era where hypocrisy gets noticed, the Japanese automaker is approaching the arena with its own geeky swagger.
The 600h’s 5.0-liter V-8 is the largest engine Lexus has ever put in a U.S. production vehicle, but the Mercedes S600, BMW 760Li and Audi A8 W12 are all powered by horsepower-vomiting V-12s.
Instead, those rascally hybrid engineers have coupled their V-8 with the Lexus Hybrid Drive and the world’s first 8-speed continuously variable transmission.
Working its electronic voodoo, the hybrid powerplant churns out the same performance as a 6.0-liter V-12, the company says. The specs say they’re right. The LS 600h is rated at 438 horsepower, the same as the BMW 760Li, but behind the Audi A8 W12’s 450 horsepower. All three fall well short of the 510-horsepower Mercedes S600.
Fuel economy is the most efficient of the pack, as you’d expect. Lexus says the hybrid gets an estimated 20 mpg in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway, beating out Benz’s 11/17 city/highway and the BMW’s 14/22. It’s clearly the environmental choice when you want to stop and start in style.
The 600h is the only one in the class that qualifies as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle. But when CO2 isn’t measured alongside the downsides of the particulate emissions that contribute to dirty air, the Super Ultra Low part of the classification does start to sound a bit comical.
Competition within its model line is a mixed bag for the 600h. The hybrid system’s two motor-generators, battery pack and electronics add almost 900 pounds to the curb weight of the line’s second place offering, the conventional LS 460 L.
In addition to crimping the trunk space more than 8 cubic feet over the 460 L’s 18 cu-ft boot, the hybrid system’s sheer weight stunts the 600h L’s performance. Despite having “just” a 4.6-liter, 380-horsepower V-8, the 460 L did the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.9 seconds, a tenth of a second faster than the hybrid.
Efficiency figures are even tighter. The 460 L gets 16 mpg city, while the shorter-wheelbase 460 gets 17 mpg, just 3 short of the 600h’s city figures. On the advantage goes to the non-hybrids, with the 460s getting 24 mpg to the 600h’s 22.
But above $100K, performance and efficiency aren’t everything. The 600h features the required Mark Levinson sound system, as well as touches like a self-parking feature and an executive seating package that apparently turns the back seat into some kind of recliner/massaging robot.
As an exercise in environmentally ethical transportation, the 600h seems more than a bit silly, although there certainly must be value in spreading and testing out hybrid technology across as many platforms as possible. Especially when Toyota still loses money on each Prius it builds.
Super Ultra High Success businesspeople with an eye for environmental issues may have found their vehicle of choice.
And yes, we do want them to be comfortable as they keep those green venture capital checks a-coming.