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Motoring: Lexus driving green luxury

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 17th, 2008

Exactly a month ago, I aged older by a year. While I am not the sort of person who likes to make a big fuss on his birthday, I do like treating myself to a nice car.

Some notables from past birthdays include a Mercedes-Benz SL500 and an Audi S8. This year, I decided to keep with the luxury theme but with a twist, I wanted to be environmentally friendly too.

While there are a few premium hybrid vehicles on the market (mostly by Lexus), the choice regarding which one I'd want for my birthday was an easy one, it just had to be the Lexus LS600hL.

This is the biggest, most powerful, most advanced and the most expensive hybrid on the market today.

It is also based on what I consider to be one of the finest premium luxury sedans on the market, the Lexus LS460L.

So getting into the hybrid version, I had no doubt that it would be a great car, but would it be better than the regular gas version?

From the outside I'd say yes, the LS460L looks great, but the LS600hL looks even better thanks to its unique LED headlights and its gorgeous 19” alloy wheels. This car is not for people who like shouting about their arrival, its presence is through elegance. I love that about this car because people don't think you're a prick if you drive one.

Inside things look exactly the same as in the non-hybrid version and that is not a bad thing. The interior is functional, spacious and better equipped than my house, especially if you select the Executive package which gives you a drop down DVD screen, powered blinds for the rear seat passengers and its ‘piesta resistance', a fully reclining ottoman seat with built in massagers. If I had one of these cars, I'd live in it.

My test car however did not have the executive package, but it still had reclining seats in the back.

This is certainly one of those cars you can really enjoy being a passenger in, but it's not bad for the driver either.

Unlike the LS460L, the LS600hL benefits from having all-wheel drive. Having seen the type of winter we have had so far this year, having all-wheel drive has been a definete plus. The all-wheel drive system works so seamlessly, you can never tell when it's engaged, it just makes you think you are a better driver than you actually are.

It is faster than you would expect too, it's five-litre gas/electric hybrid V8 producing a net 438hp. That means this green machine is more powerful than a Chevrolet Corvette C6.

The power in the hybrid version is fed through a very advanced CVT gearbox with a sequential shift mode. Trust me, when you put this car in the power mode and set the suspension in the sport mode and stand on the throttle, this car will accelerate forward at eye-popping speeds. I expected this car to be fast, but not as fast as it actually turned out to be. This thus is a fun car to drive, and that is not easy to achieve when you are talking about a car that is almost the size of a small limo.

Although, don't have too much fun, because that would hurt its fuel-economy. I averaged 12.5-litres/100km, which is remarkable of a car of this size and luxury.

So, this Lexus seems to do everything very well, but it isn't perfect either. For me, its biggest flaw was the size of the trunk. Due to the big, heavy battery packs, the trunk size is compromised, so it is not the most practical if you like traveling heavy.

My other concern is with value for money. The price difference between the LS460L, which is a phenomenal car, and this hybrid LS600hL is about $33,000. Sure you get some extra features with the hybrid version, and you get better fuel economy (about five-litres/100km better than the strictly gas version), but it just doesn't justify the extra expense if you look at it practically.

However, consider this, Mercedes-Benz for instance charges you more money for a S63 over a S550, which gives you more power for sure, which results in more fuel-consumption and you lose the all-wheel drive system. Lexus on the other hand charges you more for the more powerful hybrid version which not only gives you a performance boost, but also gives you better fuel economy and plus adds an all-wheel drive system. So this car does really make sense.

Now where did I leave that spare $125,400 lying around so I can go purchase one, the perfect birthday car, you bet.
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