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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
equivalent to that of a six-liter V12
Smooth and ample power at any speed
not as quick as competing V12 sedans
The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L has a lot of get-up-and-go, but TheCarConnection.com notes some mixed reactions to this "green" hybrid.
Cars.com says 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." A 4.6-liter V-8 produces 389 horsepower on its own, but altogether the system makes up to 438 horsepower, so "the overall effect of the hybrid system compares to the performance of a V-12 engine." Motor Trend mentions that the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L "offers an electric-vehicle drive mode for when discreet, engine-free moments arise." A “full hybrid” system, the Lexus LS recharges its nickel-metal-hydride battery packs either via the engine or through a regenerative braking system. Edmunds reports, “Lexus claims the 600h L can do zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, but in our performance testing we recorded a time of 6.0 seconds, a tenth of a second slower than the last LS 460 L we tested.” The problem? “Together, the heavy batteries and all-wheel-drive system burden the hybrid with more than 700 additional pounds, for a total of 5,049,” the New York Times points out. The hybrid powertrain “makes acceleration a wash.”
Autoblog reports "a standard full-time AWD system routes the power to all four wheels." This is through what Edmunds says is "a continuously variable transmission (CVT)" that "has automanual shift control and three modes designed for different driving conditions -- normal, power and snow." For more control during sporty driving, the CVT can simulate eight manually shifted gears.
Compared to other hybrids such as the Prius, this 2008 Lexus' fuel efficiency is no better than its purely gasoline-powered V-8 sibling. ConsumerGuide reports that a Lexus 2008 LS 600h L "averaged 18.7 mpg in mostly highway driving," and notes "LS requires premium-grade gas." Edmunds says the hybrid is "not as fuel-efficient as you'd expect a hybrid to be...Fuel economy is 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, which is 4 mpg better in the city than the regular LS but 2 mpg worse on the highway." (It should be noted that with all their batteries and electric motors, hybrid vehicles are substantially heavier than traditional gas-powered autos.)
The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L accelerates very quickly in real-world driving, but the big hybrid doesn't feel that sporty. Its handling remains buttoned-down, smooth, and sedate, though it steers well and corners surprisingly flat, thanks to the three modes--Comfort, Power, and Sport--that afford different ranges of response for its throttle, steering, and air suspension. ConsumerGuide says the "air suspension's Sport setting induces some body jiggle." While this source describes steering as "light though direct" and a "turning circle [that] is impressively tight," Edmunds reports "the electric power steering is accurate enough, but it's numb and doesn't offer much feedback." The Los Angeles Times is singularly unimpressed, complaining that "steering has zero feel," and "the brake pedal -- even with its electronic stroke compensation la-di-da -- has no touch worth mentioning." Kelley Blue Book nonetheless says that the "air suspension helps the [Lexus 2008] LS 600h L deliver an ultra-smooth ride that should satisfy all but the most critical occupants," but the Los Angeles Times quips that the Lexus 2008 hybrid "goes like crazy, but it drives like the world's most exotic electric shaver."
The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L trades off driving feel for mechanical perfection—and fuel economy and acceleration aren’t improved enough to justify its huge base price.