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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
The overall effect of the hybrid system compares to the performance of a V-12 engine
not as fuel-efficient as you'd expect a hybrid to be
Smooth and ample power at any speed
The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L trades driving feel for mechanical perfection—though some say that fuel economy and acceleration aren’t improved enough to justify its huge base price.
Motor Trend says that the 2009 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. Compared to other hybrids such as the Prius, this 2009 Lexus' fuel efficiency is no better than its purely gasoline-powered V-8 sibling. ConsumerGuide reports that a Lexus 2009 LS 600h L "averaged 18.7 mpg in mostly highway driving" and notes "LS requires premium-grade gas." Edmunds warns 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 pointed out that with all their batteries and electric motors, hybrid vehicles are substantially heavier than traditional gas-powered autos.)
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.” Cars.com says the 2009 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."
The handling of the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L doesn't feel sporty and remains buttoned-down, smooth, and sedate. However, it steers well and corners surprisingly flat, thanks to the three modes—Comfort, Power, and Sport—that afford different ranges of response for the throttle, steering, and 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 attests that the "air suspension helps the [Lexus 2009] 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 2009 hybrid "goes like crazy, but it drives like the world's most exotic electric shaver."
"A standard full-time AWD system routes the power to all four wheels,” says Autoblog. This is through what Edmunds remarks 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.
The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L has a lot of get-up-and-go, but TheCarConnection.com notes some mixed reactions to this "green" hybrid.