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Lexus LS 600hL 2007 Review

One stretches to near full length in the rear of the limo, an ottoman propping extended legs while the vertebrae are manipulated by a cunning practitioner of shiatsu. Then a wailing sound assails the ears ...

This would be all too Hugh Grant, except the noise is not a Highway Patrol siren. Or the Vice Squad. Though it is The Police.

That's the 1980s popsters, of all things to pick. The nasal whine of the vocalist is surround sounding through 11 speakers from a DVD screen that's dropped from the inner roof.

And the masseuse is not some flower of the orient, but a mechanical function built into the optional-with-ottoman left rear seat of the new Lexus LS 600hL.

And that's about the only option in a car whose decadent lushness contrasts utterly with frugal fuel use and a carbon dioxide emission rating that wouldn't disgrace a V6.

The LS 600hL is the world's first V8 all-wheel-drive hybrid.

It can reach 100km/h from standing in 6.3 seconds, but will use as little as 9.3-litres of 95 RON petrol per 100km.

Its globulous, 2.4 tonne kerb weight can be clawed through a tight bend with surety via a Torsen all-paw system, leaving a fairly petite carbon footprint of 219 grams per kilometre.

All this and it just about parks itself too.

While the LS 600hL undercuts by more than $100,000 certain German LWB limos, it still costs $240,000 for the full-specced four seater as described above or $233,000 for the five pew model.

All right already, so that's light years beyond the likes of you and I.

So too, for that matter, is the $120K GS 400h released 18 months back and even the $94K RX 400h SUV that followed.

Where all this does impact on us is in Toyota's luxury arm making hybrid performance vehicles their domain.

While the Europeans adhere to ever-cleaner diesels — and BMW spruik their Hydrogen 7 to the mega-rich and famous — the Lexus petrol-electric gambit will surely devolve to the compact executive class.

So what chance a hybrid of the IS to compete against the 3 Series and C-Class?

“Very possible, absolutely,” the 600hL's chief engineer and my fellow backseat passenger Osamu Sakata assured Carsguide as he ratcheted up the shiatsu setting to intense.

For now, the bombastic halo exercise that is the most expensive Lexus to date serves to provide glimpses of our motoring future.

The easiest to see are the first application of LED low-beam headlights — near daylight bright, it's claimed. One you hope you'll never have to see is the anti-submarining in-seat airbag in the four seat model.

Then there's the Intelligent Park Assist (IPA) system, which is sending a thrill through the geeky and the ability-shy.

IPA uses a rear camera and ultrasonic sensors to identify a parking space and calculates the correct steering angle to guide the big bugger in without curbing the 19-inch rims or bending fenders.

For a decent part of the exercise your only involvement is pressure on the gas pedal.

The side and rear window blinds are push button. A body heat sensor (I'm not making this up) automatically controls the climate. The grab handles and bin doors are damped so they shut at uniform rate. Which is nice.




Price: $233,000 (five seat); $240,000 (full spec)

Engine: 5L/V8 hybrid; 290kW/520Nm

Economy: 9.3L/100km

0-100km/h: 6.3 seconds




Lexus compares its LS 460hL flagship against a list of leviathans such as BMW's $346,000 760Li and even the Bentley Arnage.

Insofar as these fat-capacity petrol-guzzlers are towards thetop of their respective makers' ranges, that's a reasonable suggestion.

Lexus just happens to flog them in terms of value and green credentials.

A car Lexus failed to mention was another biggish, V8 AWD — one that uses a hi-tech diesel engine to accomplish its ends.

At $210,000, Audi's A8 4.2 TDIquattro undercuts the LS600hL on price. It also

has better acceleration

(5.9 seconds to 100km/h over 6.3) and competitive fuel economy (9.4L/100km to 9.3).

The first eight-cylinder diesel in this class, the A8 has twin turbos and intercoolers to deliver 650Nm of turbine-like thrust.

If the hybrid system is eco-friendlier in city traffic, the TDI comes into its own on the open road, proving that performance and prestige are compatible with diesel, too.

There's 11 airbags, Pre-Collision Safety System, Active-radar Cruise Control, Adaptive Variable Suspension and Vehicle Dynamic integrated Management (VDiM) system. And a sunroof. So you get the lot. Lock and stock as standard. Leave the option gouging to the Germans.

And leave the hybrid engines to theJapanese.

This latest Lexus petrol-electric combo is another modern marvel, shifting a game it has almost to itself to another level.

A 5.0-litre version of the 4.6 quad-cam V8 used in the much huzzah-ed LS 460 is combined with a new dual-stage transmission incorporating the electric drive system for a combined output of 290kW and 520Nm from 4000rpm. The 650-volt electric drive motor delivers 165kW/300Nm, with all those lovely Newtons available from zero revs.

The hybrid system blends the two power sources according to operating conditions to provide a maximum 327kW. That's about the output of 6.0 petrol — hence the designation.

A switchable EV mode2 allows 40km/h on electric power only. Indeed the car stops its petrol engine whenever possible (when the car's stationary, for example) to save fuel and reduce emissions and noise.

It says much of the intended buyer that the Lexus minders saw that we spent as much time in the back as behind the wheel. On the basis of our limited and mostly straight line exposure, any of the myriad cars that Lexus pits itself against are more involving drives.

That said, with the sport suspensions selected and the eight-speed manual mode of the CVT engaged, the V8 emits the heartfelt growl and something approaching the overtaking ability of the lesser, conventional LS.

Unlike the latter, it's afflicted with a hybrid's tiny boot (albeit with full size spare), all those clever gubbins chewing up the golf club space.

While your captain of industry might accept that it's not easy being green, he mightn't take so kindly to a lack of implements to use on the green.

Still, at least the Lexus will massage more than the ego.

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Range and Specs

LS430 4.3L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $20,900 – 26,400 2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS430 Pricing and Specs
LS600hl Hybrid (4 Seat) 5.0L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $24,640 – 30,470 2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS600hl Hybrid (4 Seat) Pricing and Specs
LS600hl Hybrid (5 Seat) 5.0L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $24,090 – 29,700 2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS600hl Hybrid (5 Seat) Pricing and Specs
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