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Luxus Lexus: The Lexus LS We Haven’t Tested…Yet.

Sections: Fuel Economy, Powertrain

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2013 Lexus LS460 Photo Shoot 021

Our Lexus LS460 tester was a handsome executive car whose $86,000 MSRP pales in comparison to the hybrid LS600h model that shares its same sheet metal stampings. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

In studying about our Lexus LS460 test car, I realized we’ve had two out of three versions of the Japanese luxury brand’s range-topping sedan. That, in turn, makes me wonder what the third of those three is like. After all, it’s a hybrid, and has more engine.

While our LS460 was equipped with a confident 4.6-liter V8, the hybrid LS’ badging– LS600h– gives observant onlookers a cue that the car has not just hybrid innards, but also 6.0 liters of V8 muscle. Only it doesn’t– the name bucks Lexus tradition in modern BMW fashion and does not represent the engine displacement. In fact, the engine is 5.0 liters. Why not just name it LS500h? Maybe they didn’t think that sounded like a big enough step up from LS460. I dunno.

According to Lexus, the larger engine makes just three more horsepower– 389– than our tested LS460, but it has a healthy dose more torque, with the hybrid’s 385 ft-lbs overshadowing the regular LS460 and LS460 F-SPORT that both get rated at 367 ft-lbs. Despite this difference in power and torque, the hybrid’s larger gas engine is cleaner and gets a Super Ultra Low-Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating compared to the lesser Ultra Low-Emission Vehicle (ULEV) II designation given to the LS460.

The big difference in power lies not in the engines themselves, but in the hybrid’s electric motor. It can generate a peak of 221 horsepower, Lexus says. Total system power of the LS600h is listed at 438 horsepower. That’s not far away from the monstrous power ratings of gas guzzler luxo rods like our Chrysler 300 SRT8 tester.

The electric motor draws its power from a sealed nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack that contains 240 cells split into 20 12-cell modules. Power gets to the ground via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead of the eight-speed automatic gearbox we experienced in both the non-hybrid LS models recently.

With all its tweaks and extra power, you probably find yourself asking two questions: (1) How does it perform? and (2) What’s fuel economy look like?

Lexus says the hybrid gives up just one-tenth of a second in 0-to-60 MPH sprints when compared to the conventionally powered LS models. Both hybrid and non-hybrid LS are limited electronically to 130 MPH.

If you’re thinking the hybrid probably gets much better mileage than the conventionally powered LS, think again: The LS460 in rear-wheel drive form (there is an all-wheel drive option) is rated at 16 MPG city/24 MPG highway/19 combined MPG, according to EPA estimates. The hybrid comes in with better city mileage, at 19 MPG, but actually does one MPG worse on the highway (23 MPG) and barely eeks out a 1-MPG advantage on the combined score, achieving an EPA combined rating of 20 MPG.

Other than the powertrain changes, the LS600h is very much like its siblings inside and out Having driven both performance- and luxury-biased versions of the car, we’d be interested in trying out the hybrid, if only to say we’ve ticked each of the three Lexus LS sedans off our “need to test” list. One thing’s for sure: Unless we hit the Powerball, none of your faithful servants here at In-Car Tech Tell are likely to afford the LS600h price tag of $119,910.

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