(New) Hybrid Theory : Lexus LS 500h Driven [review]

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The funked-up nature of the new Lexus LS stretches to the LS 500h hybrid version too

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Just as with the GA-L platform, the first iteration of the new Lexus hybrid system, dubbed ‘Multi-Stage Hybrid’ also debuted with the LC grand touring coupe. Natural aspiration is still a big thing for Lexus (as you’ll also see HERE), so open the bonnet and you’ll find a non-turbo 3.5-litre V6 pushed far back towards the centre of the car.

Two motor generators and, for the first time in a Toyota/Lexus hybrid, lithium-ion batteries both suck up energy from braking and cruising, then dole it out at low speed or loads. Nothing radically different here, except for the fact that the LC has not one but two gearboxes.

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It might sound technically OTT, but the first gearbox is a CVT, which is then connected to a 4spd auto. Lexus claims this allows a wider spread of ratios and greater range of speeds for electric drive, which is logical since the four-speed acts almost like a low-range off-road gearbox to multiply the number of gears.

If all that flew by you, then worry not. New-fangled hybrid and two gearboxes aside, all a driver has to do is jump into the seat of the LS 500h, snick it into D, and just glide away at low speeds. Couple that with the car’s refinement and sleek image, and it’s almost shark-like, silently wafting through the air.

You could press the ‘EV Mode’ button if you want to nobody to know you’re coming home, or sneak up on pedestrians, but that aside, the car handles all of the clever energy juggling feats that allow a big limo like this to do a quoted 6.7l/100km.

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While we know Lexus tunes its turbos, including the 2.0-litre inline4 from the NX Turbo and the new V6 twin-turbo, for smoothness, the hybrid is even smoother and better at replicating the ‘classic’ Lexus nat-asp experience.

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Lay on the gas and there’s a distant thrum as the V6 kicks in politely. As expected of a Toyota or Lexus hybrid, the joining, and handover, of the two power sources is seamless and all you feel as a driver is just what your right foot demands.

But there’s a new, mean side to the big green monster too. Flick the instrument panel driving knob to Sport or Sport+ and the drivetrain wakes up. Like the V6 turbo, there’s extra engine note piped into the cabin electronically though it’s rorty and non-synthesised, unlike the near-parody of the IS 300h’s fake V6 soundtrack.

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The handling and ride are very similar to the turbo’s, that is, uniformly excellent and leaving very little to be desired, though of course the hybrid is, at 2265kg average weight, some 70kg heavier than the turbo. Not much, but it’s noticeable in a tad less eagerness to change direction.

Other than that, it’s good news that the most statesman-like (and statement-making) model of the Lexus range has gained lots more breadth to go with its eco-credentials.

STORY DERRYN WONG

Lexus LS 500h
Engine: 3456cc, V6, petrol-electric hybrid
Power/rpm: 295bhp/6600rpm
Torque/rpm: 350Nm/5100rpm
System Power: 354bhp
Transmission: CVT/4sp auto
0-100km/h: 5.5secs
Top speed: 250km/h
Fuel consumption: 6.7l/100km

TopGear
Author: TopGear
Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars, and is the most widely watched factual television programme in the world.

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