For many buyers, a hybrid car is nothing more than the four-wheeled equivalent of a yellow LiveStrong wristband-a conspicuous, self-satisfying, effort-free membership card into the “I Care” club.
…how can you justify paying almost 50 percent more-some $33,000-for the hybrid LS when it nets you only a 15-percent gain in output (438 gas/electric horsepower for the 600hL versus 380 horses for the 460L) and almost no improvement in fuel efficiency (20/22 city/highway mpg for the hybrid versus 16/24 mpg for the 460L)?
You can’t. In a revealing lux-sedan comparison last December, the LS 600hL finished fourth out of four, the test drivers (I was one) docking points for its compromised trunk (much of the space is eaten up by hybrid bits), a hugely complex powerplant that overheated when we charged up our mountain loop, and real-world fuel economy barely 15-percent better than the average posted by the rivals from Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Maserati-each of which happily romped all day.
The limitations of the LS 600hL are well-documented, but using that fairly uneven super-sedan comparison as the basis of proof is rather suspect. Also, and I find it surprising that it wasn’t mentioned, the LS 600hL has several unique features (particularly the all-wheel drive) that cut into the $33,000 price difference versus the LS 460. This isn’t just a case of pointless hybrid markup, no matter how often it’s repeated.
As a sidenote, the buying public sure isn’t phased by the negativity — Lexus was only expecting to sell 2,000 LS 600hL’s in 2008, and the car is currently moving 1,000 units a month.