LS 500h offers the classic Lexus hybrid experience with a little more dynamic voltage
As you’ve read with the V6 turbo LS 500, the LS has undergone serious metamorphosis, but as the Lexus flagship it still has un-shirkable responsibilities. Chief among those is being the Toyota group’s visible and premium product so it has to incorporate a good chunk of environmental responsibility, which is where the hybrid LS 500h comes in.
With the G-AL platform from the LC used, so too is the LC 500h’s Multi-stage Hybrid system. In short, it’s an all-new development, carrying nothing over from the previous LS 600h model, and is one of the most complex hybrid systems around.
A naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre V6 engine with efficient Atkinson Cycle tech is paired with the hybrid electric system. Lexus has switched to lithium-ion battery tech for the first time, there are two motor-generators and two gearboxes – one CVT and one four-speed automatic, the latter acts like a ratio multiplier and also lessens the feel of CVT ‘drag’ and sluggishness.
If you understood absolutely none of that, it’s of little concern since Toyota’s hybrids have almost always been eminently user-friendly and strongly reliable. You can simply hop in and drive the LS just like a regular car, which is exactly what we did.
Very little is changed in the port over from the LC coupe, but since we haven’t tested that car, we can’t say how much different their behaviour is, although more useful benchmark is obviously the previous model – as well as the current competitors of the LS.
While it used to be a game of one, the Germans are now offering hybrids too, including the S 400 Hybrid – which was the base model for Singapore, at one point – the BMW 740 xE plug-in, the Panamera S E-hybrid plug-in.
Having been able to test more models from brands newer to the hybrid game, the considerable experience Lexus has with petrol-electric drivetrains translates into seamless handovers and no second guessing of driver intentions.
The inherent refinement of the LS is such that the increased quietness of the hybrid’s electric-only moments (which you can conjure with the ‘EV Mode’ button) is less noticeable now, but in line with the boosted amount of driving fun, there’s not a huge difference in performance to the punchy LS 500 turbo.
Feed on gas and the hybrid generates its speed like a larger, naturally-aspirated engine, in a gradual, smooth swell, which is the result of the engine’s torque combining with the electric motor’s. There’s less of the initial punchy rush, compared to the turbo V6’s vast and instant torque, and more of a sense of occasion and pleasingly-built momentum.
At 2,265kg average kerb weight, the hybrid’s surprisingly just 65kg heavier than the LS 500 turbo, so the much-enjoyed agility and superb ride quality is not noticeably damped. We drove both models back to back on the same set of twisty country roads and open A-roads with both good and bad tarmac conditions and there was much less to choose between the two than we expected.
Like the LS 500, switching to Sport or Sport+ mode sees more non-synthetic engine noise piped into the cabin – it’s quite a contrast to anything but the GS Hybrid (it’s always been a sporty model) and an enjoyable rowdy side to the LS hybrid that’s never been present before.
Lexus LS 500h
Engine 3,456cc, 24v, V6
Power 295hp at 6600rpm
Torque 350Nm at 5100rpm
Electric Motor 177hp
Battery Lithium ion
System Power 354hp
Max Torque Not Stated
Gearbox CVT & 4AT
Top Speed 270km/h
0-100km/h 5.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.7L/100km
CO2 Not Rated
Agent Borneo Motors
Verdict Hybrid is smooth, powerful, efficient and doesn’t lose much dynamic ability compared to petrol V6
Also Consider: Mercedes-Benz S 400 Hybrid, BMW 740xE
For more information flip to the CarBuyer Guide