The 2012 Lexus LS 600h L Hybrid returns virtually unchanged

The 2012 Lexus LS 600h L Hybrid is the brand’s executive sedan flagship and will remain on slightly enhanced, presumably because when it was first introduced in 2008 it was the virtuous embodiment of the designer’s vision.

Since the Lexus LS 600h L has always been what it was intended to be – one of the most refined luxury executive sedans on the market – why go to all the trouble of reinventing it?

As the first vehicle to bring fuel saving hybrid technology to the premium luxury segment, the 2012 Lexus LS 600h L flagship has an extended wheelbase providing a highly satisfying level of performance, technology and luxury in the LS line.

It is powered by the hushed Lexus Hybrid Drive system, the world's first to combine a V8 gasoline engine with an all-wheel-drive (AWD) hybrid drivetrain as a performance option that still saves gas.

The 2012 LS 600h L hybrid combines a 5.0-liter V8 engine with two powerful electric motors, generating peak combined output of 438 horsepower. This large, luxurious executive sedan can easily accelerate from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. Mid-range acceleration is even more impressive since the electric motors are most beneficial when passing lesser vehicles. The LS 600h L can accelerate from 50-70 mph in just 3.5 seconds and do it smoothly – leaving no impression on rice paper.

Would you believe without spilling your coffee?

Even with that level of performance the LS 600h L still receives the EPA’s Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II (SULEV II) certification, thanks to a specially developed hydrocarbon absorber and catalyst system that prevents hydrocarbons in the exhaust from being released into the atmosphere during cold starts when the catalysts (as in catalytic converter) are not up to temperature.

The Lexus LS 600h L utilizes a compact 288-volt DC Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack between the rear seat and trunk. The juice goes through a boost converter raising voltage up to 650V DC. An inverter switches the power to AC, driving a 165-kW electric motor with an amazing maximum rotation of 10,240 rpm. A standard 12-volt auxiliary battery is also in the trunk to power the audio, navigation and correllary systems.

Lexus LS 600h L drive system delivers a rear biased torque distribution of 40:60 during normal straight-line driving, continually adjusting power distribution according to changing speed and road conditions.

A remarkable eight-speed sequential braking mode, active when in the S mode, allows eight different stages of response. When shifting up engine speed is controlled by the selected range, providing an exhilarating acceleration boost in each of the eight “shift” stages. When slowing or downshifting, brake-force increases to assist deceleration.

The Lexus LS 600h L features four driving modes: Hybrid (Normal), Power, Snow or Electric, available when going slow or in stop and go traffic. The Hybrid mode provides seamless operation ideal for city or suburban life. The Power setting sharpens the accelerator’s pedal response while the Snow mode softens it, making acceleration easier in slippery conditions.

The inclement performance of the Lexus LS 600h L is further enhanced by the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system that can make minor adjustments to the front-wheel angle to help provide control in challenging road conditions. Simultaneously, Variable Gear Ratio Steering adjusts the steering gear ratio to vehicle speed, enhancing responsiveness and driver control.

Of course the Lexus 2012 LS 600h L has cutting edge airbags and technical safety systems, along with niceties like Parking Assist. Standard features include a hard disk drive Lexus Navigation system with rearview camera, Bluetooth contacts download capability, voice command casual language voice-recognition system and an integrated XM Radio receiver.

Also standard in the Lexus executive sedan flagship are climate-controlled front seats; a driver’s seat with a slide-away making entry and exit easier; heated rear seats and steering wheel; power rear sunshade; one-touch power trunk; power door closers; headlamp washers; SmartAccess key and auto-dimming headlamps.

However the most awesome thing about the Lexus LS 600h L (aside from the optional Shiatsu massage in the rear seats) has to be the concert theater sound reproduction of the standard 19-speaker 450-watt Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound audio system. Yeah there’s an auxiliary jack, usb port, iPod interface and Bluetooth connectivity, but the point is whatever form or device your music is in, it’s going to sound heavenly in this luxury executive sedan.

Though it has been three long years, the memory of driving the 2012 Lexus LS 600h L sedan at the corporate introduction in 2008 is clear – was quite impressed then and remain so today.

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