When a Hybrid Doesn't Outperform at the Pump

Cover

Luxury and hybrid don't necessarily go together in the car world. Buyers who can afford an expensive luxury car typically can afford an expensive stop at the gas station. Why even consider a hybrid version?

There are entry-level models that return excellent mileage resulting in significant savings at the pump, and savings are savings. Then there is a different breed of hybrid where the electric-assisted powertrain is designed to deliver a better driving experience — or more power — without the drain at the pump more power typically demands.

Lexus was the first luxury car maker to offer a hybrid model in its lineup: the RX 400h back in 2006. Today it makes entry-level hybrids like the ES 300h and CT 200h. Both start at less than $40,000 and return an impressive EPA rating of at least 40 mpg combined.

Then there's the LS 600h L, a full-size luxury flagship that sports a unique hybrid system that teams a 5.0-liter V-8 engine with a 165-kwh electric motor and 288-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery to make a grand 438 combined horsepower. It also starts at $120,805 (including destination of $895).

We decided to see how the mileage of this uber-hybrid really shook out in the real world, driving it and a non-hybrid LS 460 on a nearly 200-mile round-trip commute. We were a bit surprised at the results.

Lexus redesigned both the hybrid LS and the LS 460 for 2013. Both arrived in the Cars.com fleet at the same time. The LS 600h L all-wheel drive costs $55,780 more than the other well-equipped short-wheelbase LS 460 all-wheel drive. The hybrid version only comes in long-wheelbase form while the LS 460 can be had in either variety. A similarly equipped LS 460 L all-wheel drive would cost more but still fall $38,135 short of the LS 600 L.

I took both of Lexus' new 2013 LS models on a nearly two-hour commute from our Chicago office to Whitefish Bay, Wis.

Before starting the mileage tests, all the tires were checked for correct pressure, and both cars were filled full with required premium fuel. I drove the same route — about 97 miles — two times in each Lexus LS with normal use of the climate control system, no cruise control and Eco mode turned on. Here were the results:

Fuel economy in the non-hybrid LS was nearly the same, if not better, than the results churned out from the "more green" LS 600h L AWD. The same goes for the cost per mile; both cost nearly identical to operate.

You could easily point to the additional 507 pounds the LS 600h L has on its little brother as the reason, but that wouldn't explain the discrepancy in the EPA ratings and real-world results.

You can get just about all of the features we had in our hybrid tester equipped in a gas-powered LS 460 L all-wheel drive. While we didn't test that version, it does get the same EPA ratings as the short-wheelbase version we tested. It's also $40,209 less than the hybrid LS 600h L all-wheel drive test car.

Comparing the mileage results between the LS 460 all-wheel drive and its hybrid counterpart, the LS 600h L all-wheel drive, it's hard to justify the greater expense for these minimal fuel economy gains.

However, the LS 600h L impressed many of our editors with its sublime ride, powerful acceleration and dead-quiet cabin. Perhaps that will loosen the wallets of LS shoppers.

* Editor's Note: The LS 460 AWD and long-wheelbase LS 460 L AWD have the same EPA rating.

Related
Research the 2013 Lexus LS 600h L  
Research the 2013 Lexus LS 460
Cars.com's Green Buying Guide

Comments 

Jay

What a waste of resources...They could have just used the 5.0 V8 at 417 HP (used in the IS-F), call it the LS-F Sport, and still get the same gas mileage. Hybrids just don't work in the luxury segment.

AL.G

I never though the LS600h's goal was to offer Prius-like gas mileage. I always though the goal was to offer greater performance and horsepower without taking the hit on gas mileage.
However I agree with Jay's statement that the 5.0 without hybrid system to be used on LS-F sport. That would be interesting esp if it sprouted a turbo or two. Although that would almost be too Un-Lexus like.

carma

The biggest surprise is the outstanding mileage of the standard LS with the V8. It confirms my experience that Toyotas almost always exceed their EPA ratings - in this case by 21 percent on the highway on trip 2. That agrees with my experience with our Highlander, which is rated at 22 highway and normally delivers 27, and our Prius, which delivers 57 mpg consistently on the highway and over 60 in town during non A/C weather conditions. Some vehicles don't hit their EPA ratings in the real world, but Toyotas often do better.

Jeremy

I'll second the motion that Toyota products exceed their EPA ratings. My Corolla and Yaris both average 15% better than EPA city or highway.

I'm actually impressed with the non-hybrid Lexus actual fuel economy. It's a huge car.

Dan

The point of the LS 600h isn't fuel economy at all. Heck, cars.com even reported on this when it came out! The point is reducing noise and roughness. If you're buying a $120k car, you don't care about fuel efficiency. Same thing with the Ferrari LaFerrari. It isn't a hybrid to save on gas, it is a hybrid in order to smooth out some lumpy spots in the power curve.

Hybrids don't have to be about fuel efficiency.

Post a Comment 

Please remember a few rules before posting comments:

  • If you don't want people to see your email address, simply type in the URL of your favorite website or leave the field empty.
  • Do not mention specific car dealers by name. Feel free to mention your city, state and brand.
  • Try to be civil to your fellow blog readers. This blog is not a fan or enthusiast forum, it is meant to help people during the car-buying process and during the time between purchases, so shoppers can keep a pulse on the market.
  • Stay on topic. We want to hear your opinions and thoughts, but please only comment about the specified topic in the blog post.
view posting rules

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Search Results

KickingTires Search Results for

Search Kicking Tires

KickingTires iPhone App
Ask.cars.com