Following up the debut of the new, 2007 Lexus LS460 and LS460 L, which were unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, Lexus has now rolled out the range-topping hybrid version, the LS600h L. The fourth Lexus hybrid model, the LS600h L is the only one to pair the company's electric drive system with a V-8 engine. Lexus puts the combined output of the 5.0-liter V-8 and the electric motor at more than 430 hp (versus 380 hp for the LS460's 4.6-liter V-8). The company claims that the hybrid delivers acceleration on a par with twelve-cylinder luxury sedans while providing fuel economy that beats competitors' V-8s. The LS600h L continues Lexus's philosophy of positioning its hybrids not as fuel-sipping green machines but as the highest-performing, top-spec models in the range. As such, the LS600h L will be the most expensive version of the LS, and will be offered in the United States with the long-wheelbase body only. Whereas the LS460 comes with rear-wheel drive, the hybrid will have standard all-wheel drive. Seating is for only four, with a console between the individual rear seats and power sunshades in the doors. A Maybach-style articulating footrest and a massage function are built into the rear seat, but--strangely--only for the right-side seat. It also features a navigation system that stores its data on a hard drive instead of on DVDs; LED headlights; XM satellite radio with real-time traffic info; and, perhaps most incredibly, an automatic parallel-parking function--push a button, and the car backs itself into the space. As an option, the LS has a pre-collision system that not only uses camera to scan the road ahead for obstacles but also trains a camera on the driver, to assess whether he or she is responding adequately; the system flashes a light and sounds an alarm to warn the driver of a possible impending crash, helps the car respond by quickening the steering ratio and beginning to apply the brakes on its own, and prepares the car by tightening the seatbelts and closing the windows. The LS600h L will hit the road next April, six months after its non-hybrid sister model.
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