Luxury and limits. The combination seems like a contradiction. But GS 450h luxury sport sedan from Lexus, shows that it isn't.
The luxury of a high-end Lexus vehicle should be self-explanatory (Lexus calls it "indulgent"): Ultra-premium interior wood including bird's eye maple, a Cashmere tone among leather trim choices, heated and ventilated front seats, roving headlamps that follow the curve of the road ahead, SmartAccess keyless entry, premium audio, available navigation system. The list goes on.
"Limits" is another story that relates to limiting the amount of damage a vehicle can do to the atmosphere, and during refueling treks to the bank account. Taking the nasties out of vehicle power takes some doing. Accomplishing that without diminishing rear drive ability to blast from here to tomorrow with speed and authority one would expect from a high-end vehicle is another.
Lexus' answer to the equation is the GS 450h, a hybrid combination of smaller gasoline engine and two electric motors, one as a starter and the other as a driving motor. Both motors can recharge the battery during driving, including leaching back friction energy from braking. The 450h can run solely on electric or engine power for short durations. It also sets up another apparent contradiction: The thundering, road-owning power of a 4.5-liter V8 in a 3.5-liter V6. Lexus claims a zero to 60 time of a scant 5.2 seconds from the powerplant combination. Suspension and safety features, including Active Stabilizer and advanced vehicle dynamics, keep it glued to the road.
Rear seat passengers sit just in front of a 288-volt Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack. That and a 12-volt auxiliary battery provide the needed electric energy for driving and accessories, but diminish cargo area.
The priciest of Lexus GS sedans, the 2007 GS hybrid rolls in at about $55,000. And with fuel economy ratings of about 24/28 city/highway, that's about 30 percent better mileage than some V8s. And as much fun, we add.