Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS 450h

How do you beat the congestion charge, help the environment and still drive around in a 3.5-litre, V6, luxury car? The answer is to buy a Lexus GS450h.

The ‘h’ is the clue to how this is all possible as it stands for hybrid - a petrol engine and a high-output electric motor. Before I go any further, I should point out that Lexus claim that the GS450h is the world’s first rear-wheel-drive, full hybrid sports saloon and as the word’ probably’ wasn’t used, I’m not going to argue.

The Lexus Hybrid Drive system combines a 3.5, V6 petrol engine, which develops 296PS (292bhp) at 6,400rpm and 368Nm of torque at 4,800rpm, with a permanent magnet electric motor that produces a further 200PS (197bhp) and 275Nm from standstill. Add the figures together and the GS450h also becomes the first production hybrid to go beyond the 100PS per litre barrier.

During the course of an average journey, The Lexus Hybrid Drive (LHD) operates in various modes depending on the circumstances. When the engine is started from cold the engine fires up to allow the system to warm up. After this point, whenever the car comes to a halt, at traffic lights for instance, the engine automatically cuts out until the accelerator pedal is pressed. If you are stuck in a traffic jam for a period of time, the system powers down but the petrol engine will ‘kick in’ periodically to keep the battery topped up.

At slow speeds, such as creeping traffic, the car runs on the electric power alone, which is eerily quiet but very good for the environment. As the traffic increases speed again, the clever Power Split Device (PSD) divides the engine power to the wheels and the small generator that drives the electric motor and recharges the battery.

If a quick burst of speed is required, the electric motor and the petrol engine work together to provide the extra impetus with a bit of help from the 288V, nickel-metal hydride battery, which is hidden behind the rear seats. When braking or just slowing, the engine again, switches off and the electric motor becomes a generator gathering up the unused kinetic energy and turning it into the useful kind and storing it in the battery. In this manner the battery is always at optimum power and doesn’t need external charging.

Although the various modes are automatically activated, the workings are far from unseen as there is a small panel at the base of the instrument nacelle that shows an animated diagram illustrating which source is powering the wheels and when the battery is receiving a charge. Once the fascination has worn off, driving becomes a little easier as it can be distracting.

Published : 07/03/07 Author : Melanie Carter

Lexus GS News

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