THE ART OF THE HYBRID
Using hybrid technology to advance luxury
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Nov 7, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Roy Nakano Audi used hybrid technology to capture this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The combination of electric and diesel propulsion proved to be the winning formula for this coveted of all automotive races. Audi hybrids took first and second place. The only other car to lead the pack for this grueling endurance race was from Toyota—another hybrid race car. Of course, Toyota has been using hybrid technology for years to improve fuel economy. Its Prius has had the EPA’s highest gas mileage of any non-plug-in vehicle for nearly a decade. With the Prius, hybrid technology is also at play to prolong the life of the gas engine (it is, after all, only operating half the time).
In the all new GS 450h, however, Lexus uses hybrid technology to advance the art of luxury. Yes, hybrid technology is not just about fuel economy or performance. With hybrid technology, Lexus manages to make this car quieter, smoother, and more luxurious feeling than any other in its class. Silence is a paramount virtue in any luxury car. The conventional method for making a quiet car has been to add pounds of insulation around the internal combustion engine, and to cushion the vibrations emitting from the power train with more pounds of dampening material. Vibrations are particularly troublesome at idle. With the GS 450h, there is no internal combustion engine vibrating at idle—just the silent, vibration-free operation of electric motors. Another area that takes great effort to get right is off-the-line acceleration. In a luxury car, it should be as gradual and linear as possible. Many modern luxury cars (particular those from Europe) are prone to abrupt accelerations and stops. Even the best gas-only luxury cars can sometimes lurch off the line when accelerating from a stoplight. Not so the GS 450h. Its gentle and very linear acceleration off the line is the best in the industry. Nothing can beat an electric for smooth acceleration off the line, and the 450h’s is as good as it gets.
With less of a need to tame the gas motor at idle and acceleration, this gave Lexus the opportunity to focus attention on other areas to enhance the sense of luxury in the GS 450h. For starters, the GS 450h has five driving modes that can be toggled. In addition to the Normal mode, there’s an ECO mode that revises throttle mapping, seat heating, and climate control systems for better fuel economy (in ECO mode, the instrument lighting changes to blue). EV mode allows the vehicle to be driven short distances in pure electric power at moderate speeds. The SPORT S mode revises throttle mapping and transmission shifting priorities to fully exploit the capabilities of the powertrain (and the instrument lighting changes to red). And then there’s the SPORT S+ mode, which engages handling enhancements via a sport setting of the adaptive variable suspension, steering system, and Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) together with the powertrain enhancements of SPORT S mode. A new Remote Touch with one-push confirmation is standard and enables control of climate, audio, phone controls, and the optional navigation system. A rear back-up camera is standard. Navigation-equipped vehicles now feature Lexus Enform® with App Suite. The App Suite leverages customers’ mobile phone technology to provide a new level of connectivity and information management. Users can conduct local searches through Bing™, utilize voice-enabled apps to make restaurant reservations through OpenTable®, get movie tickets via MovieTickets.com, tap into internet radio, including Pandora® or iHeartRadio, search business reviews on Yelp and check in on Facebook places. A one-year trial subscription is included for the App Suite. On the safety front, the GS is standard equipped with 10 airbags, including a knee airbag for both driver and front passenger, seat-mounted side airbags for outboard rear seats, and side curtain airbags for all four outboard occupant seating positions. New whiplash injury lessening front seats are said to reduce the space between the occupant’s head and headrest, to help limit excessive head movement, and help decrease the severity of whiplash-type injuries in certain types of rear end collisions. Other optional equipment includes a Night Vision System that enhances driver visibility at night; Heads Up Display; a Blind Spot Monitor that helps detect vehicles in rear/side blind spots; and Lane Keep Assist (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW).
Available options to help further enhance occupant safety include a Pre-Collision System (PCS), which uses the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control System to provide early warning of upcoming objects that might result in a collision. The system uses an infrared camera with new scanning technology to monitor the driver’s eyes. In the event that the driver does not appear to be looking forward when a collision appears imminent, the system will initiate the warning at an earlier threshold. If the driver still does not respond and make the appropriate maneuver, the system will initiate braking intervention up to 1.2 seconds prior to impact, designed to help lessen the severity of the collision. With available Lexus Dynamic Handling, PCS will help further mitigate the occurrence of a collision. Standard entertainment and connectivity advancements include enhanced Bluetooth® capability with automatic phonebook download and streaming audio. Standard DVD audio and video compatibility, MP3 sound enhancement, 5.1 simulated surround-sound from normal two channel sources such as MP3 files and CDs, and a high-resolution eight-inch central control display centrally located high up in the instrument panel. HD Radio™ with iTunes tagging and a three-month trial subscription to SiriusXM™ Satellite Radio are standard. If that’s not enough luxury for you, order the Luxury Package, which includes Adaptive Variable Suspension; an Adaptive Front Lighting System; unique high gloss espresso wood ornamentation; semi-aniline leather, 18-way power driver and front passenger seats with memory and articulated back, side bolster and thigh support controls; four-way lumbar; rear HVAC and audio controls; rear manual side sunshades; 18-inch alloy wheels; and wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel. By adding the optional navigation system, GS owners can enjoy an industry-first 12.3-inch, split-screen, high-resolution multi-media display which is large enough to support simultaneous, split-screen viewing of a large map display, plus audio, climate or other vehicle information.
In keeping with Lexus tradition, the GS 450h can be fitted with a 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system with 7.1 channel surround-sound through 10 channels using a new class D Digital amplifier with a clean 835-watts from 20-20,000 hz at 0.01 percent total harmonic distortion. We consider it one of the best sounding factory audio systems available anywhere. The GS 450h delivers all the power one expects from a luxury sports sedan. For 2013, Lexus fitted a new D-4S direct and port fuel injection system with an Atkinson cycle 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a high-output permanent magnet electric motor. The two powerplants drive the rear wheels both independently and in tandem, as needed, in full hybrid operation. Compared to the outgoing GS, fuel consumption is improved by approximately 35 percent with EPA-estimated ratings of 29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. Ultimately, however, it’s the drive that speaks luxury in the GS 450h. Many cars boast of having a Lexus-like ride, but the operative word is “like”. The driving and riding experience of a Lexus is rarely matched, and the 2013 GS 450h sets a new standard unmatched by non-hybrid sedans in its class. For more information about Lexus products, go to www.lexus.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2013 Lexus GS 450h Price: $58,950 (base) $61,185 (as tested) EPA fuel economy ratings: 29 city/34 highway miles per gallon Propulsion system: Super Ultra Low Vehicle/Tier 2 Bin 3 Atkinson Cycle V3.5 liter four cam 24-valve V6 engine with Dual Variable Valve Timing (VVT-i), electric drive motor and Lexus Hybrid Drive Horsepower: 338 total system power Transmission: Electronically Controlled Variable Transmission with Intelligence (ECTV-i) and paddle shifters Drive configuration: Rear-wheel drive Steering: Electric power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Four-wheel independent Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), with Vehicle Dynamics Integration Management (VDIM), Vehicle Stability Control (VCS) and Traction Control (TRAC) Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated front and rear discs with Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, and Regenerative Braking Function Wheels and tires: 17-inch nine-spoke alloy wheels with 225/50R-17 all-season tires Performance: 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds Warranty: 48-month/50,000-mile basic limited warranty with roadside assistance for 48 months/unlimited miles 72 months/70,000 miles powertrain and restraint system coverage 72 months corrosion perforation protection, regardless of mileage Eight years/100,000 miles hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery-control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter