Hybrid Lexus Goes on Display at Harrods

By dancurranjr On December 20th, 2010

Billed as the first ever hybrid luxury hatchback, the Lexus CT 200H has gone on display in the window of the world’s most luxurious department store this week.

The green luxury car boasts a hybrid engine which offers the option of powering the car by either electric or petrol. The Lexus CT 200H is aiming to offer a green choice of vehicle for the luxury car market. What better place is there to showcase the first ever hybrid Lexus than in London’s most prestigious store?!

The Lexus is on display in the window usually used to showcase super cars such as Ferrari vehicles and Aston Martins. In fact, the last vehicle to go on display in the Harrods shop window was the Aston Martin Cygnet, as reported by Cars for Stars News last month.

Thanks to its super green credentials, the hybrid Lexus is the only luxury automatic to be exempt from the London congestion charge. As well as offering reduced emissions which makes it ideal for city driving, the Lexus CT 200H offers the same level of performance and comfort as you’d expect from a vehicle from the top name car maker.

The hybrid is part of a four window Lexus display in Harrods which will run from this week, until January 15th 2011. The window display has been designed so as to allow customers the opportunity to get up and close to the luxury vehicles so they can get a real feel for the car,  so what are you waiting for?! Head down to Harrods now for a chance to check out the new Hybrid Lexus CT 200H in the flesh.

SOURCE: Cars for Stars

Can a Hybrid Be a Luxury Car?

By dancurranjr On December 30th, 2009

A fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrid luxury car: Not so long ago, that was an automotive oxymoron. Now, it’s a market segment.

The concept of selling high fuel efficiency as a high-end feature is gaining currency in the auto industry, thanks in part to regulatory pressure and to the buzz in certain circles around the Tesla electric roadster and other electric-powered cars.

Mainstream luxury brands are getting on the green bandwagon, betting that a growing slice of wealthy car buyers defines an “advanced” or “premium” car as more than just a potent engine. The latest arrival in the growing flock of hybrid luxury cars is the Lexus HS 250h. I took a weekend test drive in one to see how Toyota Motor Corp. is attacking the challenge of designing a high-technology car that is both ultra-frugal and indulgent at the same time.

It’s not an easy balance to strike.

Other mainstream luxury hybrids on sale in the U.S. are variations on existing models. That approach helps with costs, but it doesn’t yield eye-popping miles-per-gallon figures.

The $87,950 Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid sedan, for example, is rated at 21 mpg in combined city and highway driving, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The 295-horsepower car uses a six-cylinder engine and a “mild hybrid” system to average three miles per gallon better, on the government’s tests, than the eight-cylinder, 382-horsepower Mercedes S550 sedan.

Then there’s the $43,000 Lexus RX450h, a crossover wagon that uses a more-robust hybrid system than the big Benz to achieve an average 29 mpg, compared to 20 mpg for the standard RX 350. Good, but still not enough if you want a very small carbon footprint.
Not Like Any Other Lexus

The HS 250h, however, isn’t like any other Lexus. Toyota says it isn’t just a rebadged Prius, either. Its body architecture is adapted from a European Toyota model called the Avensis. It has a 2.4-liter gasoline engine, larger than the Prius’s 1.8-liter motor. Combined with the boost from its batteries, the car is rated at 187 horsepower, compared to 134 horsepower for the Prius.

Lexus’ strategy for the HS 250h—which starts at $37,845—is to position it as the car of the future, available today. You can buy one with a cruise-control system that uses radar to slow your car when others get in the way, and an optional navigation system you can talk to.

“And on top of all that, it’s a hybrid,” says Brian Bolain, Lexus’ national manager of marketing and lifecycle strategy.

That said, the most impressive feature of the HS 250h’s list of specifications is its 35 miles per gallon EPA rating for combined city and highway driving.

I drove a Lexus HS 250h (and yes, all those H’s seem redundant) that I borrowed from Toyota from Washington, D.C., through eastern Pennsylvania and into the hilly country of New York state. From my first encounter with this car until I sent it back to the Lexus press fleet, I struggled with mixed feelings.

The HS 250h’s exterior styling plays it very safe, especially in contrast to the wedgy, angular profile of the new 2010 Prius. The interior is dominated by a prominent peninsula that pushes from the center of the dashboard into the space between the driver and passenger seats.

My test car had the optional navigation-system package, priced at $2,125, which also includes satellite radio. The center console was dominated by a joystick-style controller that operated the map functions. I never quite got the hang of the joystick, and a real buyer would expect—and should demand—a tutorial in how to get the most from the system.

The map did come in handy, however, when it alerted us to a huge traffic jam on our route home, and allowed us to bushwhack around the trouble. (Models without the navigation system don’t have the joystick.)

The Lexus HS has some features and behaviors that take a bit of getting used to if you aren’t already a hybrid driver. The car starts with the push of a large button on the dashboard, and can move out of a parking space on electric power. You might hear the gasoline engine come to life right away, or you might not.

The car has a continuously variable transmission, so there’s no gear shifting. “The transmission may feel different,” cautions the owner’s manual. The transmission does offer settings that will help slow the car when descending a steep hill.

The car’s performance in normal highway driving is conventional, except when you slow down and brake. That’s when I heard the whirring and whooshing sounds associated with the car’s technology, which captures braking energy and uses it to recharge the battery pack. Most luxury cars strive for silence. The Lexus HS makes noises.

My test car also had a $3,900 “technology” package that included a feature I used a lot during my trip: a radar-enabled cruise-control system that allowed me to set a speed, and then turn over to the car the chore of adjusting speed to the traffic. If I got stuck behind a slowpoke, the Lexus slowed down to prevent me from tailgating.

The Lexus HS 250h is a pleasant cruiser on freeways, but it’s not much fun on twisting, hilly roads. The car labored up steep grades in the hilly country around the Delaware River in Pennsylvania and New York. It’s not a cornering machine.

We traveled relatively light—a good thing, because thanks to the battery pack, the Lexus HS has just 12.1 cubic feet of trunk space, compared to 14.7 cubic feet for the Lexus ES 350 sedan and 13 cubic feet for the Lexus IS sedan.

The Lexus HS did deliver on mileage. I averaged 34.8 miles per gallon over 293 miles of driving, and boosted my mileage close to 40 mpg during stretches of the drive, according to the trip computer.
A Steep Sticker Price

The question some prospective Lexus HS buyers may ask is this: If you want a high-mileage hybrid, why buy a car that isn’t as fuel-efficient as a Toyota Prius, and costs $14,000 to $15,000 more? My loaded test car had a sticker price of $44,967, although most HS 250h cars will go out the door for under $40,000, Mr. Bolain says. The Prius starts at $23,370 and gets 50 mpg in city and highway driving.

Gas-electric hybrids account for just under 2% of the total car market, and luxury-brand hybrids are a sliver of that. The Lexus HS offers more of what environmentally conscious consumers want from an advanced-technology vehicle, and Mr. Bolain says there will likely be more Lexus models that offer the HS 250h’s brand of technology.

But more than once while winding up hill and down dale in the Lexus HS, I wished I had one of those peppy, high-mileage four-cylinder diesel BMWs or Audis that Europeans get, and we don’t. Does that make me a bad guy?

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal

Luxury Extras and Great Economy Make the Lexus GS450h a Top Choice

By dancurranjr On March 25th, 2009

lexus-gs450hOne of my favourite things about driving a hybrid lately is that manufacturers, for the most part, don’t feel the need to shove their cars in your face and say, ‘Look, I’m saving the world.’ A subtle badge and a quiet whir as the car rolls by, running only on battery power, suffice nicely.

While the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight helped bring hybrids to the mainstream, it’s the hybrid versions of regular, normal-looking cars that are really going to help carry the momentum until people purchase the hybrids purely for their superior economy and lower emissions.

This is where the Lexus GS450h comes in. While obviously it’s not Everyman’s hybrid, it does not try to go out of its way for extra attention. And unlike most hybrids out there, it’s a performer. Coupled with the GS350’s standard 303 horsepower 3.5-litre V6, the Lexus Synergy Drive hybrid system cranks out 339 horsepower, only three horses fewer than the more expensive (and significantly more thirsty) 4.6-litre V8 from the GS460. While there isn’t quite as much torque on tap as in the V8, the 450h definitely gets a bit twitchy in the rearend with the right pedal planted.

To get the GS450h, you simply take the standard GS350 and add on a Corolla, or around $18,000. This premium adds the hybrid system along with every conceivable option available, literally. A 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, heated and cooled leather seats, 18-inch aluminum wheels, automatic rain-sensing wipers, swiveling and auto-adjusting headlights, rear-window sunshade, rear seat side airbags, parking sensors and a nav system with backup camera are all included on top of the extremely well-equipped GS350’s standard kit. Outside of extra floor mats or dealer accessories, there really isn’t anything else you can add.

Inside, bits of tasteful deep-red wood trim adorn the centre console, door handles and semi-sporty-looking three-spoke steering wheel. Slide into the leather front buckets, push the start button and the steering wheel tilts down and extends toward you automatically. Memory switches allow multiple drivers to program the steering, power driver’s seat and side mirrors to reposition themselves at the push of a button.

Facing the driver are a trio of gauge pods, most notably the large kW meter on the left to indicate how much energy is being put into driving by the hybrid system at any given point. Typically this will sit below 50 kW in regular driving, but planting your foot and watching the needle sweep up as you’re pushed back in your seat is an exhilarating experience. Given Edmonton’s winter road conditions, I wasn’t brave enough to keep my foot planted long enough to see where the needle stops its sweep through the gauge, but I was thrilled by the strong response of the continuously variable transmission.

Though I’ve driven quite a few CVTs in the past, this was definitely the sportiest thus far. A “manual” shift option allows drivers to simulate moving through the gears. In the case of the GS450h, using this system will actually slow down the car’s acceleration as you shift the CVT away from the engine’s optimal acceleration range. My preference is to just leave it in drive and go, as I prefer my manuals with a heavy clutch and a tough six-speed.

On the road, the 450h is smooth and quiet to the point that you don’t notice that the transmission is never shifting. Flip the sport suspension switch and the ride firms up and keeps the car flat through corners, with very little hint of body roll. Again, the slippery winter roads prevented me from really testing out the grip levels, but a couple of dry traffic circles showed a slight tendency to understeer at the limit, with a light amount of steering feedback, but not at all disconnected like many other luxury cars.

Head and legroom was reasonable, although the sunroof did make things a bit closer than I like. The rear seats are comfortable for three adults, although legroom gets a bit tight with a taller driver or front passenger. Unfortunately, the rear seats do not fold down, which leads to the biggest issue with this, and many other hybrids — the batteries.

Directly behind the rear seat, taking up a large portion of the trunk, are the hybrid system’s battery packs. Though the trunk is still able to take a golf bag or two, the loss of storage is noticeable. But as far as sacrifices go, the trade-off for the economy of the hybrid system is well worth it.

The GS450h manages to be a standout in the performance and luxury departments while not trying to stand out in the crowd like many other hybrids. For this I applaud Lexus. While reducing our carbon footprint on the planet is important, what’s the point if we’re not able to enjoy our time on it?

SOURCE: Driving.ca

U.S. Hybrid Sales up 3.6% in August

By dancurranjr On September 5th, 2008

Reported U.S. sales of hybrid vehicles from the major automakers rose 3.6 per cent in August 2008, compared to sales in August 2007, with 26,045 vehicles sold. This represents a 2.08 per cent new vehicle market share for the month. Overall, sales of light-duty vehicles in the U.S. fell 15.5 per cent in August 2008, with sales of passenger cars dropping by 7.7 per cent and light trucks by 22.1 per cent.

The August 2008 hybrid sales results fell just short of the current August sales record of 26,249 units, reached in 2006.

At Toyota, sales of the Prius were down 4.2 per cent to 13,463; the company said the decline is due to limited availability. Camry Hybrid sold 3,456 units, a 19.3 per cent drop from August 2007, and representing 7.8 per cent of all Camry sales, which increased overall by 3.3 per cent from the year before. Sales of the Highlander Hybrid were 1,277 units, up 224.6 per cent from August 2007, and representing 15.2 per cent of all Highlander sales, which dropped 15.29 per cent to 8,070 units.

The Lexus RX 400h sold 1,277 units in August, up 9.0 per cent, and representing 14.2 per cent of all RX model sales, which dropped 10.6 per cent to 8,969 units. The GS 450h sold 35 units, down 73.1 per cent, and representing 2.1 per cent of all GS models. The LS 600h sold 71 units, a 73.4 per cent drop, and representing 4.0 per cent of all LS model sales.

Sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid were up 47.7 per cent to 3,105 units, representing 10.3 per cent of all Civics sold; total Civic sales rose 5.3 per cent to 30,052. The company also sold two units of the discontinued Honda Accord Hybrid.

Combined sales of the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids dropped 27 per cent to 1,338 units, representing 8.0 per cent of all Escape and Mariner Sales, which rose 11.7 per cent in August to 16,634 units.

The Nissan Altima Hybrid sold 442 units, a decrease of 31.3 per cent from August 2007, and representing 1.7 per cent of all Altima sales. Sales of all Altima models dropped 0.5 per cent for the month.

General Motors sold 798 units of its two-mode Tahoe, Yukon and Cadillac Escalade models, representing 5 per cent of combined sales of all models in those lines, which were down 24 per cent. The Tahoe and Yukon made up the majority, with only one two-mode Escalade sold. The Saturn Vue with GM Hybrid System sold 417 units, representing 4.3 per cent of Vue sales, which totalled 9,649 units for an increase of 46.1 per cent. Sales of the Malibu Hybrid were 388 units, for 2.5 per cent of all Malibu sales, while the Saturn Aura Hybrid sold 26 units, for 0.6 per cent of all Aura sales. Overall, 0.5 per cent of General Motors’ total sales were hybrid vehicles.

Source: Canadian Driver

The Least and Most Fuel Efficient Hybrid Vehicles

By dancurranjr On August 18th, 2008

The 2000 Honda Insight - Hybrid gas mileage king.Nothing has come close to the Godfather of American-sold hybrid cars; the 73mpg 2000 Honda Insight.

It’s been 8 years since the Insight went on sale and the closest gas mileage any hybrid on the road today gets to the Insight is 46mpg – a 27mpg DECREASE. So much for “improving” technologies over time . . .

Here’s what passes as a hybrid today – the 11 least efficient hybrid vehicles:

1-2) (tie) Chrysler Aspen Hybrid & Dodge Durango Hybrid 19 MPG
3-5) (tie) Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, Lexus LS 600h L, GMC Yukon Hybrid 21 MPG
6) Lexus GS 450h 23 MPG
7-8) (tie) Lexus RX 400h, Toyota Highlander Hybrid 26 MPG
9-11) (tie) Ford Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid 32 MPG

Consumerist, via Hybrid Cars [HybridCars]

The Most Efficient?

1) Toyota Prius: 46 MPG
2) Honda Civic: 42 MPG
3) Toyota Camry: 34 MPG
4) Nissan Altima: 34 MPG
5) Ford Escape / Mercury Mariner / Mazda Tribute (2wd): 32 MPG