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

Road Test: 2009 Lexus LS 600h L

By dancurranjr On March 10th, 2009

600hI like a sedentary life. Robert M. Hutchins, one-time dean of Yale Law School, summed up my sentiments perfectly: “Whenever I feel like exercising, I lie down until that feeling goes away.”

The Lexus LS 600h L is the perfect match for anyone who worries about doing a little too much.

There is no need to remove the ignition key from one’s Armani suit pocket to gain access to the cabin. Simply touch the handle and the doors automatically unlock. There are power pull-ins on the doors so there’s no need to put too much effort into that act. Ditto the power trunk. One digit is all that’s needed to open or close it. The work involved in turning the ignition key? Nada. Pushing a button fires the hybrid powertrain to life.

As for the unseemly chore of keeping one’s right foot on the brake pedal while waiting for a traffic light, no worries. Push the Hold button and the instant the car comes to rest the hard work is over – the system holds the car until it’s time to go. Once out on the highway, setting the active cruise control keeps the big Lexus at a driver-adjustable distance behind the vehicle ahead. This eliminates the work required to stay with the ever-changing speed of traffic. If the car ahead cruises at 120 kilometres an hour, so does the LS. If the vehicle slows the Lexus does likewise. And, at the end of the drive, the final party trick awaits. Having spied a parking space and ensured the passage is clear, the driver then lets the LS’s advanced parking guidance system back the car into the space all by itself. It also parallel parks with the same proficiency. All the driver has to do is control the speed of the vehicle.

Now, if this still sounds a little too sweaty, fear not. The LS 600h L provides the ultimate solution. Simply retire to the right-rear ottoman (it’s part of the $24,050 Premium Executive package and can be likened to a first-class airline seat), recline it to a less stressful position and let James take care of the driving while you watch a movie on the nine-inch screen and enjoy a shiatsu massage. Of course, all of this pampering takes place in the privacy provided by the power side and rear window shades.

Even the powertrain seems to enjoy a sedentary lifestyle. It is entirely possible to drive the LS without ever forcing the engine to pop a piston more than 1,500 rpm. As with the driver, if the engine deems this too much work, it turns things over to the electric motor. I managed to drive the LS at 65 km/h on electric power alone, which allowed the engine to luxuriate in its own metaphorical ottoman. The upside to the engine’s easygoing demeanour is fuel economy. A test average of 12.2 litres per 100 km is very good, especially when one considers the hybrid powertrain delivers the oomph and turn of speed of a V12 engine and it has to motivate 2,295 kilograms of leather-lined opulence. Now, that’s the soft side of life LS 600h L-style.

Switch the transmission and active air suspension over to their respective power and sport modes and the largest Lexus belies its size and mass. Yes, there is some body roll and understeer is not too difficult to induce.

However, response to driver input is remarkably sharp. The variable-ratio electric power steering is light at low speeds, yet it firms up to deliver commendable feedback when hoofing it. The all-wheel-drive system then works to underscore the sure-footed road manners.

Finally, there’s the hybrid’s work ethic when roused. Pressed to the max, the V8 and electric motor combine to deliver an enviable turn of speed. The 5.0L V8 churns out 389 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.

At full chat, the electric side chips in with another 221 hp. As a result, the LS hybrid can call upon a net system output of 438 hp. This is enough to waft the car to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds and accomplish the 80-to-120-km/h passing move in a speedier 5.1 seconds.

Naturally, the Lexus flagship features all of the latest safety aids. Along with the usual anti-lock brakes, traction and electronic stability control systems come no fewer than 11 air bags and Lexus’s pre-collision system. By monitoring a number of sensors and inputs, it has the ability to determine if a collision is inevitable. If it decides the worst could happen, the system cinches up the seat belts, primes the brakes and firms the suspension to help the driver avoid a costly encounter.

If sumptuous sophistication is your bag, the LS 600h L is the perfect partner.

From its hybrid powertrain to the litany of electronic gadgets, few cars match this vehicle when it comes to pure technical prowess – or the lack of hard work needed to operate it all.

SOURCE: Autos Canada

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

Tax Savings for 2008 and 2009 Model Hybrid Vehicles

By dancurranjr On August 20th, 2008

Thinking of buying a hybrid car? Doing so will save the environment and keep money in your wallet. You could be eligible for a tax credit of up to $3,000 depending on when the car is purchased and the model you buy.

The Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit applies to cars purchased after Jan. 1, 2006. Currently, there are more than 40 different models of hybrid vehicles eligible for the credit. You can see which cars qualify by visiting www.IRS.gov. Once 60,000 hybrid cars from a particular manufacturer are sold, the tax credit is reduced until it’s ultimately phased out.

Keep in mind, though, that the credit is only available to the original buyer of the car. So, if you purchase a used hybrid vehicle, you can’t claim the tax credit. And, if you lease a hybrid car, the credit goes to the company leasing the vehicle.

The Internal Revenue Service has certified several vehicles as eligible for the hybrid tax credit. According to the IRS, “The tax credit for hybrid vehicles applies to vehicles purchased on or after January 1, 2006, and may be as much as $3,400 for those who purchase the most fuel-efficient vehicles.” In cooperation with the automakers, the IRS has certified the maximum hybrid tax credit for the following vehicles:

2008 Hybrid Models Tax Breaks

  • 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid: $1,300
  • 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid (2WD and 4WD): $2,200
  • 2008 Ford Escape 2WD Hybrid: $3,000
  • 2008 Ford Escape 4WD Hybrid: $2,200
  • 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid (2WD and 4WD): $2,200
  • 2008 Honda Civic GX compressed natural gas vehicle: $4,000
  • 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT: $2,100
  • 2008 Lexus LS 600h L Hybrid: $450
  • 2008 Lexus RX 400h 2WD and 4WD: $550
  • 2008 Mazda Tribute 2WD Hybrid: $3,000
  • 2008 Mazda Tribute 4WD Hybrid: $2,200
  • 2008 Mercury Mariner 2WD Hybrid: $3,000
  • 2008 Mercury Mariner 4WD Hybrid: $2,200
  • 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid: $2,350
  • 2008 Saturn Aura Hybrid: $1,300
  • 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line: $1,550
  • 2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid: $650
  • 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD: $650
  • 2008 Toyota Prius: $787.50

2009 Model Year Hybrid Vehicles (So Far)

Make

Model

Credit Amount

Ford

Escape Hybrid 2WD

$3,000

Ford

Escape Hybrid 4WD

$1,950

Mercury

Mariner Hybrid 2WD

$3,000

Mercury

Mariner Hybrid 4WD

$1,950