By on February 11, 2008

08_lexus_ls600h_l_035.jpgWhen it comes to sharing our feelings about the automotive buff books' advertising-tainted editorial, TTAC leaves no words unminced. However, every now and then, genuine journalism rears its feisty head. In the March issue of Motor Trend, Arthur St. Antoine speaks his piece about hybrids. The columnist calls them "nothing more than the four-wheeled equivalent of a yellow LiveStrong wristband- a conspicuous, self-satisfying, effort-free membership card into the 'I Care' club." The most egregious example of this hypocritical hybrid mindset? The Lexus LS 600hL. St. Antoine points out that the 600hL's hybrid premium ($33k) buys you a little extra power and minimal fuel economy gains. So why are the 600hL's moving at the rate of 1000 per month and other other hybrids are selling like Sno-cones in Hades? "The appeal of the LS 600hL (and, I fear, most other current hybrids) is simple sanctimoniousness… why, it's a hybrid. Pay no attention to the colossal luxury sedan behind the curtain! Cue the rainbow and the baby seals!" And here's the best part; the editorial's next to a special advertising section entitled "Chevy's Hybrid Revolution." This Motor Trend produced insert extols the virtues of the bargain-basement semi-hybrid Malibu (with its huge two mpg increase in fuel economy) and the super-sized, outrageously-priced Silverado and Tahoe hybrids. We reckon Angus should be getting "that" phone call any day now. 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

19 Comments on “Motor Trend Nails It, For Once...”


  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    I couldn’t disagree more.

    Luxury cars with hybrid engines are actually quite good.

    Take the Lexus RX400h. In urban settings it can do 31mpg and in highway conditions it can do 37.2mpg. Plus it emits 192gm/km. Now let’s compare the regular RX350. In urban settings, it can do 18 mpg and highway conditions it can do 33.2mpg. However, it also emits 264gm/km. 72gm/km more than the hybrid version. This means in the UK, on the hybrid version you pay £205 per year, whereas with the non-hybrid version you pay £300 per year. Now find me an SUV with a 3.5 litre engine that can match the RX450h’s figures?

    Want another example? How about the Lexus GS450h? In urban settings it can do 31mpg and in highway conditions it can do 39.8mpg. Plus it emits 185gm/km. Now let’s compare the regular GS300. In urban settings, it can do 19.9 mpg and highway conditions it can do 40.4mpg. However, it also emits 226gm/km. 42gm/km more than the hybrid version. This means in the UK, on the hybrid version you pay £165 per year, whereas with the non-hybrid version you pay £300 per year.

    So, at least in the UK, they make financial sense.

    Also, since diesels are billing themselves as a “green” saviour, can we expect the same “I drive this car, therefore I’m pious” vitriol against diesel drivers…..?

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    So, at least in the UK, they make financial sense.

    No matter what form of math I use, I cannot come up with this conclusion. I may drive my 454 powered Suburban approximately 140,000 miles on $33,000 worth of gasoline, my Civic somewhere around 350,000 miles. At a 4 mpg difference on the highway with the RX400h you’re looking at a million+ miles, not only longer than the vehicle is likely to last but when you factor in the ROI on $33,000 the payback would never happen.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Mr Wade,

    It’s not just petrol consumption, it’s tax savings too. Also, the premium one pays on a luxury hybrid is about £3K. Which about the same (if a little dearer) than one pays for a Diesel (especially, if it’s German). So, as far as I can see, hybrids are no worse (possibly better) than the same car with a diesel engine. Except it’ll not sound like a Massey Ferguson tractor and emit less.

    I think luxury hybrids (well, the Lexus ones) are great. I’d love a Lexus GS 450h.

  • avatar
    drifter

    Is Arthur St. Antoine Lutz’s long lost brother?
    “Hybrids are a passing fad”

  • avatar
    kovachian

    Katie, would you care to touch on the LS600h and how it stacks up? Or compare the RX400h emissions to the European average for hybrid CUVs?

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Kovachian, certainly!

    A Lexus LS600h in urban conditions can do 25mpg and in highway settings can do 35.3mpg. It emits 219gm/km which means its tax is £205 per year. This is all with a 5.0 litre engine!

    Now compare to an equivalent, say an Audi A8 4.2TDI Quattro Sport Tip. The Audi does 21.2mpg in urban surroundings and 39.2mpg in highway. It emits 249gm/km. Which means the car tax is £300 a year.

    Also, the Lexus churns out 439BHP whereas the Audi does 326 BHP.

    The Audi costs £67515 and the Lexus costs £81400. but when you spec the Audi to the level of the Lexus the price is £76130. A difference of £5K. Which is a neglible difference, because one could argue you are paying for the Lexus name, quality of materials etc. If the difference was about £10K, then it one could argue it isn’t worth it.

    As for the CUV, I’ll compare it against a BMW X5. I can’t compare it against a, say, Nissan Qashqai because Lexus is a premium marque.

    The BMW X5 diesel is Urban: 27.7mpg, Highway: 40.9 and emits 214gm/km. So, not much in it. The Lexus emits less and has similar mpg figures with a bigger engine (BMW 3.0, Lexus 3.5). However, the Lexus £35800 and the BMW is £40500.

    So, all in all, I don’t think there’s much in it one way or the other. Hybrids are just as feasible as a good diesel. With the same premium.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    To be fair to GM, the hybrid SUVs actually kinda make sense. They gain a relatively large improvement in mileage, while still being able to tow huge amounts. The Luxo-brids and hybrid sedans are kinda silly, when you can get similar vehicles that get similar mileage but cost much less. For example, a Prius ($30,000) gets 40 to 50mpg. A Hyundai Accent ($10,000) gets 40 to 50 mpg. Uh… guess which one I’d buy (and actually did.)

    But any decent attempt to make a gas sucker suck less gas is probably a good thing.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    The NY Times (of all places!) beat MT to the punch in ridiculing the LS hybrid.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    For those of us who think oil is seriously undervalued and AGW is an imminent threat, the cost effectiveness equation is different.

    Moreover, few of the hybrids sold are of the Lexus 600h variety. The Prius outsells it by, what? Twenty to one? Arguing that the Lexus defines the hybrid market is ridiculous.

    Show me another vehicle that will, reliably, get significantly better fuel economy than the Prius for reasonable (or reasonably more) expense and I’ll take a look at it. Diesels aren’t going to match hybrids in city traffic.

    Those of us who are attracted to them are attracted for very simple reasons… things like remarkably good fuel economy, the inherent sensibility of braking energy recapture and, to some extent, the sheer whiz-bang of the car.

    KatiePuckrick, to echo your sentiment, are we going to hear the same sort of nonsensical vitriol about electric vehicles? Probably.

  • avatar
    gamper

    Ridicule the Hybrid Malibu and Aura all you want. They may not offer huge fuel savings, but they do offer savings over the standard models and the hybrid premium is next to nothing.

    The Lexus LS 600hL is a marketing gimmick to extract profit from those with more money than sense.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    We won’t call drivers of diesels or electric cars “pious”. We’ll call them cheap and nerdy, respectively. I won’t, however, since I like both. And I think people will be driving their cars longer, which makes them more likely to drive enough miles to recoup the initial cost for all three.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    The columnist calls them “nothing more than the four-wheeled equivalent of a yellow LiveStrong wristband- a conspicuous, self-satisfying, effort-free membership card into the ‘I Care’ club.”

    South Park already covered this…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smug_Alert!

  • avatar
    KixStart

    gamper, The Malibu and Aura mild hybrids should not be ridiculed. However, they are achievements of exceptional modesty.

    They offer only marginal fuel economy improvement (perhaps none if you like your air conditioning) for 10% of the cost of the vehicle (something like $2400).

    It’s a good idea but not at $2400. If GM made some marginal improvement and drove the cost down (standard on all 4-banger Malibus and Auras) and the fuel economy up a bit and kept the a/c running when the engine was off; then they’d have something. While they’re at it, cylnder deactivation as standard on all V6 and V8 engines would be a way to approach leadership.

    lprocter, Where did you get $30,000 as the price for a Prius? They start at $21,100.

  • avatar

    Want another example? How about the Lexus GS450h? In urban settings it can do 31mpg and in highway conditions it can do 39.8mpg.

    Katie, the one I tested for TTAC saw 25-26 mpg on the highway and 22.5 in the city. That was with the air conditioner off (in Houston!), rolling to stoplights and cruise control usage at 65mph.

    Granted those aren’t bad numbers for something with about 400hp, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Mr Mehta,

    I’m strongly suspecting, that the car you drove may be calculating in US gallons (3.8 litres) and the figures I’m getting are in imperial gallons (4.5 litres). So that could account for the descrepancies.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    I am so tired of this “I hate Hybrid” articles. The problem is no one that have a unfavorable opinion of Hybrids is willing to deal with this arguement in an objective light.

    Is the concept of the Hybrid invalid or are some of the executions we see on the road today not the best example or use of this technology.

    Every negative article I have read on the LS600h with the exception of one has failed to mention the fact that the LS600h is an AWD car. There are only two other cars in its class that it can be compared to, MB S550 4-Matic and the Audi A8L. Needless to say the LS600h is a better car than both in many ways. The price is comparible as well as the performance. The LS600h does have a significant fuel economy and EMMISSIONS advantage over the other two.

    The LS600h sells so well because it is what it is, just about the most sophisticated and technically advanced car you can buy today. On top of that it is also quite luxurious and built like a bank vault.

    Please, lets re-visit the issue of hybrid viabilty in ten years. Somehow I suspect that this technology will still be with us but far more advanced and common.

  • avatar
    NetGenHoon

    whatdoiknow1 :

    The LS600h does have a significant fuel economy
    and EMMISSIONS advantage over the other two.

    You hit the point right there. In the US market emmissions are irrelevant. Not to re-ignite the incentivize socially responsible behavior/tax the irresponsible discussion.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    One factor that I never see when hybrid-versus-traditional motors are compared is the “Who Gets My Money” factor.

    True, the premium price one pays for a hybrid more than sucks up the cost of the fuel saved over, lets say, 4 years. So on a purely economic basis it is, at best, a wash.

    But when one considers the total costs of transportation, then one can decide how much of that money goes to the Japanese, and how much goes to Saudi Arabia. A lot of people, me included, would rather my transportation dollars end up in Japan than in the hands of Mid East Islamic Radicals.

    These people are putting their dollars where their beliefs are. Buying a $35k car is a lot more commitment than buying a $2 wrist band.

  • avatar
    DrBrian

    no Katie 26mpg(us) is 31mpg(uk) so its still way off the offical mpg.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • la834: The first generation minivans had that feature (it was even lockable), but no glovebox in the usual location....
  • dal20402: I have an easier time seeing a DS in the front than the rear. If I try not to see a J30 when I look at the...
  • dusterdude: Overalll I don’t mind the exterior design – very bold for sure
  • tonycd: Anybody who sees a J30 in this simply isn’t old enough to remember its true progenitor, the Citroen...
  • DenverMike: No they’re just getting better at having them die as they cross the warranty “finish line”. Most will...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber