With the launch of its latest hybrid, the entry-level ES300h, Lexus is embarking on a different path when it comes to gasoline/electric vehicle technology. The ES300h is the first car from the brand that’s following a Toyota-like hybrid philosophy.
Previous Lexus hybrids, such as the LS600h and GS400h, relied on electric motors with a significant emphasis on boosting power to their gasoline engines, with the balance of the electrification advantage being only somewhat tipped toward improved fuel economy.
First revealed at this year’s New York auto show, the 2013 ES300h uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine teamed with a version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive found in the Camry Hybrid to deliver 200 horsepower and fuel consumption of 39 miles per gallon combined.
This contrasts with cars like the flagship LS600h, which was designed to deliver the performance of a V12 engine with the fuel economy of a V8. Collectively, the car’s 5.0-liter eight-cylinder gas engine and electric motor generate 428 horsepower while delivering a combined fuel economy rating of just 21 miles per gallon according to EPA figures. For comparison’s sake the regular gas LS460 V8 gets 19 mpg combined).
In fact, due to its focus on parallel hybrid systems and sluggish sales of some mild hybrid models, Lexus is axing the LS600h. “We did studies and focus groups,” said Lexus ES and LS product planner Ketan Renade. “People said hybrid equals miles per gallon. Cars [like the LS600h] with 400 or 500 horsepower are great but nobody’s buying them.”
So, does that mean a future LS hybrid flagship, would rely on a much smaller gasoline engine to help move it along, such as a V6? Quite possibly, plus, with tougher fuel economy standards looming and to maintain some semblance of performance (expected in this segment) it will have to be significantly lighter than the outgoing model (the LS600h weighs a whopping 5,203 pounds).