Toyota adds hybrid technology to its flagship luxury car

Hybrid this, hybrid that. That's the big buzzword in the automotive industry these days. Companies like Ford, Honda, Toyota and countless others are backing the technology. Most European manufacturers and one Japanese company, Nissan, are more skeptical of the technology.

While the world's automotive companies bicker over what to do about hybrid cars, Toyota has dropped another bombshell -- this time at the New York International Auto Show. Just weeks after the official roll out of the Camry Hybrid comes the announcement of the Lexus LS 600h L.

The LS 600h L is the hybrid version of the forthcoming LS 460 L and uses a 5.0 liter V8 engine backed with two powerful electric motors to develop over 430 horsepower. The luxo-barge uses a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) instead of the 8-speed unit used in the LS 460 and LS 460 L and features all-wheel drive. Lexus claims that the powertrain gives the LS 600h L the performance of a V12 luxury car with the fuel efficiency of a comparable V6 model. Those are pretty big claims and the company failed to release any estimated mileage figures. That being said, even with all of that power, the LS600h classifies as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) and has 70% lower emissions than its closet rival.

With the powertrain out of the way, what's even cooler is all of the technology that Toyota has thrown in with the LS 600h L. It features an Advanced Pre-Collision System (APCS) which aims to protect pedestrians from inattentive drivers:

Two small cameras mounted at the front of the car, in conjunction with millimeter-wave radar, are sensitive enough to detect not just large metal obstructions such as cars but also smaller nonmetallic objects, such as humans. A third camera, mounted on the steering column, monitors the orientation of the driver’s face.  If the camera sees that the driver is not looking directly ahead for a few seconds or more, and if an obstacle is detected ahead, then it alerts the driver first with a warning chime and a flashing light.  As the car gets closer to the obstacle, the system can begin to gently apply the brakes on its own.

If that isn't enough, the LS 600h L features the world's first LED headlight system. Also included are four-zone front and rear air conditioning, rear-door power sun shades, rear power headrests and a rear seat with a built-in 45 degree recliner and massager feature. Other niceties include a voice-activated HDD-based navigation system with Bluetooth and XM real-time traffic system, 19-speaker Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound System, rear 9" drop-down DVD entertainment system and a parallel park system:

The all-new LS sedans will all offer an advanced parallel-park-assist function.  The driver simply pushes a button and the park-assist system parks the car with just a little brake work by the driver.

Pretty impressive tech for a luxury car I must say. Hybrid powertrain, good fuel economy (for a large sedan), reduced emissions and enough gadgetry to impress even Bill Gates. Although official pricing has not been announced for the LS 600h L which is due to go on sale in April of 2007, some industry insiders are pegging a price tag of $125,000.

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