by J.T. Hills -
SGN Contributing Writer
A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from my Lexus contact asking me if I was interested in participating in a Lexus Hybrid event. I was like, sure, let me check my schedule, e-mail me. I received the itinerary and it turns out it’s a three-day event testing out the Lexus LS 600h L, GS 450h, and the RX 400h, starting out in San Francisco, up to Point Reyes Station and then Napa for fall crush. I was quickly able to clear my schedule and call one of my best friends to invite him along. I also had to call my mother to cancel on a family event. My mother’s immediate response was, “why would Lexus being doing an event in Idaho?” You know when you’re a redneck when your mother assumes a trip to Napa means you’re going to Idaho.
My friend and I arrived at SFO on Thursday to find a 2009 Noble Spinel Mica (it’s in the red family) colored Lexus LS 600h L waiting for us at the airport. The LS 600h L sedan is Lexus’ new flagship model and cousin to the gasoline-only LS 460, and five inches longer. It’s the world’s first full-sized luxury sedan to incorporate a full-time all-wheel-drive system and a 389hp V-8 full hybrid powertrain. The 600h is capable of operating in electric-only mode or with a combination of gas engine and electric motor.
My immediate response was that it’s a big, beautiful car with graceful conservative lines and a small trunk. The Gays don’t pack lightly, even for a three-day trip. The interior of the LS 600h L is extremely rich with limousine-like dimensions. Standard features included a hard disk drive (HDD) Lexus Navigation system with backup camera and Bluetooth technology with voice activation, plus XM factory-installed satellite radio with real-time traffic displays and dynamic route guidance. The 19-speaker 450-watt Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound audio system provides theater-level entertainment. In addition, a portion of the HDD is dedicated to storing as many as 2,000 (128-bit) digital songs, as well as an auxiliary jack in the front center console for iPod or MP3 digital music players. Other standard features included climate-controlled front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, power rear shade, and Intuitive Park Assist.
The optional luxury options on the test car featured Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS) that is designed to assist with parallel and back-in parking. Once the driver correctly positions the car to the desired parking space via the Navigation screen, the APGS utilizes the rear back-up camera parking sonar sensors and electric power steering system to guide the car into the space, while the driver controls the speed with the brakes. We stayed at the Fairmont – I utilized the valet. The premium package on the test car also included climate comfort rear seats with a heat/cool knob, power rear seats with memory, power headrests, recline, and rear seat airbags.
After a driving tour of San Francisco and a quick shopping stop at Union Square, we checked into the Fairmont San Francisco and went for wine and appetizers at the Lexus hybrid living suite (www.lexus.com/hybridliving). The Lexus hybrid living suite, designed by eco-designer Kelly Le Plante, is elegantly designed for eco-minded travelers. Le Plante uses organic materials, rapidly renewable resources, and recycled items that make this room sustainable. In addition to booking a night in the Lexus Hybrid Living Suite at the Fairmont San Francisco, you get complimentary use of a low-emission Lexus LS 600h L to explore the city in. Also, for same-sex weddings and honeymoons, the Fairmont San Francisco is offering a “Love is Proud” package that donates 10 percent of the revenue back to Academy of Friends, an organization dedicated to raising funds for AIDS/ HIV charities within the San Francisco Bay area. Additional information can be found at www.fairmont.com.
After a big breakfast the next morning, we took off for Point Reyes Station, north of San Francisco. Out on the freeway and windy roads up to Point Reyes Station, it’s amazing how a car that is big as the Lexus LS 600h L – almost 17 feet in overall length – performs so nimbly, largely attributed to the all-wheel-drive system and smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. The 5.0-liter 389 hp hybrid V-8 has a 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph with an estimated EPA mileage of 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. The Lexus is incredibly balanced in performance and whisper-quiet in ride. For those looking for responsible luxury and high performance – and a pocket book big enough for the $120,000-plus price tag – the Lexus LS 400h L is one too take a look at.
Next week, part two of the Lexus Hybrid Living Tour, and the Lexus RX 400h.