Our Cars: Lexus LS600hL – week 4
Hybrid road tripping
By Imthishan Giado
Why is our long term Lexus parked outside a Lulu Hypermarket? Ah, but this is no ordinary Lulu Hypermarket. Click through to find out why.
I’m filling in for Shahzad this week while my own car is in the shop getting a dose of TLC. Immediately, the big Lexus was called into service to ferry Team MME – well, Team MME’s dad – to the opening of the 100th Lulu store in the Gulf, an event of massive importance in the retail sector and attended by bigwigs of every kind.
Unfortunately for me, the 100th Lulu store is located in Ras Al Khaimah which means a road trip of over 200km – but that’s no sweat at all for the LS600h, a car built for ferrying businessmen across continents with ease. Unfortunately, the LS600h’s slightly out-of-date navigation system couldn’t find RAK Mall which is where the Lulu Hypermarket is situated – so Google Maps came to the rescue. A few taps and a swipe later, we were on the E311 headed down to RAK, radar cruise control set slightly north of 120kph.
With shiatsu massage options, heated and cooled seats and stretch out automan functions, it has to be said that my father enjoyed the trip far more than I did. Radar cruise took all the work out of driving so all I had to do was point that long prow until we reached RAK. On the highway this car has enormous presence – no one dares to hog the left lane when they see a pearl white LS come steaming up behind them. That same courtesy extends to RAK Mall apparently – the car park was full, but they quickly found space for ‘one more VIP’ when they saw this pull up to the gate!
While my father trotted off to chat with the various Lulu folks, I wandered around the mall, which I’d never visited before. Clearly, the arrival of Lulu was a big deal and the crowds was absolutely jampacked inside the supermarket, making walking around quite difficult. To be honest, I was quite glad when the visit was over and we could begin our return trip to Dubai, which was completed in equally uneventful, if supremely comfortable fashion.
So I’ve tested the luxury cruiser bit – now what about economy? As it turns out, I didn’t have long to wait.
Constant cruising on the highway actually does nothing to test the limits of a hybrid, since the petrol engine is running the entire time at constant speed. Driving around town is a more strenuous town, as the electric motor can be used for all low speed, bumper to bumper work. Use ‘Eco Mode’ and the system is very aggressive, cutting the engine out the moment you lift off the throttle, even at speeds over 40kph (the official limit of electric only usage). Eco Mode also dulls the throttle response and cuts back on AC efficiency, but hey, you’re trying to save gas right?
Great, but what happens when you’re nearly about to run out of gas?
This is what happens. When you go below 30km of estimated range remaining, the system switches over to this ‘Low Fuel’ warning. So now, I had no idea how much range I had left. Only one thing to do – zero the trip meter and pray that it was accurate.
I’m a habitual late-fueler and couldn’t resist the chance to see how far the Lexus could go. So instead of immediately pulling into a gas station like a sane person, I just continued driving around like nothing was wrong – including an extended trip to Dubai Mall – all the while keeping an eye on that trip meter.
10km, 15km, 20km – it was a traffic choked night, but that only played into the LS600h’s hybrid hands, since when it’s stopped, it runs purely on electric power and no gasoline is used at all. At the 35km point, the hybrid seemed completely normal – even though the digital needle was dipping well below the ‘E’ mark. Nevertheless, no one thinks it fun to push a two-ton hybrid in 30-degree heat, so I finally surrendered at the nearest gas station.
I pumped in 80.8 litres of regular petrol which works out to about Dh139. The car had managed to eke out 682km, which is remarkably close to the 700km range that it predicted at the last fill up.
11.5L/100km betters the 11.9 figure Shahzad got last time. I reckon this engine’s got more to give – it’s only got 4400km on the clock and 700km is far from out of the question. Can it do 800 though? With a bit of hypermiling, I don’t see why not.