When Lexus’ all-new flagship sedan arrives this fall, it will have the most powerful engine ever made by Toyota. How much power? Lexus wouldn’t give specifics, but they said to expect more than 430 hp, at least an astonishing 55% increase than the current flagship.
The vehicle is the 2007 LS 600h. And the engine is an all-new 5.0 liter 8 cylinder. But they don’t want you to know that. A model’s numerical name usually denotes the engine’s displacement, or size. But for marketing reasons, this isn’t always true. For example, the BMW 325i’s engine size is really 3.0 liters, as is the BMW 330i. At one time, the 325i’s engine was 2.5 liters, but when it grew to 3.0 liters, the marketers wanted to keep the model name 325i to denote a weaker engine than its 330i counterpart. So what’s the motivation in branding the LS 600h intead of LS 500h?
No doubt to target the Mercedes-Benz SL600 and BMW 760 sedans, both 6.0 liters and graced with elite 12 cylinder engines. Which is a problem for Toyota, since they don’t have any 12 cylinder engines. What to do? Enter the hybrid. By combining Toyota’s most powerful engine to the hybrid system, the LS 600h can “provide power and performance on par with modern 12-cylinder engines while still delivering best-in-V8-class fuel efficiency.”
Though the fuel efficiency benefits of the hybrid system is questionable on a vehicle that will undoubtedly exceed 4000 lbs, the power gains are not so questionable. The 5.0 liter 8 cylinder engine will provide at least 410 hp (the LS 460’s 4.6 liter engine has 380 hp), and the hybrid system at least another 60 hp, for a conservative estimate of 470 hp. That thoroughly trounces the BMW 760’s 438 hp, but the Mercedes-Benz SL600 escapes by using twin turbos to generate 510 hp.
To be fair, a hybrid’s power is not constant, turning off to conserve gas or unable to provide full power when charging. But marketing-wise, for the $75,000 (est) LS 600h to even suggest parity to BMW’s $110,000 or Mercedes’ $140,000 elite sedans, is an undeniable victory that has the Germans scrambling to add more compression, turbos, and hybrid systems of their own.