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The Luxury Hybrid

Imagine any creature comfort in a modern automobile. Then try to stump the Lexus LS 600h L, the world's first full-size hybrid luxury sedan—because chances are, if you can dream it, the Lexus has it.

Based on the LS 460 flagship sedan, this gas-electric powerhouse starts at $104,000, making it the priciest Lexus ever. It combines a beefy 5.0-liter V-8 with all-wheel drive and the most powerful electric motors yet in a hybrid. The result is a peak 438 horsepower, enough to keep pace with most any prestige sedan. Rear seats recline, heat, cool or provide a shiatsu massage. The decadent right-hand rear seat resembles a first-class airliner chair, with a deep forty-five-degree recline and a powered ottoman. The soundtrack comes courtesy of a nineteen-speaker, 450-watt Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound audio system that stores up to two thousand of your favorite songs. Rounding out the entertainment package is a power nine-inch LCD screen mounted to the rear ceiling.

On the safety front, an interior camera on the steering column continually monitors the orientation of the driver's face: If eyes stray from the road at a critical moment—when front cameras and radar detect an approaching collision with a car or a pedestrian—the system triggers accident-avoidance measures, alerting the driver, tightening seat belts and readying brakes for maximum stopping force. This sedan can even parallel-park itself, but that system's cumbersome operation proved that it's not quite ready for prime time. Although the Lexus emits about 70 percent less pollution than its rivals do, there are caveats for the green-minded: Saddled with 717 more pounds than its non­hybrid version, the LS 600h L delivered a near-identical twenty-one miles per gallon.

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