Hybrid Cars. Hybrid Experience.

BY Joel Tam

As the leading Japanese hybrid automaker, Lexus has no intention of slowing down on its developments. A quick look at their current lineup is enough proof.

Up until recently Lexus was only known for making quality Japanese premium cars. These days though, the marque is charging ahead in the hybrid segment, offering a hybrid version for every model they produce.

In a recent media drive trip to Malaysia, we had the privilege of sampling the full range of Lexus Hybrid models. Along for the ride were the face-lifted CT200h, the new IS300h, the ES300h, the GS450h, the LS600h and the RX450h. Luxuriously equipped while offering smooth and effortless power, these frugal machines impressed with their all-round capabilities, validating the characteristics that Lexus cars are known for.

The driving route took us to prominent city venues, challenging B-roads and winding highways. On all of these roads, the Lexus models were a cinch to drive and maneuver. Of course, some models were better at carving corners than others. The CT200h for example, was no pavement burner with its 134 bhp engine, but it did an outstanding job handling the twisty roads of Bukit Tinggi. With more than 90 improvements made, a retuned suspension being one of them, the new CT200h is clearly a better drive than the model it replaces.

Models like the ES300h and the GS450h shone along the expressways, cruising without any strain and cocooning all its occupants in comfort. The GS450h though, can be quite the animal too. With 345 bhp driven to its rear wheels, this sport saloon offers a seamless driving experience between its primary and electric modes. As such, the result is just pure power and fun.

Hop into the RX450h, and you'll feel like you're on top of the world. The power assisted steering does feel rather light, but most owners will actually appreciate this as it makes handling the SUV easy around town. There's something about driving a hybrid SUV, it makes you feel a tad bit more responsible than a Jeep or Land Rover owner.

A quick steer in the LS600hL was enough to convince me that the LS is at the top of its game. The 5.0-litre V8 producing 438 bhp is fast enough to scare almost any car on the road. Yet it's so luxuriously equipped, it will shame a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. We had the honor of driving a Lexus VIP in the car during our drive, and he exclaimed that the experience was so smooth, he wanted me to drive him all the way home. While it may have had something to do with my (ahem!) skill, I'd like to add that the LS600hL itself is such a phenomenal car, it is not difficult to drive it well. It does come with a hefty price though.

Unfortunately, our drive did not include the IS300h. A repeat drive of the ES300h meant that it didn't make it to us by the time we got back. But the F-sport version with a full TRD kit on the car was just a beauty to behold. We'll update you on a more extensive report when we take it out separately.

There is so much more that we could write about these cars. The experience was merely scratching the surface of what Lexus Hyrbids represent. But suffice to say, Lexus has carved a niche in this segment for themselves. At the moment it does seem like they are doing 'Hybrid' better than anyone else. What's more, the impeccable service we experienced during our drive is the exact same one owners will get to enjoy. Blending a well-executed drive program with a personal touch, they've extended the 'hybrid' term even to their service experience. It was, and promises to be, a truly all round experience that is second to none.