2008 Lexus LS 600h L
The mission statement for the full-size luxury sedan has essentially remained unchanged for sometime now. Cram a large engine with up to a dozen cylinders under the hood, fill the interior with gadgets, wood and enough leather to offend a militant vegan and, without question, the rich will buy. While those who can afford $100k-plus sedans probably don’t place fuel prices at the top of the column titled ‘financial concerns,’ there are still plenty who demand to be on the cutting edge of modern technology. Hence, the Lexus LS600h L
, the world’s first full-size luxury hybrid. That’s a lot of numbers and letters to swallow – the L denotes the car’s extended wheelbase, which increases legroom by 4.8 inches over a standard LS460
– so for the sake of simplicity we’ll refer to the car as the LS600h. And while it might be a hybrid, this is no Toyota Prius. Thanks to the combination of a V-8 engine, high-power electric motor and all-wheel drive, it’s surprisingly rapid. Unfortunately, however, performance has a price – surprisingly mediocre fuel economy. Still, don’t be fooled; with an astonishingly smooth ride and massively spacious interior, this is a car that’s all about one thing – comfort.
What's to Like
The legendary soft, quiet ride of the LS makes for a tranquil in-cabin environment, soaking up big mileages with little effort. The reclining rear seats and abundant legroom will never have you wishing you called shotgun. For a full-size, 5,200 lb hybrid, the LS is surprisingly potent off the line, with plenty of low-down torque.
What's Not to Like
A standard LS 460 is a staggering $40k cheaper, making it extremely difficult to justify purchasing the hybrid model as no amount of fuel savings could recoup the additional cost. Some interior switchgear has a sub-par tactile feel for a car in this price range. Brake pedal placement is somewhat high, leading to sore ankles in stop and go traffic.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Life behind the wheel of the LS 600h has little in common with your standard daily driver. Road noise is nonexistent, bumps and broken road surfaces have no chance of making it through the suspension and are absorbed with ease. The steering is light and responsive, but devoid of feel. These factors combine to isolate you from the outside world, making you feel as if you’re floating down the road on a cloud – exactly what a Lexus should feel like. Yet, for all of it’s luxury bias, the LS 600h L is surprisingly fast, launching from 0-60 in a brisk 5.5 seconds. Luckily, despite the use of a CVT transmission, there is little lag in the throttle response. In the corners it’s cripplingly numb and the soft suspension lends itself to plenty of body roll, even in sport mode, but at least it’s nice to know it can thrill you in a straight line.
Engine and Drivetrain
The LS 600h L gets its power from a 5.0-liter direct and port injected V-8 engine, which is paired with a high-output electric motor to produce a total of 438 combined system horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission manages power output, which is put to the ground via an all-wheel drive system.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Surprisingly enough, given the markup over the standard LS 460 L, the LS 600h L doesn’t come fully loaded. For the full-on interior treatment you’ll have to spec the Executive-Class Seating Package, priced at a wallet-crushing $12,570. It includes a lot of overkill items such as DVD entertainment, rear seat audio controls, four-zone climate control, a rear-seat air purifier and power reclining rear seats with integrated cooling and heating. Of more interest to the driver, however, is the superb 19-speaker surround sound audio system that includes a hard drive with a 2,000-song capacity.
Key Technology Evaluation
Not the best parallel parker? The LS 600h takes the pain out of parallel parking a long-wheelbase sedan by parking itself with the optional Advanced Parking Guidance System. The driver simply selects the desired spot with the rearview display and then modulates the brake – the car does the rest. The navigation system provides real-time traffic updates via XM NavTraffic, and can be a real lifesaver for the daily commuter. The hybrid energy monitor is also a very cool (if somewhat gimmicky) technology that shows the driver exactly where power is being transferred between the electric motor, battery and gasoline engine.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Fuel economy is where you’d expect LS 600h to beat up on the standard LS 460, but that’s not necessarily the case. While it’s true LS600h L returns a respectable 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, the standard LS 460 isn’t far behind at 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. In fact, the LS600h L only manages to beat out its gasoline-powered brother by two mpg on the combined cycle. However, with an SULEV rating, there is obvious appeal in the model’s low emissions.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Covered in soft, lush leather, the interior of the LS600h L is a haven of comfort. Both gray and brown maple accents are available depending on the color of leather chosen. The L model’s 4.8-inch longer wheelbase provides abundant legroom for rear seat passengers. While the interior is certainly luxurious, the ergonomics could use some fine-tuning, as we often found ourselves overwhelmed by the multitude of buttons and switches in the cabin, some of which were very obviously borrowed from mid-range Toyota products.
Like any full-size sedan this side of $300k, the LS600h L is an attractive car, but don’t expect it to draw any crowds. The trapezoidal tailpipes integrated into the rear bumper give it some stylistic flair, as do the sloping rear windshield and LED headlamps. Of course, the opportunity to append a few ‘Hybrid’ badges hasn’t been squandered – if you find yourself in doubt, check the base of the rear doors.
Market Segment and Pricing
Being as the LS600h L is the world’s most exclusive hybrid, the price of ownership isn’t cheap. Base MSRP is $104,900, but with all the bells and whistles, you’ll be looking at a price closer to $125k. This puts the LS600h L in somewhat of a no man’s land within its segment. It’s more expensive than the $79,900 BMW 750Li
, $79,900 Audi A8 L
and $86,950 Mercedes-Benz S550
, yet it remains below the $124,100 BMW 760Li
, $120,100 Audi A8 W12
and $144,450 Mercedes-Benz S600
, which pack V-12 power.
What We Think
As far as full-size luxury sedans go, the LS 600h L ticks every box. It’s sensationally comfortable, roomy, quiet and powerful. Best of all, it caters to your every need. Yet the price premium it commands over its gas-powered brother, not to mention the competition, is difficult to justify. Unless you’re a devout hybrid fanatic who sleeps on a bed of money, you’ll probably go for the standard V-8 competition.