All I can say about the new 2008 LS 600h L luxury hybrid sedan from Lexus is, “Wow!”
But, I still have to fill the rest of this review so I will elaborate a bit.
Lexus has launched an all-new flagship luxury liner and her name is LS 600h L, the most powerful, most expensive luxury hybrid on the planet. This is all-new territory for the automaker – pricewise, that is. Never before has it asked six figures for one of its models and Lexus even had to overhaul its accounting computer systems to allow for the extra “zero.”
We first spent some time with this new model out on the West Coast, getting to experience “lifestyles of the rich and famous” for a couple of days. This is for whom the new vehicle is intended – the uber-wealthy whose income is more than triple the pricetag of the automobile. Most recently, we traveled the roads of the Way Out Wineries for the W.O.W. Spring Wildflower Wine Tour.
In addition to perfectly paired vintages with our hand-picked menu items in both California and Texas, Lexus put us behind the wheel on some of the best driving roads that both states have to offer.
And the new Lexus LS 600h L was up to the task. This is not a diminutive vehicle – more than 5,000 lbs. by our count – yet it felt right at home on these roads shared by screaming sports cars and buzzing motorbikes.
The hybrid LS won’t be a volume seller for the luxury division of Toyota, only around 2,000 units are destined for U.S. shores.
This vehicle is so technologically advanced that Lexus provides separate owner’s guides, CDs and DVDs just to cover all of the state-of-the-art features of the car.
Under the expansive hood is a fully-hybrid V-8 powerplant – a modified 381hp 5.0-liter eight-cylinder gas engine backed by Lexus’ Hybrid Synergy Drive electric motor for a total power output rated at 438 ponies and 435 lb. ft. of torque.
The “600” designation given the new hybrid denotes the power relationship the new Lexus has with its European luxury sedan competition who normally deliver these levels of power through the use of a 6.0-liter V-12 engine. The LS hybrid gets all of that while offering the fuel economy of many V-6 engines, and attains an SULEV emissions rating making it one of the cleanest luxury sedans on the road.
This car is a rocket ship. I found myself having to monitor my speed more often than with most of the vehicles I test. And the Lexus accomplishes all of this speed and acceleration with precision and grace.
For the U.S. market, the new LS hybrid will only be offered as an extended wheelbase sedan, sharing many features and components with the LS 460 L luxury sedan already in the Lexus garage, but also getting extra attention to craftsmanship and materials.
Some of the exclusive technologies for LS 600h L include a new planetary gear CVT transmission and all-wheel-drive, which team up to offer maximum comfort and maximum grip in any traffic conditions.
This car is so quiet that Lexus had to add a tachometer so drivers can tell when the gasoline engine is running. (The new LS also features a new stealth “EV-only” mode which some call the “sneak-home” mode. The car runs at low speed in electric mode only for super-quiet propulsion.)
Some of the amenities that complement the LS 600h L include three-mode air suspension, full airbag assignment, electronically-controlled braking with ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, traction and stability control, pre-collision system and dynamic radar cruise, advanced parking guidance system (that “look ma, no hands” stuff). Also Mark Levinson premium audio system, voice-activated navigation system, power trunklid operation, adaptive front LED headlights, leather everywhere with heated and ventilated seats and smart access keyfob with pushbutton start/stop.
I don’t have near the time to write about everything the new LS hybrid sedan offers but I will say this – there are only two seating positions that I recommend if you get a chance to experience one of these vehicles – the driver’s seat and the rear right passenger position. The driver’s because this vehicle is such a great car to drive, and that right rear position because that is where the reclining and massage functions are offered. Save those other two positions for folks you don’t care for as much.
Our travels saw us averaging somewhere between 20-25 mpg in mixed driving with the A/C running (the vehicle is rated at 20 city and 22 highway), and we were able to tackle 403 miles of Texas roads on three-quarters of a tank of fuel in the big Lexus.
You do sacrifice a bit of forward trunk space to accommodate all of the added electronic components but that is about the only tradeoff for this big luxury hybrid (aside from price of course).
Pricing begins at a mere $104,000 with our tester rolling in at $112,569, and no, there is no gas guzzler tax on this leggy creature.
Here is my video from the launch program in California of the Lexus LS 600h L[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=K4x32gY5scM[/youtube]
And here is my video showing the Lexus Park Assist function (same technology used on the LS 460 L as the LS 600h L).[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=sAEbrrqK-n0[/youtube]