Author's Note: With 2013 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, we've decided to clear out the remaining 2013 vehicle reviews this week. Everyday a new review will appear on the front page. If you miss one day, don't worry, we'll have links to the previous reviews just below. -WM
Monday: Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV
Tuesday: Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD
Wednesday: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD
Thursday: Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota's hybrid lineup here in the U.S. covers both extremes. On one end is the Toyota Prius c, the cheapest and most fuel efficient hybrid model in the lineup. On the other end is the Lexus LS 600h L, the pinnacle of Toyota and Lexus engineering. Here is a model that is the most powerful hybrid that is on sale and the most expensive one as well. The 2013 LS 600h L starts off at $119,910. Let's dive into an alternate reality and figure out whether or not LS 600h L is worth the coin or not.
2013 saw Lexus giving the LS lineup a bit of a facelift to make it look more dynamic. Up front, the now common spindle grille has been fitted and features a metal slat insert with chrome trim running along the outer edge. A new set of LED headlights sit on either side of the grille. The side profile retains the greenhouse as seen on the 2006 model, but now features chrome trim along the sills and a set of nineteen-inch wheels. The back end gets a bit of a nip and tuck, along with a set of LED lights.
Now the L in the LS 600h L means that this model is a long-wheelbase. A standard LS has a length of 200 inches and rides on a wheelbase of 116.9 inches. The LS 600h L has a length of 205 inches and rides on a wheelbase of 121.7 inches, increases of 5 and 4.8 inches respectively. The only way you can tell that you're looking at the long-wheelbase LS besides parking it next to a standard LS is looking at the longer rear door.
The LS 600h L's interior is a lesson in how to build one that is very luxurious and elegant. Materials are all high-quality choices ranging from cream leather on the seats and dash to real wood trim along the door panels and dash board. The front seats have to be the most comfortable I have ever sat in with the balance between comfort and firmness being just right. There are a number of adjustments available via the sixteen-way power seat and power adjustable seatbelt to make yourself fit right in.
The center stack features a high-resolution 12.3 inch screen and houses Lexus' Enform infotainment system. Much like the GS 350 F-Sport I drove earlier this year, the LS 600h L's screen is divided into two parts. The majority of the screen is dedicated to navigation, media, climate, and trip information. The remaining part is dedicated to what's playing and climate. I really like this setup and hope more automakers who put bigger screens into vehicles consider this. What I don't like about the infotainment system is Lexus' Remote Touch. As I have said before in the RX 350 and GS 350 reviews, the system is good in theory, but in the real world it falls flat. The joystick controller is finicky to use, and you have to pay close attention to make sure the cursor is over the item you want and not something else. On the move, the problems are exacerbated since you have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you are going into the selection you want. There is some hope though as Lexus revealed a new Remote Touch system in the upcoming RC coupe that features a touchpad and not a joystick. I can only hope that this version makes its way into other Lexus vehicles.
If you think the front is impressive, you haven't seen what's in store for the back seat passengers. For starters, the extra length gives you loads of legroom to stretch out and relax. This particular tester came equipped with the Executive-Class Seating Package. For the asking price of $7,555.00 , the LS 600h L becomes a vehicle you want to be driven in and not drive. This package nets you the following:
- Adjustable Rear Seats (Backseat passenger gets an ottoman)
- Heated, Cooled, and Massaging Seats
- Blu-Ray Entertainment system
- Controls for media and climate control system
- Electric Sun Shades
- Pop-Up Table
- Cool Box
With this package, it's a fight of who gets to sit back here. Anyone can find a comfortable position in the back thanks to the number of adjustments on offer. The ottoman is more of a gimmick than something you'll actually use since there isn't enough space to fully have it up, even with the front passenger seat moved all the way forward. Other features such as the sun shades and blue-ray player are nice and make the experience of riding in this car magical.
Your Seat is Waiting
See the next page for powertrain and driving impressions.
Under the hood of the LS 600h L is the most powerful version of Lexus' Hybrid Synergy Drive system. A 5.0L V8 engine with 389 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque is paired with a 165 kW electric motor. Total output stands at 438 horsepower. A Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack provides the power to the electric motor. Lexus employs a CVT to get the power down to all four wheels.
Despite the LS 600h L weighing 5,202 pounds, the powertrain is more than capable of getting this off the line quickly. As I was told at the launch of the 2013 LS, the hybrid powertrain has the power delivery of a V12 engine and I can attest that it does. Power comes on very smooth and effortless. If you decide to floor the pedal, you're rewarded with the LS 600h L moving like a bat of out of hell. As for the CVT, it is very smooth and unobtrusive. For a few times, I thought I was driving an automatic and not a CVT. The only giveaway that you are driving a CVT is the pitch of the transmission getting louder and louder if you floor the pedal.
Being a hybrid vehicle, you would expect amazing fuel economy coming from this big sedan. But in the case of the the LS 600h L, that isn't true at all. The EPA rates the 2013 LS 600h L at 19 City/23 Highway/20 Combined. To put that into perspective, the the 2013 LS 460 L with AWD is rated at 16 City/23 Highway/18 Combined. Not that much improvement compared to the standard gas model. Somehow I was able to get an average of 22 MPG for the week.
Ride and handling duties are done with an air suspension and Lexus' Drive Mode Selector. For the LS 600h L, you have the choice of six different modes:
- Normal: Standard throttle mapping and suspension tuning, gearshifts tuned for comfort.
- Comfort: Softens Suspension Tuning
- Eco: Slower throttle mapping, reduced operation of the climate control
- EV Mode: Allows a vehicle to travel on electric power for a short distance
- Sport: Quicker throttle mapping, stiffer suspension tuning
- Sport+: Much quicker throttle mapping, even stiffer suspension tuning, heavier steering, number of powertrain enhancements
Now I only tried Sport and Sport+ briefly in the LS 600h L and wondered why these setting were even put in. There is a noticeable difference in the stiffness of the suspension and throttle response, but trying to push around a vehicle that has an overall length of 205 inches isn't a good idea at all. The passengers in the back seat who are getting flung around would agree with this.
Instead, I found myself switching between Normal, Comfort, and Eco for the week and being surprised at how comfortable this vehicle can be. In Normal or Eco, the air suspension isolates bumps and kinks on the road. In Comfort, the suspension takes that a step further, proving a ride that feels like you're driving on glass. Wind and road noise in the cabin are non-existent.
As for the LS 600h L's steering, it has a surprising amount of weight and feel. I was expecting the steering to be light and have no feel. Not so in the LS and I appreciated that very much.
After spending a week in the alternate-reality field of the LS 600h L, I have come to this conclusion: most reviews of the LS 600h L focus on the hybrid part and say that for fuel economy improvements the hybrid system offers, the LS 600h L doesn't make any real sense and you would better off with the standard LS 460 L or a competitor. I would agree with this, but I think the LS 600h L needs to be looked in a different light. The LS 600h L wasn't built for to be driven in. It was built for those who want be driven and not have everyone notice you. That's where the LS 600h L succeeds.
I just wonder how many people who fit this classification exist.
Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LS 600h L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Model: LS 600h L
Engine: Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive: 5.0L 32-Valve V8 with VVT-iE, 650 Volt Electric Motor, Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) Battery Pack
Driveline: All-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM: (Gas) 389 @ 6,400; (Electric) 221 @ 0; (Combined) 434
Torque @ RPM: (Gas) 385 @ 4,000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/23/20
Curb Weight: 5,202 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
Base Price: $119,110.00
As Tested Price: $135,029.00 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
Executive-Class Seating Package - $7,555.00
Advance Pre-Collision System - $6,500.00
Trunk Mat - $105.00
Cargo Net - $64.00