2008 Lexus LS600hL Road Test
Options fitted: None fitted.
Standard equipment, fuel economy, subtle ride.
Handling, looks too much like the LS460, boot room.
CarAdvice rating: (4.00)
“There are thirty-two advanced automotive systems listed under the LS 600hL’s Technical Glossary. Lexus has most likely created the most technically advanced automobile on the planet today”
Okay, so the Lexus LS600hL looks near identical to its LS460 sibling, but looks are where the similarities stop. The LS600hL uses a 5.0-litre V8 engine, but also features an electric motor which produces 165kW. Coupled with the 290kW V8, the LS600hL produces 327kW when all systems are running. It’s a massive figure, but only so much is needed to pull all 2.4-tonnes with any great pace.
Power is handled by a CVT (Continually Variable Transmission) and is sent through a torsen all-wheel-drive system. But driving the Lexus isn’t as interesting as riding in the back seats, let me explain why.
Rear seat passengers are graced with wireless headphones and a flip-down LCD screen for movies. You can chill your favourite Cab Sav in the cooler, or flip out the small table to do some work on the way to your jet – at your airport. In comfort mode, the ride is devilishly smooth. Electric rear and side sunshades also block out peasants who insist on looking in.
At $233,000 for the five-seat model and $240,000 for the four-seat model (being test driven), it does significantly undercut its German competition (think S-class, A8 and 7-series), it has nothing on them when it comes to the drive though.
The LS600hL – even in sport mode – wallows through corners. The lack of steering feel and the sheer mass of the car prevent it from fitting any type of sporty image. This isn’t too much of an issue though when you consider that it will predominantly be used for ferrying passengers – opposed to tacking tight bends, but it is one aspect that the Lexus’s competitors have over it.
As far as a luxury hybrid car goes, the Lexus LS600hL has all bases covered. The features list really is endless, it includes things you didn’t even know existed – all as standard fitment.
First and foremost Lexus means luxury. Few, if any, will ever argue that point. But then, there’s the build quality. On par with the world’s most prestigious marques, and that includes Rolls Royce and Bentley.
If you take into account the colossal R&D, which has gone into the LS series cars, then I doubt the company books would show anything but a loss. But you simply cannot view such outstanding automotive achievements in this way.
Of course, what the ad was getting at, is that with Lexus, you can spend less to get more, if you compare the car on equal terms, with its main German rivals. Nothing has changed in the luxury value for money stakes. A Mercedes S Class with equivalent power outputs and level of standard kit might cost up to $100,000 more than the LS 600hL. That’s a significant price advantage in favour of the Lexus.
Those outputs are equivalent to some of the world’s fastest V12 powered super sedans. But it gets even better than that. The electric motor delivers a staggering 300Nm from ZERO rpm! The result. Drag car like acceleration, but without any of the harsh sound effects.
In fact, so quiet is the LS 600hL, that you will probably end up trying to start the car at idle. You simply cannot hear anything, not even the slightest whine, at any speed under 20km/h. And even on the move at a considerable velocity, there are so many silencer panels and sound absorbing materials, that it’s difficult to judge just how the quick the car is travelling, such is the refinement of the drivetrain.
While the Lexus Adaptive Variable Suspension tries hard to minimise pitch and roll during high speed corning and to some extent it succeeds, the sheer weight of the car (2,430kg) seems to fight with the advanced electronics every inch of the way.
But then again, when you make a choice to go with the Lexus over its German counterparts; you are far more interested in the comfort side of life, rather than sports car like handling.
If you switch over to the Sequential Transmission option (manual shifts if you will) you will feel up to eight gear ratios changes. The electronic part of the CVT is in fact causing the engine to break at certain intervals, which mirrors the characteristic of a traditional automatic transmission. It’s very clever and works well enough but I won’t say the driving experience is any better than some of the six-speed ZF gearboxes I have experienced recently.
I’m not completely sold on the overall styling of the LS 600hL but features such as the integrated rear exhaust tips look the goods. Lexus is always searching for new levels of perfection, so expect styling to emulate that of the Germans some time in the foreseeable future.
CarAdvice overall rating:
How does it drive:
How does it look:
How does it go:
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 & electric motor
Power: 327kW (combined)
Top speed: N/A
Safety: Electronic stability control- front air bags - side airbags - curtain airbags - front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters.
EuroNCAP rating: N/A
Turning circle: 11.8m
Fuel tank: 84-litres
Fuel consumption : 9.3 litres/100km (claimed)
Fuel type: 98RON Premium Unleaded