It’s often believed that buyers who spend large amounts of cash on upscale luxury sedans don’t really care about fuel costs, but this has been proven something of a myth. It’s probably fair to say that nobody enjoys visiting service stations several times a week and giving their credit cards a serious hit. And of course, there are large numbers of people who would like to make a contribution towards conserving fossil fuels, regardless of how much they’re prepared to spend on a new car.
Lexus has had a product for this market for several years now in the form of its LS 600h L hybrid luxury sedan and it’s been a consistent seller right from its introduction in 2006. Naturally enough, several rival makers of large luxury sedans have followed suit and buyers have quite a decent choice in this segment nowadays.
It was no surprise to see Lexus first out of the gate with a luxury hybrid. After all, parent corporation Toyota kick-started the entire hybrid market years ago now with the Prius and its various spin-offs. Now, Lexus has no less than six hybrid vehicles in its range, including sporty cars, SUVs and saloons. The LS hybrid is right at the pinnacle of the Lexus lineup and in Canada they are all long-wheelbase L variants.
The big Lexus hybrid is a handsome car with a dignified, understated, air about it, which is just what buyers in this class seem to demand. There are large luxury sedans around with more quirky styling, but Lexus has always leaned towards a conservative design approach. The latest model sports the big Lexus “spindle” grille, which is a feature of all the company’s products now. The long wheelbase model offers a huge amount of space in the rear seating area and is thus a great choice for business users who regularly need room for adults back there.
Thrifty power for this flagship Lexus comes from a 5.0-litre V-8 based hybrid powertrain that develops 438-horsepower in total (389 by the engine, the rest from the electric motors). Two electric motors are used in unison with the gasoline engine. One functions as a generator and engine starter and the other drives the rear wheels. As with all hybrids, regenerative braking helps make use of “surplus” energy by acting as a battery charger. It’s a very sophisticated system, but completely seamless and although there’s a lot going on under the hood, you’d never know it when experiencing the car’s quietness and refinement. All-wheel drive is part of the package and the 600h uses a continually variable transmission (CVT) which can be manually shifted through eight preset ratios.
With a power source like this, the car is expectedly responsive, but torque and refinement is more the result than blinding off-the-mark speed. The whole experience of driving or riding in a 600h is one of calmness and control. Very few cars offer this kind of ambiance and the level of occupant comfort is nothing short of amazing.
On the safety front, the 600h is feature-packed, even by luxury sedan standards. Apart from the usual all-wheel disc brakes with ABS, you get a very full suite of air bags, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alerts, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, a rearview camera and many other safety innovations Lexus has included. It’s very reassuring to know that with adaptive cruise control, all the safety systems are set into place when a potential collision is detected. There are many very safe large cars on the market these days, but this Lexus must be up there with the very best of them.
The LS 600h is a remarkable motor car by any standards. It’s been described by many authorities as one of the world’s best large luxury sedans regardless of price and a drive in one will confirm why there’s a lot of truth in that. Every detail is fastidiously manufactured from the exterior trim to the superlative interior trim and upholstery. It offers great comfort, outstanding reliability, excellent performance and probably very good resale value. For most buyers, it’s an investment that will keep them happy for many years to come.
SPECS AT A GLANCE
BODY STYLE: Four-door, five-seat sedan
ENGINE: 5.0-litre V-8 with two electric motors to create hybrid powertrain.
TRANSMISSION: Continuously variable (CVT) with eight pre-programmable manual settings
ACCELERATION: Zero to 100 km/h in 6.0-secs
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.9-litres/100 km combined rating
PRICE: From $127,550 MSRP