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2013 Lexus LS600h L: Plenty of Tech, but Short on Value

2013 Lexus LS600h L: Plenty of Tech, but Short on Value
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We spent a week with Lexus' flagship hybrid executive sedan to judge its infotainment system and amenities. Do the Japanese have what it takes to tackle compelling German competition, or has the company lost its way? Join us as we look at the LS600h L.

Let's be honest. Luxury vehicles are more about prestige than the actual product. Toyota realized this when it began developing its first truly high-end offering in the 80s. While it saw great success selling the Camry, Corolla, 4Runner, and even Corona, the company had to take a different approach to market its flagship sedan. Thus, Lexus was born. The brand launched in North America in 1989 with a single vehicle, the LS400 (also known as the Toyota Celsior in its home market).

The first-gen Lexus LS400The first-gen Lexus LS400

Lexus' LS soldiered on for a little over a decade with the same exterior styling, receiving small updates here and there. A longer wheelbase accompanied the second-gen update in 1995. The third-generation Lexus LS ushered in more drastic changes, including a new exterior, interior, 4.3 L V8 motor, and a name change to LS430. Then came the fourth generation, for Lexus' 2007 model year, which transformed the LS sedan into something sportier. A refresh in 2013 imparted an even more aggressive look that fell in line with the rest of the model line-up.

But does Lexus still have what it takes to compete in a luxury segment dominated by Mercedes, BMW, and Audi, while fighting off increasing competition from Hyundai and Kia? We spent a week in the flagship LS600h L hybrid executive sedan, hoping to answer that question.

The second-generation Lexus LS400The second-generation Lexus LS400

The LS600h L has a base price of $119,910, but our press car came with the executive-class seating package that adds recliner functionality, a Blu-ray-based rear seat entertainment system, and many other goodies to bring the grand total to $128,529. That's about $13,000 more than the competition we tested in 2013 Audi A8L: Nvidia Graphics, Wi-Fi, LED Lights, And Google Earth (or the price of two Hyundai Equus Signatures). The example we tested was a 2013 model year, but it's very similar to the 2014 offering except for a few option package changes.

Lexus' hybrid LS is only available as an extended-length sedan, which adds an extra 4.8 inches to the wheelbase, bringing it to 121.7 inches for some extra rear legroom. If you're looking for the improved fuel economy promised by hybrid technology from a short wheelbase LS, you'll have to look elsewhere.

As of 2005, Lexus is completely separate from Toyota with its own team of designers and engineers. Gone are the Aristo, Altezza, Celsior, and Windom. This is a good thing though; Lexus gets a styling language of its own, further differentiating its line-up from Toyota’s.

For its 2013 model year, Lexus incorporated a trapezoid grille into the LS600h L, matching the rest of the company's portfolio. Despite a concerted attempt at fitting the exterior with a more aggressive aesthetic and offering an F-Sport version of the lesser LS460, the LS600h L isn’t very exciting to behold. It isn't ugly. Rather, the car is decidedly bland like Hyundai's Equus.

Fortunately, LED headlights come standard on the LS600h L. We adore these whenever we run across them. Lexus' LEDs are extremely bright and light up the road effectively. However, the headlight design isn’t as edgy as what we've seen from Audi and Acura. Overall, the vehicle's front end is clean, finished by a giant Lexus badge. Since our LS600h L didn't come with adaptive cruise control, lane departure technology, or forward collision warning systems, there aren’t any extra modules or sensors to conceal.

The emphasis on lighting continues around back with all-LED taillights that are big and bright. Lexus tries to spice up the rear end a bit with rhomboid exhaust finishers adorned with chrome, but the whole package still strikes us as boring.

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  • 0 Hide
    blackmagnum , July 18, 2014 2:37 AM
    It doesn't look stately and serious like the LS400 of old. Have they hired a new designer?
  • 1 Hide
    cyb34 , July 18, 2014 3:30 AM
    This car, on the outside, looks like your average Mazda or Honda. So -1 there.
    I'm sorry for Lexus for Mercedes is years ahead with its new S class.

    This LS600 does not look premium enough and the inside is closer to an Audi A6.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , July 18, 2014 5:29 AM
    Quote:
    It doesn't look stately and serious like the LS400 of old. Have they hired a new designer?


    I'd assume so since the LS400 was a Toyota Celsior and badge engineered with premium only content for the US whereas the LS600h L and LS460 was designed solely to be a Lexus from the get go with its own styling.

    Quote:
    This car, on the outside, looks like your average Mazda or Honda. So -1 there.
    I'm sorry for Lexus for Mercedes is years ahead with its new S class.

    This LS600 does not look premium enough and the inside is closer to an Audi A6.


    Yea, the Mercedes S class is stunning inside and out. The Lexus looks bland and when you step inside, it doesn't give the same wow factor. Sure its functional, but its not what I'd expect from a luxury vehicle.
  • 0 Hide
    edlivian , July 18, 2014 7:33 AM
    if I had 100+k to spend on a luxury sedan car, i would never get this car, it would either be a A8/A7, S550 or 760i.

    And its not because I dont like Japanese cars, I used to have an Acura RL, but they too have dropped the ball. Their design looks bland, they drive is similar to mid class series high end cars, if you want high end you do not think Lexus anymore.
  • 2 Hide
    iknowhowtofixit , July 18, 2014 9:01 AM
    These expensive luxury hybrids offer little in compensation for the extremely high price. Unless you are like Harvey Specter from suits, most people drive themselves and could care less about reclining rear seats. There are so many better, less expensive, better performing options than this. Not to mention, you could always install an aftermarket infotainment system that would likely function more intuitively than the factory unit.

    Honestly, there is too much segmentation in the automotive market with regard to infotainment. The controls and look of these system seem dated, even when brand new. Plus, who on Earth needs composite plugs for an infotainment system?! It is 2014!
  • 0 Hide
    edlivian , July 18, 2014 9:06 AM
    Quote:
    who on Earth needs composite plugs for an infotainment system?! It is 2014!


    you are right, that is completely absurb, I think I threw all my composite cables away, its either HDMI or Displayport
  • 1 Hide
    2Be_or_Not2Be , July 18, 2014 9:41 AM
    Why would you review a 2013 model in 2014 when the 2015 cars are almost out??

    Or are we just recycling? I'm also for recycling - just not in my "News" section. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    danwat1234 , July 18, 2014 2:07 PM
    I think 1 of the main reasons why this Lexus doesn't get much better fuel economy, and no better fuel economy than a regular Lexus is because the engine is not Atkinson cycle, but rather regular OTTO cycle.
    In most hybrid cars, the engine is Atkinson cycle, where the intake valves stay open part way up the compression stroke to increase thermal efficiency. Thus it is more efficient not only in the city where the electric motors aid efficiency, but on steady state highway driving too.

    But with this Lexus it is probably just plain OTTO cycle. If they were smart, they have camshaft behavior where it could change from OTTO to Atkinson and back on the fly, in millieseconds, so you can have more fuel economy and also the power when you get into it. But they don't.
    Part time HCCI (Sparkless diesel cycle ignition) is even more efficient, with OTTO cycle when you want power.

    Also if this car had a higher capacity battery pack with a more powerful electric motor, there'd be less need for engine displacement.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , July 18, 2014 4:05 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    who on Earth needs composite plugs for an infotainment system?! It is 2014!


    you are right, that is completely absurb, I think I threw all my composite cables away, its either HDMI or Displayport


    Yea its a bit odd. Even the Honda Fit and Civic have HDMI inputs now for the front infotainment system.

    Quote:
    Why would you review a 2013 model in 2014 when the 2015 cars are almost out??

    Or are we just recycling? I'm also for recycling - just not in my "News" section. ;) 


    Because the higher end luxury vehicles are harder to come by. We got ahold of it towards the end of 2013. 2014 was mostly carryover minus one package change that added the driver assists to make it $135k, which doesn't really change our opinion of the vehicle at all. I assume 2015 will be another carryover year as well since the flagships run on 10 year product cycles.

    Quote:
    I think 1 of the main reasons why this Lexus doesn't get much better fuel economy, and no better fuel economy than a regular Lexus is because the engine is not Atkinson cycle, but rather regular OTTO cycle.
    In most hybrid cars, the engine is Atkinson cycle, where the intake valves stay open part way up the compression stroke to increase thermal efficiency. Thus it is more efficient not only in the city where the electric motors aid efficiency, but on steady state highway driving too.

    But with this Lexus it is probably just plain OTTO cycle. If they were smart, they have camshaft behavior where it could change from OTTO to Atkinson and back on the fly, in millieseconds, so you can have more fuel economy and also the power when you get into it. But they don't.
    Part time HCCI (Sparkless diesel cycle ignition) is even more efficient, with OTTO cycle when you want power.

    Also if this car had a higher capacity battery pack with a more powerful electric motor, there'd be less need for engine displacement.


    I think at the end of the day, its because its still a very heavy boat and they are trying to replicate a V12 with good fuel economy but ultimately end up with something that doesn't do much better than a turbo V8 that has more power and much more entertaining to drive.
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , July 19, 2014 12:10 AM
    I don't know but they probably have something here. I believe their hybrid implementation is well suited for this niche since buyers of this class won't be able to use all the power of a V12.
    With the hybrid though, max torque would be available even at low RPMs which results in a more relaxed driving and that performance would not need an expert driver.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , July 19, 2014 8:21 AM
    Yes, that's ideally what they're going for. But it doesn't offer much more smoothness than the V8. Buyers in that class won't necessarily use all of that power, but they buy it to know they have all of that power. It doesn't give you the "I just dropped $130k on a car and its awesome" type of feel.
  • 0 Hide
    dj christian , July 19, 2014 8:12 PM
    This model is old, came 2007. Next year it's time for a new one.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , July 19, 2014 8:25 PM
    Quote:
    This model is old, came 2007. Next year it's time for a new one.


    It was just refreshed for MY2013, which means its going to be around for another 5 years or so. High end luxury vehicles tend to have longer 10-year product cycles.
  • 0 Hide
    kiniku , July 19, 2014 10:03 PM
    BMW has provided multi band presets for several years.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , July 20, 2014 7:51 PM
    Quote:
    BMW has provided multi band presets for several years.


    Audi does as well but they're presets are clunkier and not as elegant / easy to assign.
  • 0 Hide
    sportfreak23 , July 20, 2014 11:54 PM
    I'll buy a Lexus LX560 or any SUV, why waste money on a sedan.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , July 21, 2014 7:07 AM
    Quote:
    I'll buy a Lexus LX560 or any SUV, why waste money on a sedan.


    I love sport sedans. The LS is not one of those. However, I would love an LX560. Huge, unnecessary, but I'm a sucker for a luxified Land Cruiser. Hell, I'd love to build an off-road beast from the first gen LX450.
  • 0 Hide
    anthony8989 , July 22, 2014 2:57 PM
    I like the IS-F and the LFA - the new GS is nice but there's better out there.. Nothing else from Lexus is appealing to me personally.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , July 22, 2014 10:43 PM
    The new IS350 is a decent looking car and I love the LFA-inspired F-Sport gauge cluster. The suspension is tuned well, but that 3.5-liter Camry V6 is too damn smooth no matter how hard you want to drive it. It doesn't throw you back in the seat and gives you that sense of urgency that makes you want to romp on it, which is disappointing from a sporty vehicle. The GS460h is my favorite hybrid, smooth power, comfortable, throws you back in the seat, and gets ~30MPG while putting a grin on your face.

    I have a picture story on the new NX series coming, but they managed to make a 2.0-turbo 4 boring as hell to drive.
  • 0 Hide
    sportfreak23 , July 23, 2014 7:59 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I'll buy a Lexus LX560 or any SUV, why waste money on a sedan.


    I love sport sedans. The LS is not one of those. However, I would love an LX560. Huge, unnecessary, but I'm a sucker for a luxified Land Cruiser. Hell, I'd love to build an off-road beast from the first gen LX450.


    Should have said Large Sedans, I don't see the point in them anymore, beside leg room but then I think they trimmed it down a bit like what toyota did to the avalon.

    I wouldn't mind a sport sedan as well for those nice days, but looking at the IS, did they fix that AWD drive tunnel shaft thing sticking into the foot well? I found that quite a turn off ;p
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