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

Lexus Hybrid Drive

Luxury brands typically reserve large 12-cylinder motors for their range-topping flagship. BMW has the 760iL and Mercedes-Benz offers it S600, both with twin-turbo 6.0 L V12s. Audi goes the non-traditional route with its 6.3 L motor in a W12 configuration. But Lexus attempts to compete using its Hybrid Drive powertrain (or Hybrid Synergy Drive, if you're referring to Toyota's hybrids).

We first experienced this system in Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE: Technology In a Mid-Size Sedan. However, the LS600h L's approach to fuel efficiency is different. While the Prius and Camry hybrids focus explicitly on economy, this big Lexus tries to give you the smooth power delivery of a V12 with the fuel consumption of a V8.

As a result, we find Toyota's UR-family V8 engine at the LS600h L's heart. This is one of the company's newest engines, with displacements anywhere from 4.6 to 5.7 L. It's the epitome of power and smoothness for Toyota’s mass-produced vehicles. The engine is fully modern, featuring 32 valves, quad camshafts, long-lasting timing chains, and dual variable valve timing technology. The 5.0 L 2UR-FSE serves up 394 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque in the LS600h L. Electric motors boost power output by 75 hp to a combined total of 439 hp.

That means the LS600h L falls short of the 500+ horsepower figures put out by the German competition. Usually, the instant torque from electric motors helps neutralize that difference. But Lexus' LS600h L is by far the slowest flagship sedan. Specifications put the 0-60 MPH performance at 5.5 seconds, which matches some sportier cars. The power really fizzles out up top, though.

As with Toyota's hybrids, the LS600h L employs an electronic continuously variable transmission that utilizes planetary gears to combine the gasoline and electric motors. Since it is an eCVT, the transmission has an infinite number of gear ratios to optimize the powertrain for performance or fuel economy. The eCVT sends power to all four wheels and benefits from a Torsen limited-slip differential. Regenerative braking is enabled through a dedicated drive regeneration motor to harness energy and recharge the 288 V, 6.5 Ah battery pack.

In terms of fuel economy, the LS600h L is rated for 19 MPG in the city, 23 on the highway, and 20 MPG combined. That's not altogether great considering the V8-powered LS460L with AWD is rated for 16, 23, and 18 MPG, respectively. A gain of three miles per gallon in the city hardly seems worth the added complexity of a hybrid system (not to mention the extra weight). The outcome looks even worse when you compare Lexus' economy to Audi's A8L, which is rated for 18, 28, and 21 MPG. You can choose between a supercharged 3.0 L V6 or a twin-turbo 4.0 L V8, with the latter delivering much better performance.

Drive Mode Selection

Lexus provides five different drive modes in its LS600h L: Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+, theoretically transforming how the vehicle drives. These modes affect steering and throttle response, dampening/stiffness for the air suspension, and power. Regardless of the mode you choose, the ride is always comfortable. Sport and Sport+ feel slightly more responsive, but ultimately you’re still driving a 5470-pound hybrid with an eCVT, which is about as far from sporty as you can get.

  • blackmagnum
    It doesn't look stately and serious like the LS400 of old. Have they hired a new designer?
    Reply
  • cyb34
    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.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    13745416 said:
    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.

    13745581 said:
    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.
    Reply
  • edlivian
    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.
    Reply
  • edlivian
    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
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    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. ;)
    Reply
  • danwat1234
    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.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    13747142 said:
    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.

    13747365 said:
    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.

    13749117 said:
    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.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml
    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.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    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.
    Reply