Lexus LS600h L: Coming Up Short in a Competitive Segment
Lexus puts itself in a pickle with the LS600h L. The hybrid powertrain represents an interesting way to take on the V12-based competition, but it lacks raw performance. Sure, power is delivered smoothly, but the specifications ultimately fall short of even other luxury cars with V8s. In my speed-loving opinion, Lexus' top-end offering should at least be capable of a 12- or 13-second quarter-mile, even if you choose to drive the vehicle more conservatively. Instead, this is as far as you can get from a driver's car.
Circling back to technology, I like the Remote Touch interface. It's easy to use and intuitively thought-out. Our only complaint is the lack of a dedicated back button for revisiting previous menus. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mazda, and even Hyundai enable this functionality on their own infotainment systems. Lexus should follow suit.
The system's large 12.3-inch LCD is fantastic. Its sheer massiveness creates an easy-to-read surface, allowing us to forgive Lexus for a lack of integration with the gauge cluster. The operating environment implements a split screen that effectively separates your current focus and other available features without creating any confusion.
I'll admit to being disappointed by Lexus' maps, though. That top-down view is fine on more affordable cars, but I was really hoping to see 3D navigation on such an expensive vehicle, especially when the competition offers gorgeous Google Earth overlays. Nevertheless, I did enjoy using Destination Assist for help looking up addresses, which were then piped into the navigation system.
The executive rear seat package is definitely a treat for anyone spending quality time back there. A reclining chair is a little excessive for most, but it's not a bad way to travel if you have someone willing to drive. It's only a bummer that you lose the mini-fridge option, since Lexus' hybrid battery pack occupies that space.
No doubt, rear seat entertainment options on the LS600h L lag behind its competition. A single flip-down LCD is what you find in a minivan or crossover, not an executive sedan. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes serve up separate seat-mounted LCDs for each rear seat passenger. In fact, Audi's entertainment system even enables access to the navigation system for sending destinations to the driver. Lexus' Blu-ray-capable platform isn't as well integrated at all. It hurts to say, but Hyundai does a better job in this regard with its Equus. An option for 7.1-channel sound is somewhat redeeming of Lexus. And then that single composite input turns us back the other way again.
Our press car was missing a bunch of technology that the Tom's Hardware audience probably would have liked to see. It was missing adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, the front collision warning system, a night vision camera, and a heads-up display. What we can say is that Lexus' LED headlights are fantastic at night, and we were treated to blind spot monitoring technology. With a price tag north of $100,000 those other features should become standard equipment. The Audi A8L we drove previously offered most of that functionality for a cheaper $115,000.
We can't help but conclude, then, that the LS600h L is a lost luxury sedan amidst a sea of very strong competitors. The Germans offer better driving dynamics, power, performance, technology, and improved fuel economy without the added weight and complexity of a hybrid system, while the Koreans are perfectly happy giving you all of Lexus' optional extras for almost half the price with a similar drive. Hyundai's Equus Ultimate doesn’t offer the prestige of a Lexus badge, but you get much more car for your money. The original LS400 was an honest luxury car that gave its customers great value. This take on hybrid technology feels like Lexus is trying too hard to aim high, while missing the mark.