Lexus LS600h: A Hybrid Executive Sedan
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).
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 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.