Maybe you can’t have it all in a full-size, fast, ultra-luxury sedan, but the 2013 Lexus LS 600h L hybrid sure makes it seem like you can. It should satisfy most spoiled—and some hard-to-please—luxury car buyers.
Rivals to the LS 600h L are the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid and BMW 7-Series ActiveHybrid.
The Lexus LS 600h L is no sports sedan, nor is it supposed to be—not when it weighs a hefty 5,115 pounds—or 5,203 pounds with the costly, optional executive seating package that is popular in China.
Big shots there like to be driven as they ride in the back, and the longer (205-inch) LS 600h L (compared to the normal 200-inch-length LS 460) gives them limo-style rear seating.
However there’s only room for two in the thick back seats with the Executive Seating package, which has a console separating the two roomy seats. The package’s items include heated/cooled power seats and audio and climate controls. There are a number of electronic gadgets to play with, both back and front.
In America, unless you’re a high-roller or sports or rock star, I’d go with three-across limo-style rear seating.
The LS 600h L has posh, supportive front seats, and its dashboard sort of resembles a 747 jet’s control panel, with many visually complex controls. But things are fairly easy to figure out, even for older folks without the computer savvy of kids, and backlit gauges aren’t washed out by sunlight. The front console is large, but doesn’t get in the way of leg room.
The trunk has a low, wide opening, but is only moderately large for a full-size car because the hybrid system eats into its space.
The highly aerodynamic LS 600h L is a super-quiet, beautifully built car. That’s why the “Lemon Law” guide that Lexus puts in the glove compartment seems rather silly. On the other hand, it’s a very technically and mechanically complicated sedan, which is why the heavy owner’s manual is a staggering 932 pages long.
The LS 600h L still gets a bit floaty on certain imperfect roads. That happens even when a driver twists a console dial and selects “Sport” mode “for sporty driving.” Lexus says the Sport mode helps ensure steering performance and driving stability by simultaneously controlling the steering and suspension, besides the hybrid system.
I noticed just a little difference between “Sport” and “Normal” modes. The latter is fine most of the time. But I could feel no difference between Normal mode and a “Comf/Econ” mode, which Lexus say is “suitable for city driving.” Driving the car for more than a week may have caused me to feel some difference between those modes.
Steering of the LS 600h L is precise, via its gorgeous wood-and-leather wheel. And this Lexus generally rides like a magic carpet, thanks partly to its adaptive variable air suspension.
Standard all-wheel drive helps handling remain secure, even when in “Normal” mode when zipping through decreasing radius turns onto freeways. The anti-skid/traction control, besides the 19-inch alloy wheels, also help here.
The anti-lock brakes, which have electronic brake-force distribution, are strong. And they don’t have an odd, artificial action, as they do in some gas/electric hybrid vehicles.
A worthy extra is the advanced pre-collision system with all-speed dynamic radar cruise control and an active pedestrian detection system with infrared cameras.
The very high-tech LS 600h L is loaded with comfort, convenience and safety items—including my test car”s 450-watt 19-speaker surround sound audio system. Handy touches include a power open/close trunk lid and power open/close windows that go all the way down in the rear.
But don’t get the idea that this is a luxury slug. It does 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, with a top speed electronically limited to 130 mph. The gas-electric powertrain generates a combined 438 horsepower, with a 5-liter V8 and you can feel extra torque provided by the drive system’s two electric motors.
The drive setup of the LS 600h L is so smooth some might not be able to tell if the car is all-gas or all-electric. While the regular LS 460 has an 8-speed regular automatic transmission, the LS 600h L is equipped with a smooth continuously variable automatic (CVT), which can be manually shifted.
Fuel economy of the LS 600h is an estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on highways. My test LS 600h topped those numbers during a mix of conservative city and occasionally moderately hard freeway driving.
The Lexus hybrid’s economy numbers beat those of the regular non-hybrid LS 460 model’s 386 horsepower 4.6-liter V-8, which provides an estimated 16 miles per gallon in the city, but also 23 miles per gallon on highways. Premium fuel is called for with either gas engine.
Some may notice in this “green” driving era that the LS 600h L has “hybrid” discreetly spelled on the bottom of each rear door. Is the LS 600h L worth the extra money, compared to the regular gas-only version, which starts at $71,990 — or $81,775 with an extended wheelbase and all-wheel drive? It’s your money.
Pros: Ultra-luxurious. Fast. Roomy. Smooth. Sure handling. Fuel-thrifty for its size.
Cons: Costly. Hybrid system consumes trunk room. Optional rear “executive class” seating for just two. Ride a bit “floaty.”
Bottom Line: Longer, roomier and more fuel-thrifty than the standard top-line Lexus LS 460 sedan.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for nearly 45 years. To read more of his new and vintage reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.