It is a fast, well made, prestigious vehicle, and a smooth ride. But is it enough to convince people they can have both prestige and a `green’ tinge.
Its economy numbers are modest but a car this large – a six litre V8 - can only be so frugal, even if it is a hybrid.
But in the end, it is a hybrid, so people can cruise around proclaiming they they’re saving the planet, while ironically sitting behind a mammoth V8 engine in a cabin stuffed with dead tree and dead cow.
A 6.0 litre DOHC V8 engine combines with a high output electric motor to power the 600h.
The petrol engine alone produces 290kW at 6400rpm and 520Nm at 4000rpm. As a hybrid unit another 37kW are produced to take it to 327kW max output.
To transfer power to the wheels, the 4WD uses electronically-controlled, continually-variable transmission with an eight-step sequential shiftmatic system.
For such a large car, combined fuel economy is respectable at 9.3l/100km and it outputs 219gm of CO2/100km.
At over five metres long, just under two metres wide and with a wheelbase of over three meters, it’s hard not to notice the LS 600hL on the road.
Lexus suggest the extended cabin length and long bonnet are the ultimate expression of their `L-Finesse’ design language, claiming it not only creates a feeling of prestige and elegance but also contributes to the impressive fuel economy and quiet cabin.
Unique low beam headlamps using the Adaptive Front Lighting system, use less power and redirect themselves according to driving conditions.
Big 19-inch wheels and self-closing doors and boot lid, plus rain-sensing wipers and a clever reversing camera are all standard on the luxury sedan.
Finished in polished wood and leather trim, the LS 600hL has everything you expect to come across in a prestige car.
Importantly because it’s a hybrid, there are two displays to keep you informed of your energy expenditure, be it electric power, the V8 engine, or both. You can also see when the Regenerative Braking System is recharging the battery.
Front and rear seats are extremely comfortable and supportive with an ottoman footrest as an extra pleasure for passengers in the back.
Rear passengers are also treated to Rear Seat Relaxation and Entertainment systems which allow them to enjoy a massage, listen to music or watch DVDs all via remote control.
Driver and passenger don’t miss out, with glare resistant instrumentation, four-seat climate control, a heated steering wheel and a hand-stitched leather instrument panel.
The list of safety equipment and technology in the LS 600hL includes a comprehensive airbag package and a Pre-Collision Safety System that uses a radar in the front grill to determine the distance to the car in front and pre-tensions the seatbelts and controls braking to avoid a crash.
It also includes Active Cruise Control, Brake Assist, ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Vehicle Stability Control.
The Lexus LS 600hL starts at $252,900.
Initially there were two things that struck us about the 600hL when it arrived.
First was its size. This car is immense - longer than a Toyota LandCruiser at over five metres – and it proved a real challenge navigating in and out of small parking lots.
The second is how quiet it is when you push the start button. Only the electric motor is activated on start-up and it really takes a while to get used to not hearing an engine note.
The interior has been given the traditional Japanese luxury treatment with garish perforated white leather seats, two tone doors and too much overly polished timber. A colleague questioned how ‘green’ owners could possibly feel sitting on dead cows and staring at what looked to be two thirds of the Daintree. I couldn’t help but agree.
After dismounting our moral high horses we also agreed the cabin of the 600hL is a very comfortable place to be. How can it not be with a heated steering wheel, four seat climate control and your own personal games room and masseur.
But driving the car was the most pleasant surprise.
Throttle response was immediate and jerk free, and there was a satisfying amount of poke right across the rev range.
The combination of multilink front and five link type independent rear suspension swooshed over pot holes and bumps easily.
Steering is light and responsive, there was little body roll and the ventilated disc brakes were superb.
Visibility was quite poor out the rear window given the car’s high waistline, so it was just as well there was a reversing camera.
If you’re after a driver’s car this probably isn’t the one for you because the ride is much too soft to feel you’re in total control. It’s Japanese over-the-top luxury but it’s well made and fast, so if prestige is your bag and you enjoy the odd rubdown, go for it.