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Lexus LS 600hL 2008 Review

Quality and reliability is what makes the 600hL very impressive.

Opulence is a word used by soap companies, perfumeries and appears early on in the Lexus PR tome. It's appropriate - everything about this brand has been about taking aim at and surpassing the more established marques.

The LS 600hL - the largest Lexus sedan ever to roll off the company's production line - has equalled and beaten them in many respects.

It's a large vehicle, impressive and imposing at first sight, with a high waistline and broad stance.

It sits on wide, 19in wheels with bespoke Dunlop tyres and plenty of street presence. The 5150mm long 600hL is 120mm longer than its LS 460 sibling, and all the extra length increases the wheelbase to 3090mm.

To say the 600hL has good rear passenger room is like saying the Sultan of Brunei is comfortably well off; there's enough room for a seven-footer, broad of shoulder, to sit. His head is close to the roof but the fact that he could stay there for a journey is a feat in itself.

The journey could be undertaken with serenity; combine a 290kW/520Nm five-litre V8 with a 650V electric motor producing 165kW and 300Nm of almost instant torque; and the 2430kg of luxury limo can move away from standstill in a hurry.

Lexus quotes a combined power figure of 327kW comparable to a six-litre V8, which is where the 600 in the badge comes from. But it wont wake its passengers, unless the pedal is floored. Full bore, the LS 600hL can cover the zero to 100km/h sprint in 6.3 seconds and the standing 400m in 14.3 seconds, numbers that fell right when I was behind the wheel.

With the multi-link air suspension, variable gear ratio steering and super-smooth transmission in sport mode, the big limo can hustle through bends with good body control and remarkable poise. Quick changes of direction are not its forte, but drop back the pace a notch or two and the 600hL can cover ground quickly. The performance comes with less of sting at the pump, with the test car using fuel at a rate of 12.3 litres/100km from mainly suburban work, although the Lexus claims it is capable of 9.3 litres/100km.

Lexus also claims an exhaust emission level of 219g/km, which might not sound impressive until you compare it with some of its petrol V8 competition, which rack up numbers beyond 300g/km.

The drive is sent through an eight-step electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT), a new gear-drive transfer system and a Torsen mechanical limited-slip centre differential to apportion drive 40 per cent to the front and 60 per cent to the rear, with the ability to vary the split according to conditions.

The big limo can also creep around at low speed in EV mode, which works up to 40km/h on electric power only.

The car uses its transmission as a generator, which combines with a conventional raking system to recover energy and store it in the battery.

It's the smoothest example of system yet, easily making a seamless transition and allowing the driver to brake cleanly without rough spots in deceleration.

But this car is about occupant comfort and there is no shortage of equipment to look after passengers.

The quad-zone climate-control system has a body-temperature-sensor network that combines with a stack of other sensors and vents - more than 20 outlets - to keep the temp at the set level, which can be controlled from the front or rear.

Left-hand rear passengers in the four-seater get a reclining ottoman, reclining backrest, massage function, an adjustable seat base and the world-first in-seat airbag to keep the relaxed occupant safe in an accident.

Rear-seat passengers also get a DVD screen, but if your rear occupants favour Tom and Jerry instead of more adult viewing, the soundtrack can't be isolated to the rear infra-red headphones.

If Jaguar and Holden can do it, surely the Lexus boffins can.

Tom and Jerry never sounded so good, thanks to the Mark Levinson surround system, which offers more than 400W from 19 speakers to produce impeccable sound at serious volume.

The Lexus engineers have included LED low-beams, a world first, they claim, as is the Intelligent Park Assist (IPA) system, a first for this segment and for any vehicle in Australia.

Although not as nimble as some of its competition, there's so much technology for driving and for occupant comfort that it's hard to ignore the big Lexus.

Throw in the green credentials, its quality and reliability and the 600hL impresses even more.

The serene, unfussed progress offered by the Lexus leviathan could almost (in a Lotto winner's way) be considered value for money. Almost.



Small torque

Lexus LS 600hL

Price: $240,000

Engine: Hybrid petrol-electric, five-litre quad-cam, 32-valve V8, with electric generator, motor and battery system.

Power: 290kW at 6400rpm.

Torque: 520Nm at 4000rpm.

Transmission: ECVT with Torsen limited-slip centre differential and electronic virtual rear limited-slip differential. All-wheel drive.

Performance: 0-100km/h 6.3 seconds, 0-400m 14.3 seconds, top speed 250 km/h (governed).

Fuel consumption: Claimed 9.3 litres/100km, on test 12.3 litres/100km. Tank capacity 84 litres.

Emissions: 219g/km.

Suspension: Multi-link front and rear, air suspension with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS).

Brakes: 357mm ventilated front discs, 335mm ventilated rear discs, four-piston aluminium front calipers, two-piston aluminium rear calipers; Electronically Controlled Braking (ECB), ABS with Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Traction Control (TRC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Vehicle Dynamics integrated Management (VDiM).

Dimensions: Length 5150mm, width 1875mm, height 1480mm, wheelbase 3090mm, track fr/rr 1610mm, weight 2430kg, luggage capacity 330 litres.

Wheels: 19in alloys.

Class competition

Mercedes-Benz S 500: $274,974.

BMW 750Li: $239,000.

Audi A8 4.2 FSI LWB: $219,600.

Jaguar XJ Super V8 LWB:  $234,900.


Pricing Guides

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Range and Specs

LS460 4.6L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $28,990 – 34,900 2008 Lexus LS 2008 LS460 Pricing and Specs
LS600hl Hybrid (4 Seat) 5.0L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $27,390 – 33,000 2008 Lexus LS 2008 LS600hl Hybrid (4 Seat) Pricing and Specs
LS600hl Hybrid (5 Seat) 5.0L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $26,070 – 32,120 2008 Lexus LS 2008 LS600hl Hybrid (5 Seat) Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist


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