Lexus LS600hL 2007 Review
Mercedes and BMW have luxury-loaded battle wagons for $300,000-plus. Suzuki's local headliner is the Grand Vitara four-wheel-drive and Proton has to get by with the Gen.2 baby hatch.
But there is no flagship quite like the new Lexus LS.
Australia has just had details of the new V8 Lexus LS460 but, barely a week later, it has been overtaken by a car called the LS600hL.
It is a serious, tick-all-the-boxes headliner for Lexus, for Japan, and for hybrids.
Lexus has gone all the way with its commitment to petrol-electric hybrids by creating the first flagship of any brand that has a green footprint.
It is still more than two tonnes and the fuel economy is never going to rival a diesel-engined Peugeot 207, but it is a huge commitment by Toyota as it overtakes General Motors as the world's largest carmaker.
The LS600hL — cryptic for 6.0-litre performance, hybrid drive and long wheelbase — will reach Australia in a couple of months. The price should be in about $240,000, based on the $184,900 of the LS460.
Final details are being decided, but the car will have incredible luxury and technology, from a self-parking system to LED headlamps, a device that monitors driver fatigue, and even a reclining rear passenger seat with shiatsu massager.
On the hybrid front, Lexus has gone all-out with a 5.0-litre V8 with battery-electric booster, all-wheel drive and a constantly variable transmission that can mimic an eight-speed manual.
“This car is the symbol of the Lexus brand. It is like a president or the chairman of a company, not just responsible for itself, but for everyone in the group,” chief engineer of the LS hybrid Osamu Sadakata says.
“When conceiving the 600h, we didn't set out to build a hybrid car. First we thought about the level of performance and social responsibility required for a premium car. Then we started thinking about what kind of powertrain we needed. The answer was the hybrid.”
Sadakata says the new LS has the performance to match a V12 petrol limousine, with the fuel economy and CO2 emission of a V6.
That means a 0-100km/h sprint of 6.3 seconds, a limited top of 250km/h, and a claimed combined fuel economy of 9.3 litres for 100km.
In some ways the arrival of the 600h is a return to the start for Lexus, which broke the mould in 1989 with its original LS flagship.
The question is how many customers will want the car, and if so, as a green machine or for the gadgets.
Lexus Australia is forecasting sales of five to 10 cars a month, or about half the volume of the regular LS460, and is still working on the final price and specification.
It intends to sell it as a regular five-seater and with the four-seat cabin that is compulsory with the shiatsu recliner — which crimps front-passenger space — but is not sure of the breakdown.
But all will have the long-wheelbase body, which puts an extra 120mm into the rear-passenger space.
“It will be almost a built-to-order car,” Lexus Australia sales operations manager Andrew Caie says.
“It's a toe-in-the water for us. A lot of LS buyers have been lining up for the car, so it will take a while to clear those before we go out to new buyers.”
Caie is not firm on final details because of the price and position of the 600h.
“The planning volume is not really huge. That's one of the reasons we have not locked everything down.
“We aren't going to go out and sell thousands. This is a very different perspective even from the LS460.”
But he does confirm the LS600hL will be the first Lexus over the $200,000 mark.
“We probably have a few months before we know the final price.”
The bottom line will include leather seats, twin DVD screens, 19-speaker sound, 17-inch alloy wheels, four-zone automatic airconditioning, a rear cooler bin and safety gear ranging from front/curtain/knee airbags, an airbag to stop rear-seat passengers sliding into the footwell in a serious crash, a pre-crash system, radar cruise control and a fully integrated vehicle dynamics system including stability control, anti-skid brakes and adaptive air suspension.
On the road
THE LS hybrid creates a sensory overload. There is so much technology, so much luxury, it is difficult to know where to start.
It is easy to slide into the reclining shiatsu massager and fire up a DVD for relaxation, or talk to the Japanese engineers to hear the inside story of the engine and transmission and all-wheel drive.
But it all fades to background when I crank the speedometer towards 240km/h on a German autobahn arrowing out from Frankfurt — the obvious choice for the preview, because it is Benz-BMW-Audi home ground — and submerge in the luxury, the quiet, the refinement and the surprisingly good driving experience.
The long-wheelbase LS is the best car Lexus has created, as expected. It has cracking performance, is stable and responsive in corners, is supremely quiet, and has every luxury trinket possible.
It does not have the personality of a BMW or Benz, but Lexus has always gone softly to avoid offending potential owners. And it wants people to choose their car for different reasons.
So to the hybrid drive. The LS is electric-car quiet around a carpark, but there is no mistaking the howl of its 5.0-litre V8 when I sink the foot on a wide-open autobahn.
Or the stop-light potential of a total package that delivers a combined 327kW and 820Nm.
The LSh will also drop down to about 8 litres for 100km on a gentle cruise and, despite its heft, Lexus says its CO2 output is lower than the regular 460.
There is so much in the 600h that I could write a book about the technology and frame an essay on how it feels and drives and responds.
It is enough to say that it is the world's most techno-driven car and it delivers everything wanted from a Lexus flagship.
Does the world need a car such as this?
Probably not, but I said much the same thing when Lexus introduced the original LS and when Toyota unveiled its first Prius hybrid.
Those cars started something new and there is every chance the LS600hL will be carving out fresh territory and previewing technology that will eventually be as common as electric windows are in today's economy compacts.
Fast Facts: LEXUS LS600hL
ON SALE: September
PRICE: Estimate $240,000
ENGINE: 5.0-litre V8 engine with series/parallel hybrid drive, 650-volt electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery
POWER: 327kW combined (290kW at 6400 revs, V8 only)
TORQUE: 800Nm combined (520Nm at 4000 revs, V8 only)
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed constantly-variable automatic, all-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.3 litres/100km (claimed combined)
CO2 OUTPUT: 219g/km (claimed combined)
Range and Specs
|LS430||4.3L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO||$20,900 – 26,400||2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS430 Pricing and Specs|
|LS600hl Hybrid (4 Seat)||5.0L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO||$24,640 – 30,470||2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS600hl Hybrid (4 Seat) Pricing and Specs|
|LS600hl Hybrid (5 Seat)||5.0L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO||$24,090 – 29,700||2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS600hl Hybrid (5 Seat) Pricing and Specs|