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"L" Gotta Be For Limo - 2014 Lexus LS 600h L Review


By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

I always ask for a big, luxurious car for this particular week in August because I volunteer to shuttle classic and collector car owners who trailer their cars to the Concours d’Elegance of Southwest Michigan from the lot where they park their rigs to the show field a few miles away. I’m on the committee for the event and want to make a good impression on our guests.

Well, I must say, this car made a great impression!

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The LS 600h L is the hybrid-powered, long-wheelbase version of Lexus biggest sedan. We’ve reviewed similar long-wheelbase cars (though not hybrids) from BMW, Audi and Jaguar and we continue to be in awe of the sheer size and the endless amenities provided in these often chauffer-driven luxury limos.

The LS’ elegant but conservative exterior design does not call attention to itself but more than a cursory glance will tell you distinctly by its size and length that it is something special. Big 19-inch stylish wheels shod with Bridgestone Turanza all-weather tires barely keep up with the visual mass. Lexus’ traditional spindle grille is perhaps the least showy of all the Lexus models. A blue background in the “L” logo in the grille distinguishes the LS 600h L from its LS siblings. The headlight complex includes a strike-shape LED running light and projector beams. The indistinctive rear view looks as graceful and understated as the rest of the car with no harsh or crisp lines. A chrome accent strip across the lower door surface adds to the massive look of the car.

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Inside it is just as impressive. Understated but elegant design combines with high quality materials to offer a sense of comfort and serenity. Lots of luxurious stitching punctuates the leather surfaces – steering wheel, console, seats, across the dash, door panels – and fine quality metal and polished wood complete the ambiance. Exceptionally well thought out controls and information delivery, including a nice analog clock in the center of the dash, make it easy to manage everything. I’m particularly fond of the large, 12.3-inch informational screen in the upper dash that displays navigation, audio, HVAC and everything else. It is all controlled with a rocker knob on the console that works something like a mouse but has what they call “haptic feedback” that offers a bit of resistance as the cursor enters a live field. This system is available on many Lexus models and makes it much easier to operate everything without distraction.

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The cars claim to fame, so to speak, is the rear seat. The extra length of the car makes the rear seat and its amenities luxurious and functional enough for the most demanding potentate. Large heated and cooled leather seats, separated by a large console, recline with adjustable headrests. On the right-side seat an “ottoman” function is provided that extends out of the front of the seat base to support your calves, and massage function. I guess it’s not meant for two potentates at a time since only one seat has these amenities. A small desk emerges from the front of the rear console and swivels to five positions. A DVD player with screen above, USB port, memory card slot and 12V outlets allow lots of gadgets and business functions to happen back there.

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The battery pack limits the trunk space a bit leaving only 13 cubic-feet to contain our stuff. That’s still enough for a couple sets of golf clubs or enough luggage for a short trip.

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Under the hood we find . . . what? If we actually open it to look we see nothing familiar. Everything is covered but the dipstick, washer fluid filler and one other filler. Under that cover lurks a high-tech 5.0-liter V8 supplemented with two electric motors, the best CVT ever and enough Ni-MH battery storage to power this 5,500-pound car part of the time and provide substantial boost whenever needed. The electronic control system magically pours in electric power when needed to maximize performance and fuel economy. It will do 0 to 60 in just about 5.5 seconds and 70 to 100 mph in the blink of an eye. (Please don’t ask how I know the latter.) While it hasn’t as much grunt as its conventionally-powered competition – BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar limos – it has plenty of power for any driving conditions, except perhaps pulling a trailer, and I don’t suppose many owners will be doing that.

The EPA rates this car at 19 mpg in the city, 23 on the highway and 20 combined. I managed 23.5 in my week with the car and I drove nearly 1,000 miles of probably 75% highway. Premium fuel is recommended.

The LS 600h L starts at just over 120 grand, and that’s without the potentate seats. Our test car includes $6,500 worth of electronic safety systems like pre-collision intervention, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, driver alert monitor, and lane keeping. We also have the Executive-Class Seating Package which is all that other stuff described above costing $7,555. Our sticker shows a bottom line cost of $135,175 including the destination charge.

The overall driving experience of this big car is wonderful. The ultra-smooth application of power throughout the entire range would belie the multiple power systems. Lexus’ electronics integrate the elements of the powertrain so well you would hardly know you are driving a hybrid with a CVT. We are impressed as well with the comfort, luxury and functionality inside. While it does not have the exuberant character of some of the competitors it’s quiet competence and character sets it apart. It is essentially a car for someone of extraordinary means who does not want to broadcast his/her wealth.

Lexus’ new car warranty covers the car for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 70,000 miles. Hybrid components, including the battery pack, are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

When the LS hybrid first came out some years ago I ran the numbers to compare it to its non-hybrid equivalent to determine a ‘payback period’ to cover the extra cost of the hybrid powertrain. Compared to the V6 LS the payback period was 156 years. We can’t make that comparison now since the long wheelbase car only comes in a hybrid and the regular length car is only offered with conventional powertrain. How foolish anyway to make such a comparison. At that price point it is entirely irrelevant. The guy/gal with that much money to spend on a car is not going to care a lick about the cost of the fuel. But he/she may like the image of environmental consciousness conveyed by the blue badge in the grille and the hybrid badges.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved