What's New for 2010
For 2010, the Lexus LS 600h L gets a mild styling refresh (new grille, bumpers and taillights) and updated electronics, including iPod connectivity and streaming Bluetooth audio. A couple of formerly optional features become standard this year, including the Cold Weather package and the Advanced Parking Guidance System. Also standard are the new Safety Connect and Lexus Enform telematics services. Finally, Lexus has repackaged the hybrid battery pack to free up a couple of extra cubic feet of trunk space.
Kind of like that beer that claims to taste great yet be less filling, a flagship luxury sedan with a powerful hybrid powertrain would seem to be the best of both worlds. With the 2010 Lexus LS 600h L, Lexus makes the claim of V12 performance with V8 fuel economy. But unfortunately, our real-world experience has proven otherwise, as the 600h L has a mere 2 mpg advantage (EPA combined average) while its performance, though strong, is virtually the same as the V8-powered LS 460 L.
If you try to make an economic case for the 600 versus the 460, it would take you nearly 200 years (187 to be exact) to recoup the considerable price difference between the two (based on 15,000 miles per year with gas at $3 a gallon). The 2010 Lexus LS 600h excels at minimizing pollution, as it is rated a SULEV -- as in super-ultralow-emissions vehicle. You also get a finely crafted interior and a measure of exclusivity via its limited production.
From our view, however, this is small compensation. A better example of a hybrid luxury sedan is Mercedes' new S400 Hybrid, which isn't as powerful as the Lexus but matches its fuel economy while also costing about $20,000 less. And if you're just looking for an ultraluxury sedan, 12-cylinder competitors such as the BMW 760Li and Mercedes-Benz S600 as well as V8-powered models like the Jaguar XJ and Porsche Panamera will likely be more satisfying to own.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Lexus LS 600h L is a full-size hybrid luxury sedan based on the long-wheelbase version of its gas-powered sibling. As the most expensive model in the Lexus lineup, this flagship is as fully loaded as anything you'll find.
Included in the six-figure cost of admission are 19-inch alloy wheels, LED projector headlights, keyless ignition and entry, power door closers, Lexus Advanced Parking Guidance System (which automatically steers the car into a parallel parking spot), parking assist with a back-up camera, a hard-drive-based navigation system (with real-time traffic and weather, USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth streaming audio), leather-trimmed seats and interior and a heated steering wheel.
Other standard features include a Cold Weather package (windshield de-icer and high-output heater), a 16-way power driver seat and 12-way power passenger seat (with memory for both), heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a power rear sunshade, Lexus Enform telematics, Bluetooth and an earth-shaking 19-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system (with six-disc CD/DVD changer, satellite radio, a music server with a 2,000-song capacity and auxiliary/USB input jacks).
As if all that were not enough, Lexus offers a couple of options packages to further pamper occupants. The Premium Package II includes ventilated and reclining rear power seats (with a massage feature for the left seat), rear-seat side airbags, four-zone climate control and a rear-seat entertainment system, a center console with a cooler box and power rear door shades.
The executive-class Seating Package II adds a power recliner with leg rest and massage feature for the right rear seat, a fixed rear center console that eliminates the fifth seating position, a rear-seat wood table, infrared temperature sensors that adjust the climate control for the rear passengers and special 18-inch, nine-spoke wheels.
The few major stand-alone options are an active suspension stabilizer bar system and adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision safety system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Lexus LS 600h L is powered by a full-hybrid system comprised of two electric motor/generators and a 389-horsepower 5.0-liter V8. With all motors working together, peak output is 438 hp. Power is routed to all four wheels through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT) that features manual shift control. The transmission also has three driver-selectable driving modes -- normal, power and snow -- for changing road conditions.
Like other Toyota-built hybrid systems, the LS 600h L's can propel the car solely under electric power at low speed and for limited distances. The air-conditioning system runs off electric power, allowing the gas engine to shut down at stops. And like other related hybrid systems, this one generates additional power via regenerative braking when decelerating.
In our testing, we only managed a 0-60-mph time of 6.0 seconds, as opposed to the manufacturer's claimed time of 5.5 seconds and only a tenth of a second slower than the gas-powered LS 460 L we tested. Equally disappointing is the fuel economy, registering an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 21 mpg in combined driving, which isn't hugely different from the regular LS 460 L's 16/24/19 mpg. The one bright spot concerns the hybrid's lower emissions – as mentioned before, it earns SULEV status. Still, the conventionally powered LS boasts a clean ULEV rating.
The 2010 Lexus LS 600h L is equipped with traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and knee airbags for the front seats. Rear-seat side airbags are included with either option package.
If equipped with the optional adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system senses impending frontal impacts and automatically pre-tensions seatbelts and boosts braking power. Safety Connect is standard on the LS 600h L and offers features similar to those of GM's OnStar, including collision notification, stolen vehicle location and emergency assistance.
Interior Design and Special Features
The cabin of the Lexus LS 600h L would rival a Gulfstream business jet for sheer sumptuousness. Controls for climate, audio and navigation are extraordinarily intuitive, operated by buttons and via the touchscreen display. As with other Lexus instrument panels, the LS 600's gauges are strikingly sharp and legible. Occupants are ensconced in a lush environment of rich leather and exquisite wood trim. Adding either of the option packages further elevates the cabin to Rolls-Royce territory in terms of comfort and space.
Unfortunately, the Achilles' heel of the LS 600h L's design is its lack of trunk space. With the hybrid and rear climate control components eating into the cargo hold, trunk capacity drops to about 10 cubic feet – that's more than it has been in the past, though still less than most compact car trunks.
The 2010 Lexus LS 600h L is the epitome of quiet comfort. Accelerating from a stop is eerily silent, with initial power derived solely from the electric motors. The supple suspension easily absorbs any road imperfections, while the sound insulation isolates all occupants from the noise of the less civilized world outside. Steering is precise but lacks feedback -- but then again, most LS drivers have very little interest in a sporty feel. For those who are looking for more performance, we suggest almost any of the German competitors. As good as the LS 600h L is, it is hard to recommend it over the vastly less expensive yet mostly similar LS 460 L.