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Published: 06/14/2013 - by Ed Hellwig, Executive Editor
As hybrids go, the 2013 Lexus LS 600h L doesn't make much sense. It's six-figure expensive, doesn't get particularly great mileage and has few exterior clues to the fact that it's even a hybrid.
Then again, no $100,000 luxury sedans actually make any sense. They're all leather-lined gas hogs that exist mainly as rolling gauges of wealth. It's a fun game to play if you can afford to be on the field.
So what does the newly revamped Lexus flagship bring to the table? Well, its standard bamboo-trimmed interior warrants a spread in Architectural Digest. And there are optional Shiatsu massage chairs in back that could serve double-duty in a day spa. The electronics are now as modern as anything on the road, and the ride can be adjusted to pillow soft if you just want to relax. Try that in a BMW.
Its First Update
Lexus completely refreshed the 600h along with the rest of the LS lineup for the 2013 model year. It includes an exterior design update, revised suspension tuning and a complete redesign of the interior.
Does it look better on the road? A little. The 2013 Lexus LS still isn't a striking sedan, but the new front end helps add some distinction without looking tacked-on. Of course it now features plenty of LED lights up front to signal its modern guts, so it generates a light signature similar to other sedans in this segment.
Lexus still prefers a low-key approach when it comes to promoting the LS 600's hybrid drivetrain, so the "hybrid" badges on each side are small and the blue accents in the headlights are barely noticeable. If you want to make a statement, a Prius still works better.
This Is Why You Get an LS
Sit inside the big Lexus and you see where much of the upgrade efforts went. The overall look is less cluttered, with far fewer buttons sprawled across the dash. In their place is a giant display screen controlled by a console-mounted mouse that Lexus calls Remote Touch. Pointing and clicking while driving isn't always intuitive, but the sizable screen helps to keep it manageable.
Fewer buttons means more leather and wood in between. That's a good thing, as this Lexus features lavish bamboo trim, supple leather and an optional Alcantara headliner. Together the high-end materials give the cabin a rich, luxurious feel that rivals any sedan from Germany.
The new LS is no bigger than before when it comes to interior dimensions. Not that it matters, as there's more than enough room for the driver and front passenger. Same goes for the rear seats, as all LS 600s are long-wheelbase "L" models. Order up the Executive Seating package and the rear quarters get even more luxurious with reclining seats, dual DVD screens and a fold-out table, among other things. Again, it all falls into line with anything you can order up from Audi or Mercedes-Benz, so Lexus gives up nothing in this area.
More Performance Than You Might Expect
There's no getting around the fact that the 2013 Lexus LS 600h L is a big, heavy sedan. It tipped our scales at 5,424 pounds and measures roughly 17 feet long. It will never approach anything that could be considered sporty.
Handling has been improved to the point where it will satisfy owners who want a ride somewhere between isolated and responsive. Lexus stiffened the body of the LS, which gave the engineers more leeway to change the shock tuning and steering. The whole setup is still adjustable to four different settings varying between Comfort and Sport+, all of which feel more precise than before.
What you get is a sedan that will handle any type of road with admirable grace. In Comfort mode the ride is notably soft, yet it doesn't feel like it's one big dip away from floating right off the road. Dial up the Sport modes and you get palpable changes that move the LS closer to the Germanic feel that sells well in this segment. Additional sportiness can be had in the LS 460 F Sport if that's your preferred setup.
The drivetrain remains unchanged, so there's still a 5.0-liter V8 under the hood along with an electric motor that combine for a total of 438 horsepower. It's enough to get the big LS from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds of silence (5.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip).
All the Luxury It Needs
Even with its retuned chassis, the Lexus LS doesn't forget what counts in a luxury sedan. On the highway, the cabin is virtually untouched by road and wind noise. The front seats have so much adjustability that the only problem is the inclination to needlessly fiddle with them.
Simple things like easy-to-use climate controls and a simple gated shifter add to the LS's focused layout. There are very few features that you need to learn how to use, and those that require familiarization become second nature quickly.
Passing power is plentiful thanks to the additional torque of the electric motor, and the brakes are able to stop the big sedan from 60 mph in just 126 feet with no fade or squirming. If there's anything wrong with its over-the-road performance, it's the fact that everything works so seamlessly it's often hard to gauge just how fast you're really going.
As improved as this 2013 Lexus LS 600h looks and feels, it still faces the same problem as its predecessor. It's a hybrid that doesn't offer any significant advantages over its non-hybrid counterparts despite its $120,805 base price.
We saw a combined fuel economy average of 19.4 mpg over the course of a couple weeks. Not bad for a car of its size and weight, but there are non-hybrid competitors that can do better. Add to that the compromised trunk space in the LS due to its sizable battery pack and the equation makes even less sense.
The LS 600h L does make more sense if you simply look at it as an over-the-top luxury sedan with all the trimmings. Every inch of it feels expensive, and nothing changes when you're on the road. It's smooth, solid and reassuringly composed. If you're not relaxed when you get in, you will be when you get out. Is that worth $120K to you?
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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