Used 2008 Lexus LS 600h L
Edmunds' Expert Review
The idea of a Lexus LS hybrid may sound like a good idea, but its heavy, space-robbing hybrid components create a vehicle with neither the expected fuel economy nor the promised performance.
It's hard to escape the laws of physics, but the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L does its best to try. While its German competitors power their flagship sedans with V12 engines, Lexus decided to supplement the most powerful V8 engine it has ever produced with its "Hybrid Drive" to create a powertrain equivalent to those 12-cylinder engines. As a healthy side effect, the extended-wheelbase sedan would get fuel economy equal to or better than eight-cylinder engines.
But then those pesky laws of physics come into play. The myriad hybrid components like battery packs and electric motors add about 700 pounds to the LS, and that effectively negates any performance advantages the equivalent of 438 horses may theoretically have. In our testing, the LS 600h posted pretty much the same acceleration time as the long-wheelbase LS 460. And according to EPA estimates, the hybrid sedan's fuel economy is actually 2 mpg worse on the highway. It is 4 mpg better in the city, which could be good for urban dwellers, but that fuel economy improvement would take forever to transform into money savings, considering the LS 600h L's price premium. Of course, if you're really interested in fuel economy, purchasing six-figure luxury sedans of any kind is probably not the best course of action.
While the LS 600h L fails to deliver on its V12 performance claims and fuel economy expectations, its list of standard equipment challenges a Tolstoy novel for length. Most of the options available on the LS 460 are standard on the flagship LS 600h L, with the lone options being Lexus' much-heralded self-parking feature, radar-guided cruise control and several insanely luxurious rear-seat packages. These features are backed up by meticulous Lexus craftsmanship and interior controls that, while busy-looking, are intuitively easy to learn how to operate.
Only 2,000 Lexus 600h L sedans will be sold in the United States in 2008, and it's likely all of them will easily find buyers interested in this model's high-tech charm, ultra-luxurious amenities and the cachet of its hybrid badge. Considering its less-than-stellar performance and fuel economy, though, we suggest taking a close look at the 12-cylinder Audi A8 W12, BMW 760iL and Mercedes-Benz S600 before signing on the dotted line.
Trim levels & features
The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L is a full-size luxury sedan. It's available in long-wheelbase format only. As the flagship Lexus, just about everything you could ever want on a car and even stuff you couldn't imagine being in a car are included. Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED projector headlights with washers, keyless ignition, power door closers, parking assist with a backup camera, leather trimmed seats and instrument panel, a heated steering wheel, a 16-way power driver seat and a 12-way passenger seat, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, per-tire pressure display and Bluetooth. The standard navigation system is run by a 30GB hard drive that can record memos from occupants and store MP3 files on the 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. The audio system also features a six-disc CD/DVD changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary input jack.
There are three options packages. The Premium Package includes cooled rear power seats that recline and include a center console limiting total capacity to four people. This package also includes rear-seat side airbags and the Lexus advanced parking system that allows the car to parallel-park itself. The Premium Package II includes all those items and adds four-zone climate control, a rear-seat entertainment system and power rear door shades. The Executive-Class Seating Package II adds to the previous packages with a power recliner and massage feature for the right rear seat, a rear-seat wood table and 18-inch nine-spoke wheels. The only major stand-alone option is adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision safety system.
Performance & mpg
Like other Toyota or Lexus hybrid vehicles, the LS 600h L is a full hybrid, meaning it can operate in all-electric mode at lower speeds. It also features the usual attributes of regenerative braking and electrically powered air-conditioning. The gasoline engine is a 5.0-liter V8. Alone, it makes 389 horsepower. When combined with the hybrid system, total maximum output is 438 hp.
Power coming from the V8 and electric drive motor is sent through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and an all-wheel-drive system. The CVT has automanual shift control and three modes designed for different driving conditions -- normal, power and snow. Lexus claims the 600h L can do zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, but in our performance testing we recorded a time of 6.0 seconds, a tenth of a second slower than the last LS 460 L we tested. Fuel economy is 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, which is 4 mpg better in the city than the regular LS but 2 mpg worse on the highway. One upside: The hybrid LS is a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV), whereas non-hybrid LS models are rated just ULEV.
The full-size 2008 Lexus LS 600h L comes with a vast array of safety features, including traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are optional. When equipped with adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision feature optimizes the car's safety systems for an impending impact.
Maximum quiet and comfort classify the Lexus LS more than anything else, and the hybrid version ups the ante even further. The 600h's ability to accelerate up to around 20 mph using electric power only can make this huge luxury sedan seem almost eerily quiet in traffic. Even with its air suspension set to Sport mode, the LS 600h L is still a softly sprung car with comfort being of paramount importance. Similarly, the electric power steering is accurate enough, but it's numb and doesn't offer much feedback. Those looking for a big sedan that's even remotely sporty should look toward the German competition instead. But for those in search of a comfortable cruiser that's so quiet it wouldn't wake an insomniac, the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L is an excellent choice.
In an ergonomic sense, the cockpit layout of the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L is near perfection. There's no great learning curve required to operate the climate, audio, navigation and other systems, which are controlled both by physical buttons and a touchscreen. Further, the Optitron electroluminescent gauges are both handsome-looking and effective. The rest of the interior is just as brilliant in an aesthetic sense.
As is typical with the LS series, rich wood trim is complemented by perforated leather upholstery. From the exquisite stitching in the leather to the matching of the wood grain, the fit and finish is without peer. When equipped with any of the options packages, the rear seat rivals the Rolls-Royce Phantom for passenger comfort and space. Trunk space is a serious issue with the hybrid LS, however, as the hybrid components and the optional rear seat climate control system drop capacity to a middling 11.7 cubic feet. By comparison, that's 2 cubes less than a Toyota Yaris'.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Lexus isn't after high-income buyers with the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L.
"These people don't have income," one Lexus official told us about the target buyer for the LS 600h. "They have wealth. Money isn't the concern. Instead they're concerned about prestige, appearance and the statement their car makes about them."
In other words, they don't buy a Lexus. In fact, Lexus says the company's V8-powered LS 460 isn't even considered. "These people have a very short shopping list and we're not on it" is the way one Lexus executive put it. "The sedans they buy are the 12-cylinder Mercedes S600, BMW 760Li and Audi A8."
To compete, Lexus needed a new flagship, one with a six-figure price tag and more power. So the company has created the LS 600h L, a V8-powered hybrid sedan that is first and foremost a luxury liner. It's built to provide the world's wealthiest citizens the same sort of serene, seamless and abundant thrust they would get in a 12-cylinder ultraluxury sedan, only without resorting to all those additional cylinders.
To accomplish this, Lexus has combined its largest ever V8 with a supplementary electric motor and battery pack. The result is the most expensive Lexus ever built and the only car in the ultraluxury class that qualifies as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV).
At 202.8 inches, the LS 600h L is the same length as its near-twin LS 460 L, but it's not particularly vast compared to the Mercedes S600, which stretches out 205.0 inches. In addition to all the equipment that an LS 460 L carries, the hybrid adds all-wheel drive with a front differential and a Torsen center differential, an additional planetary gearset, two "motor generator" electric motors, a power inverter, a nickel-metal hydride battery, and a long tangle of wires and cables. All of which weighs a ton.
Well, not really a ton, but it all does add 887 pounds to the car, which crushed our scales to the tune of 5,219 pounds. That's 887 pounds more than an LS 460 L, and 344 pounds more than the curb weight Mercedes claims for the S600 V12. And all that weight mutes this jumbo hybrid's performance.
It also leaves this big sedan with very little trunk. Hey, all that stuff has to go somewhere, and accommodating the batteries and motors shrinks trunk space 35 percent from the LS 460's 18 cubic feet to just 11.7.
To compensate for the weight increase, Lexus has added stroke to the all-aluminum 4.6-liter V8 it uses in the LS 460. It now displaces 5.0 liters, but the two engines are otherwise nearly identical, with double-overhead cams, 32 valves and variable valve-timing. Rated at 389 horsepower, nine more than the LS 460 V8, the engine feeds a continuously variable transmission that in turn is plumbed into the drivetrain, parallel with the electric motors.
With the V8 and the electric motors working together, there's a total (Lexus tells us) of 438 hp available to push around the LS 600h L. That's identical to BMW's claimed output for the 760Li's 6.0-liter V12, but behind the 510-hp Mercedes claims for the S600's 5.5-liter V12.
Fast, But Not Faster
The LS 600h L's hybrid system operates in three modes: "Hybrid," "Power" or "Snow." The default setting is "Hybrid," which is supposed to provide smooth operation. Meanwhile, "Power" sharpens accelerator response and "Snow" softens response to make acceleration on slippery surfaces more manageable.
Our best acceleration times in the preproduction test car came with the system set on "Power" and the transmission in Sport mode. The 0-to-60-mph sprint took 6.0 seconds and the quarter-mile went by in 14.3 seconds at 101 mph. For a big, heavy sedan, that's not bad, but the conventional LS 460 L is just as quick. It hits 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and rips through the quarter-mile in the same 14.3 seconds.
This isn't much of a surprise, since the LS 600h L and LS 460 L have similar power-to-weight ratios. Each of the hybrid's 438 ponies must lug 11.9 pounds, while each of the LS 460 L's carries 11.4, and the cheaper car doesn't have to overcome the parasitic drag inherent in an all-wheel-drive system.
Of course the compensating virtue of the hybrid drivetrain should be fuel economy. And since it will run solely on its battery at low speeds and shut off its V8 whenever the car comes to a stop, the LS 600h L does have an advantage in stop-and-go traffic. Lexus predicts that final EPA mileage ratings will have the hybrid LS rated at 20 mpg in the city compared to 16 mpg for the LS 460 L and 17 mpg for the shorter LS 460.
But on the highway, where the LS 600h L's larger V8 is always running — always hauling around 887 additional pounds, and always churning all four wheels — the advantage is clearly with the LS 460 models. Both the LS 460 and LS 460 L are rated by the EPA at a commendable 24 mpg on the highway while the LS 600h L (Lexus predicts), will carry a 22 mpg rating on the highway.
Clearly what fuel economy benefits the LS 600h L might have depend on conditions. Driven like a New York City taxicab, the LS 600h L drinks less fuel than an LS 460 L. But on the open highway, the laws of physics work against it, and the conventional car will be more parsimonious.
Lavish, Luscious and Creamy
Like all the cars in this lofty class of transportation, the LS 600h L comes loaded with equipment ranging from power everything to a Mark Levinson sound system that seems to put the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the backseat. There's also a navigation system, abundant safety systems and enough tiny little switches strewn about the cockpit to intimidate a veteran pilot of a Boeing 747.
The seats are covered in buttery leather and they're all heated (the fronts are cooled, too). And if that's not enough, buyers can opt for the "Executive Class Seating Package" which turns the rear seat into a mobile office and massage center. Trouble is, there's virtually no amenity available on the LS 600h L that isn't also optional on the LS 460.
And of course, this is the car that parks itself.
Not a Sport Sedan
If the Lexus LS has been criticized for anything it's a lack of passion in its driving experience, and the same can be said for the LS 600h L. The machinations of the hybrid system, while subdued, add another layer of insulation between the driver and the road. As an automotive isolation chamber, the LS 600h is among the world's best, but this is not a sport sedan by any stretch of the imagination.
But it's not meant to be. It's responsive and it handles well, but even with the standard air suspension set in Sport mode this is a softly sprung car. And the electric power steering, while accurate, is numb despite being connected to the road by big 245/45R19 tires.
Those big tires, all-wheel drive and the optional antiroll system Lexus calls Active Power Stabilizer System do make the LS 600h L more athletic than an LS 460 L. It recorded 0.82g on our skid pad and snaked through our slalom at 62.6 mph. Neither performance is exactly in the sporting category, but they both represent improvements over the LS 460 L.
The larger brakes from the LS 460 L Touring package are also standard and stop this heavy sedan in just 120 feet, some 16 feet shorter than the LS 460 L which wore the standard brakes.
Tough To Justify
In a class where exclusivity counts, the $104,715 hybrid LS should rattle a few cages. Only 2,000 will be built this year for sale in the United States, and we have little doubt each will be sold quickly.
Still, this car is hard to justify on its merits. It's no quicker or more refined than its far cheaper, conventional brother, the LS 460 L, and it has a smaller trunk. Even its fuel economy advantage is conditional at best.
Truth be told, for those who want a socially responsible luxury car, the LS 600h L isn't even the best choice at the Lexus store. The slightly smaller GS 450h is also a hybrid, but uses a V6 instead of a V8 and consequently gets better fuel economy — an EPA-rated 25 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. An argument can even be made that the base LS 460 is the "green" LS model. It's simpler to assemble, uses fewer energy-intensive parts, should be easier to recycle at the end of its life, and gets 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
With the word "Hybrid" boldly displayed on each of its rear doors, the LS 600h L certainly makes a unique and strong statement in the luxury-car world. It's certainly the world's first politically correct luxury automobile, but we think it should be more than that.
Inside Line Editor in Chief Scott Oldham says:
If you like the Lexus LS 460 L you'll like the Lexus LS 600h L. If you love the Lexus LS 460 L you'll love the Lexus LS 600h L. And it really is that simple.
But if you're truly concerned with man's impact on the environment, you'll buy a Honda Fit. Get the Sport model with the optional leather.
I know, ain't gonna happen. You're rich beyond belief and wouldn't be caught dead in a subcompact. But you also have five 10,000-square-foot homes that you're constantly heating and air-conditioning, plus a Gulfstream G550 so you can avoid the ticket counter, and you're feeling a little guilty about it.
Don't. Leave the guilt for the middle class.
Instead, do what Al Gore does, buy some of those Carbon Credits and fire up the jet for another ski weekend. Aspen is lovely this time of year. Oh, and buy yourself a Mercedes S600. Its 5.5-liter V12 cranks out 510 hp and a colossal 612 lb-ft of torque, enough to blow the Lexus LS 600h L into the weeds. It even qualifies for a ULEV II emissions rating. That's ULEV as in Ultra Low Emission Vehicle. In other words you can kiss the tailpipe for a week without any side effects, including guilt.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Used 2008 Lexus LS 600h L Overview
The Used 2008 Lexus LS 600h L is offered in the following submodels: LS 600h L Sedan. Available styles include 4dr Sedan AWD (5.0L 8cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT).
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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Lexus LS 600h L?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.