Lexus LS600hL 2013 – Review

Lexus LS600hL 2013 – Review

Lexus has set out to build a world-class luxury saloon car, and it has succeeded. Should you add one to your already luxurious life?

lexus-ls600hl-2013-rqBack in 1989, I was still too young to drive, but I remember when the first Lexus was launched. The culmination of six years of work by the Toyota subsidiary resulted in a car that laid waste to the competition in terms of build quality and performance. Its only problem at the time was brand cachet.

lexus-ls600hl-2013-front-interiorThat’s long gone, though, and Lexus is truly recognised as a luxury brand. As the flagship model in Lexus’s line-up, the LS600hL acquits itself with aplomb because the interior is spectacularly comfortable. The driving experience is

so relaxing that I found myself driving more slowly and enjoying the experience.

lexus-ls600hl-2013-rear-seatsBut while most cars are designed around the driver, the LS600hL is definitely more passenger-conscious. Slide into the opulent back seat and there is enough legroom for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on one side and Robert Wadlow on the other. While there is a middle seat, it doesn’t get any of the luxuries of the other two, and will mostly be unavailable while you have the gigantic armrest with its control panel folded down.

A multitude of buttons enable you to control the rear seat heating and cooling, dual-zone rear air conditioning, media centre (including fold down 9-inch screen), seating position (lumbar support and reclining angle), and the vibrating seat massage function, which doesn’t give a particularly good massage, but works as a gimmicky talking point.

lexus-ls600hl-2013-rear-control-panelAutomated blinds are available for the side and rear windows so you can surround yourself in privacy as you are immersed in the massive 450W of sound available from the Mark Levinson 7.1 surround sound stereo. As a former audio engineer, I will definitely vouch for a car being one of the worst places you can try to listen to a stereo, but the Mark Levinson unit has managed to cram in enough speakers (19 of them) and technology to create an excellent level of clarity and spatial separation even at high listening levels, and with negligible distortion.

The system accepts input from all manner of devices including Bluetooth streaming from your smart phone, and an SD card for viewing photos.

lexus-ls600hl-2013-rear-screenIn the front the seating experience is even plusher with both the driver’s and passenger’s seats able to be adjusted in something like 14 ways, plus heated and cooled depending on your posterior temperature preference. The driving position is excellent as you can also electronically adjust the position of the heated steering wheel.

With a five-litre engine that’s backed up by a couple of electronic motors for a total output of 327kW, it takes all-wheel drive to reign in the 520Nm of torque that will propel this 2.3-tonne vehicle to 100kph in 5.5 seconds. Equally impressive is the braking power that’s provided, despite the tyres only being 245/45R19 wrapped around 19-inch wheels.

For lovers of aggressive engine notes, the Lexus will disappoint you. This swift forward momentum is accompanied by what sounds like a muffled earthquake. However, this damping of the sound also means that when you are cruising on a smooth road you can almost hear the blood pumping through your body.

Being such a huge vehicle, trying to hustle through tight corners is a challenge. It’s best to imagine you have an egg in a shallow bowl affixed to the bonnet and keep your speed down so you don’t lose it. However, in flowing, smooth corners on the open road you can achieve a nice rhythm.

lexus-ls600hl-2013-dashboardVehicle features are controlled using Lexus’s standard joystick and displayed on a massive centre-mounted 12.3-inch screen. Everything from satellite navigation to automatic download of your phone contacts is available.

The facelift has homogenised the styling across the Lexus range, but does make picking some of the models apart a job for aficionados rather than the layperson, unless they’re parked side-by-side.

This new model has slightly more bling than the old one, as it gets a new grille that an architect would be proud of. Overall, though, the exterior is still fairly muted and you are guaranteed a good deal of anonymity as you are driving around. This will not attract attention like a Rolls-Royce, Bentley or even S-class Mercedes-Benz. In my time driving around Auckland, I didn’t notice anyone looking at the car like they did, for example, when I drove the BMW 6-series.

lexus-ls600hl-2013-bootWhen you buy a car that costs the same as a house, would you expect it to be flawless? Well, the Lexus very nearly is. The trade-off with having enormous legroom plus the battery bank for the hybrid system is that boot space is smaller than you’d expect, and some of that boot space is taken up by a well-packaged kit that contains all kinds of emergency accoutrements such as an inflatable traffic cone. There is also some additional functionality I would have expected in a vehicle this size, such as lane departure warning which is becoming common on vehicles less than $80,000. And, if I was being really picky (and because it’s winter), the heated seat takes an eternity to warm up and isn’t that warm.

But the Lexus is full of highlights, such as the best speed-modulated radar cruise control I’ve used, and instrumentation that changes function depending on the driving mode you’ve selected (in eco, comfort and normal the instruments show what the engine is doing in terms of charging the battery or operating in power mode, but in sport and sport+ it changes to a rev counter). The eco mode prioritises the hybrid features, dulls the throttle response and reigns in the climate control. At the other end of the equation, Sport+ firms up the suspension and improves the throttle response.

This Lexus LS600hL brings limousine luxury packaged in a vehicle that you would not only be happy to be driven in, but happy to drive, too. Mercedes-Benz and BMW have a real contender to deal with.

Price: on application

Pros

  • Consummately comfortable and refined
  • Huge legroom
  • Relaxing driving
  • Ample acceleration and epic braking
  • Superb build quality

Cons

  • Lacks some driving gadgets (lane departure warning), and obvious rear seat features (table)
  • Limited boot space

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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