KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Toyota set the pace for hybrids, starting with the Prius. Lexus, its luxury division, has matched hybrid powertrains with bigger vehicles, delivering impressive performance along with reasonable economy. For 2009, Lexus again offers a hybrid version of its largest sedan. Similar to the extended-length version of the LS 460 sedan, the LS 600h L promises the performance of a luxury V12 model but with the economy of a "best-in-class" V8. Lexus calls it the world's first V8 all-wheel-drive hybrid, and a three-position switch allows selecting among "power," "hybrid" (normal) or "snow" modes for the powertrain. As no other manufacturer offers a hybrid this size – 202.8 inches long on a 121.7-inch wheelbase – the LS 600h L is in a class all by itself.
You'll Like This Car If...
Technology lovers may fall hard for the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L, which has just about every electronic helper imaginable, either standard or as an option. Folks with fat wallets who value smooth and effortless driving, but prefer their luxuries accompanied by a taste of environmental friendliness, may lean toward this big sedan.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Anyone who expects seriously frugal fuel economy on the open road will likely be disappointed, because the hybrid LS 600h L earns a modest EPA highway rating of just 22 mpg (but a more impressive 20 mpg in the city). To some drivers, a six-figure Lexus flaunts its excesses too flagrantly, despite the "green" hybrid connotation.
What's New for 2009
For 2009, a limited run of 50 Pebble Beach Edition LS 600h L's will be offered.
Even more than other models in the Lexus lineup, the LS 600h L delivers supreme luxury all the way, with a healthy helping of advanced technology. Because of the hybrid sedan's extended length, it yields vast space for rear-seat occupants, while giving a nod toward acceptable gas mileage – especially for urban driving. Even so, this is one hybrid that aims more at smooth, vigorous performance than frugality. Everything about the LS 600h L is silken smooth. On the road, there's little evidence of the hybrid powertrain. You actually have to concentrate to discern whether the engine has shut off at a stoplight. Unlike most hybrids, which emit a slight "bump" when the gas engine starts, powertrain changes are nearly imperceptible. Most of the bountiful technology is logical and comprehensible, even if it's less than essential, and, in many cases, you don't have to think about the electronic assists, anyway.
Seamless Hybrid Powertrain
No hybrid on the market does a better job of concealing its operation from occupants. Touch the gas pedal and the LS 600h L simply moves relentlessly and smoothly ahead, as rapidly as you wish, exhibiting little evidence when the gasoline engine is on or off.
Advanced Parking Guidance System
Scoffers have criticized the optional parking system, which lets the vehicle park itself. Admittedly, the novelty may wear off quickly. Still, it's hard to keep your eyes off this Lexus as it parallel parks without human assistance.
Like the extended-length version of Lexus's LS 460 sedan, the LS 600h L has five more inches of legroom than a standard LS model. With the Executive Seating Package, which substitutes two individual back seats for the usual three-across setup, there's immense space for rear-seat occupants. Huge rear side glass is another bonus. Semi-aniline leather highlights the cabin, and leather trim extends onto the instrument panel, upper front doors and door armrests. For the hybrid powertrain, a 288-volt battery pack sits behind the rear seat; a 12-volt auxiliary battery goes into the trunk.
Essentially the same in overall appearance as the extended-length LS 460 L sedan, the hybrid edition gets several special touches. Blue accents on headlamps, taillamps, badging, the engine cover and SmartAccess key fobs are unique to the LS 600h L. Projector-style headlamps include the world's first night-time LED low-beams, and Adaptive Front Lighting is standard. Designed in Tokyo, the exterior shows impeccable fit and finish, with minimal body gaps. An air suspension helps the LS 600h L deliver an ultra-smooth ride that should satisfy all but the most critical occupants.
Notable Standard Equipment
Every 2009 Lexus LS 600h L qualifies as "loaded." Standard equipment includes a navigation system with a back-up camera, XM Satellite Radio with real-time traffic displays, a Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound with 19 speakers and 450-watt output, climate-controlled front seats, a heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, which includes all the functions of stability control. Standard safety equipment includes eight airbags, with rear seat-mounted side airbags optionally available.
Notable Optional Equipment
There are three option packages: A Premium Package, a Premium Package II and an Executive Class Seating Package, which adds heated and cooled power rear seats, a power-reclining right-rear seat with massager, rear side-impact airbags, a wood-trimmed rear table, Lexus's Advanced Parking Guidance System and 18-inch wheels and tires rather than the standard 19-inch fitment. Other options include an Active Power Stabilizer and the Advanced Pre-Collision System, which uses radar and two small cameras to help detect objects in the car's path and includes a Driver Monitor.
Under the Hood
In the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, a 5.0-liter V8 engine works in concert with dual electric motors. One is for starting the engine and the other motor drives the wheels. Total output, including the gasoline engine and electric motor, is 438 horsepower. Rather than an eight-speed automatic transmission, as in the LS 460 sedan, the hybrid LS uses an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission, or ECVT. An eight-speed sequential braking mode is activated when in "S" mode, to provide eight levels of acceleration boost. Full-time all-wheel drive delivers a 50/50 split between the front and rear wheels. The non-hybrid LS 460 has an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive.
5.0-liter V8-based Gas-Electric Hybrid
389 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
385 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
438 horsepower total combined gasoline/electric system output
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/22
The LS 600h L has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $107,000. That's substantially less than V12 versions of the Audi A8 or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, though V8 models from those manufacturers do have lower prices. The Fair Purchase Price of the LS 600h L, which represents what consumers are actually paying, is likely to be at or slightly below MSRP. Be sure to click on Fair Purchase Prices to check what the LS 600h L is currently selling for in your area. Resale value is on par with the Audi A8L W12 and the Mercedes-Benz S600. The hybrid LS does not, however, hold its value quite as well as the non-hybrid LS 460 L.