2016 Lexus LS 600h L Quick Take

By Matt DeLorenzo on March 7, 2016 6:45 AM

When the Lexus LS 400 hit the scene way back in 1990, people couldn’t believe a Japanese car could cost $40,000. A quarter century later, the fact that its flagship 2016 Lexus LS 600h L hybrid carries a sticker of $135,605 might raise little more than an eyebrow, is proof positive that Toyota’s luxury division is firmly ensconced in the segment.

Put simply, the LS 600h L delivers on its promise of size, swiftness, comfort and technology. Although some may sniff at the stylized L logo as not on the same level as a three-pointed star or a blue and white roundel, time spent inside the LS and on the road quickly disabuses the notion that this is somehow a lesser competitor. With a combined output of 438 horsepower from its 5.0-liter V8 and electric motors powering all four wheels, the LS 600h accelerates to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. This quickness feels effortless thanks to quietness of the cabin.

The seamless electronic CVT is well matched to the hybrid system, providing linear performance without the usual engine drone associated with lesser powertrains equipped with this transmission technology. That may be due to the fact that the relatively large displacement V8 is pretty happing loafing along at low rpm at freeway cruising speeds. And the beauty of the Lexus hybrid system is that it delivers all-wheel drive capability and earns a 19-mpg EPA city rating -- 3 mpg higher than its erstwhile rivals. We saw a consistent 22 mpg in mixed-use driving over the course of a weekend.

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Executive back seat

Costing nearly $8,000, the Executive Class Seating Package underscores the fact that the Lexus 600h L has a role to play as a chauffeur-driven vehicle. The right rear passenger seats features a recliner with a leg rest, while both sides in this two-passenger configuration also feature heat/cool modes and power adjustable butterfly headrests. A large fold-down screen in the roof and the back window and door shades provide a cozy environment for rear seat riders.

The other big ticket item on this Lexus is the Driver Assist Package that for $6,500 includes all-speed dynamic cruise control, active pedestrian detection, drive attention monitor, lane keep assist and low speed avoidance assist. All these helpers, along with the standard blind spot and cross traffic alert system work effectively without being overly intrusive.

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 Infotainment on the big screen

The dash layout is dominated by a 12.3-inch rectangular screen that provides access to the sharp-sounding Mark Levinson 19-speaker audio system as well as the standard Lexus Enform app suite. While the high-definition screen works well with the maps and navigation, we found the real-time traffic updates to be less than optimal, trying to negotiate around snarls in the great Los Angeles area. Sections of highway that were showing green on the map were often stop-and-go. More accurate traffic flow info was available from our smartphones on board.

About that $135,605 sticker (which includes $940 delivery)—is it worth it? The question one really needs to ask is whether or not you need a car brand to define who you are. In terms of Lexus, it’s the understated choice—although the more prominent spindle grille on the latest iteration of the LS 600h L gives it a more distinctive presence. If you’re looking for quiet comfort, strong performance and the kind of quality and durability that the brand has developed over the years, then the answer is a simple yes.

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