SEATTLE, March 12, 2014 – The high end luxury performance sedan market is a relatively crowded one when you factor in that it’s aiming at the upper-end of income earners. With that in mind, it’s more paramount than ever for auto-makers to carefully position these cars in such a way to command the largest percentage of the “elite auto buyer’s club”.
With its 2014 LS600 HL, Lexus hopes to garner the folks who appreciate the utmost in interior luxury, want a responsive vehicle and would like a bit of extra help in the fuel economy department. The only thing that seems a bit odd is why would most buyers who can afford its $130,000 sticker care about the cost of gas anyways?
Good question, let’s dive in.
Starting off with a 5.0-liter V8 which pumps out 438 total horsepower (combined electric motor and engine) but no word from Lexus on the torque rating. It “feels” like it’s around 425 lb-ft or so. This engine is one of the most advanced Hybrids available, it’s essentially a 385hp V8 with the addition of a 221hp planetary gearset which has two generator/motors on it. Here’s the catch, however, the batteries can only supply up to 53hp which limits the EV mode to a speed of 30mph.
Another interesting twist is the decision to use an E-CVT (continuously variable) transmission in an age when we have advanced dual-clutch and 8-speed automatics available. Clearly, Lexus chose CVT for its slight boost in fuel economy, however, the car still only manages to snag about 22mpg combined. Not record setting and one might even argue that it’s “good considering the weight and class of the LS600, however, it’s not convincing enough for a hybrid”. One final thing to consider is that the hybrid model does lose some trunk space to make room for the batteries.
Even though it’s a refresh from previous years, the inside is where the LS600 really shines. This test model had the very attractive bamboo wood finish which garnered a great deal of positive comments from valet drivers and others who happened to be walking by while a door was open. It has an upscale look that isn’t too over the top, well-appointed and very inviting. The leather materials are soft, plus yet feel very sturdy.
Its “central nervous system” is brought to life by a large LCD screen that’s in the center of the dash. Controlling it is very similar to the system we see in BMW and others. A control knob that glides rather easily with your wrist rested comfortably on the built-in wrist pad. It’s an easy-to-use setup and one that is rather intuitive to use as well.
Most all aspects of the “creature comforts” inside the vehicle are controlled here – climate control, interior lighting and of course the stellar 450-watt, 19-speaker, Mark Levinson audio system. Hands-down, this is the best audio system I’ve experienced to date from any manufacturer. It annihilates the Bang & Olufsen system found in Audi and the Krell system in the high-end Acuras – it has no equal. Its superior staging, channel separation, timber and clarity are something one must hear in person to full appreciate. Top that off with an incredible dynamic range and frequency response and you have the making for a sublime “concert-like” experience, it certainly makes long drives more bearable.
Its on-board navigation system works very well and was rather accurate and while it doesn’t have Google Earth, you can get updates to the maps from the dealers. The Bluetooth sound quality is also exceptionally good.
Thanks to the optional executive seating package, folks in the back may have the best seat in the house with the built-in seat massagers, heated/vented seats, blue-ray entertainment, a flip-up desktop surface area, wireless headphones, reclining seats and of course the flip-down, wide-screen LCD which not only is use for movie playback but also acts as a visual aid for other features as well.
Other than its outstanding interior quality and comforts what will cement this car in the minds of some will be its ultra-quiet ride, smoothness over the bumpiest of roads and good handling for such a large sedan. What it lacks in power compared to the likes of an Audi A8, it will certainly make up in this area for the kinds of customers who demand a whisper-quiet ride. Lexus’ use of multi-pane glass and liberal use of dampening materials throughout the cabin definitely keep external noises at bay – now if they could just invite something to quiet down extra loud kids in the back.
The baseline price for the LS600 HL is $119,910 but the executive seating package adds $7550 with an $895 destination and handling fee, you’re looking at a total price of $128,529. Definitely not chump-change. In its price, however, it does offer much of the performance and luxuries the kind of discerning customer would want in that price range.