Motoring Review: Lexus LS600h L

The Lexus LS600h L is not only the world’s first four-wheel drive hybrid V8 but also the flagship of the luxury brand’s range.

It offers a discreet but strong challenge to its better known German rivals, says Dave Sumner Smith.

How comfortable is it?

The ‘basic’ models of the LS are large, well-equipped and comfortable. Leather upholstery, heated rear seats, electric sunshades and air conditioned front seats come as standard.

The range-topper gets an extra 12cm in length, plus a specification that includes drop-down video screens, air conditioned, electronically adjustable rear seats and a cool box. There is even an optional rear relaxation pack, which adds a massage system to the adjustable Ottoman foot and thigh rest.

What is it like to drive?

It may be large in scale and traditional in style, but the LS600h L is no slouch. Far from it. The 375bhp power of the 5.0-litre V8 and the rechargeable batteries generate 520Nm of torque, delivered to all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The net result is a seamless, smooth delivery of huge power: Brains and muscles combined with seemingly effortless ease.

Will it impress?

Despite its hybrid status, the Lexus is hardly trendy. But it is quietly (and deservedly) winning custom from high status European brands. The fact its hybrid status wins exemption from London’s Congestion Charge and gives more than 30mpg are minor benefits. More impressive are its comfort, sophistication, space and silken refinement.

Does it make financial sense?

The LS is far from cheap. The ‘base model’ starts at £61,540 and the flagship LS600h L cost £87,935. But that is £17k less than a Mercedes S600L, and the Lexus retains its value better, has a superior reputation for reliability and offers superior dealer service. Quotes on suggest leasing costs only two thirds of the Mercedes’ price at £1300-1400pcm.

What else should I consider?

Obviously its main competitors are the BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8. The Maserati Quattroporte offers a different flavour of glamour, while the recently announced Jaguar XJ and Porsche Panamera may also be worth considering.

Any toys and gadgets?

The LS600h L is a toy-lover’s nirvana. As well as flip down screens to watch DVDs, massage seats and thigh and feet supports, it also has a 19 speaker sound system, four zone climate control, rear parking camera, park assist and a pre-crash safety system. For hardcore gadget-lovers there’s even a Smart Card instead of an ignition key.

What does it say about me?

The stretched Lexus is too restrained and understated to be fashionable. Like a finely-tailored suit, it isn’t glamorous. It suggests the owner doesn’t need a badge to bolster their ego and is more interested in sophistication and comfort than appearing ‘flash’.