What is it?
It likely won’t be long before you can order a hybrid option for just about any car on the market, from the smallest city car up to the likes of a big Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But at the premium end of the scale, Lexus has first-mover bragging rights, having introduced its first petrol-electric flagship, the original LS 600h in 2007.An all-new version of the LS line-up is rolling into showrooms for 2013 and that includes a heavily updated hybrid that retains the LS 600h nameplate. As with the original, the hybrid is the most expensive and lavishly equipped model in the Lexus line-up – at least now that the limited-edition LFA supercar is out of production. And like the more mainstream, petrol-powered LS 460, the 2013 Lexus LS 600h adopts a much more stylish and distinctive look that is easily recognizable once you glance the Japanese maker’s new “spindle grille” face.
What's it like?
Lexus has built an admirable reputation for its sterling quality, reliability and customer service. But, until recently, passionate performance was not a phrase you’d readily assign the brand. That began to change with the launch of the latest Lexus GS. The LS takes things a step further, with the new signature hour glass-shaped grille and a much more sculpted and sporty shape, overall.The 2013 model-year brings a new model, the F-Sport, and an updated version of the hybrid LS 600h. The original version promised a lot but delivered less than expected, neither knock-out fuel economy nor neck-snapping performance. A preliminary test suggests the 2013 600h will do better on both fronts.The drivetrain pairs a 5.0-litre V8 making 389bhp and 385 lb ft of torque with a pair of electric motors. The combination is quite similar to that in the mainstream Toyota Prius but here comes together to yield a combined 438bhp. That’s punched through an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission that experiences pleasantly little of the class CVT rubber-banding. It wouldn’t have the time. Nail it in very un-environmentally friendly fashion and you’ll be hitting 60mph in 5.5secs – on the way to a 130 mph top speed.For more sedate driving, the LS 600h has just about every possible bell and whistle, from massaging seats to a massive video display that will make an iPad owner whistle in admiration.The 2013 LS 600h can be ordered in both short and long-wheelbase form, the latter offering business jet-style rear seating, including infotainment and climate controls.
Should I buy one?
The 2013 Lexus LS line-up, in general, is a big improvement over the previous line-up, the LS 600h hybrid all the more so. They’re definitely more eye-catching and a bit more fun to drive, if not quite up to BMW or Audi in that category. Their relatively bulletproof reliability is a definite plus for those who want to minimise visits to the dealer.But is the hybrid really worth it? It’s all but impossible to make a sound economic case for the LS 600h. You’d need decades to save enough petrol. But for many potential buyers that’s almost irrelevant: it’s about showing the world they care. Besides, you not only get that green stamp of approval but the most lavish and powerful model in the LS family.If that’s the formula that works for you then it’s at least worth a test drive.
Paul A. Eisenstein
Lexus LS 600h