The Definition of a Luxury AWD Hybrid
The luxury segment abounds with very fine cars from manufacturers doing their best through design and marketing to outdo each other. Drive or ride in one and you will truly know why these cars are more than just the upgrade from cloth to leather, manual adjustments to power everything and an audio system that rivals the best home unit. Most are powered by gasoline or diesel engines, but an outlier is the 2016 Lexus LS 600h L, a true large luxury car with hybrid power and technical sophistication and understated elegance.
The 2016 Lexus LS 600h L is powered by the Lexus Hybrid Drive series/parallel system of a 5.0L, 32-valve gasoline-powered V8 engine with dual electric motor/generators that deliver 438 total system horsepower. All this power goes through a full-time continuously variable transmission (CVT) to all four wheels. Running on 91 octane, EPA fuel economy for the LS 600h L is rated at 19 city/23 highway/20 combined mpg. I drove 559 miles and averaged 21.7 mpg.
The Lexus Hybrid Drive system automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric/gasoline engine, and gasoline-only engine power. The transitions are seamless and smooth and can be monitored by viewing the dash gauges. When driving a hybrid, I like the option to select the electric-only mode, especially when cruising around town in stop and go traffic. The LS 600h has this option, but for the most part it is unnecessary to be manually selecting the electric mode as the computer gets the LS 600h into EV mode at the correct times when it should be there. The Lexus Smart Stop system turns off the engine when at a light or stop sign. Upon releasing the brake pedal, the engine restarts. In the case of the LS 600H, it was nearly imperceptible with a small kick and rumble. It was not as noticeable or annoying as other cars I have driven that have this technology, but industry-wide it needs to get smoother and quieter.
In addition to charging by the engine, the hybrid system’s nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery is charged through the regenerative charging system. It converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and electric motors.
The center console-mounted Drive Mode Select dial on the LS 600h allows the driver to choose between ECO, Normal (default setting), Sport S, Sport S+ and EV modes. All of which have a selection light on the instrument cluster to remind you what setting you are in. Of these settings, I spent most of my time in ECO, which optimized throttle response for the best fuel economy. The Sport S or Sport S+ modes help move the LS 600h along nicely from a stop, but all within reason and expectations as the LS 600h weighs in at 5,203 lbs. So cruising long, comfortable distances is where the LS 600h shines when in the ECO mode.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The Lexus LS 600h L is all about luxury and elegance. The “L” sometimes starts a debate about whether it means Luxury or Long. Since it hits both these marks, why debate something that even the loser comes out a winner. Out on the road is where the LS 600h L reveals its sumptuous ride, not floaty, confident and, of course, very quiet and smooth.
The 52/48 front/rear weight distribution is a great starting point for such a long (205 inches or 17 feet) car. Handling with so much length can get vague, but Lexus has met this challenge with a front and rear multi-link, double-joint adaptive variable air suspension system. Steering and road grip is handled through a power electric rack-and-pinion design and 19-inch, high-gloss alloy wheels and 245/45 R 19 all-season tires. As you can imagine, there was no body roll with the Lexus LS 600h L due to the excellent suspension design, low ride height, wide tires and vehicle weight. The agile handling and ride smoothness were excellent, and commented on by my passengers. Road noise fell into the category of “What road noise?”, including never hearing the wind whooshing by, thanks in part to the low 0.26 coefficient of drag.
The Lexus Drive Select automatically adjusts several performance parameters, including transmission shift points and throttle response. ECO prioritizes fuel efficiency, while Sport quickens
responses for a livelier feeling. There is a lot to be said about the wonders of technology found in this level of car, so I took full advantage of the different drive modes and found dropping into Sport S+ made aggressive high-speed corning a blast.
The stops were straight and consistent coming from traction, vehicle stability control and an electronically controlled brake system that incorporates regenerative control and power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. If you are not familiar with hybrid technology, when coming to a stop the combination of the regenerative braking and the hybrid motor can make a noticeable, but not unpleasant, whine. In the super quiet LS 600h L was imperceptible.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Lexus says the 2016 Lexus LS 600h L is its “flagship (that) beckons with indulgent features and polished style.” The styling begins up-front with the Lexus signature chrome-trimmed spindle grille with the Lexus “L” logo badge that has a blue background, signifying it is a hybrid. Framing the grille are sleek LED headlamps with integrated LED fog and daytime running lamps, all of which are kept sparkly clean with headlamp washers, deicers and wipers. It’s a nice touch helping to see where you are going in the dark.
With this being the long and hybrid version of the Lexus LS 460, the lines on the LS 600h L carry a simple elegance that only a car measuring 17 feet in length can offer. The roofline has a downward sweep that ends at a comparatively short trunk lid that leads to another blue Lexus “L” logo badge, very attractive LED taillamps that wrap gently around the fenders and all finished-off with dual, rectangular chrome exhaust tips.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Lexus LS 600h L came fully equipped, including the optional Executive-Class Seating Package that moves this car to a “I think I would rather ride in the back seat”
luxury car. With this package the rear seat can only accommodate two passengers as the center seating area has been replaced with a console that is only missing a cappuccino machine to cap-off the sit-back-and-relax environment. All seating surfaces are soft and supple and come in semi-Aniline leather, which is a dying process allowing the leather’s natural surface, grain, pores and scars to remain visible to the eye and touch. The center console has remote and button controls for audio, video, seat heating, cooling, massage, vibrate, adjustments such as recline and lumbar, and the butterfly headrest adjustments. A nice touch are the power rear and right-side door sunshades with the rear shade that automatically retracts when you put the car in reverse.
The rear legroom equals that of First Class at 30,000 feet. So, after adjusting the power seats, choosing heat or cold, setting the massage and vibrating levels, folding-out the wood-trimmed table, using the remote for the video monitor that folds down from the ceiling and selecting your desired media, it is time to put on the wireless headphones and instruct your driver to take you wherever you need to go—but in no rush of course!
Sliding into the cabin you immediately will notice the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail of the real wood, leather, chrome, aluminum and piano black trim accents. Here is what Lexus has to say about the wood you will find in the cabin, “Lexus craftsmen take 38 days to create the available Shimamoku (“striped wood”) Espresso wood steering wheel and matching trim. It’s an exhaustive 67-step process of layering dark- and light-shaded veneers to create this one-of-a-kind wood finish. The finished product is like a work of art.” Take my word for it—this Shimamoku wood is very impressive; again, it’s a note above what would be found on luxury cars one level below the LS 600h L.
In the Front
The semi-Aniline leather front seats are ventilated, heated and cooled, and have 16-way power adjustments for the driver and 12-way power for the passenger. The automatic climate control has four zones to manage heating and cooling throughout the complete cabin with sensors to get to proper temperature quickly and consistently.
The power tilt, telescoping and collapsible steering column assists in finding a comfortable driving position. The heated steering wheel includes audio, telephone and voice controls, along with controls for the all-speed radar cruise control. Looking through the steering wheel are two large, easy-to-read (with white lettering on black background), round gauges that are deep set under a hood to reduce glare. The right gauge houses the speedometer and the left monitors energy use for the EV system.
Our 2016 Lexus LS 600h L came standard with navigation and an infotainment (entertainment and information) system viewed on a high-resolution 12.3-inch color touch screen. Audio was provided by the excellent, home-quality, 19-speaker, 450-watt with surround sound Mark Levinson system. It comes with Siri Eyes Free, SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM radio with iPod/MP3 playback capability. The FM/AMHD is a cache radio that offers the ability to pause and playback 10 minutes of programming. The SiriusXM service is included for 90 days. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB ports, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and hands-free phone capability. The auto-dimming rearview mirror was Homelink equipped and featured voice activation.
The cockpit design is driver-friendly, featuring a dual-zone automatic climate system with dust and pollen filters and a smog sensor, digital and analog clocks with the digital clock being GPS connected, lighted vanity mirrors front and rear, a center console storage box and cup holders. The interior also has a power tilt and sliding moonroof, power windows with one touch up/down, power door locks, Smart Access with push button stop/start, 12V power outlets and power folding, electrochromatic, heated, outside rear view side mirrors.
The LS 600h L is well-equipped with active and passive safety features including 10 air bags, the Lexus Enform App Suite (subscription required), tire pressure monitoring system, rain sensing wipers with deicers, remote entry, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, first aid kit, intuitive parking assist, hill start control, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, rear view camera and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2016 Lexus LS 600h L has a base MSRP of $120,440. With options and packages,
Clean Fleet Report’s LS 600h L was priced at $134,665. All prices do not include the $940
delivery, processing and handling fee. The 2016 Lexus LS 600h L comes with these
- Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
- Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
- Hybrid-related Component Coverage – Eight years/100,000 miles
- Comprehensive – Three years/36,000 miles
- Corrosion Perforation – Six years/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Assistance – Four years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2016 Lexus LS 600h L
The automotive industry places vehicles into classes and categories so comparisons of size, performance and fuel economy make some sort of sense to consumers. Clean Fleet Report too uses these categories, which at times takes a car from having several competitors down to, after culling through the similarities, maybe one or two.
The 2016 Lexus LS 600h L is one of these cars as it only shares the field of hybrid, full size AWD luxury sedans with the Porsche Panamera 4 Executive (a plug-in hybrid), Tesla P85D (a full electric) and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (also a plug-in hybrid though not available in AWD). Not all, but most people considering the LS 600h L would be business executives with a driver. Not that the executive wouldn’t enjoy driving the car, but the reason Lexus replaced the rear center seat with an entertainment console and added extra leg space for the rear passengers is to accommodate an executive who needs the space and luxury for getting business done. The LS 600h L would also make an insane Uber car, but the fares would need to be raised.
The 2016 Lexus LS 600h L is a true pleasure to drive or ride in, with the level of luxury plus sophisticated and advanced driver technology systems second to none. Whether it is in-town or getting out on the open road, the hybrid efficiency, power and drivability are key points for owning a LS 600h L. If you don’t have a need for the extra space in the rear cabin, you will want to look at the Lexus LS 460, but be aware that the LS 460 is not a hybrid. For that, along with the extra interior space, you will be looking at the LS 600h L.
The Lexus LS 600h L is built to reward its owner with understated elegance in restrained styling. If you have earned this level of luxury, then do not hesitate visiting your Lexus dealership and have them walk you through all the features, technology and options, especially taking the time to explain the hybrid technology in detail.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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