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2010 Lexus LS 600h L Overview
Some of us, it seems, want it all. And Lexus is happy to satisfy that want, or maybe they created it. Therein lies both the trick and the rub, fulfilling a desire that doesn’t yet exist, or at least anticipating it in time. Was there a great, silent majority looking for a luxury vehicle with a V8 engine, an electric motor, and an all-wheel-drive (AWD) hybrid drivetrain? If there wasn’t, there is now, as the Lexus LS 600h L was the world’s first vehicle to combine those disparate elements into one package, further blurring the line between luxury performance and fuel efficiency.
A 5.0-liter V8 and a 5,300+-pound curb weight aren’t great starting points for a green vehicle, not to mention the usually fuel-sucking addition of AWD. Lexus aims to combat that with its hybrid drivetrain, which pairs a permanent-magnet electric motor, nickel-metal hydride batteries, and a continuously variable transmission with the powerful V8 for an EPA-estimated 20/22 mpg fuel economy. It’s not impressive or even commendable, it’s just excess – a guilt-inspired effort to justify a pricetag hovering near $110,000, officially making the LS 600h L the most expensive Japanese luxury car ever produced.
So what do you get for all that atavistic excess? 438 horsepower to start, and that’s enough to propel this behemoth to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, all while still qualifying as a Super Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle. In addition to the standard LS features like leather upholstery, heated and cooled power front bucket seats, a nav system, Bluetooth, and power door and trunklid closers, the 600h L adds front and rear obstacle detection systems, a Mark Levinson 6-CD, 19-speaker stereo with hard drive, steering-linked adaptive LED headlights, and an adjustable suspension. From the outside, a chrome grille will announce your environmentally conscious purchase, a feature also found on other Lexus hybrids.
The 600h L also gets a limited-slip differential, traction control, an anti-skid system, and antilock four-wheel disc brakes. Its adjustable suspension gives it one of the most comfortable rides on the road, even if its handling doesn’t measure up to its straight-line performance – more than two and a half tons of heft will do that. Special attention to both design and insulation make the LS series one of the quietest vehicles on the road, with even the hybrid system of the 600h L remaining wholly unobtrusive and the CVT providing smooth and responsive shifting.
The issue here is not execution, as the 600h L accomplishes its every intent with style and precision. Rather, it’s integrity the big Lexus is short on, displaying an amount equal to that of a corporate punk band. Hybrids simply weren’t designed to provide the ultra-rich with an empty gesture that can barely crack 20 mpg. Still, a lack of integrity is rarely an impediment to success, whether in the car or music industry – just ask Lady Gaga.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.