- Perky hybrid powertrain
- Impressive fuel economy for a vehicle this size
- Limousine-like space in back
- Doesn’t command the scene like German rivals
- Styling inside and out isn’t especially distinctive
- Wide center console in front
The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L is the grandest hybrid sedan on the market, with some of the world's most advanced technology features and luxuries to rival the top German sedans.
The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L is the most expensive Lexus model and the technology flagship of the luxury brand's line. It's powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 engine mated to a new hybrid drive system that altogether aims to provide power and refinement that rivals competing V-12 models; at the same time, it delivers better fuel economy than many V-8s, at 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. The system dispatches its power through a full-time all-wheel-drive system.
The gasoline V-8 makes 389 horsepower on its own, but altogether the system kicks up as much as 438 horsepower, released smoothly through a "shiftless" continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L can bolt to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds, with especially quick passing power. For more control during sporty driving, the CVT can simulate eight manually shifted gears.
It's a full-hybrid system, meaning that the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L can operate for short distances, almost silently, on electric power alone. There's even an EV button--a feature never before used on a Toyota hybrid in the U.S. market--that forces the system to use electric power only for several minutes. It recharges its nickel-metal-hydride battery packs either via the engine or through a regenerative braking system.
The 2008 Lexus LS 600h L accelerates very quickly in real-world driving, but the big hybrid doesn't feel that sporty. Its handling remains buttoned-down, smooth, and sedate, while it steers well and corners surprisingly flat, thanks to the three modes--Comfort, Power, and Sport--that afford different ranges of response for the throttle, steering, and suspension.
The LS 600h is only offered with the long-wheelbase body style, designated "L," which stretches the backseat about five inches versus the standard-length LS 460. It affords limousine-like space in the backseat area. If that isn't enough for sprawling, the 2008 Lexus LS 600h gets an ottoman-style seating option with built-in massage features.
The interior is also quite conservatively styled but attractive; the only downside is that some of the switchgear mimics the type used in much cheaper Lexus models. Front seats in the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L are ample and comfortable, but a very wide center console makes the seating area feel unexpectedly narrow.
The technology features, as much as the hybrid powertrain, really add to the desirability of the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L. Virtually every feature available in the base LS 460 is standard in the LS 600h L, such as heated rear seats, Bluetooth hands-free, a backup camera, intuitive park assist, a 19-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, and a wonderfully executed voice-activated navigation system with live traffic updates and dynamic traffic rerouting. The options list brings features such as the power active stabilizer, to improve cornering performance without any detriment to ride; an ottoman-style backseat with built-in massage; a rear cooler box; a backseat entertainment system; an infrared skin-temperature sensor system; climate-controlled rear seats; a fold-out wood table; and dynamic laser cruise control. Yet another innovative feature--or toy, depending on your perspective--is the Advanced Parking Guidance System, which requires you to ride the brake while it steers and parks itself.
"The works" is the best phrase to describe the safety equipment on the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L. Standard features include front side airbags, dual front knee bags, and full-length side-curtain bags, plus available rear-seat side airbags. A Pre-Collision System (PCS) comes with the available laser cruise control and prepares vehicle safety systems if it anticipates a collision. Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), an advanced version of electronic stability control, is standard. The LS 600h L has not yet been crash-tested, but the insurance industry rated the LS 460 "good" for frontal impact but only "marginal" in the seat-based rear-impact test.