The 2012 Lexus LS 600h L remains the flagship of the largest Lexus luxury sedan line. In a rarefied crowd of eco-conscious rich folks, the low-volume luxury hybrid sedan is also a way to say you're being green while still enjoying the perks of privilege.
Rather than a massive and powerful V-12 engine for its top-of-range LS, Lexus has applied Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system--at a much larger scale--to a version of the V-8 used in lesser LS models. Together, the specially tuned 5.0-liter engine and electric motor-generators produce 438 horsepower, a respectable if not earth-shattering output. As with all Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the motor-generators can power the car solely on electricity (at low speeds and under light loads), add torque to supplement the engine output, and recharge the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack on both engine overrun and regenerative braking.
The added hardware and longer wheelbase makes the LS 60h L several hundred pounds heavier than the base LS 460, and its performance is very similar. But the electric motor adds a burst of power for passing, making it more interesting to drive. The adaptive suspension offers three modes--Comfort, Sport, and Power--which offers the big sedan a chance to corner like a smaller and lither car. The driving experience is let down by the numb steering response.
It would take pages to list all the standard features in the 2012 Lexus LS 600h L, with even more options and upgrades on tap for those who want to go all-out. Want concert-hall sound? Specify the the Mark Levinson audio system, then relax in heated and cooled rear seats and dine from fold-down wooden trays with provisions from the rear cooler box. After your repast, put your feet up via the ottoman-style rear seat. All those are options, as is an Executive Class Seating Package that brings seats of Rolls-Royce caliber to this Japanese luxury barge.
But the fundamental challenge of the 2012 LS 600h L is that its combined gas mileage, as rated by the EPA, is 20 mpg (the city rating is 19 mpg, the highway 23 mpg). That's certainly not bad for a long-wheelbase, full-size luxury sedan--but it's only 1 mpg better than the combined 19 mpg of the LS 460, which is tens of thousands of dollars cheaper. So the hybrid LS is really competing with the very top-end V-12 models of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or the BMW 7-Series, or the Bentley Continental or Audi A8 fitted with the gigantic W-12 engine. None of them even comes close to the 20 mpg rating of the Lexus, but one has to wonder: How many of their owners care a whit about fuel efficiency anyway?
For more information on the LS 600h L, please see our full review on the 2011 Lexus LS 460.