2009 Lexus LS 600h L Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 26, 2009

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L is the most expensive Lexus model and the technology flagship of the luxury brand's line.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Lexus LS 600h L and include their expert opinion here in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com also researched available road tests on the new Lexus LS 600h L to produce a conclusive Full Review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L is the grandest hybrid sedan on the market, with some of the world's most advanced technology features and luxuries that rival those in top German sedans.

The LS600h L is quite conservatively styled inside and out, and that’s a mixed bag depending on what buyers expect. The $106,000 LS600h L doesn’t stand out, at least from a distance, versus the $70,000 LS460, so for buyers who want to make that strong hybrid statement to the world, it might not be the best choice—although its street recognition is growing thanks to celebs. Another positive is that the simple, organic, and elegant L-finesse design language in the LS will likely age well, as it’s not at all gimmicky.

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L accelerates quickly in real-world driving. Powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 engine mated to a hybrid drive system, the LS 600h aims to provide power and refinement that rivals competing V-12 models. The gasoline V-8 makes 389 horsepower on its own, but altogether the system kicks up as much as 438 horsepower. Altogether, the LS 600h moves quickly, with an almost eerie quiet; the only time you hear the gasoline engine is when accelerating hard. Surprisingly, the LS 600h delivers better fuel economy than many V-8s, at 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

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The hybrid system dispatches its power through a full-time all-wheel-drive system and a "shiftless" continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 2009 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. The full-hybrid system 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 only electric power for several minutes. It recharges its nickel-metal-hydride battery packs either via the engine or through a regenerative braking system.

The handling of the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L doesn't feel sporty and remains buttoned-down, smooth, and sedate. However, 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.

Front seats in the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L are ample and comfortable, but a very wide center console makes the seating area feel unexpectedly narrow. 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.

The LS 600h L affords limousine-like space in the backseat area because it is only offered with the long-wheelbase body style, designated "L," which stretches the backseat about five inches versus the standard-length LS 460. If seating space doesn’t impress, consider the ottoman-style option with built-in massage features.

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. 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 LS 600h L has not yet been crash-tested, but the insurance industry rated the LS 460 "good" for frontal impact though only "marginal" in the seat-based rear-impact test. 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.

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2009 Lexus LS 600h L

Styling

If you appreciate the styling of other models in the Lexus lineup, you'll like the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L.

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L has a shape that’s advanced enough to surpass some of its luxury competition; it’s little changed from the non-hybrid versions.

Most reviewers reflect positively on the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L. “This newest iteration is arguably more attractive than the S-Class against which it now competes, though it’s a close call,” ForbesAutos reports. “This big sedan has a clean, conservative, yet absolutely contemporary shape, accentuated by a forward-thrusting arrowhead motif carried through from door handles to the front and rear lamp units and even the large, unusual twin exhaust-pipe diverters low in the rear bumper.” Edmunds observes, "from the outside it looks identical to the [Lexus] LS 460 L," which it acknowledges is "a handsome car, having moved far from its unimaginative origin as a Japanese version of a mid-range Mercedes with more generic styling." Some reviewers from around the Web, however, feel the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L is less distinctive than its ultra-luxury competitors. “Park those high-wattage rivals beside the Lexus, and the modestly styled LS virtually disappears,” the New York Times proclaims.

Inside the LS 600h, ForbesAutos feels the dash “has a riot of buttons and switches, some of them half-hidden, with sometimes-incomprehensible acronyms.” Amid the array of controls, Kelley Blue Book reports that in the 2009 Lexus "semi-aniline leather highlights the cabin, and leather trim extends onto the instrument panel, upper front doors and door armrests." Edmunds describes the interior of this Lexus 2009 model in glowing terms: "Beautifully crafted and comfortable interior...rich wood trim is complemented by perforated leather upholstery." But Edmunds says the interior of the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L is “near perfection, in an ergonomic sense.” Its “Optitron electroluminescent gauges are both handsome-looking and effective,” and “the rest of the interior is just as brilliant in an aesthetic sense.”

As for differences between the hybrid edition and its gasoline-powered relatives, Cars.com reports that the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L "shares the gas-only L model's interior appointments," but points out that "special to the hybrid is a power-flow diagram on the dashboard's central LCD screen...the basics are repeated in color graphics between the speedometer and tachometer." Kelley Blue Book says this Lexus 2009 is "essentially the same in overall appearance as the extended-length LS 460 L sedan," but notes that it gets "several special touches, [such as] blue accents on headlamps, taillamps [and] badging." Cars.com remarks the hybrid LS "differs little from the LS 460 in its exterior appearance"; the most notable is that "aside from the model badge on the trunk lid, the word HYBRID appears on the trim near the bottom of the rear doors."

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2009 Lexus LS 600h L

Performance

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L has a lot of get-up-and-go, but TheCarConnection.com notes some mixed reactions to this "green" hybrid.

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L trades driving feel for mechanical perfection—though some say that fuel economy and acceleration aren’t improved enough to justify its huge base price.

Motor Trend says that the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L "offers an electric-vehicle drive mode for when discreet, engine-free moments arise." A “full hybrid” system, the Lexus LS recharges its nickel-metal-hydride battery packs either via the engine or through a regenerative braking system. Compared to other hybrids such as the Prius, this 2009 Lexus' fuel efficiency is no better than its purely gasoline-powered V-8 sibling. ConsumerGuide reports that a Lexus 2009 LS 600h L "averaged 18.7 mpg in mostly highway driving" and notes "LS requires premium-grade gas." Edmunds warns the hybrid is "not as fuel-efficient as you'd expect a hybrid to be...Fuel economy is 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, which is 4 mpg better in the city than the regular LS but 2 mpg worse on the highway." (It should be pointed out that with all their batteries and electric motors, hybrid vehicles are substantially heavier than traditional gas-powered autos.)

Edmunds reports, “Lexus claims the 600h L can do zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, but in our performance testing we recorded a time of 6.0 seconds, a tenth of a second slower than the last LS 460 L we tested.” The problem? “Together, the heavy batteries and all-wheel-drive system burden the hybrid with more than 700 additional pounds, for a total of 5,049,” the New York Times points out. The hybrid powertrain “makes acceleration a wash.” Cars.com says the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L is "the first car to combine a V-8 gasoline engine with an electric motor for improved gas mileage and robust acceleration." A 4.6-liter V-8 produces 389 horsepower on its own, but altogether the system makes up to 438 horsepower, so "the overall effect of the hybrid system compares to the performance of a V-12 engine."

The handling of the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L doesn't feel sporty and remains buttoned-down, smooth, and sedate. However, 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. ConsumerGuide says the "air suspension's Sport setting induces some body jiggle." While this source describes steering as "light though direct" and a "turning circle [that] is impressively tight," Edmunds reports, "the electric power steering is accurate enough, but it's numb and doesn't offer much feedback." The Los Angeles Times is singularly unimpressed, complaining that "steering has zero feel," and "the brake pedal—even with its electronic stroke compensation la-di-da—has no touch worth mentioning." Kelley Blue Book nonetheless attests that the "air suspension helps the [Lexus 2009] LS 600h L deliver an ultra-smooth ride that should satisfy all but the most critical occupants," but the Los Angeles Times quips that the Lexus 2009 hybrid "goes like crazy, but it drives like the world's most exotic electric shaver."

"A standard full-time AWD system routes the power to all four wheels,” says Autoblog. This is through what Edmunds remarks is "a continuously variable transmission (CVT)" that "has automanual shift control and three modes designed for different driving conditions — normal, power and snow." For more control during sporty driving, the CVT can simulate eight manually shifted gears.

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2009 Lexus LS 600h L

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L features decadent seating and top-class refinement, but actual interior room and trunk space are surprisingly skimpy.

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L provides royal rear-seat room and interior finishes, along with an incredibly hushed interior, though it’s narrower than other big luxury sedans.

Edmunds reports that this Lexus 2009 model's "seating and accommodations are as regal as you'd expect in a car of this category, and then some: the rear seats can be equipped with every possible power, climate and entertainment control, including a massage feature that is surprisingly effective in reproducing the actions of a Shiatsu masseur."

Motor Trend confirms this impression: "to get a sense from behind the wheel, imagine sinking into a lavish and serene home-entertainment room, replete with Eames lounge chairs covered in the supplest leather." ConsumerGuide reports that "front [seating] is spacious for adults, though taller drivers may need more headroom." The rear seats are "adult-roomy here, too." Kelley Blue Book concurs: The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L's back row "yields vast space for rear-seat occupants."

Edmunds says the Lexus 2009 LS 600h L's "ability to accelerate up to around 20 mph using electric power only can make this huge luxury sedan seem almost eerily quiet in traffic." According to ConsumerGuide, this 2009 Lexus is "one of the quietest cars on the market...the engine is nearly silent at idle and emits a subdued growl under aggressive acceleration...there is virtually no tire, road, or wind noise."

Kelley Blue Book waxes enthusiastic about "acres of creamy aniline cowhide French stitched like a Folies Bergere corset." The only downside is that some of the switchgear mimics the type used in much cheaper Lexus models. Conceivably, the Lexus 2009 LS 600h L could have gotten a perfect 10 on interior materials alone; ConsumerGuide reports "top-quality materials with numerous soft-touch surfaces." Edmunds says, "from the exquisite stitching in the leather to the matching of the wood grain, the fit and finish is without peer.”

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L hybrid falls short in storage and cargo space. Edmunds reports that "trunk space is a serious issue...hybrid components and the optional rear seat climate control system drop capacity to a middling 11.7 cubic feet (2 cubes less than a Toyota Yaris)." ForbesAutos proposes this is "due to the need to fit a huge battery and other electrical equipment behind the rear seat...it'll fit two duffels or moderate-sized golf bags, but that's about it." ConsumerGuide says "trunk is sufficient for most travel needs, but the rear air conditioning trims the volume by a full 6.0 cu ft." In addition, "the trunk lid uses hinges that further rob useful space." However, they report "in-cabin small-item storage is good."

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2009 Lexus LS 600h L

Safety

If the kitchen sink were a safety device, the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L would have one.

No crash-test results are available from either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L's superior safety equipment and technology bode well.

According to ForbesAutos, the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L may be indicative of the inevitable autonomous automobile of "the future that will do the driving for humans who'd rather be on the phone or reading e-mails while they 'drive.'"

"Adding to the wiz-bang technology credentials" of the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L "is the newly-developed Lexus Advanced Pre-Collision System, or APCS," in which a sophisticated system of cameras in the Lexus 2009 LS 600h L monitors both road and driver, says an enthusiastic Autoblog reviewer. What happens is a marvel of safety technology: "If the potential for a collision exists and the driver is not paying attention, an audible and visual alarm is activated. If no action is taken, the system will then begin to apply the vehicle's brakes. Additionally, the variable steering ratio is automatically quickened to improve the vehicle's response to evasive maneuvers."

Edmunds reports that the 2009 Lexus comes equipped with the usual safety equipment, including "traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags," as well as "optional rear bags.” ConsumerGuide reports that in the 2009 Lexus hybrid, "visibility is fine all around."

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2009 Lexus LS 600h L

Features

The technology features, as much as the hybrid powertrain, really add to the desirability of the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L.

The 2009 Lexus LS 600h L is one of the most lavishly outfitted vehicles on the planet. 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.

Edmunds reports that in the Lexus 2009 LS 600h L, standard equipment includes (take a breath here) "19-inch alloy wheels, LED projector headlights with washers, keyless ignition, power door closers, parking assist with a backup camera, leather trimmed seats and instrument panel, a heated steering wheel, a 16-way power driver seat and a 12-way passenger seat, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, per-tire pressure display and Bluetooth." This Lexus 2009 vehicle also features what amounts to an onboard PC: "the standard navigation system is run by a 30GB hard drive that can record memos from occupants and store MP3 files on the 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system."

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. Kelley Blue Book says "technology lovers may fall hard for the 2009 Lexus LS 600h L, which has just about every electronic helper imaginable, either standard or as an option."

Edmunds reports in 2009, Lexus offers three options packages: "the Premium Package includes cooled rear power seats that recline and include a center console limiting total capacity to four people," as well as the optional rear-seat air bags, plus "the Lexus advanced parking system that allows the car to parallel-park itself." This is what Kelley Blue Book says is the "Advanced Parking Guidance System." This innovative feature—or toy, depending on your perspective—requires you to ride the brake while it steers and parks itself.

Additional options packages are the Premium Package II and the Executive Class Seating package, which "heated and cooled power rear seats, a power-reclining right-rear seat with massager, rear side-impact airbags, [and] a wood-trimmed rear table."

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Styling 7
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