I recently had the chance to review a Lexus LS 600hL, which was a wonderful experience, largely because it’s the ultimate Lexus. And I don’t use this term lightly, as there have been many ultimate Lexus models, including the LFA. But the LS 600hL is probably the one that’s best in keeping with the Lexus model of making really, really, really high-quality luxury vehicles to the highest standard possible.
First, a little refresher on what exactly the LS 600hL is for those of you who, understandably, don’t know about this thing. The fourth-generation LS was sold from 2007 to 2017, and by the time this version of the LS rolled out, it became clear to Lexus that their flagship luxury sedan had a missing version. Specifically, while all the European competitors offered 12-cylinder models — the BMW 760, the Mercedes-Benz S600 and the Audi A8L W12 — the Lexus LS only went up to a V8. It simply wasn’t competitive with the top end of the luxury sedan world.
So, Lexus devised a plan: rather than develop a V12 for the LS, they’d give it a hybrid V8, therefore approximating V12 performance. The result was the LS 600hL, which came out for the 2008 model year. While the regular LS 460 used a 380-horsepower 4.6-liter V8, the LS 600hL used a 5.0-liter V8 with 438 hp — the power boost coming in part due to its hybrid drivetrain. Maybe more impressive is the fact that the LS 600hL was rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, which was an improvement over the standard LS 460’s 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy. So you got more power and you got more efficiency.
Not surprisingly, the LS 600hL didn’t sell in big numbers, though that was never really the intent. This was a "halo" luxury sedan play to compete with the very best of the best, and it was always going to be a low-volume car — and it was retired after the 2012 model year, with a modest amount sold.
These days, however, the LS 600hL has become one of the best bargains in the luxury sedan world. I say this because you can find used LS 600hL models on Autotrader for $20,000 to $30,000 — which isn’t a bad price for the flagship luxury sedan of an excellent luxury brand. More importantly, these vehicles are reliable: unlike used Mercedes-Benz S600 models, where you’re always worried about quality and expensive repairs, LS 600hL models are built to an excellent standard and have a great track record for dependability.
But how are they to drive? I recently had the chance to get behind the wheel, and I was impressed. Not with the performance, the steering feel, the excitement or the thrill of driving a fun car, as I often am, but rather with the sheer luxury of it all. The LS 600hL I drove was frequently driven by the car’s owner, and it wasn’t stocked away or preserved with low miles — but it was nonetheless absolutely astonishingly luxurious, with a fantastically quiet ride and smooth, comfortable driving experience. Sitting inside the thing was just relaxing and serene.
I imagine things would be even better in the back seat, which is, of course, loaded with all sorts of crazy controls that the rear passenger can use to make their chauffeured experience as luxurious and relaxing as possible. Lexus really did benchmark the very best European luxury sedans in creating this vehicle, and it undoubtedly shows — this is the Lexus equivalent of something a European executive would be driven around in, making calls on the way to the airport to hop on a private jet.
To me, though, one of the biggest benefits about the LS 600hL is just how incredibly understated it is. Car enthusiasts tend to know what it is, but few other people realize that you aren’t in anything other than a nicer Toyota Camry — even though, really, this is one of the most luxurious sedans on the market (or, at least, it was a decade ago). This is truly a car you can buy to completely fly under the radar, while simultaneously enjoying pure serenity and luxury. And don’t forget reliability and fuel economy, too. Find a Lexus LS Hybrid for sale
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