We spend a week with the Lexus LS 600h to review and road test. Is the first hybrid luxury car in a league of its own, or a bit of a let down?
For a car with a made-up name and a short history, Lexus has made a real impact. Now perceived by few as being just the luxury arm of Toyota, it is almost universally accepted as a luxury marque in its own right.
Which is no mean achievement for a brand which seems to have been developed – at a reported cost of more than $1 billion to Toyota – to build and market a car so firmly based on the Mercedes S Class it made some of the current Chinese cloners look like amateurs.
The clone car also got a made-up name, chosen from a list of names drawn up by image consultants Lippincott, who advised Toyota that of all the names they’d come up with the name ‘Alexis’ was the front runner.
But there were concerns that people would associate the name with the character Alexis Carrington in Dynasty – an American soap at its zenith in the ’80s – so Lippincott dropped the ‘A’ and changed the ‘i’ to a ‘u’. Lexus was born.
So we finally find the point of Joan Collins; without her we’d probably be spending a week with the Alexis LS 600h L. A rose by any other name?
From those rather inauspicious beginnings Lexus has come a very long way. The original LS400 turned out to be a bullet-proof car that carried wealthy Americans in absolute silence, creating a perfect balance between Euro-Sporty and Yankee-Spongy, and stole a big chunk of everyone’s luxury sales.
Lexus went on to develop a whole range of cars, but it’s the big Mercedes S-Class cars most still think of when they think Lexus. And that’s what we have this week, with the latest in a line of Lexus cars that started with that very first LS400 – the Lexus LS 600h L.
And it’s a handsome car, the LS 600h, in a rather generic ‘Posh Car’ sort of way. The latest grill is a bit too downmarket Japanese for our tastes, but the rest of the car flows well and looks properly balanced. It’s also – and this is the bit you get in every Lexus review – beautifully bolted together.
As is the interior. Unfortunately, it looks posh Toyota instead of properly posh. The shiny wood looks plastic and the layout looks corporate Toyota. It also looks a bit dated. Again, you can’t fault the quality of what’s in the cabin, just how it presents.
Mind you, what’s in the cabin is nothing short of astonishing. There’s acres of room for the heated and ventilated seats clad in perfect, soft leather. One side in the back even turns in to an ottoman and you can all but lie down as long as you’re under 6’.
And whilst lying down you can indulge in a range of massage options, watch TV or DVD, control everything at your whim and do it from a handy remote housed in the rear centre console that’s about the size of the whole interior on an iQ.
Whatever you might think you need in the way of gadgets and gizmos, Lexus are way ahead of you. Blimey, it can even park itself. But is that enough?
What about how it drives?
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