Review: The very expensive Lexus LS600hL

Lexus’s ability to provide a comfortable while somewhat down-to-earth interior whether you are in the back or in the driver’s seat is exceptional.

It isn’t full of overstated bling; it’s ergonomic, quiet and constructed with functional, easily accessible controls and switches that have a familiar feel. This Japanese sense of ergonomic efficiency coupled with copious raiding of the Toyota parts bin means everything works perfectly and logically, unlike some other brands’ offerings.

Let’s deal with the rear seating first. If your time is worth hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of dollars an hour, you will appreciate the ability to either continue your business while being ferried between meetings, or be visually entertained via the rear screen, all while assured of privacy behind the retractable blinds on the side and rear windows.

The LS600hL has significant dimensions. It’s wide and long. The wheelbase is over three metres and this contributes to the excellent rear legroom in the rear. You can stretch out in the reclining seats and experience a vibrating seat massage, or have your posterior heated or cooled as you desire. Seat comfort in the back is as good as in the front. The centre rear armrest is a control panel for the dual rear air conditioning, entertainment system, privacy options and seating configuration. Either side has three vents for air, several speakers and its own blinds.

The Mark Levinson stereo is powerful enough to hurt your ears while remaining relatively distortion-free and will take all manner of inputs from Bluetooth streaming from your phone, memory cards, auxiliary music devices, DVDs, CDs and satellite radio. I tested it at significant volume with possibly the most beautiful piece of classical music ever written, Elgar’s Nimrod (from Enigma Variations), and possibly New Zealand’s best electronica, Shapeshifter’s Twin Galaxies (from The System is a Vampire). The performance was excellent despite the wide gap in the genres.

If you choose to be in the driver’s seat, Lexus has included almost all the electronic features you’ll need (with the exception of automated parallel parking and lane departure warning). The radar-based cruise control is the smoothest I’ve used (most of them are jerky and annoying), and the blind spot monitoring system makes for safer overtaking with this long car.

Plant your foot firmly on the accelerator and a sound like someone smothering an angry dragon with a giant pillow can be heard from the front as momentum is rapidly gained. The five-litre V8 engine produces 290kW and that’s augmented by two electric motors for a total output of 327kw, or 438hp in old money.

With five driving styles to select, from eco through to sport+, you can choose the right level of comfort and economy or rapid steering and throttle response according to the situation. Try as you might, the LS600hL, despite its 2.3-tonne bulk and 520Nm of twisting force coming from the motors, is impossible to upset because of its all-wheel drive and plethora of electronic driving aids. It’ll get to 100kph in 5.5 seconds, and the braking is equally impressive.

Front seat comfort is exceptional, and controlling the multitude of systems via the large screen in the dashboard is accomplished via a joystick on the centre console.

Because of the battery packs and the extended legroom, luggage space is restricted. Perhaps that might limit its use collecting dignitaries from airports.

As the flagship model, Lexus is never going to sell thousands. You’re ensured a level of exclusivity, but also a level of anonymity. There isn’t really a sense of occasion, but that might suit a pragmatic owner because the build quality is second-to-none. It’s big, but it’s not immensely imposing, and you’re more likely to drive unnoticed than you would in Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s competing vehicles. You really can’t fault the ride and road-holding of the Lexus LS600hL. It is an immaculately finished, sensible option for your luxury life.

Price: on application

Darren Cottingham reviews cars in his blog, Car and SUV. You can find his other Lexus road tests and reviews here.