Road Test: 2009 Lexus LS 600h L

By dancurranjr On March 10th, 2009

600hI like a sedentary life. Robert M. Hutchins, one-time dean of Yale Law School, summed up my sentiments perfectly: “Whenever I feel like exercising, I lie down until that feeling goes away.”

The Lexus LS 600h L is the perfect match for anyone who worries about doing a little too much.

There is no need to remove the ignition key from one’s Armani suit pocket to gain access to the cabin. Simply touch the handle and the doors automatically unlock. There are power pull-ins on the doors so there’s no need to put too much effort into that act. Ditto the power trunk. One digit is all that’s needed to open or close it. The work involved in turning the ignition key? Nada. Pushing a button fires the hybrid powertrain to life.

As for the unseemly chore of keeping one’s right foot on the brake pedal while waiting for a traffic light, no worries. Push the Hold button and the instant the car comes to rest the hard work is over – the system holds the car until it’s time to go. Once out on the highway, setting the active cruise control keeps the big Lexus at a driver-adjustable distance behind the vehicle ahead. This eliminates the work required to stay with the ever-changing speed of traffic. If the car ahead cruises at 120 kilometres an hour, so does the LS. If the vehicle slows the Lexus does likewise. And, at the end of the drive, the final party trick awaits. Having spied a parking space and ensured the passage is clear, the driver then lets the LS’s advanced parking guidance system back the car into the space all by itself. It also parallel parks with the same proficiency. All the driver has to do is control the speed of the vehicle.

Now, if this still sounds a little too sweaty, fear not. The LS 600h L provides the ultimate solution. Simply retire to the right-rear ottoman (it’s part of the $24,050 Premium Executive package and can be likened to a first-class airline seat), recline it to a less stressful position and let James take care of the driving while you watch a movie on the nine-inch screen and enjoy a shiatsu massage. Of course, all of this pampering takes place in the privacy provided by the power side and rear window shades.

Even the powertrain seems to enjoy a sedentary lifestyle. It is entirely possible to drive the LS without ever forcing the engine to pop a piston more than 1,500 rpm. As with the driver, if the engine deems this too much work, it turns things over to the electric motor. I managed to drive the LS at 65 km/h on electric power alone, which allowed the engine to luxuriate in its own metaphorical ottoman. The upside to the engine’s easygoing demeanour is fuel economy. A test average of 12.2 litres per 100 km is very good, especially when one considers the hybrid powertrain delivers the oomph and turn of speed of a V12 engine and it has to motivate 2,295 kilograms of leather-lined opulence. Now, that’s the soft side of life LS 600h L-style.

Switch the transmission and active air suspension over to their respective power and sport modes and the largest Lexus belies its size and mass. Yes, there is some body roll and understeer is not too difficult to induce.

However, response to driver input is remarkably sharp. The variable-ratio electric power steering is light at low speeds, yet it firms up to deliver commendable feedback when hoofing it. The all-wheel-drive system then works to underscore the sure-footed road manners.

Finally, there’s the hybrid’s work ethic when roused. Pressed to the max, the V8 and electric motor combine to deliver an enviable turn of speed. The 5.0L V8 churns out 389 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.

At full chat, the electric side chips in with another 221 hp. As a result, the LS hybrid can call upon a net system output of 438 hp. This is enough to waft the car to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds and accomplish the 80-to-120-km/h passing move in a speedier 5.1 seconds.

Naturally, the Lexus flagship features all of the latest safety aids. Along with the usual anti-lock brakes, traction and electronic stability control systems come no fewer than 11 air bags and Lexus’s pre-collision system. By monitoring a number of sensors and inputs, it has the ability to determine if a collision is inevitable. If it decides the worst could happen, the system cinches up the seat belts, primes the brakes and firms the suspension to help the driver avoid a costly encounter.

If sumptuous sophistication is your bag, the LS 600h L is the perfect partner.

From its hybrid powertrain to the litany of electronic gadgets, few cars match this vehicle when it comes to pure technical prowess – or the lack of hard work needed to operate it all.

SOURCE: Autos Canada

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