2014 Lexus LS 600h L

The LS 600h L is the range-topping model in Lexus' full-size LS luxury sedan lineup. Available only in long-wheelbase, all-wheel-drive form, the LS 600h L is a hybrid that places as much of an emphasis on performance as it does on fuel economy.

Recent Changes
Like its non-hybrid LS 460 and LS 460 L siblings, the LS 600h L received a comprehensive update for the previous model year that included more aggressive exterior styling along with a comprehensively upgraded cabin.

Following that freshening, the only change of note for the latest model year is the addition of Apple's Siri Eyes Free system.

The LS 600h L hybrid powertrain uniquely combines a 5.0-liter V8 gasoline engine with two powerful electric motors and a large-capacity battery pack in the trunk. Peak combined output is a decidedly un-hybrid-like 438 horsepower, enough to propel the big sedan from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds.

Despite its performance credentials, the LS 600h L is capable of returning 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. It also meets the Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II (SULEV II) certification, emitting nearly 70-percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car.

While previous LS models have been characterized by conservative and inconspicuous styling, the latest LS 600h L stands out thanks to an oversized version of Lexus' "spindle" corporate grille that flows back into deep creases in the hood. Lexus also reworked the rear end, adding a strip of chrome runs over the license-plate area and connects the revised taillights. The sides of the car carry over unchanged, emphasizing that the new fifth-generation car is an update of the fourth-gen model than an all-new vehicle.

Hardly anything was left untouched inside, where a completely new dashboard integrates an enormous 12.3-inch navigation/multi-information LCD screen. Infotainment functions are controlled through the latest version of Lexus' Remote Touch system. It allows users to adjust the temperature of the cabin, the steering wheel and the seats, to change the radio station or to connect their phone to the car by simply using a controller that is mounted on the center console.

Passenger room is ample, especially for the rear occupants, and ultra-high-quality leather and wood is employed throughout the cabin. An example of the craftsmanship incorporated into the interior is the available Shimamoku striped wood, which is created through the painstaking layering of angle-cut dark and light shaded wood veneers in a unique process which involves 67 manufacturing steps over the course of 38 days.

Standard and Optional Features
Befitting its lofty status in Lexus' model hierarchy, the LS 600h L is fitted as standard with leather upholstery, genuine wood trim, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, 19-speaker, 450-watt Mark Levinson sound system with six-disc CD changer, USB/AUX input jacks and XM satellite radio, an HDD navigation system Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, an advanced Parking Guidance System that will parallel park or back the car into a spot, a sunroof and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Notably, the nav system incorporates Lexus' Enform infotainment system, which provides access to Bing search, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp and Facebook Places through compatible smart phones.

The optional Premium Package adds four-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable, heated and ventilated rear seats with lumbar massage for outboard seats, a DVD rear-seat entertainment system with dual nine-inch screens and wireless headphones and rear-seat audio controls.

New for the latest model year is Apple's Siri Eyes Free system, which uses the LS 600h's steering wheel-mounted controls to access the Siri function of any iPhone equipped with iOS 6. Once linked, drivers can use voice commands to perform actions like make phone calls, play songs from iTunes, listen to and compose text messages and add appointments to their calendars.

Executive-Class Seating Package
The special order only Executive-Class Seating Package is designed to absolutely coddle the rear seat passengers. The setup replaces the middle rear seat with a fixed console and adds a throne of a right seat that reclines, features a multifunction massager, is heated and ventilated and also offers a leg rest. Also included is a DVD rear seat entertainment system with dual nine-inch screens and wireless headphones, four-zone automatic climate control, a rear-seat wood-trimmed table and a rear-seat cool box for storing beverages (preferably champagne).

Occupant Safety
The LS 600h L comes standard with dual front, side, knee and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. Rear side airbags are available as an option.

Key Competitors
Those looking for a gas-electric full-size luxury sedan like the LS 600h L should also consider the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid and the BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Though it doesn't have a hybrid badge, the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC 4MATIC is a good choice for efficiency-minded buyers thanks to its 31 mpg highway rating.