What is the Lexus LS?
The Lexus flagship: a colossal and exorbitantly priced saloon designed to showcase not only Lexus’s technical capabilities but also its credential as a true luxury car manufacturer. The car is awash with technology, from the hybrid drive system that no longer provides free access to the London congestion charge zone, to its four-wheel drive system.
The car is available with just one powertrain but in two wheelbases and as the longer car is actually the cheaper of the two, you’d be nuts not to choose it. Question is; should you be looking at it at all when the BMW 7-series, Jaguar XJ and Audi A8 are much younger? Mind you, not even that lot have found a way to successfully challenge the market dominance of the Mercedes S-class.
The essentials are all there. If you’re going to charge more than £90,000 for a luxury car, you’d better make sure its ride and refinement are among the best in the world and in these crucial regards, the LS ticks every box. It’s effortless too, as you might imagine a car powered by a 5.0-litre V8 assisted by a 221bhp electric motor to be. So far, so good.
But don’t think that just because it’s a hybrid from the same people who brought you the Prius, that the LS is going to be a paragon in terms of economy or emissions. To show you how far the game has moved on since the LS’s 2006 launch, consider that the latest Audi A8, also with four-wheel drive and a long wheelbase but fitted with a measly 3-litre diesel, has the same top speed, better acceleration and goes 13 miles further on each gallon of fuel while producing 48 grams less CO2. And the Lexus costs over half as much again. You don’t expect a car like this to feel sporting and the Lexus springs no surprises. It’s steering is light and lacking in feel, but there’s no faulting either its precision or the stability of the chassis.
Objectively, it’s close to perfect. There’s acres of space in the front and back plus every gadget and gizmo you can think of and a few more besides. As a car to be driven in over very long distances, we’d expect only an S-class to be as restful. What the interior lacks is any real style. It’s functional and effective, not warm and welcoming. It makes the car feel like the huge and luxurious Toyota it really is, and not like the effortlessly tasteful mobile drawing room that should be on offer for this kind of money. One other word of warning: all that hybrid gear has to go somewhere which is why, shockingly, you’ll find more space in the boot of a tiny Toyota Yaris hatch than this long-wheelbase limo.
What to look out for
Lexus’s reputation for durability is borne out by the fact that fault patterns have yet to crop up for the LS, largely because there are so few about. There are still a couple of potential issues though. That hybrid powertrain doesn’t like being jump-started, so check all the electrics thoroughly; injudiciously placed booster cables can wreak havoc. Also check that the rear brakes haven’t corroded; they’re not worked very hard and the regenerative braking system can lead to under-use.
A pair of recalls has been issued for the LS, both in 2010. They were because of the steering control ECU causing problems, along with the engine’s valve springs failing, potentially leading to the engine cutting out with the car on the move.
The one to buy
Lexus LS600h L
- £90,636 (correct at first publication)
- 4969cc, V8
- 316bhp @7200rpm
- 384 lb ft @ 4000rpm
- continuously variable
- 0-62mph in 6.3sec
- Top speed:
- 30.4mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 5150mm, W 1875mm, H 1480 mm