2013 Lexus LS 600h L - front three-quarter view

I have spent the last seven days driving the Starfire Pearl (read: white) 2013 Lexus LS 600h L you see here. And after roughly 500 miles of errand-running, highway-cruising, commuting and people-schlepping, I can safely say this: I don't get it.

The LS hybrid is a nice car. It's comfortable, has every amenity you'd ever want in a luxury boat, and with its freshened appearance for 2013, it looks modern, integrating the company's new spindle grille into an overall package that's elegant. None of this is bad news. But let me explain why I still cannot wrap my head around the overall LS 600h L package:

Driving Notes
  • For starters, the LS hybrid mates a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 to a 165-kilowatt electric motor. The gasoline engine on its own is good for 389 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque, and with the electric motor factored in, Lexus states that the total system output is a robust 438 hp. (All of that, by the way, resides in what editor Zach Bowman refers to as the "world's saddest engine bay.")
  • That makes for one quick sedan, even here with all-wheel drive and a hefty 5,159-pound curb weight. Hitting 60 miles per hour takes 5.5 seconds, and top speed is limited to 130 mph.
  • Hybrid or no, as you'd expect with a package like this, fuel economy isn't exactly stellar. The EPA rates the LS 600h L at 19/23/20 miles per gallon (city/highway/combined). My average over the week was 19.2 mpg.
  • For comparison, let me introduce you to the non-hybrid LS 460 L AWD, powered by a 4.6-liter V8 that makes 360 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the 600h, the 460 is slower to 60 mph by 0.4 seconds and its fuel economy numbers are 16/23/18 mpg. That's right: The highway economy number is the same as the hybrid, and the combined rating is only reduced by two mpg.
  • Lexus does call the LS 600h L a performance hybrid, so rather than it being a more efficient version of the flagship sedan - sort of the way a Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid is really just a more frugal S550 - this electrified LS is supposed to be the zenith of the line, offering the most power, quickest acceleration, and top-level refinement.
  • Thing is, it's not all that good to drive. Even with the Drive Mode Select button toggled to Sport S+, the LS 600h L delivers driving dynamics that are far closer to that of a Hyundai Equus than an Audi A8 or BMW 7 Series. It's a giant rolling couch, with vague steering, plenty of body roll, and a suspension that, even in its firmest setting, doesn't offer a whole lot of sport. Comfy and plush, yes, but hardly engaging.
  • The interior is really where the LS excels, yet lags. It has every comfort and convenience feature you can imagine, the materials are top notch, and it's, well, Lexus quiet. But from a user standpoint, there are issues. I know that Audi's MMI, BMW's iDrive and Mercedes-Benz's COMAND aren't always peachy systems to use, but they at least offer more user-friendly controllers than the horrible mouse-like Remote Touch controller in the LS. Several passengers commented on this during my week with the car, each one of them failing to understand the point. Perhaps Lexus could bring that 12.3-inch screen out a little more and just make it a proper touchscreen interface.
  • But here's where it totally falls apart: as-tested, the LS 600h L I drove stickered for $135,029, including $895 for destination and handling. Remember that LS 460 L AWD I mentioned earlier? The one that's not much slower and, in most cases, just as efficient as the hybrid? Option it up to the exact same levels of equipment as this 600h and it's still $34,749 cheaper. That's right, nearly thirty-five thousand dollars less.
  • Or hey, check out the BMW 750Li xDrive sedan. It has 445 horsepower, gets 24 mpg highway, and completely loaded, is $20,000 less than the LS 600h L. And if efficiency really is your thing, allow me to introduce you to the Audi A8L 3.0 TDI that claims up to 36 mpg highway. It starts at $82,500.
  • What we have here is car that is, in a vacuum, fine. Everything that it does, it does well enough. But not for this price. And certainly not when there are so many more attractive options for buyers in the segment. Regardless of your preference for power, efficiency or just straight-up luxury, there are better ways to spend your cash than on this LS 600h L.