Exterior Design: ***1/2
First of all, the "Hybrid" badges on the doors are gauche, essentially meaningless and an utter afterthought. Talk about tacked on. And tacky. Lexus, the car costs over $100,000 — the kind of people that buy the LS600h L don't care what others think. Make that shouldn't care. Most likely, these folks will care the most. So I see the point. And the badgers are still awful. That said, at 0.3 inches longer than an Escalade (202.8 inches overall) this long-wheelbase baby cuts a pretty dapper rug. Ten times better looking than the fuddy-duddy previous gen big Lexus. We love the busy, jeweled headlights and dig the improved upon Bangle-butt. The trapezoidal tail pipes are a bit odd, though.
Interior Design: ***1/2
If we were only talking about the rear-seat the big Hybrid would score 5 stars, maybe more. The harsh light of reality insists that we have to include the front seat, too. At over 100 grand the wood shouldn't look fake, the buttons and switch gear shouldn't be shared with other, lesser models and the leather ought to be much more buttery. Also, there are just too many damn buttons. Either stick 'em all in the touchscreen or it's time to starting thinking about a Toyotafied iDrive. The backseat however, utterly rocks, and we didn't even have the full monty "Executive-Class" seating. It's hard to argue against heated/cooled reclining rear-seats. If you're wondering about how much space the long-wheelbase adds, I put a 6'5" inch friend in the rear and his knees were almost a full foot from the back of my seat.
At more than 2.5 tons, the 438 hp duet of engines has a heavy load to haul and it shows, especially coming off the line. The AWD doesn't help matters any. Still, 5.4 seconds to 60 mph was nearly unheard of for anything with 4-doors just a decade ago and quite respectable today. The LS600h L earns its blue chip once at speed, where burying the throttle converts the car from a nuclear submarine into a torpedo that's been fired from one. 100 mph happens so quickly it's startling. Dangerous to your driver's license, too. Some sad news: even with the traction and stability controls off, you can't do brake stands. We tried. Stupid supercomputer.
You'd never guess it, but the Cyber Barge might have the most powerful brakes in the entire world. Stomp on 'em and the car nearly does an endo. Then why only four stars? Because they also happen to be the least progressive brakes in the world. There isn't any pedal feel and woe unto the person who puts their foot into 'em at low speeds, because they will give themselves whiplash.
Yeah, this big sucka rides nice. Real nice. And with a ten foot wheelbase, it oughta. The air suspension makes the ride feel that much more supple, especially in comfort mode. We went over some of the worst earthquake damaged roads in LA (Stadium Way, anyone?) and the LS600h L just chewed up the smashed expansion joints and spit back butter. Veal fat butter. Please make sure your chauffer loads up on caffeine/amphetamines as all that smoothness (and silent leather) kept making us drowsy.
If you're behind the wheel, Sport mode is an absolute must. Even with the air suspension tightened the Cyber Barge don't dance. Or even wanna dance. True, long fast sleepers feel incredible especially when you are on the gas, but you can forget about any sort of narrow road with quick turns. Here's the tragic part: taking into account the Cyber Barge's Pequod like proportions, the hybrid limo actually has some moves, but the controls are either so numb (steering) or severe (brakes) that you can't take advantage of 'em. Or the computer cuts in and killjoys everything.
For instance, I was on my way to a party celebrating the publication of Basem Wasef's Legendary Motorcycles. The soirée was at a friend of Basem's named Allen. Only the invitation said, "Chez Allen." So, me being stupid, I was looking for a restaurant on a residential street. After not finding it five times, I got frustrated and flung the LS600h L around to go back for a sixth pass. Whoa. The car performed a perfect 180. Countersteered beautifully and everything. Trouble was, by the time the car was pointed in the new direction, the computer had all done all it could to stop the hooning short of powering down and phoning my mother.