2008 Lexus LS 600h review:

2008 Lexus LS 600h

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Starting at $104,900
  • Engine 8 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain All Wheel Drive
  • MPG 21 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 4, 5
  • Body Type Sedans

Roadshow Editors' Rating

9.7 Overall
  • Cabin tech 10
  • Performance tech 10
  • Design 9
Jun 2007

The Good The hybrid system in the 2008 Lexus LS 600h delivers good fuel economy and an excellent emissions rating for this size of car. The stereo system sounds fantastic and comes with a hard-drive music server. Live traffic reporting is integrated with the navigation system for smart destination routing.

The Bad Aesthetically, the car appears refined but it's no real head-turner. Music organization could be a little better.

The Bottom Line The 2008 Lexus LS 600h is a classy car with all the tech you could ask for, both under the hood and in the cabin. Its hybrid system gives it a better environmental pedigree than its luxury class competitors, and its driving performance is very good.

The 2008 Lexus LS 600h arrived in our garage amid great expectations from our staff. The non-hybrid 2007 LS 460 L had treated us so well during a trip to Los Angeles that we gave it a rating of 10. Would its more expensive, more high-tech sibling maintain the family honor? In many ways it did, and even more so, but the LS 600h also stumbles inadvertently, as we've changed our rating criteria.

This year we traded in our safety sub-rating, which wasn't something we could honestly test, for a design sub-rating, our one chance to inject some aesthetic opinions into our overall rating. And while the LS 600h is a very handsome, refined-looking car, has easy-to-use cabin electronics, and wonderful interior space, our consensus opinion was that it just doesn't have the beauty to push it over the top. To get a top score in our design sub-rating, a car has to be a real head-turner.

In all other respects, the LS 600h blows away our rating system. Although much more expensive than the LS 460 L, it justifies its price with more power, superior handling, and lower tailpipe emissions. Instead of making the LS 600h merely a hybrid version of the LS 460 L, Lexus added rather than subtracted, increasing the size of the gas engine from 4.6-liters to 5-liters, and coupling that to a 165-kilowatt motor. And all that power gets to the road through an all-wheel-drive system.

Similarly, the LS 600h gets all the cabin gadgets from the LS 460 L then adds a couple more. On the LS 460 L, we were stunned by the audio quality and loved the in-dash hard drive for storing music. The live traffic alerts feature the best integration with a navigation system we've seen on a factory-install. Then there are the cutting-edge features, such as automatic parallel parking and adaptive cruise control.

Test the tech: Man versus machine parking
We're no strangers to competitive parking, having previously put a Mini Cooper S into a curbside space of decreasing size. Because our LS 600h had the Advanced Parking Guidance System, we decided to pit CNET editors Wayne Cunningham and Kevin Massy against it. Our plan: we'd pick a standard parallel parking space and give the editors, and then the car, a shot at completing the task. The car and the editors would be timed, and we would also count the number of maneuvers it took to get in the spot.

The view from the back-up camera shows the Lexus getting close into its parking spot.
We gave the Lexus the first try. Once the car was in reverse, the car's back-up camera displayed the street space to the right of the car, and framed the image in green. The frame indicates that the car has found a space in which it can fit. You can adjust the frame if it hasn't matched the parking space precisely by tweaking the arrows located on the screen. We let the car roll back into the spot, and it automatically turned the steering wheel appropriately to get the back end in, then the front end. When the car notified us that the guidance was done, the car was in the parking space. Our stopwatch said it took 48.6 seconds--but the car was 20 inches from the curb.

Cunningham went second, backing into the same parallel parking spot. The LS 600h also has a park-distance warning, which sounded as Cunningham moved the car too close to one parked behind the spot. Cunningham made one correction forward, ending up 1 inch from the curb in 44.9 seconds. Massy then took the wheel. Once he was finally in the space, he had made a total of two adjustments, getting the car 8 inches from the curb in 44.6 seconds.

Massy got into the parking space in the least amount of time, but had to make the most adjustments. Cunningham was closest to the curb, but was second place in time and number of adjustments. The car took the longest, and was furthest from the curb, but made no adjustments.

As a long wheelbase car, the LS 600h just fits in between two meters.
Although the car's parking job wasn't technically legal, as it was too far from the curb, the Lexus does get the benefit of the doubt, as we didn't adjust where the car automatically placed its green frame to come closer to the curb. As for how much time the car took to park, that was partially under the control of a human operator. While the car steers itself into a spot, it requires a driver to control the speed. The Lexus does require a maximum speed of a few miles per hour for the system to work, and we tried to stay close to that.

While the parking system isn't perfect, in the right conditions it can work very well, and can save inexperienced parkers big headaches. Along with parallel parking, the car can back into perpendicular parking spaces, a feature that is generally easier to set up than parallel parking.

In the cabin
One thing you notice, or actually don't notice, after a long drive in the LS 600h is any discomfort. After spending many hours in the driver's seat, we found none of the usual aches or stiffness we get from other cars. The suspension and the seats combine to reduce fatigue for the driver. All of the cabin materials, from the leather seats to the Alcantara headliner, have a high-quality feel. Likewise, the switchgear feels solid.

You can control the car's systems through the touchscreen LCD, an interface that may not be as unique as BMW's iDrive or Audi's MMI, but is much more practical. There is also a voice command system that works well for entering destinations, controlling the stereo, and making phone calls. The Lexus voice command system is the second best we've used, just behind the system found in the Honda Accord.

Lexus navigation
The navigation system offers multiple routes to a destination, and its maps look good.
Because the navigation system's data is stored on a hard drive, it works much faster than a DVD-based system. The screen has nice resolution and the maps look very good. Specifically, we noticed that the street names don't appear jagged when they are aligned diagonally. We also like that the points-of-interest database has a phone book's worth of retail locations--you can use it to find any kind of shop. The database also lets you set destinations using the map or nearest freeway entrance.

We really liked the route guidance on the Lexus' navigation system as well. The system displays in a split screen, shows graphics for complex freeway junctions, and generally times its voice guidance well. But the most advanced part of the system is that, in conjunction with the system's live traffic reporting, it will suggest detours when your route takes you through slow traffic or an incident. During normal operation, the live traffic reporting--sent through an XM satellite radio channel--shows how fast traffic is moving on major roads and displays icons for incidents, such as an accident or roadwork.

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