Lexus LS 600h L Premier

The Lexus LS is refined, luxurious and hi-tech, but is it really worth £100,000?

It’s impossible to see past the Lexus’ hefty price tag. While it’s packed with stunning engineering and a list of standard kit as long as your arm, that’s not enough to justify its premium. The LS 600h is also the thirstiest and least engaging car to drive.

No premium brand has as much hybrid heritage as Lexus. The company revealed its first petrol-electric model in 2005 and has been expanding its line-up ever since.

The latest addition to the range is the revised LS 600h. Yet while Lexus claims it has made more than 3,000 changes, the saloon’s engine and transmission remain largely unchanged.

That means you get the same muscular 5.0-litre V8 and powerful 165kW electric motor – 125kW more than both the BMW and Audi – driving through a CVT automatic gearbox and permanent all-wheel-drive transmission. As a result, the LS blends a supercar-rivalling 443bhp with CO2 emissions of just 199g/km and an ability to run in electric-only mode for up to a mile.

Externally, the biggest changes have been reserved for the nose, which gets a revised grille and reprofiled, all-LED headlamps. There are also sleek new tail-lamps, plus the range-topping hybrid has 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels.

And while the Lexus’ conservative body is unlikely to turn many heads, it is beautifully finished, with tight panel gaps and lustrous paintwork. It’s a similar story in the cabin, where the LS looks and feels every bit as upmarket as its rivals here. All the materials are of the highest quality, while fit and finish are first rate.

As with the exterior, the changes are kept to a minimum. Look closely and you’ll spot the reshaped seats and upgraded Remote Touch infotainment system, which features a huge 12.3-inch display screen. Other highlights include an overhauled climate control set-up that features a four-zone layout and a total of 13 separate sensors for maintaining a precise temperature.

Yet as with any Lexus, it’s the gadgets and gizmos that steal the show. The list of hi-tech additions includes a BluRay player with a nine-inch screen for the rear seat passengers, adaptive cruise control and a Driver Monitoring System. This uses cameras and infrared sensors to watch for signs of tiredness in the driver’s face and sounds a warning if it detects drowsiness.

But the highlight is the rear seat, complete with integrated Ottoman-style footrest. It’s controlled by a complicated array of buttons on the fold-out rear armrest, and can be reclined by up to 45 degrees. Plus, it’s filled with eight air pockets that are automatically inflated to mimic Shiatsu massage.

With the seat in its fully upright position, there’s easily as much room for rear passengers as in either of the Lexus’ long-wheelbase rivals, while the 420-litre boot is the biggest here – although it’s still 140 litres smaller than the V8-engined LS 460’s.

The car also boasts a capacity advantage under its long bonnet, as its combination of 5.0-litre V8 and 165kW motor is by far the most powerful on test. Yet despite its extra power and four-wheel-drive traction, the LS needed 6.6 seconds to go from 0-60mph – a full 1.1 seconds longer than the BMW.

Still, what it lacks in outright pace, it makes up for in refinement. The company’s engineers have further improved the car’s sound insulation, meaning there’s virtually no wind and road noise, especially in EV mode, which operates at up to 41mph. Better still, the standard air-suspension effortlessly soaks up bumps in the road.

Sport or Sport+ settings on the new Drive Select control tweak the adaptive dampers, throttle and steering to deliver a sharper driving experience, while the dashboard power gauge transforms into a rev counter. However, even in its raciest settings, the LS feels big and cumbersome, plus the controls lack confidence-inspiring feedback.

Even more disappointing is the 16.1mpg economy we returned on test – 12.1mpg less than the Audi. Add the huge £99,495 price, and the Lexus faces an uphill struggle.

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