By May 8, 2014

2014 Lexus LS 600hL – your rolling living room

Think of it as a penthouse suite that goes 137 miles an hour. It’s one way of looking at the 2014 Lexus LS 600hL, a smooth and silent, nearly-three-ton cruiser that, with the optional back seat arrangement (more about which later), provides few reasons for ever leaving the car. You can snuggle up in that Barcalounger arrangement in the right rear portion of the cabin, switch on the vibrating massage gizmo that hides under the leather seat surface and, voila!, nirvana.

What we have here, coming back to nirvana-bereft earth, is the top-of-the-line Lexus sedan, the ultimate expression of the LS series. LS is the line of cars that successfully launched Lexus throughout the globe and St. Catharines/Niagara  nearly 25 years ago, with the LS 400. It’s gone through the LS 430 and is now the LS 460 (the numbers standing in as approximations for engine size – 430 for 4.3-liter, 460 for 4.6 liter). It’s the car to which parent company Toyota appears to pay the most attention. It’s the style leader, the showcase jewel in the window.

It is, also, incidentally, the player Toyota is putting on the field to compete with the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Tough competition. First, consider the pricing. When Lexus started selling cars in Canada, it was flogging a super-luxury car whose price undercut most of the existing luxo barges out there, most of them from Germany. The Lexus soon got a reputation for reliability, competence, silence and smooth riding.

Who’s killing the endangered alcantara?
The seating package also includes a DVD player, rear climate and audio controls and a nifty little writing table that pops up from the front of the center console. The “semi-aniline leather trimmed” seats, like those in front, are heated and cooled and above your head is the “alcantara headliner.” How many alcantaras did they have to kill to swaddle the ceiling in softness?

On the road, the 600hL is predictably Lexus:
all that sound-deadening material has done its work. At 70 miles an hour, it’s not much noisier than it is at half that speed. The 12.3-inch navigation screen is big enough to show you the maps as well as all the turns and upcoming streets and audio messages that you’re dying to hear. One thing you are missing is trunk space. The trunk in the 600 shrinks from the normal LS 460 18 cubic feet to 13 cubic feet, truncated, so to speak, by the hybrid’s battery package, which nestles under the back window.

Our car had such esoterica as a heated steering wheel and electric switches to move the front passenger seat in different directions, but we didn’t have the “advanced pre-collision system package,” which includes radar cruise control and a device that keeps you in your own lane. I’m all for these safety devices – extensions of the nanny school of automotive design, not to mention a platoon of lawyers looking over the engineers’ and designers’ shoulders. But Performance Lexus wonder if they lull the driver into a sense of complacency, believing the car’s elaborate systems will do his thinking for him and he doesn’t have to pay as much attention.

That back seat: the reclining-seat-cum-ottoman arrangement is fine. Very comfy, with the massaging element taking your mind off any recent stress, if only for a moment. It really is a limo back there, what with the DVD screen, the seats, the massage element, the writing/picnic table and the fact that there already is a large amount of legroom. One problem with the ottoman arrangement: if you’re taller than, say, five feet, six inches, your feet will hit the back of the front passenger seat. There’s only so much room in a 205-inch-long car.

The Lexus, despite its 25-year presence in Niagara, makes a more subdued statement. For some, that is a bonus. One other thing: Lexus cars consistently place at the top of respected studies’ reliability rankings. The less time your car spends in the shop, the more time you can spend in your penthouse suite. At 137 miles an hour.

Stay tuned with Performance Lexus for a more in-depth appraisal. For more information on this and other Lexus happenings in Niagara visit our St. Catharines showroom or on the web at – performancelexus.ca

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Posted in: Blog, Sedan