Our Cars: Lexus LS600hL – week 1
One giant leap for MME
By Shahzad Sheikh
2-9 April 2012
Motoring Middle East’s first long-term test car was a AED51,000 Toyota Yaris. People may have doubted and scoffed, but we genuinely fell for the frisky little Toyota. And having concluded our time with it, the logical step was obviously to upgrade to a Lexus LS600hL (the extended wheelbase flagship) costing more than nine units of Yaris!
We all know there’s an all-new LS waiting in the wings, probably set to be revealed early next year, and undoubtedly it will get the new ‘spindle’ Lexus family grille from the LFA and brilliant new GS.
But the current LS is nonetheless ‘one of the best cars in the world’ (Trademark) even though this model has essentially been around since 2006 with a refresh in 2009. In fact I first drove an example of this range-topping LS600hL (the ‘h’ stands for ‘hybrid’) over two years ago, on its first arrival in the region.
Here’s my video review from then.
So there are several questions to be answered over the next few weeks:
1. Does this car feel in anyway outmoded or outdated?
2. Is it still as stupendously brilliant a luxury cruiser as it was six years ago?
3. Does the hybrid really make a difference to economy -or will it costs as much as a Yaris in fuel money to run?
4. How are we going to put up with all this serene effortless luxury after the proletariat Yaris?
In the last week or so, only having driven it just under 400km (this is a nearly new car delivered with just over 2000km on the clock), I can confirm that it’s as absurdly effortless, calming, smooth and refined as anything else currently out there this side of a Rolls-Royce – and it would run that pretty close for NVH too.
I’ve been leaving it in normal mode because every time I press the ‘Power’ button, put the suspension or gearbox in ‘Sport’ it just all seems terribly undignified and inappropriate – though I will take it for a proper high-speed blast one day.
Those 400 clicks have only used up about half a tank, although I don’t know yet how much it costs to fill it up, but I do intend to see if the suggested range of just over 700km on a tank-full is realistic.
And whilst the instrument panel is a delight to behold as it comes to life after a soothing visual welcome of parting clouds or something like that, I have to admit that the main interface monitor in the dashboard, looks a little dated.
It’s also a bit cumbersome to operate. It took an age to link up my iPhone by Bluetooth, and then I discovered that there is no Bluetooth streaming Audio – the Yaris has that now, but the half-million Dirham Lexus doesn’t. You can however connect it up physically, with an actual cable, and play your tunes that way.
I also initially thought the Sat Nav had gone completely barmy, and was about as useful as a road atlas dipped in treacle, because it didn’t even recognise the word ‘Mirdif’ – only where I live Godammit! – until I realised that it had been left set to Saudi. Switching it to UAE resolved the issue.
However, having recently tested the all-new GS and tried the ‘mouse-operated’ system in that with the massive display screen, it’s obvious how far Lexus has come, and the next LS is bound to be sensational.
And shock, horror! Just yesterday I discovered what might actually be a potential fault with the luxury Lexus – caught in a sudden brief drizzle, I found that the wipers don’t do anything but resolutely sit in their nest under the bonnet, despite innumerable attempts at tugging and yanking the wiper stalk. All I achieved was making the situation worst by skirting water all over the windscreen – the jets still work fine. So I’ll take it back later this week to see what the issue is there.
In the meantime I’ve been marvelling at its incredible ability to surge forward with the thrust of a cruise missile but with barely a whoosh from the windows and the most subtle of deep-chested growls from somewhere up ahead. In fact, for all the people that complain about low-flying aircraft over Mirdif, just sit in one of these with the windows closed – you won’t notice them at all.
What’s even more eerie is how it moves around at slow speeds on electric power only. I keep worrying about pedestrians not even hearing this massive mass moving around. The ride too is utterly sublime – it really just glides.
I’ve yet to get in the back and luxuriate in the massage throne that is the ‘Ottoman’ chair, which I will do soon, but again, why doesn’t the driver get to have a message, as he would in the German competitors.
Stay tuned for more next week.