Motor Mouth

Lexus' long-wheelbase hybrid limo can park itself and give you a massage. But it's as green as an oilslick, says Sathnam Sanghera.

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Probably looks easy, this part-time car-reviewing lark. Get a manufacturer to lend you a £100,000 model with a free tank of fuel. Drive your mum to the shops and back. Knock out 450 words every four weeks. That ain't workin' - you get your money for nothin', your motorin' for free.

But things aren't always easy. There are occasions when you have to test-drive a model that is worth less than a house. Sometimes, the vehicle isn't delivered with a full tank of fuel. And there's the risk that you will test-drive a car, write the review, only to have another model delivered which immediately forces you to change your mind.

That's what happened this month. VW sent a long-wheelbase version of its Phaeton, and I loved it. It was powerful and luxurious, in a stylish and subtle way. The only thing I didn't enjoy was that I couldn't be in the car day and night. I wrote a glowing review, describing it as the best limo I'd driven, short of a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce, but then Lexus delivered the LS 600h L.

It's the first Lexus to be offered with a long wheelbase, 120mm longer than the standard model, and the first car of its size and stature to come in the form of a petrol-electric hybrid. Which is, of course, silly. It does 30.4 mpg on the combined cycle - which is good for its class but still about as environmentally friendly as a North Sea oil spill.

But as a straight executive car it excels. It does supremely well everything a limo needs to do. It is packed out with gadgets: the 19-speaker Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound system is the best in-car entertainment system I've heard this side of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, and it can literally park itself using computers and cameras.

It's incredibly comfortable: the left-hand rear seat on my model came with an electric recline function, an electronically adjustable ottoman foot-and-thigh rest and an adjustable massage function that could replicate techniques from shiatsu to acupressure. You almost expect it to offer you 'extras'.

And it's quiet. In part, this is due to incredible levels of sound-proofing and to the engine. Apparently, 'a master craftsman makes a detailed vibration check on each engine, using a stethoscope' - but the battery makes a difference here at city speeds. If I asked Sienna Miller out on a date, I doubt the silence would be more profound.

It really is the best limo you can get at this kind of price. But then I've not tried the Audi A8 - another chore for another month, perhaps.

I'LL TAKE ONE ...
- Powerful.
- Handsome.
- Luxurious.
- Silent.

THANKS BUT NO THANKS ...
- Not really green.

SPECIFICATION
Lexus LS 600h L £88,000
Engine: 5 litre V8 petrol/650V electric motor
Combined power: 439 bhp
Torque: 520 Nm at 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Automatic
Fuel: 30.4 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2: 219 g/km
0-62 mph: 6.3 sec
Top speed: 155 mph

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