The big Lexus slipped into EV mode and rolled silently to a halt behind a black HSV GTS. As I waited for the lights to change, the 325 badge on the rump of the GTS caught my eye. This Lexus LS600h F Sport out grunts HSV’s hardest current model by 2kW.
And given how difficult HSVs can be to get off the line, it would take a well-pedalled Aussie muscle car to beat the LS’s 5.7-second claim to 100km/h – a figure the LS600h would nail with ease thanks to its all-wheel-drive traction.
But while Lexus is keen to push the F-Sportiness of the new LS, no one is going traffic-light grand prix racing with HSVs. Instead, Lexus wants the new range-topping LS to compete dynamically with the sporting limos from Audi, BMW and Mercedes while beating them on price, refinement, equipment and aftersales support.
Previous generations of the LS have often beaten the Germans on value, equipment and refinement, but dynamics have never been a brand identifier. At the heart of the changes made this time around is a vastly stiffer body shell. While the doors and turret are carry over, there are 3000 changes to the old car, some of which result in a 60 percent improvement in torsional rigidity and 20 percent stronger steering.
On the road, the LS is a huge improvement on the previous car but it is coming off such a low base that that might sound like faint praise. It’s still no BMW 7 Series, but there is some steering feel and huge grip from the 245/45R19 Bridgestone rubber. The biggest dynamic fault is the truly awful brakes. There’s nothing wrong with the hardware, but the pedal is emo-sensitive in the first few millimetres of travel and then mushy and vague thereafter.
In Comfort or Eco modes, the throttle pedal takes a swift kick before there’s any response, but in Sport-plus, the 5.0-litre V8 comes alive with a crisp note. The combustion engine produces 290kW at 6400rpm and 520Nm at a peaky-sounding 4000rpm. The 650-volt electric motor kicks in 165kW and 300Nm. The combined system output of 327kW makes the LS600h the most powerful production hybrid in the world.
With the $750,000 LFA supercar sold out, the $217,900 LS600h is the brand’s most expensive offering and sits atop the LS range, which starts at $189,900 for the non-hybrid LS460 F Sport.