Make us your home page

The Daily Drivers: 2013 Lexus LS 600h L, 2014 Acura TL Special Edition, 2013 Lexus GS 350

We recently drove a trio of sedans, from a limousine-style hybrid to the more modest, everyday luxury of an under-$40,000 car. Here are our impressions.

2013 Lexus LS600h L

Price: $120,060 start, $128,610 as tested.

For the executive who needs a mobile workspace, we present the hybrid Lexus LS600h L. It may look like a normal Lexus, but behind the now-familiar spindle grille, the LS600h L seems not so much a car as a test case for parent Toyota. Why else would you create an extended-wheelbase luxury sedan and give it two powerplants that make it exceedingly fast but not so economical? Why else would you stock it with every comfort and electronic-safety amenity available, including rear seating that pampers the occupant with everything except a manicurist? We suspect the LS600h L was designed in part for the emerging 1-percenters in the Chinese market who enjoy being driven. Surprisingly, you could actually use this car in daily life if you didn't mind doing the driving yourself or are not put off by its paltry estimated 19 miles per gallon (city) and 23 (highway). Lexus pairs its stout 5.0-liter V-8 with a high-output permanent magnet electric-drive motor; together they combine for 438 horsepower, and because of the electric motor, the low-end torque is outstanding. It also makes for great acceleration for a vehicle that weighs more than 5,000 pounds. The E-CVT hybrid transmission with sequential shift is one of the few CVTs we didn't dislike. Then there's the ride: The AWD car has adaptive variable air suspension that smooths out the bumpiest roads. And chances are, you won't hear those bumps either: Road noise is forced into a cavity in the 19-inch alloy wheels. The vibrations there cancel out the noise. It's an interesting concept. Inside, the car may be one of the quietest we've encountered thanks to those noise-canceling wheels, double-pane windows and an insulated hood and other features. Even the interior trim is one of our favorites: Lexus' attractive matte-finish bamboo. It makes for a Zen-like cabin. When you want to break that serenity, there's the 19-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround system. It's also loaded with safety features, from rear cross-traffic alert to an advanced precollision system to lane-keep assist. The sedan's elongated interior allows room for the Executive-Class Seating Package ($7,555), which includes a foldup tray table, power reclining seat complete with leg rest, multifunction massager, cool box and Blu-Ray player with wireless headphones. Is this car affordable or even practical for those of us who draw an hourly wage? No, but that's not the point. As Lyra said: "Peter, you can drive. I think I'll just relax in the backseat."

2014 Acura TL Special Edition

Price: $36,030 start. Special Edition: $37,530; $38,425 as tested.

Now in its fourth generation, the refreshed TL has less of a prominent "beak" for its grille than the earlier version that turned off buyers. It's paired nicely with slender headlights. The Special Edition trim adds polished 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, contrast stitching in the leather, keyless entry and push-button start, body-colored deck-lid spoiler and an oh-so-important "Special Edition" badge. When you push the bright-red start button, the rev-happy 3.5-liter V-6 and its 280 horsepower proves to be a lively performer: Acceleration is more than adequate, with confident merges and passing on the interstate. The engine is paired with a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. Paddles are available, but it shifts so well that we never felt a need to take over. Our tester was a FWD, which is fine in most cases, but a SH-AWD and a 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 are available in upper trims. The ride is comfortable, yet athletic. Steering is well-assisted, perhaps too much so. The interior is attractive with a curved dash with metal-tone accents (plastic). The TL is still a solid choice in a premium sedan, but Acura is still wrestling with its sports versus luxury identity.

2013 Lexus GS350

Price: $46,900 start, $57,309 as tested

Toward the other end of the Lexus spectrum from the LS600h L is the rear-wheel-drive GS350, which is a nice way to endure your morning commute. Its 3.5-liter V-6 produces 306 horsepower and has a surprising — and pleasing — exhaust rumble, as well as lively acceleration and plenty of power in highway driving. (AWD is available as an option.) Still, the GS350 is no sports sedan, but it is a comfortable and enjoyable drive with lots of features. The powerplant is paired with a 6-speed automatic with paddles and a selectable drive mode. As we've come to expect from Lexus, the perforated leather seats are buttery and plush, and the interior is top-notch. But we wish Lexus and other automakers would cut back on the wood-trim-is-a-sign-of-luxury philosophy. Sometimes it just looks fake, as in the Linear Espresso Wood in our tester. (We do like the feel of polished wood on the steering wheel, though.) The huge 12.3-inch high-resolution split screen is nicely inset into the dash. Lexus' mouselike Remote Touch multimedia interface is an acquired taste, and some may find it difficult to use.

The Daily Drivers: 2013 Lexus LS 600h L, 2014 Acura TL Special Edition, 2013 Lexus GS 350 10/31/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 10:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
  2. Tampa Bay cools down to more moderate home price increases

    Real Estate

    The increase in home prices throughout much of the Tampa Bay area is definitely slowing from the torrid rate a year ago.

    This home close to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa sold for $3.055 million in August, making it Hillsborough County's top sale of the month. [Courtesy of Bredt Cobitz]
  3. With successful jewelry line, Durant High alum Carley Ochs enjoys 'incredible ride'



    As a child Carley Ochs played dress up, draped in her grandmother's furs.

    Founder Carley Ochs poses for a portrait in her Ford Bronco at the Bourbon & Boweties warehouse in Brandon, Fla. on September 19, 2017. Ochs is a Durant High and Florida State University graduate.
  4. At Menorah Manor, planning paid off during Irma

    Nursing Homes

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doris Rosenblatt and her husband, Frank, have lived in Florida all of their lives, so they know about hurricanes.

    Raisa Collins, 9, far left, works on a craft project as Certified Nursing Assistant Shuntal Anthony holds Cassidy Merrill, 1, while pouring glue for Quanniyah Brownlee, 9, right, at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15. To help keep its patients safe during Hurricane Irma, Menorah Manor allowed employees to shelter their families and pets at the nursing home and also offered daycare through the week. The facility was able to accommodate and feed everyone who weathered the storm there. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  5. After Irma, nursing homes scramble to meet a hard deadline

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power …

    In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood. Nine have died and patients had to be moved out of the facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. [Amy Beth Bennett | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]