Dh472,000. That's a big chunk of change in almost anyone's book but, when it comes to luxury automobiles, not all that unusual. For that kind of money there's a wealth of choice out there, but let's dispense with the sports cars, shall we? Let's think instead of all the big, luxurious saloons on offer, predominately from European manufacturers. If you had that amount of cash at your disposal, just what would you choose to waft around in? BMW 7 Series? Mercedes-Benz S-Class? Jaguar XJ? A nearly new Bentley Continental Flying Spur, perhaps? Hmmm, how about a Toyota? What was that? No?
However, before you write off the Lexus LS 600hL as nothing but a posh Toyota (which essentially is exactly what it is), it's perhaps worth giving this Japanese luxobarge a chance to stake a claim to your small Dh472,000 fortune. Because while it may still have the wrong badge (seriously, the logo must have taken all of five minutes to design), Lexus reckons its big saloon is a worthy contender against the Germanic and British competition.
My experience with Lexuses (should that be Lexi?) has been rather limited so far. I've been sitting on the fence for years when it comes to the "posh Toyota" thing, hoping that, with more seat time in them, I'd be able to forget the stigma. So a chance to pilot a gargantuan LS 600hL for a few days was too good an opportunity to miss. Back in the UK, these models are relatively scarce, but here, they're quite ubiquitous. See a car hammering towards your rear bumper on the E11, headlamps flashing like there's some dire emergency to attend to, and chances are it'll be one of these. I make it my goal to be different. I'm actually going to drive this thing like it's meant to be driven. Sedately. That should get my fellow road users nice and confused.
There's another reason I'm keen to drive this white behemoth, though. That little "h" in its nomenclature tells those in the know that this is a hybrid. The "L" signifies an extra long (3.1 metre, no less) wheelbase. But before we get to some serious numbers and find out what it's like from within, I need to get something off my chest. While I've been willing to give Lexus the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the "posh Toyota" jibes, and while I've admired the handsome lines of the standard LS in the past, when I park this one next to a lowly Toyota Camry, the looks are way too close for comfort. The Camry just looks like this Lexus after it's spent too long in the washing machine at 60°C. For my Dh472,000, I'd be wanting something with gravitas, individuality and unabashed prestige - the opposite end of the evolutionary scale to a Camry.
There, that's better. Right then, let's see what this car is all about. It's a big, big hunk of metal. It's 5.2 metres long and almost two metres wide - it's nothing if not imposing. And ignoring the generic Camryesque looks, take a seat inside and you realise what this car is all about: absolute refinement and complete insulation from the outside world. This cabin is the personification of "well appointed" and even before it's turned a wheel I'm impressed by its ability to make you think all is well with the world. If I was a well-heeled company exec, I'd be happy enough ensconced in its rear quarters.
There's a plethora of electrical toy goodness to be fiddled with and enjoyed. Yet the plastic switches and buttons used to control them, as well as the soft plastics covering the dashboard and other surfaces, feel decidedly low rent when compared with the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar. An XJ, at least, would have everything covered with gorgeous, opulent leather. For a car that costs - and I know I'm labouring the point here - Dh472,000, I expect better, and so should you.