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It Came from Beyond the Swamp

Traversing the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail in the hybrid Lexus LS 600h L

Author Jacqueline Betwiler Illustration Brett Affrunti

Starting price: $120,060

Starting price: $120,060

The Lexus LS might be the only hybrid with an interior nicer than your boss’s office. We were delighted to find 16-way adjustable lumbar-supporting seats made of semi-aniline leather and a heated steering wheel. The luxurious detailing is even eco-friendly: The trim and steering wheel are made of sustainable bamboo.

The LS is the first Lexus model ever to include noise-reducing aluminum alloy wheels—which divert road noise into a channel where opposing wavelengths cancel each other out—so you’ll barely disturb any of the 350 species of birds you might pass while cruising through the cypress trees. 

The word “swamp” might make you expect shade, but beware, parts of the Tamiami Trail are as incandescent as a lightbulb. The LS comes prepared with four-zone climate control that adjusts the a/c, seat and steering wheel temperature to preset levels. There are also power sunshades, should you stop for fried gator bites.

Let’s be frank about the radio stations that broadcast through the Everglades, shall we? There aren’t any. But if you shout an artist at the Lexus Enform dashboard computer, it will call up your own tunes on the 450-watt, 19-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. The Rolling Stones’ Live in Hyde Park, anyone?

With a 5-liter V8 engine and two electric motors, this 438 hp hybrid can go from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Normally, the electric motors reduce the demands on the engine, but when accelerating from speed, everything works in tandem to give you some serious kick—as we found out while passing a rather large truck full of chickens.

The Everglades didn’t provide much opportunity for adventurous gear-shifting, but we did get to play with the LS’s mode switcher, which alternates between several fuel-efficient and sport modes. Under “Sport,” S offers higher engine output, while S+ enhances that by relaxing the steering and adding damping force to the suspension on tight corners.

Stability is key on a comfort car that tops out at 130 mph, especially on roads where you might have to swerve unexpectedly to avoid an alligator lounging in the middle. A reinforced underbody and aerodynamic fins reduced our drag and enhanced tightness on the occasional quick corner, which helped us avoid making any accidental roadkill suitcases.

The hybrid engine didn’t do much for our gas mileage on the highway (it pulls 23 mpg, about the same as non-hybrid LS models), but it did get 19 mpg while stuck behind musclemen in Camaros in South Beach. We made it all the way from Palm Beach to Sanibel Island, with an hour spent cruising Ocean Drive, on three-quarters of a tank.

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