PASADENA, Calif. — While the LS 600h L raises the bar for Lexus luxury and performance, there is no doubt it will also redefine expectations for the premium luxury segment as a whole.

With rollout set to begin in June, the all-wheel drive LS 600h L is without question one the most sophisticated, technologically advanced production vehicles ever built.

By coupling a V-8 engine with the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, the LS 600h L generates the comparable output of a V-12 engine (it has a peak combined output rating of 438 horsepower), yet it is rated as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle with an EPA fuel economy rating of 20 mpg city, 22 mpg highway (using the new EPA specifications).

It goes from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and from 50-90 mph in just over 3 seconds. And yes, I put that claim to the test during the recent product introduction event held in Southern California.

From an acceleration standpoint, the V-8 mated to the Lexus Hybrid Drive system makes this one of the quickest vehicles I have ever driven.

It is not only fast, it is remarkably quiet, smooth and with its advanced steering and suspension systems coupled with all-wheel drive, provides a sure-footed platform for virtually any driving situation.

During a test drive through the twisty mountain roads near Los Angeles, it was like driving a sports car — a very luxurious sports car with a large back seat.

And while the LS 600h L is offered with an Executive Class Seating Package that includes climate controlled reclining rear seats with foot rest and DVD entertainment system, it’s so much fun to drive I can’t imagine why anyone would want to ride in back — although it is extremely comfortable.

The LS 600h L marks a new chapter in Lexus history as the division’s first model targeted for the “ultra affluent.”

“The LS 600h L will stand as the flagship for the Lexus brand by providing the highest level of technical advancements, ride comfort, safety and luxury of any vehicle in our lineup,” said Jim Farley, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “It’s development process mixed the old and the new. The old, through a Lexus-established build process that achieves extraordinary fit and finish only attainable by our master craftsmen, and the new with cutting-edge engineering innovations.”

With a price tag starting at $104,000, it is absolutely loaded with technology.

The premium luxury features are pretty nice, too, especially the hand-stitched leather dash board and elegant touches throughout the cabin.

But the technology, well, it’s just amazing. For starters, it provides full hybrid capabilities that delivers outstanding performance and EPA along with a state-of-the-art full-time all-wheel drive system that adapts to any road surface enabling outstanding vehicle stability and absolutely unbelievable high-speed cornering.

The gas engine and electric motor powerplants are mated to a dual-stage electronically controlled CVT that includes eight-speed sequential braking. I still can’t figure this one out, but Lexus has developed a CVT that allows the driver manual shift options by using either the shift lever or the paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.

It also features the world’s first LED low beam headlights (that are designed to last the life of the vehicle while producing excellent illumination), SmartAccess key fob and push button start/stop, Park Assist (that allows the vehicle to parallel park itself — or back itself into a parking slot).

The least of features is far to long for the short space allotted in this column.I will say the 19-speaker, 450-watt Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound audio system with XM Satellite Radio is worth the price of admission.

The same holds true for the safety features, which include numerous cutting-edge active and passive safety systems.

One example is the Advance Pre-Collision System which incorporates two small cameras mounted at the front of the car that work in conjunction with millimeter-wave radar. The system detects both hard and soft bodies and alert the driver of a pending collision.

It even includes a Driver Monitor System — another first. Using a third camera mounted on the steering column, the camera monitors the orientation of the driver’s face. If the camera detects that the driver is not looking directly ahead for a few seconds or more, and if an obstacle is detected ahead, it alerts the driver with a warning chime, followed by a flashing light. As the car gets closer to the obstacle, the system begins to apply the brakes if the driver does not respond. It also assists the driver in maneuvering around the obstacle by reprogramming the steering ratio, amplifying the intensity and quickness of the steering response.

There is also Adaptive Front Lighting that helps the driver see around curves and eight standard airbags (11 airbags available through an optional package). This is an amazing vehicle. For the “ultra affluent” who are in the market for a premium luxury performance sedan, the LS 600h L is an absolute must test drive when they begin arriving in dealer showrooms in June.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at