2007 Lexus LS 460 Preview Road Test
The Car That Parks Itself
The all new 2007 Lexus LS 460 has arrived all dressed up and ready for the prom. Gone is the conservative me-too styling that made the LS look like a homely version of the previous generation Mercedes S-Class. The new Lexus styling direction, called L-Finesse, gives the LS its own look and identity. We have already seen examples of L-Finesse styling with the gorgeous Lexus GS and most recently with the introduction of the second generation Lexus IS and the new2007 Lexus ES350.
Since its inception in 1989 as a 1990 model, the Lexus LS has been a ground-breaking car, daring to compete head-to-head with the German luxury car manufacturers, and doing it at a price tens of thousands less than the prevailing top guns. In short order, the LS worked its way into the hearts and minds of automotive journalists, many describing it as possibly the best car in the world.
Shortly after the original LS was introduced, it began garnering awards for its quality, performance, and dealership experience with a string of first place wins from J. D. Power and Associates for initial quality, customer satisfaction and dependability.
During the press conference in Detroit, Jim Press, President and COO of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, told us that "a five-year-old Lexus LS is more problem free than a brand-new car from either of the leading German competitors". I personally can vouch for that statement because I owned a first generation Lexus LS400 and I would have to say that it was the most trouble free car I have ever owned. (not to mention the fact that I bought it used with 76,000 miles on it)
Lexus continues to boast about their pursuit of the perfect car, so let's see how close they have come to that goal.
They have obviously resolved their biggest shortcoming, bland styling, with the new L-Finesse design cues that makes the LS460 a distinctive, stylish car.
Another shortcoming with some people was rear seat room. Most of the upscale competitors have long wheelbase cars to provide real stretch-out space in the rear seat. So for 2007, the LS will now be available in both a normal wheelbase and long wheelbase models.
Lexus is all about quiet, and the LS has always been the quietest Lexus. For 2007, additional steps were taken to better control the sounds that this car makes. The goal was to eliminate noise wherever possible or tune the sound so that it is in keeping with a luxury car atmosphere. A Takumi (feeling master) has been employed at Lexus to make sure that any sounds that the car makes, will impart the feel of high quality. This includes things like the sound that the doors make when closing (or opening for that matter), the sounds that the windows make when going up or down, even the sounds that the switches make when they are activated.
In fact, a great deal of effort went into the design of the many electric motors that are in the LS460 in order to make sure that, either they are completely silent, or the sound that they do make ads to the quality of the experience.
Lexus has always paid a great deal of attention to the controls and displays on the LS to make sure that everything is logical and easy to understand and operate, even for those of us who do not get along very well with technology.
On the road, the LS460 was as quiet as billed. I didn't get a chance to drive it back to back with the previous LS430, but it was at least as quiet and probably more so. On the road, the ride and handling were sublime. While it is certainly not a sport sedan, the steering felt intuitive with a fine feeling of control in any driving situations I encountered. Cornering was flat and controlled despite the soft ride, a notable achievement.
The LS460L is a large car, but it felt almost nimble and certainly easy to control. It is as close to a magic carpet as you are apt to find this side of a 6-figure price. Acceleration was smooth and powerful and every bit as good as the Mercedes S550. At full throttle, the 8 speed automatic transmission shifted through the gears with no noticeable dips in the solid G-forces I was feeling. The transmission even has a manual mode so that you can shift it through the eight speeds yourself. At light throttle, the shifts were almost undetectable.
There are many thoughtful touches inside and outside to make life easy, from the power seat belt height adjusters to the duplicate power seat controls for the passenger seat that are within easy reach of the driver. The driver can easily pre-position the passenger seat so that if the last passenger had the seat reclined, the next passenger won't fall back unexpectedly when entering. Small touches, but nice to have.
The available GPS navigation system now includes real-time traffic reporting. The system will indicate where construction zones or accidents are located or which roads have congested traffic by using colored arrows along the route, Green for an open road, Yellow for congestion and orange for a traffic jam.
The system currently covers 22 major metropolitan areas utilizing the XM NavTraffic service to display up-to-the-minute traffic information including traffic speed, accidents and construction areas. The first year of this service is free after which time there will be a small annual charge.
The new fifth generation navigation system displays in English, French and Spanish and contains map information for the continental United States and Canada. The system contains over eight million points of interest including gas stations, restaurants, cash machines, banks, and many other types of locations.
The navigation system can now be controlled by voice command while you are driving. All this information is now stored on a 30 GB hard disk drive instead of a DVD disc. The hard drive is also used for music storage allowing you to keep 4000 of your favorite songs on tap.
Also included with the navigation system is a more extensive Bluetooth interface that allows you to connect with a Bluetooth compatible phone and make and receive calls through steering wheel controls and voice activation. The system can be paired with up to 6 mobile phones and store 1000 phone book entries.
Another optional feature that elicited wows when the LS460 was announced last January was a system that would allow the car to actually park itself. You simply pull up to a parking space and place the Intelligent Park Assist system into self-park mode. After that, all you have to do is keep your foot lightly on the brake pedal. The car will do the rest, automatically steering into the space for a perfect park each time.
We tried out this feature and it worked as advertised, however it was rather sensitive to the speed you allow during reverse operations. If you let it go too fast or too slow, it displays an error message on the screen and cancels the operation. You also need a parking space at least 4 feet longer than the car to complete the maneuver. To initiate self park, you would pull up to the car in front of the parking space and place the car in reverse. The screen changes to the rearview camera image with a rectangular box and 4 arrows. You tap the arrows until the box is in the space where you want the car to wind up in. Once you have that done, tap a button on the screen and let go of the wheel. As you ease the car back, the steering wheel begins to turn into the space. When it reaches a certain point, the wheel spins in the other direction to complete the park. You then have to manually shift into drive and pull forward if necessary, but the car wound up exactly where you set it to go.
The long wheelbase model is 203 inches long and has a special luxury package available for the rear seats that includes a right rear seat that not only reclines, but has an "ottoman" that extends out to serve as a footrest. This rear seat also has an extensive massage system that allows you to control the type and intensity of the massage. The system also includes a DVD entertainment package and a hidden cooler compartment.
Many of the options for the normal wheelbase LS460 will be standard on the LS460 L, including: a GPS navigation system, power open & close trunk lid, four-zone automatic climate control with overhead diffuser and XM Satellite Radio with real-time traffic displays and dynamic rerouting.
The standard Lexus Premium Audio system is no slouch with its Six-disc in-dash CD changer, Digital Sound Processor (DSP), Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL), Electronic crossover network and MP3/iPod audio input plug with 10 speakers. But the real news is the available Mark Levinson audio system which will include a 7.1-channel speaker architecture with reference surround sound, Discrete 5.1 channel playback, MLS (7.1) 24-bit surround logic processing and 19 speakers. This is all gobblyygook to me, but an audiophile should be impressed. It certainly sounded good to my untrained ears.
Here is how the 19 speakers are laid out:
- Six titanium cone speakers will be arranged across the dash
- a woofer will be located in each front door
- three speakers will be in each rear door
- four satellite speakers will be in the rear roof pillars
- a woofer will be located in the rear package shelf.
While sitting in the back seat, we watched a movie on the large screen that dropped down from the headliner. Sound was piped through the 19 speakers of the Mark Levinson system. The movie was U-571, a WW-II submarine flick with lots of action scenes. I have to tell you that it felt like I was actually on the sub in the middle of all the depth charges going off. The experience was better than any movie theater I have ever been in. Add to that the fact that I had the seat giving me a shiatsu massage as my feet were up on the built in ottoman and you will understand why my fellow journalists had to practically drag me out so they could have their turn.
This rear seat package is part of the Executive Class Seating Package that is available as an option for the LS460-L. It includes the high rez DVD screen that drops down electrically. The cabin is configured as a 4 passenger car with an additional console that divides the rear seat area. The console includes a control panel that can control a number of features like the four zone climate control giving everyone in the car their own thermostat.
There are also radio controls, power seat controls and a cooler between the seats. The right seat can recline and an ottoman deployed for the busy executive to catch a few winks as he or she is chauffeured to their destination. Too much sun? Push a button to control sun shades in the rear doors and rear window. Need a massage?, pull a remote out of the console and control the type and intensity of the massage.. The Executive Class Package is a $12,675 option.
The climate controls also have been enhanced on the new LS. Once you set the desired cabin temperature, the system will not only monitor air temperature, it will also monitor the body temperature of the occupants and adjust the outlet temperature to compensate. There is even an optional heated steering wheel.
The new LS 460 is so named for the new 4.6 liter engine that produces a whopping 380 horsepower, which is 102 ponies more that the already powerful 2006 LS430. Standing start to 60 miles per hour is a blistering 5.4 seconds, which beats many high end performance sedans. The difference here is that the LS460 does it with a whisper instead of a roar.
Now, normally when you increase the size and output of an engine, gas mileage suffers, but not in this case. The LS460 will get 19 mpg for city driving and 27 mpg on the highway, which is actually better that the LS430 which had an EPA rating of 18 city and 25 highway.
Much of the credit for this increased performance and efficiency has to go to the new new V8, which is the first new engine design in the 17 year LS history. This power plant has an 11.8 to 1 compression ratio which is extremely high. This is made possible by the new fuel injection system which has two injectors per cylinder, one that squirts directly into the combustion chamber under extremely high pressures, and the other that feeds fuel into the port just above the intake valves. This design allows for extremely tight control of fuel delivery for maximum efficiency.
Four overhead cams with VVT-iE (Dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence) and the first use of an electrically controlled valve timing system help maximize intake efficiency, especially during cold starts. The camshafts are of a new, hollow design and are now driven by a chain instead of a timing belt for improved reliability and reduced maintenance costs.
Another reason for the added efficiency is the first ever 8-speed automatic transmission. With eight forward speeds, you could spread the ratios out to have a lower first gear for improved off-the-line acceleration, and a higher top gear for better fuel economy on the highway. The transmission case is no larger than the previous 6 speed and has been engineered for lower weight, increased rigidity and quieter operation.
The front suspension has been reengineered for better ride and handling and has one of the best turning radius in its class with a curb to curb turning circle of 35.4 feet. The long wheelbase model is 36.7 or 37.4 with the optional 19 inch wheels and tires.
The new long wheelbase LS460 L is being positioned to compete directly with the best cars in the world, most notably the Mercedes Benz S550, BMW 750 iL and Audi A8L.
The L will have many features that are optional on the regular wheelbase LS as standard, so expect the price to go where no Lexus has gone before. Prices have not been announced yet, but we will have them posted here as soon as they are.
The LS460 and LS460 L will both be rear-wheel drive cars. All-wheel drive will not be available for the 2007 model year, which is too bad, because many people in the northern states have expressed a strong interest in that feature. It will, however be standard on the upcoming LS600h L which will be the top-of-the-line Hybrid version of the Lexus LS. Lexus tells me that the all-wheel drive system used in the LS600h can be adapted to the LS460 and LS460L. I expect that we should see that option on the standard sedans in the next year or two.
In April 2006, Lexus revealed the details on a Hybrid V8 Ultra Luxury LS that will not only provide more power, but outstanding fuel economy for a large luxury sedan. We expect to see close to 500 horsepower. That's V12 territory, but with fuel economy comparable to that of the most fuel efficient V8s. This new ultimate Lexus will be called the LS600h L and have all-wheel drive and a dual-stage electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission.
The LS hybrid is expected to carry a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating. A SULEV rating means the LS 600h L has nearly 70-percent cleaner emissions than the cleanest of its competitors.
The LS600h L is expected to be the quietest car ever made. It is so quiet that engineers had to go back to the drawing board to redesign all the electric motors and switches because they were becoming noticeable for the first time.
The new Hybrid LS is expected to arrive in Lexus showrooms in April of 2007 and will probably reach 6 figures, placing it on the "List of things to buy when I hit the lottery" category for most people.
At the same time the Hybrid LS 600h L is introduced, Lexus will also make available a new Advanced Pre-Collision System as an option for all LS models. This system is so advanced, it will even detect pedestrians. Two small cameras mounted at the front of the car, in conjunction with millimeter-wave radar, are sensitive enough to detect not just large metal obstructions such as cars but also smaller nonmetallic objects, such as humans.
A third camera, mounted on the steering column, monitors the drivers face. If the camera sees that the driver is looking away for a few seconds or more, and something is in the car's path, then it alerts the driver first with a warning chime and a flashing light. If that doesn't get the driver to react, the system can begin to gently apply the brakes on its own. The system will also reprogram the steering ratio to quicken the steering response. While all of this is happening, the system automatically cinches up the passenger restraints and prepares the brake system to respond with full force when activated by the driver in anticipation of a possible impact. Once the emergency is averted, the car will then reach out and slap the driver a few times to wake him up (just kidding, that's his wife's job)
So we have beauty, brains, brawn, stamina, and the swagger of an underdog that has proven every point it ever tried to make. That is the 2007 Lexus LS. The LS460 and LS 460 L should be in Lexus showrooms by late October 2006 with the Hybrid LS600h L coming around April 2007 as a 2008 model. Place your order soon, the demand for these cars will most likely be greater than the supply for a while. The line forms to the right.