2007 Lexus LS460 Review
SEE ALSO:Lexus Buyer's Guide™
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2007 Lexus LS460 Review
Lexus takes its slogan "the relentless pursuit of perfection" seriously. What, from some other manufacturers, would merely be an empty advertising phrase seems to be a way of life at Lexus. Case in point: the all-new, fourth-generation LS.
The LS has been the Lexus flagship since it introduced the brand in 1989. At that time, it served notice to the world's luxury car manufacturers that Lexus parent Toyota was as serious about luxury cars as it had previously been about more mundane means of transportation. It went from new kid on the block to the class standard in the American luxury market remarkably quickly. But although the Lexus lineup has expanded significantly since those days, the company never had an entry in the prestigious if small premium long-wheelbase segment.
Until now...for the 2007 LS comes in both regular- and long-wheelbase versions, with the long models stretched five inches - all of which goes into rear-seat legroom. Because of this, and because it sets new standards for Lexus in styling, craftsmanship, and construction, the 2007 LS460 is the most important Lexus since the original LS.
Besides the long-wheelbase model, what else is new in the 2007 LS? Nearly everything. It's built on a new structural platform, with a new aluminum-intensive suspension. The namesake 4.6-liter V8 engine is completely new, and combines 380 horsepower with excellent fuel economy and low emissions thanks not only to design details but to the world's first mass-produced eight-speed automatic transmission. Outside, the styling is the latest iteration of design themes found on other Lexuses, while the inside sets new standards in room, comfort, and opulence of available options, especially in the long-wheelbase "L" model. The car's construction process balances the latest in computerized robot construction and inspection with human inspection and detail finishing.
I first drove the 2007 Lexus LS460 when it was introduced to the automotive press last Fall in San Francisco, CA. At that time, I concentrated on the L model. I spent most of a day driving it on a wide variety of roads, from poorly-paved rural lanes to freeways, and was also able to experience the decadent coddling of the "Executive Class Seating Package", with its power-reclining multi-mode vibro-massage right rear seat. And, yes, that's the car that parks itself - given the right conditions. Those conditions are fairly restrictive at the moment, but given Lexus's obsession with development, the future could be interesting.
That was an impressive automobile, and a serious competitor to the uber-premium German and British luxury sedans. More recently I spent a week with a regular-length LS460, and found it just as impressive. In both forms, the LS460 has the expected first-class comfort and amenities. Power is ever-present, and the eight-speed transmission allows both quick acceleration and impressive fuel economy - I averaged 23 mpg during my week, not bad for a midsize V6 sedan. The newest LS is the best yet.
APPEARANCE: After years of exploration, Lexus is moving toward a cohesive design language. The company's word for that is "L-finesse", and with the debut of the latest LS, that style has been adopted across the company's car line. The heavily-chromed, rounded-trapezoid shape of the grille and domed hood harken to the SC coupe introduced a few years ago, while the rounded-wedge profile and sleek roofline establish a relationship to the GS and IS sport sedans. There is a more than slight nod toward Munich in the look of the tail, but here it's done more cohesively than on the original. The overall result is a well-integrated design with a good balance of elegance and power. Details matter, and here the LS excels. Each side window trim piece is one piece, not several as is more common. Lexus designers wanted the xenon HID headlamps to have lenses with crystal-like properties - so they built and studied a crystal lens, and emulated the results in the production lenses. Six-axis buffing robots with three-dimensional movements polish the paint, but during application of alternating layers of paint and coatings each LS460 is also hand-sanded twice.
COMFORT: Even in regular-wheelbase form there is no shortage of leg, head, or shoulder room, and the bright and airy design that has been a Lexus hallmark for many years enhances that. The L model adds 4.8 inches to the wheelbase, all of which goes into rear-seat legroom. Standard appointment level is, as expected, high, and all of the features expected in a contemporary premium luxury sedan are found. The "Smart Access" transponder allows push-button door opening, locking, and starting. An electronic parking brake can operate automatically - pretty much anything than can be automatically-controlled is, and things that aren't in standard form can be, optionally. Such as the (optional) one-touch power trunk and door closers on my test car. Another useful option in my test car was the "Comfort Plus" package, featuring power reclining rear outboard seats, a power rear sunshade, and heated and cooled front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel. Seats are soft and comfy, and the bright Optitron instruments are easily visible in all light. The Navigation/Mark Levinson audio package is pricey (at over $5000!) but gives audiophile sound from a 19-speaker surround sound system and the nav system has a simple touch-screen interface. Included in that package is XM satellite radio with the real-time NavTraffic feature - a great way to stay away from congestion and incidents on highways. The trunk is long, flat, and commodious, and a full-size spare is found underneath.
SAFETY: The LS460 meets the highest standards of active and passive safety. All safety systems are integrated for optimum response in the event of an accident. There are eight standard airbags, or up to eleven with some option packages. The newest version of the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system (VDIM) integrates the Antilock Braking System (ABS), the Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Electronically-Controlled Brake (ECB), Electronic Power Steering (EPS), and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) systems.
RIDE AND HANDLING: The LS's new unibody structure take advantages of the latest construction and quality-monitoring technology for precise assembly with light weight and high strength. This improves both interior quiet and ride and handling. The modified double-wishbone suspension is made largely of aluminum for reduced unsprung weight, further improving ride and handling qualities. It gives a slightly firmer ride and more communication with the road than in previous LSes, with no reduction in comfort. The electric power steering is not overly-assisted, for an appropriate touch.
PERFORMANCE: More power, better gas mileage, and lower emissions - not a bad trick at all. The LS460's namesake 4.6-liter engine is the first completely new V8 in Lexus history. Like all, it's has dual overhead cam, four-valve per cylinder architecture, and is cast in aluminum alloy. Unusually, it is the first production engine to use electric control of cam phasing, on the intake cams. Exhaust cam phasing is under hydraulic control. Fuel is delivered by a combination of port and direct injection. Design and construction are aimed at reducing internal friction, for the smoothest and most efficient operation. That's successful, because not only does the engine produce a high level of power - 380 horsepower (at 6400 rpm) and 367 lb-ft of torque (at 4100 rpm) - it does so with a ULEV II emissions rating and EPA fuel economy of 19mpg city, 27 highway. In normal driving, at speed and in hilly terrain, I got 23 mpg, very impressive for a car this size. Credit should also go to the eight-speed automatic transmission, as its low lower gears allow quick acceleration - a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds is nothing to be ashamed of for a sports car, let alone a large luxury sedan - and overdrive seventh and eighth gears for high-efficiency highway cruising. Large ventilated disc brakes all around, with four-piston front and twin-piston rear calipers and standard antilock and electronic control ensure fast, repeated stopping.
CONCLUSIONS: i>The fourth-generation LS460 breaks new ground for Lexus.
2007 Lexus LS460
Base Price $ 61,000 Price As Tested $ 71,875 Engine Type dual overhead cam aluminum alloy 32-valve V8 with VVT-i variable valve timing Engine Size 4.6 liters / 280 cu. in. Horsepower 380 @ 6400 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 367 @ 4100 rpm Transmission 8-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 116.9 in. / 198.0 in. Curb Weight 4,244 lbs. Pounds Per HP 11.2 Fuel Capacity 22.2 gal. Fuel Requirement 91-octane unleaded premium gasoline Tires P235/50 VR18 Bridgestone Turanza EL42 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, ABS standard Suspen,front/rear independent double-joint multi-link Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 27 / 23 0 to 60 mph 5.4 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Navigation/Mark Levinson Package - includes: 19-speaker Reference Surround Sound audio system with DVD audio and video playback, hard disc drive, navigation system, backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, XM satellite radio and NavTraffic $ 5,645 Intuitive Parking Assist $ 500 One-touch power assist power trunk and door closers $ 395 Comfort Package Plus - includes: power rear seats with memory, rear seat side airbags, heated steering wheel, climate comfort front and rear cooled and heated seats, power sunshade, headlamp washers $ 3,620 Delivery charge $ 715