When it debuted at auto shows earlier this year, it was clear the 2007 Lexus LS 460 -- the Toyota brand's flagship sedan -- was all about superlatives.
The Japanese luxury liner has the world's first eight-speed automatic transmission. You can order an optional Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound system with a whopping 19 speakers. And, as one Toyota executive put it, you can "live in the back seat," especially if you order the Executive Class seating package on the LS 460L. Goodies on that include a right rear-seat recliner with multifunction massage and an ottoman, rear-door power sunshades and a rear console with a fold-out table.
The Lexus designers took their inspiration from the first-class cabin in an airplane and when consumers got their look at the company's redesigned sedan, it usually triggered a gasp.
"Wow," said Rick Anderson, 52, a Ford pipe fitter and a member of the 2006 Detroit News automotive consumer panel, as he studied the car at the North American International Auto Show in January. "I look at this car and I think, 'People who are in their 50s are going to be leaving their Lincolns.' It's impressive."
Actually, the new LS 460 has no real domestic-brand competitors, with the possible exception of the Cadillac STS-V, and even that pales in terms of roominess, creature comforts and fuel economy. Not to mention the fact that the Caddy costs $13,000 more.
The LS 460 really is aimed directly at Europe's two kingpins: The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7 Series. And, finally, it's been given the wherewithal, in terms of looks and performance, to compete on nearly equal footing.
The LS 460 is on sale now, with prices starting at $61,715, including shipping. Despite all the upgrades on the redesigned 2007 model, the LS still maintains a hefty price advantage over its competitors; the BMW 750i starts at $75,695, while the Mercedes-Benz S550 is priced from $86,525. In comparison, the long-wheelbase LS 460L, with lots more standard equipment, carries a sticker of $71,715.
The exterior design of the new LS 460 is the most mature -- and least derivative -- yet for Lexus, adapting cues from the brand's ongoing "L-finesse" theme, as seen previously in the IS, GS and ES sedans. The styling continues to stir controversy; critics, especially in Europe, claim it doesn't look rich or distinctive enough alongside its chief German rivals from BMW and Mercedes.
What they can't argue about is the new powertrain. Lexus has fitted its latest twin-cam 4.6-liter V-8, which makes an ample 380 horsepower and 367 pounds-feet of torque. That's right up there with the 5.5-liter V-8 in the S550 and considerably more stout than the 4.8-liter V-8 in the 750i. What's more, Lexus boasts the world's first eight-speed automatic (Mercedes has only seven speeds, BMW a mere six), a sequential unit with manual shift capability.
The combination is smooth and potent in action, providing brisk acceleration: 0-60 miles per hour in about five and a half seconds. Furthermore, the fuel economy, as measured by the EPA, is exceptional for such a large and powerful car -- 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 27 on the highway. The Germans lag well behind those numbers.
We are also impressed with the LS 460's impeccable manners on all sorts of road surfaces. Sitting on 18-inch wheels independently sprung at all four corners, its ride is supple, without feeling floaty or bouncy. The electric power steering is well-damped, yet provides good feedback and crisp responses to driver inputs. The four-wheel disc brakes are simply sensational.
As you would expect from Lexus, the LS 460 bristles with the latest safety hardware, starting with the prerequisite antilock brakes, traction and stability control, and progressing to rain-sensing wipers, adaptive headlamps and a rear backup camera. An option worth having is the pre-collision system that senses an impending crash, tightens the occupants' safety belts and puts the car's other safety systems on high alert.
The pre-collision system comes bundled with a dynamic radar cruise control that automatically adjusts the vehicle's speed to maintain a specified distance from the car ahead.
The LS 460 also comes with eight standard air bags, including side curtains to protect all outboard occupants, as well as side and knee bags for front-seat occupants. Rear side bags cost extra.
One of the gimmicks that have garnered much publicity for the new LS is the optional Advanced Parking Guidance System with Intuitive Park Assist, which basically lets you park the car semi-automatically. You draw the vehicle up to the target space -- angle or parallel -- tap the brakes, and the car steers itself into the slot.
The cabin is more inviting than that of either the S-Class or the 7 Series. Trimmed in fine leather and grain-matched wood, the interior of the LS 460 is roomy and supremely comfortable -- exactly the sort of environment you'd fantasize about for longer excursions. Electroluminscent gauges stare at the driver from behind a gorgeous wood-and-leather steering wheel with power tilt/telescope function (you can also order a heated wheel).
While the basic LS 460 comes with all sorts of bells and whistles, it's possible to load up even more options, including climate-controlled front seats and a one-touch open/close power trunk lid. Lexus hasn't forgotten about the rear occupants either. Included in the equipment list are such features as rear power heated seats with climate controls and individual rear vanity mirrors.
Given that level of luxury, the temptation may be to let someone else drive and simply settle back into that sumptuous rear compartment and relax.
Avoid that temptation. The LS 460 is also meant to be driven, and driven hard. It will take all kinds of punishment without complaint, and will return many satisfying miles without leaving you drained and exhausted at the end of the journey.
Few cars can claim that sort of performance -- at any price.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Mike Hanley||Cars.com National||March 15, 2007|
|Dan Carney||Cars.com National||February 23, 2006|
|Mark Glover||The Sacramento Bee||April 6, 2007|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||March 26, 2007|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||February 1, 2007|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||January 28, 2007|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||December 31, 2006|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||December 29, 2006|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||November 29, 2006|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit Newspapers||November 15, 2006|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||August 30, 2006|
|Sara Lacey||Mother Proof||August 24, 2006|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||January 27, 2006|
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