Let me start by saying: I have long considered the Lexus flagship sedan to be the uber four-door model in the luxury passenger car segment.

I thought so when it was called the Lexus LS 400. Ditto when it became the Lexus LS 430.

But with the new-for-2007 Lexus LS 460, I'm not so sure.

Don't get me wrong. The tested LS 460 L -- with the "L" designating the long-wheelbase edition of the sedan -- is a spectacular car. It's a sweet-driving, powerful, technologically mind-blowing masterpiece of automotive engineering.

But packed with so many techno marvels and starting at an eye-popping $71,000, the top-of-the-line four-door Lexus now feels like it has stepped up to some higher plane ... out of reach of the mainstream car buyer.

Yes, the more-basic 2007 LS 460 starts at $61,000, but even it appears galaxies removed from the good old days when a flagship Lexus sedan was priced in the $50,000s.

Alas, times change. Things get bigger, better. And this is the luxury segment we're talking about. So, like it or not, the Lexus LS 460 is what it is.

For those who can afford the hefty fare, rest assured that you'll be getting an extraordinary machine.

How extraordinary? I'm sure many of you have heard the stories by now. They're all true.

Yes, the tester can park itself -- back-in and parallel -- thanks to the amazing Advanced Parking Guidance System. The exotic option employs a back-up camera, sonar sensors and electric power steering to pull off this magic trick.

The Lexus has a world-first eight-speed automatic transmission. In my weeklong ride, it functioned well but occasionally seemed momentarily lost when I made quick throttle adjustments during crowded freeway commutes.

Otherwise, the sedan drove like a Boeing 747 on a cloudless, dead-calm day ... which is to say it was rock-solid and buttery smooth. Cruising at 70 miles per hour felt like 40 mph.

The 4.6-liter, 380-horsepower V-8 engine is not a dragster-style power plant, but it's instantly responsive and delivers strong rear-drive acceleration when the revs are up. Steering is light but firm.

If you're going to pay $71,000 for a car, you want an extensive list of standard goodies. Lexus does not disappoint on this score.

Besides the usual power-leather-everything one expects from Toyota's high-end division, the monster list of standard features on the tester included electronic brake force distribution, automatic electronic parking brake, auto-leveling headlamps with high-intensity beams, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated exterior mirrors, voice-activated navigation system, back-up camera, rear heated seats, power trunk lid, heated steering wheel, headlamp washers ... I could go on and on, but I have to finish this review today.

Interior comfort is exquisite; the nearly 122-inch wheelbase on the LS 460 L translates to plenty of leg room.

Even at high speed, the cabin is reading-room quiet. Besides the no-hands parking system, the tested LS 460 L had extras that included power/cooled rear seats and an absolutely kickin' Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system with -- I kid you not -- 19 speakers

Opulent? This thing's a Four Seasons hotel on four wheels.

Pricey? With options, the sticker's bottom line on my test car read $79,125.

Technology-laden? I need another week in the car, because I didn't get halfway through the LS 460 L's 650-page owner's manual.

Well, I guess my biggest gripe with this luxury liner is that it now seems so far out of reach for -- how can I say this? -- the rest of us.

But last time I looked, it's no crime to sell a dazzling, pocketbook-crushing car in this nation. And to be sure, there are plenty of other cars on the road with even higher prices.For those fortunate enough to afford this new level of Lexus luxury, I salute you. And, yeah, I envy you, too.

2007 Lexus LS 460 at a glance

Make/model: Lexus LS 460 L Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door, rear-drive, long-wheelbase luxury sedan Base price: $71,000 (as tested, $79,125) Engine: 4.6-liter V-8 with 380 horsepower at 6,400 revolutions per minute and 367 foot-pounds of torque at 4,100 rpm EPA fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city; 27 mpg highway (premium unleaded required),br> Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with overdrive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Brakes: Four-wheel, ventilated discs with anti-lock and other braking-enhancement features Suspension: Independent, multi-link on front and rear Fuel tank: 22.2 gallons Passenger volume: 103 cubic feet Maximum cargo volume: 18 cubic feet (12 cubic feet when equipped with rear air-conditioning system) Curb weight: 4,332 pounds Height: 57.7 inches Length: 202.8 inches Wheelbase: 121.7 inches Width: 73.8 inches Track: 63.5 inches on front; 63.7 inches on rear Ground clearance: 6.1 inches Tires: P235/50R18 all-season radials Port of entry: Long Beach