2001 Lexus LS 430
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The 2001 Lexus LS 430, Lexus’ top sedan, has a new 290 horsepower 4.3 litre V8 engine with more torque, a larger cabin, a slippery new exterior shape, and more luxury and safety features – 90% of the car is new. Prices range from $80,000 to $94,000.



Smooth, quiet, and statistically reliable

It’s been a little more than ten years since Lexus was introduced in North America, and in that relatively short time period, the Toyota-owned luxury car division has risen to challenge the established leaders in the luxury car class. While its now common to think of a Lexus as being in the same class as a Mercedes-Benz or BMW, it wasn’t that way ten years ago. At that time, Lexus was just an invented name for Toyota’s high-end Japanese-built Toyota luxury vehicles destined for North America. In 1990, the primary appeal of a Lexus LS 400 was its value for money when compared with its European competitors.

Over the past ten and a half years though, Lexus has built a deserved reputation for reliability, luxury, and refinement. Canadian and American consumer surveys consistently rank the LS 400 as being one of the best-built cars in the world. The most telling survey is probably the five year Vehicle Dependability Survey conducted by the independent U.S. auto research firm, J.D. Power and Associates. The LS 400 has placed first in this survey every year that it has been eligible.

This achievement needs to be placed in the context of its competitors. It took Mercedes-Benz over 100 years to build its top-ranking image, and over 50 years for BMW, Audi, and Volvo. Notwithstanding Toyota’s enormous experience and deep pockets, Lexus’ transition from an unknown brand to a major player is a significant accomplishment. It will be interesting to see where Lexus is ten years from now.


Changes for 2001

2001 Lexus LS 430
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Now into its third generation, the top-of-the-line 2001 LS 430 looks similar to the previous model (last redesigned in 1995 and updated in 1998), but is mostly new. 90% of its parts are new, including the exterior, interior, and engine.

A new 290 horsepower 4.3 litre V8 engine replaces the 4.0 litre V8 which also had 290 horsepower – however, the new engine is more responsive because it has more torque at lower engine speeds – 320 lb-ft at 3400 rpm compared to 300 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. And though the LS430 is 32 kg heavier than the LS 400 and its engine is larger, the LS 430’s fuel consumption is about the same: 12.8 l/100 km (22 mpg) in the city and 8.8 l/100 km (32 mpg) on the highway. In addition, the LS 430 is the first luxury car to meet stricter ULEV (ultra low emissions vehicle) standards.

The LS 430’s new, wind-cheating body design has an amazingly-low coefficient of drag of 0.25, the lowest of any passenger car on the market! The low level was reached by fine tuning airflow around bumpers, fenders, floorpan, mirrors and even the front grille bars. The slippery shape also contributes to reduced wind noise in the cabin.

Though the 2001 LS 430 is about the same length and width as the previous LS400, the cabin length has been stretched to provide more interior room. The LS 403’s wheelbase is 76 mm (3.0 in.) longer and the roof is slightly higher. As a result, the LS 430 has more front legroom and headroom than the larger Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan, more cabin volume (107.2 cu. ft. vs. 105.0 cu. ft.), and a larger trunk (20.2 cu. ft. vs. 15.4 cu. ft.). (Note: LS 430’s with the optional rear air conditioner have a 17.5 cu. ft. trunk).

Other significant changes to the 2001 LS 430 include a stronger body structure, more responsive handling, a smoother ride, new safety features such as laser adaptive cruise control, and more luxury features such as a high-end Mark Levinson sound system.


First-class cabin

Lexus says that the LS 430’s new interior design was inspired by luxury hotels and first-class airline cabins. To get inspired, a team of Lexus designers and engineers visited five-star hotel rooms including Presidential suites, and surveyed first-class and private luxury jet interiors. They also observed high-end jewellery makers and guitar makers at work (where can I get a job like that? GW).

2001 Lexus LS 430
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The LS 430’s new interior features higher grades of leather and wood than before. My car had a cr�me/beige interior with cr�me leather seats, and a darker beige upper dash area to reduce glare. Chestnut-coloured wood trim graced the dash, console and doors. For 2001, the front seats have new seat adjustments including dual lumbar controls and adjustable cushion length for the driver, and a single lumbar adjustment for the front passenger. Both front seats have variable heat adjustment.

The LS 430’s dual-zone climate control system now features temperature and sun-sensing sensors – if sunlight is concentrated on one side of the car, the air registers will automatically deliver more cooling air to that side. The up/down temperature adjustment is located separately on the dash close to the steering wheel. Though closer to the driver’s right hand, I found these controls harder to see because of the steering wheel.

The LS 430’s instruments are the familiar electroluminescent round gauges which are very easy to read under the Sun’s glare. The centre console protrudes further towards the driver, making it easy to reach the controls. I noticed the LCD displays now have darker numerals on a lighter background, making them easier to read and less susceptible to glare.

The dash now includes a standard in-dash, single-feed six-disc CD changer located under a folding door below the radio, and the standard wood/leather steering wheel has controls for the audio system. There’s also a new 15-function information display and trip computer with compass, and a flip-out cell phone holder.

2001 Lexus LS 430
Navigation system and video screen not offered in Canada
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The console shift lever for the automatic transmission is on the extreme left of the centre console, closer to the driver. A centre armrest includes a dual level storage bin. Rear passengers have generous legroom and headroom, a fold-down centre armrest with seat heater buttons inside and two cupholders, a rear power point, map lights, rear air vents, map pockets on the front seatbacks, and three rear height-adjustable head restraints. When not in use, the centre head restraint folds down so as not to restrict rear visibility for the driver.

There is a rear pass-through to the trunk behind the centre armrest, but the seatbacks do not fold down. The trunk is wide and deep and includes a tool kit and a full-size spare tire.

Optional features available for rear passengers include a rear air conditioner with separate controls, separate audio controls, a rear cooler box, and power rear sunshade and manual rear window side-shades.


Driving impressions

Getting in to the LS 430 is made easier by a driver’s seat that automatically moves back and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel that moves up when you exit (a 3-position memory feature is standard). Put the key in the ignition, and the seat and steering wheel return to their normal positions.

With the help of the 14-way power driver’s seat and power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, the driver can find an ideal driving position, and outward visibility is excellent. To keep the driver and front passenger cool in the summer and warm in the winter, the LS 430 is available with optional front climate control seats with heat and cool controls.

2001 Lexus LS 430
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The new 290 horsepower 4.3 litre V8 engine accelerates the LS 430 from 0-100 mph in 6.5 seconds and to the 1/4 mile in 14.7 seconds, as quick as many high-performance sports cars. Yet, the LS 430 does it so smoothly and quietly, that there is little sensation of speed. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the speedometer because it’s very easy to go over the speed limit without noticing it.

The 4.3 litre DOHC 32 valve V8 engine features Lexus’ Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) which helps eliminate the traditional compromise between low-end torque and high-rpm horsepower by optimizing valve overlap throughout the engine’s speed range, not just at one or two set speeds (like some other systems).

One drawback to this engine though: it uses Premium unleaded gasoline.

The LS 430’s standard 5-speed automatic transmission shifts like butter, complementing the ultra-smooth engine. Unlike many luxury cars nowadays, the LS 430 doesn’t offer a manual shifting mode on the automatic transmission.

A new feature for 2001 is Intuitive Powertrain Control. Combining an electronic throttle and transmission shifting intelligence, the Intuitive Powertrain Control continually analyzes pressure on the accelerator pedal, engine operating conditions, and vehicle speed to provide the precise amount of power for a given driving situation. The transmission responds to road grades, holding gears on inclines and downshifting when the driver applies the brake. The system enables the driver to maintain a given pace over varying road conditions using smaller adjustments to accelerator pedal. This gives the driver a smoother driving style, which also benefits the passengers.

On the highway, the LS 430 has a very smooth, soft ride that seems smoother because the cabin is so quiet. Engine noise is minimal because the engine does just 1,950 rpm at a steady 100 km/h. When cornering, there is some body lean, and the suspension feels softer than say, a BMW 740i – but the car doesn’t wallow or feel mushy, and it’s cornering limits are high. The LS 430 offers a four-wheel independent double wishbone suspension with anti-squat and anti-lift geometry (similar to that on some sports cars), a 53/47 front/rear weight distribution, and standard 225/60 HR16 radials. Handling is predictable and balanced on both smooth and uneven pavement. A stiffer, ‘Euro-tuned’ sport suspension with 17-inch wheels with low-profile tires is available as an option.

Suspension and road noise isolation is even better than in the LS 400, which was already a very quiet car. There are no ‘thunks’ or ‘bumps’ when travelling on rough roads, and there is a sensation of being separated from the road, as though you were hovering just above it.
The LS 430 is also available with an optional air suspension which automatically adapts to road conditions by varying the shock absorber rates.

The LS 430’s slippery body shape reduces wind noise to virtually nil at times – there is very little tire noise and engine noise. Only on crowded freeways populated by noisy trucks and cars is the serenity of the LS 430’s cabin disturbed. The quiet cabin lets passengers enjoy the LS430’s premium stereo, or a pleasant conversation with other passengers.

The LS 430’s standard vehicle-speed-sensing variable-assist power steering offers more feel than previous LS 400 vehicles, and it’s very easy to turn at any speed. The LS 430’s turning circle of 37.4 feet is about average for a big, rear-wheel-drive sedan.

Its big, ventilated disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist (an automatic braking system for emergencies) provided excellent fade-free braking performance during my test-drive, and standard VSC (vehicle stability control) automatically corrects for loss of traction or loss of directional control on slippery surfaces.


New options for 2001

2001 Lexus LS 430
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The 2001 LS 430 offers a new Dynamic Laser Cruise Control which is designed to maintain a set distance from the vehicle in front. Using 630 scanning points, the system automatically slows when approaching another vehicle, and speeds up again when the road is clear. Nifty.

Another new feature is Intuitive Parking Assist, which uses ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles at the corners of the front or rear of the LS430. If there is an obstacle, a buzzer sounds and an indicator appears in the display screen.

The 2001 LS 430 also offers a new high-end Mark Levinson premium audio system – Mark Levinson is known as a leader in high-end home audio components. The Lexus system features an amplifier design with ultra-low crossover distortion so that all occupants enjoy good sound, no matter where they’re sitting.

Other unique luxury features include water-repellent front door glass and laminated front and rear door glass, power door closers on all four doors, and rear seat adjusters with power slide and memory, heat and massage.

New safety features include a stronger passenger cell and front and rear crumple zones with ‘crash compatibility’ for different sized vehicles. A variable-force front passenger airbag is also new. The LS 430 includes front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags.
For improved visibility, the LS 430 has High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and water-repellent front door glass.


Pricing

The base price of an LS 430 is $80,000, a modest increase from the $78,950 price of the 2000 LS 400. Top-of-the-line LS 430 models, which include leather, 17 inch tires, chrome wheels, parking assist, and rain-sensitive wipers go for $94,500. For more detailed pricing information, see Autos’s New Car Price Guide. To compare the Mercedes-Benz S430 with the LS 430, click on Autos’s Test-Drives section. For more information about Lexus, see www.lexuscanada.com.


Technical Data:

2001 Lexus LS 430
Base price $80,000
Price as tested $94,500
Type 4-door, 5-passenger full-size sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive
Engine 4.3 litre V8, DOHC (2), 32 valves, variable valve timing
Horsepower 290 @ 5600 rpm
Torque 320 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Tires 225/55 HR17
Curb weight 1795 kg (3955 lb.)
Wheelbase 2925 mm (115.2 in.)
Length 4995 mm (196.7 in.)
Width 1830 mm (72.0 in.)
Height 1490 mm (58.7 in.)
  1471 mm (57.9 in.) with air suspension
Trunk space 572 litres (20.2 cu. ft.)
  496 litres (17.5 cu. ft.) with rear air conditioner
Fuel consumption City: 12.8 l/100 km (22 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.8 l/100 km (32 mpg)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 6 yrs/110,000 km

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