2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Lexus LS460

Second opinion by Grant Yoxon

Oshawa, Ontario – I was sitting in a parking lot one afternoon in the Lexus LS460L, intently scribbling in my notebook, and so I never noticed the young man who walked up to the car until he rapped sharply on the window. After I got back into my skin and opened the window, he asked the question I must have heard a hundred times during the week: “Is this the car that parks itself?”

Yes, it is, and yes, it really does park itself. But that optional feature – and more on that later – is only a minor part of a car that does everything so well that, over the course of a week, we got tired of saying, “This is a nice car!” Because that’s exactly what it is.

The flagship 2007 LS460 replaces the 2006 LS430. The name reflects a change from the previous 4.3-litre V8 to an all-new 4.6-litre V8 that, at 380 hp, makes 102 more horses than the engine it replaces. Even bigger news is the transmission: the previous six-speed is replaced by what Lexus calls the world’s first eight-speed automatic. I joked that any more gears and it’ll be a CVT, but it’s no laughing matter: this transmission is the smoothest and creamiest I’ve ever driven.

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

Gear shifts are almost imperceptible, and the unit always keeps the engine right where it needs to be, regardless of how heavy or light the load. Throttle response is instantaneous, and the engine has a sweet rumble to it that lets you know there are eight cylinders under the hood, but the sound is restrained in the manner of a luxury car, and so it’s very easy to hit way-over-legal speeds without even realizing it. I took it through my favourite test of engine/transmission smoothness – a moment after taking my foot off the throttle, I was back on it again, as you might on the highway when a car pulls into your lane and then moves out again – and there was absolutely no hesitation or jolt. This is, simply, a nice car.

Previously, sport handling in a luxury liner was exclusive to manufacturers like BMW and Audi, but they’re going to have to start looking over their shoulders: Lexus has pretty much nailed it with this car. Despite its size, the LS460L takes corners flat, handles switchbacks without lurching, and swallows up road imperfections like they aren’t even there. A button on the console switches to Sport or Comfort modes. Stability programs and anti-lock braking are integrated into Lexus’ Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM); at a company demonstration, I had the opportunity to brake hard with two wheels on a plastic surface covered with soapy water. While there was still some sliding – even the best systems can only do so much – the VDIM kept the car in a surprisingly straight line.

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

The 4.6-litre has a combined fuel efficiency rating of 10.8 L/100 km in the 460L, although my week with it, a bitterly cold one, returned 15.8 L/100 km. A hybrid version, the LS400hL with 5.0-litre V8 and high-torque electric motor, should come to market in spring of this year; the company says its performance should be equivalent to a conventional V12.

The second L in the name refers to the car’s length. The LS460 comes in two lengths; my tester marks Lexus’ first long-wheelbase car, and as such, it can be used for limousine duty, since it offers 120 mm more legroom than the standard version. The base long-wheelbase model, at $98,700, includes navigation system with backup camera, Bluetooth hands-free telephone system, rear power seats, rear seat side airbags and electric opening and closing trunk. My tester had been further optioned as the top-of-the-line Executive Package. That’s a progressive series of packages: the Ultra Premium Package is $104,600 (19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with rear controls, four-zone independent climate control, premium leather upholstery, acoustic glass, rear-seat beverage cooling box, rear door power sunshades and ultra-suede headliner); the $110,500 Technology Package builds on the Ultra Premium (radar cruise control, clearance and backup sensor, pre-collision system, smart key and the self-parking system); and the Executive Package, at $122,700, includes all of those and adds electric power steering with variable gear ratio steering, front and rear adaptive variable air suspension, rear-seat DVD system, rear-seat fold-out table, rear-seat ottoman and rear seat massage system. In other words, this car has more stuff in it than my house does.

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

The Lexus is very understated: it blends into traffic, which might be the whole point for top power players who want some down-time privacy, but I was disappointed in the lack of interest from other drivers, given the hefty price of the car. Inside, though, that low-key approach translates into welcome elegance. The seats are buttery-smooth leather, and there’s just enough shiny wood. As per Lexus standards, the quality and fit are flawless, and there are all kinds of little touches, such as a centre console box lid that closes itself.

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

Although there are a lot of controls up front, most of them are very intuitive, including the navigation system. The cruise control can be used conventionally, or switched over to a radar-based adaptive system that monitors the vehicle in front and slows or speeds up the car to maintain one of three pre-set distance limits, which can be easily switched by pressing a button on the wheel. The HVAC system’s temperatures can be controlled separately by driver or passenger (folks in the rear also have their own individual system controls) and there’s even a button that activates a pollen filter for those with allergies, but if you want more control over the settings, you have to access the vent mode and blower fan through the computer screen.

The Executive Package’s rear seat is heavenly: you can control the audio or video system, fold out the table for making notes, or enjoy a shiatsu massage (yes, really), which operates via a remote control. The ottoman chair looks interesting, but it really isn’t all that practical. No one can be sitting in the front passenger seat when it’s in use, because that seat slides up close to the dash; once it does, the right rear passenger seat leg rest lifts up, like a La-Z-Boy lounger, and includes an airbag in the seat cushion to prevent the occupant sliding forward in a crash. The main problem is that although the car’s long, it’s not a super-stretch: I’m only 5-foot-4, but I couldn’t stretch my legs out straight without hitting the front seat (and getting footprints on that lovely beige leather). A couple of taller passengers couldn’t straighten their legs at all; it’s a great feature for showing off, but I can’t imagine too many people actually being able to use it without sitting sideways in it, which isn’t very comfortable. Because the front seat must be all the way forward, there’s no ottoman seat available behind the driver.

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

But of course the big deal here is the self-parking feature, which Lexus calls Advanced Parking Guidance System. At the moment it’s the only model in North America that has it, although a similar system is also optional on the Prius in Japan. It will only back into a spot, not nose into it, and it doesn’t “un-park” by driving out.

To use it, you drive up to a spot as you normally would, whether on an angle for row parking, or alongside vehicles for parallel parking. When you put the shifter in reverse, the backup camera image shows up on the screen. You touch it to indicate row or parallel parking (it can parallel park to the right or left).

Once you do, the car’s sensors measure the space beside or behind the car, and a green rectangle – the area where the car will ultimately end up – appears on the screen, where it can be adjusted using the touch screen if necessary. From there, you take your foot off the brake and your hands off the wheel, and the car steers itself. The driver, not the car, operates the brakes, and you’ll get a warning if the car’s moving too fast; if you don’t slow down, or if you touch the wheel or throttle, the system shuts off. You have to brake when you get close to other vehicles, but the system shuts off (and a voice tells you it has) when it senses the car is within the original rectangle’s area.

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

It worked very well in a controlled demonstration put on by the company, but in the real world, I wasn’t always as impressed. It can be confused by puddles, snow, faded parking lot lines, or if the parking lot is too dark. While I probably wouldn’t have hit the cars on either side (I didn’t try to find out), the green rectangle frequently came up crooked in the spot, and it didn’t always want to move: my attempts to straighten it would often result in the rectangle turning red, which turned off the system, and I never was able to move it back so that it turned green. The car parks only at idle speed, which presented a problem when I tried to use it in a lot with a slight incline; the car stopped halfway up, and when I touched the throttle, the system shut off.

The bottom line was that when it worked, it was indeed a marvel of engineering, but by the time I set up the screen and let it do its thing, I could have parked it myself in a fraction of the time. Use it in a parking lot full of speed-crazed shoppers at Christmas at your own risk.

More to the point: this car is so nice (there I go again), I never wanted to let it park itself, because I didn’t want to stop driving it. The dilemma is whether to sit in the back with the massaging seat, or sit up front and be in control of this exceptional automobile. At this price, it’s a decision for only a small number of buyers, but it’s sure one many people would love to be able to make.


Second Opinion: Grant Yoxon

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

With a car as refined and technically competent as the LS 460L, it is difficult to be critical without being picky. So I’ll be picky. To test the new eight-speed transmission, I turned everything off in the car, accelerated normally away from a stop and focused my attention on nothing else. Well, I could feel it shift. Yes, I thought, I really did feel that. Tsk. Tsk. I also tried Jil’s transmission smoothness test – off and then on the accelerator – trying to fool the transmission into a jolt. I had managed it once when I first drove the car in Austria (http://www.autos.ca/roadtest/07ls460.htm) but never again – and this time I never succeeded.

My tester – a full-load (luxury cars like this are redefining the meaning of “fully loaded”) – came equipped with the “Executive Package” which included rear seat DVD entertainment system, fold-out table, ottoman and massage system. This was the first car I have ever tested that my children actually fought with each other to sit in the back seat. It would be marvellous to ride home in this vehicle after a hard day at the office, only a hard day at my office doesn’t include a chauffeur waiting outside to take me home. I could use that massage system in the driver’s seat. As well, tall people will find that even with 122 mm of additional leg room, there is still not enough space to really put your feet up. And the ottoman/massage seat is only available on the passenger side, not in both seat positions, so the well-off couple will have to fight over who gets the massage.

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

The Executive Package also turns this big and roomy car into a four-passenger vehicle. My five-person family couldn’t go for a drive together in the 460L. It might be a good idea to have a Yaris handy for those special occasions.

Another quibble – the dynamic radar cruise control is simple enough to master, once you’ve looked at the manual. Yes, it has its own manual. While motoring down Ontario’s 401 between Toronto and Ottawa, I couldn’t get either dynamic or regular cruise to function, so I pulled off to determine what part of ‘set” I didn’t understand. I discovered that one must push and hold the cruise button to get out of dynamic mode and that radar doesn’t work very well if the sensor is covered in road guck or if the vehicle in front is covered in salt.

My experience with the self-park system was similar to Jil’s – it works fine in the right conditions and not so fine if conditions are not right. As well, it takes longer to park than it would if I did it myself. When I tried this on a busy downtown street, the person behind me sat patiently waiting, fascinated by the demonstration, I guess, because he pulled out a camera and took photos. The person behind him was not as impressed, judging by the repeated horn blasts. When you need to get it into that spot quickly, self-park is probably not the way to go.

2007 Lexus LS460L
2007 Lexus LS460L. Click image to enlarge

If I was buying this vehicle, I would probably skip the Executive Package. As a back seat owner I would miss out on what is probably the best attribute of this vehicle – driving it. The LS 460L is a pleasure to drive; smooth, powerful and comfortable with handling that equals much smaller cars with more sporty intentions. It has the most advanced safety features available and arguably the best audio/video system – a 19-speaker, 450-watt Mark Levinson system with DVD audio and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround that Lexus claims would cost $200,000 if developed for home use. It has to be experienced.

I would probably opt for the shorter wheelbase LS 460 with Technology Package which includes most of the options available on the top-of-the-line 460L – but for about $22,000 less – and five-passenger seating.


Pricing: 2007 Lexus LS460L


Specifications

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