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2007 Lexus LS 460 Preview

Lexus steers their flagship on a new course

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2007 Lexus LS 460 exterior

New LS 460's styling is radical compared to previous LS, but a bit too BMW-ish for our reviewer's tastes

Photo © Jeff James
Lexus, the best-selling luxury car brand in the United States, is about to offer their most expensive and luxurious car ever: The LS 460. Expected to sticker somewhere around $60-$70,000, the LS 460 also boasts respectable mileage for a large V8 luxury sedan, with EPA estimates of 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway. In a new European-like twist, Lexus will offer a second version, the LS460L, with a longer wheelbase for increased backseat room. Should Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac be worried? Read on.

First Glance: Redefining the car that redefined luxury cars

When the first Lexus, the stalwart LS 400, arrived in 1989, the pantheon of luxury car manufacturers was somewhat bemused. A luxury car from the maker of the Corolla? Surely Cadillac, Lincoln, BMW and Mercedes had nothing to fear from such an upstart.

Fast forward to 2006. Lincoln is adrift in a sea of mediocrity. Cadillac has had to undergo a complete change of personality to stay competitive. Mercedes and BMW have retained their iconic status, but it hasn't been easy. Acura and Infiniti, the other relative newcomers from Japan, have been successful, but not on the scale of Lexus - and now Lexus is promising the flagship to end all flagships, the new LS 460. Stuttgart, we have a problem.

The first thing you’ll notice about the new LS 460 is the styling (link goes to photo). Gone is the conservative and unremarkable shape of earlier LS models. Lexus' new design philosophy, dubbed "L-Finesse", gives the LS 460 a sleek, modern and somewhat menacing look. Unfortunately, it also appears to take a few pages from the BMW design book. That may not be a bad thing from Lexus' point of view, but to me the design comes across as an attempt to mimic the lines of the BMW 7-series rather than a bold clean-sheet redesign.

Continued below…

In the Driver's Seat: A flagship to end all flagships

2007 Lexus LS 460 dashboard

Fortunately, Lexus has eschewed complicated controls for a simple, straightforward cockpit

Photo © Lexus
The sleek exterior of the LS 460 is complemented by a spacious, well-appointed cabin. At 6’1” tall, I found ample headroom and all major controls were within reach. Lexus eschewed overly complicated control systems (like BMW's iDrive) in favor of simple, clear and legible controls. The touch-screen navigation system provides access to the audio system via a well-designed menu system. The stereo stores up to 2,000 mp3 files on an integrated 30GB hard drive. An auxiliary audio input jack connects iPods and other mp3/wma players. Audiophiles will appreciate the optional 19-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, easily one of the best I’ve ever heard.

The LS 460 is a showcase for the latest in automotive technology, from the radar-based cruise control system to the Advanced Parking Guidance System which helps parallel-park the car -- you control the speed and it does the steering. It even uses body heat sensors to maintain cabin temperature.

An available executive class seating option includes a host of luxury amenities for the well-heeled, including a rear seat DVD system and a multifunction shiatsu and vibrating massage system and power ottoman for the right rear seat.

On the Road: Power and handling befitting a leader

So how does the LS 460 acquit itself on the road? At one point during the test drive I had to pass a smoking, clanking convoy of street-paving equipment clogging our way. A quick stomp on the gas pedal during passing resulted in a steady, uninterrupted stream of thrust, accompanied by a throaty (yet muted) exhaust note. The shift points in the automatic transmission were so smooth as to almost be unnoticeable. Lexus claims that the LS 460 can cruise from 0-60 in a Porsche-like 5.4 seconds and blast through the quarter mile in 13.8 seconds, and I have no reason to doubt them – this is one fast car.

The lion’s share of that performance is due to a powerful, all-new 380hp 4.6 liter V8 engine and a world-first 8-speed automatic transmission. (Most cars have 5 or 6 speeds; Mercedes have 7.) There’s no hiding the fact that the LS 460 is a heavy vehicle -- 4244lbs for the base model, and 4332 lbs for L version –- but handling was smooth, predictable and crisp. The rear-wheel-drive LS460 felt well planted and stable through tight switchbacks and gradual sweeping turns. An all-wheel-drive option will be added to the LS 460 in the near future.

Journey's End: Amazing, though not perfect -- but there's more to come

2007 Lexus LS460 back seat

Long-wheelbase LS460 offers optional reclining back seat with ottoman and massager

Photo © Lexus
As solid a vehicle as the LS 460 is, I do have some gripes. While rear-seat legroom in the long-wheelbase LS 460 L is impressive, the standard-length LS 460 is a bit cramped for those of us over six feet tall. The new L-Finesse styling is sleek and modern, but more than a few curious onlookers initially mistook the new Lexus for a BMW. And some of the technological features shoehorned into this new vehicle border on gimmickry: I’m sure the automatic parking system will impress the technophiles among us, but I would happily trade the system for some extra rear-seat legroom and some truly original exterior styling.

Nits aside, it’s abundantly clear that the LS 460 is one mightily impressive luxury sedan, especially in the extended wheelbase LS 460L variant. Lexus has a well-earned reputation for outstanding reliability and the relentless improvement of their products. As good as the original LS400 was, Lexus has come a long way indeed.

A hybrid version of the LS, the LS600h, is one of a raft of new Lexus vehicle introductions slated for the next few years. If they are as promising as the LS 460, I’m sure that the executives at BMW, Mercedes and Cadillac have some sleepless nights ahead.

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