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Lexus LS460 2007 review: snap shot

The skyscraper's height and commanding presence over the city was a metaphor for the expected sales dominance of this new Lexus in the upper luxury segment.

The LS460 this week also won the World Car of the Year award for 2007 — so expectations are right up there.

With a price tag of $184,900, it's likely to cause some headaches for its European rivals, notably the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW's 7 Series.

The LS460 is a fourth-generation development of the LS400, launched here in 1990. And, like the original, which was priced way below its European rivals but packed with gear, the newcomer costs between $19,000 and $69,000 less than its competitors.

There are no options. What you see is what you get: an equipment list that would put the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz to shame.

There are 10 airbags, adaptive air suspension, an eight-speed automatic transmission (a world-first for a passenger car), a 19-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, keyless entry, four-zone climate control, a rear DVD player, heated and air-cooled seats, and enough leather and wood to satisfy the fussiest luxury-car buyer.

Naturally, there are also active safety features such as Lexus's vehicle dynamics integrated management system, which covers traction control and vehicle stability, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, electro-hydraulic brakes and the variable-ratio electric power steering.

Apart from its standard equipment, the LS460 is new from the ground up, including the chassis, suspension, engine, driveline and sharper steering.

It's powered by a 4.6-litre VVT-i V8 that develops 280kW at 6400rpm and 493Nm at 4100rpm.

This smooth engine delivers an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h, a zero-to-100km/h sprint time of 5.7 seconds and a combined fuel economy figure of 11.1litres/100km.

Lexus says an eight-speed sequential automatic was needed to cope with the LS460's torque and provide improved acceleration at low speeds.

In reality, it's one-upmanship. Many six- or seven-speed autos cope just as well with similar torque outputs. Regardless, this transmission, as you would expect from Toyota, is a work of art.

It's the same size as the previous-generation LS430's six-speed auto, yet its alloy casing is 10 per cent lighter, 30 per cent stronger and weighs just 10 per cent more than the six-speeder.

When the car is driven gently, eighth gear will lock up at 80km/h.

Lexus delayed the LS460's local launch so air suspension could be a standard fitting. It had originally planned to release the car last year with a conventional steel-spring suspension.

As well as the trick multi-link aluminium front and rear suspension and a “vehicle posture control system”, the suspension uses state-of-the-art monotube dampers.

The posture system reduces body roll by a claimed 30 per cent, as well as alleviating the inherent pitching associated with a conventionally sprung car.

Visually, the LS460 adopts an evolutionary approach almost identical to the styling of the Lexus concept car shown at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show.

That car showed off Toyota's “L-finesse” design strategy for the Lexus brand. Like the IS and GS, the LS has a bold family look and sleek styling.

The LS460 is 5mm longer, 45mm wider and has a 45mm longer wheelbase than the LS430 and has a 1610mm front and 1615mm rear track.

We've often thought of the Lexus LS430 as a brilliantly built car, but a touch too clinical.

Granted, it did everything that was asked of it — some things extremely well. But, as a thoroughly entertaining driver's car, it just missed the mark.

That's why BMW, Mercedes-Benz and even Audi had no cause for concern over a Lexus challenge to their dynamic superiority.

Cachet is one thing, but bragging rights at the golf club are also important when you buy a luxury car. With the arrival of the LS460, the Germans can no longer look down their Teutonic noses at the Japanese newcomer.

A new V8, the three-mode air suspension and more responsive steering have elevated and improved the LS460 to the point where it is a serious contender in the luxury-car segment.

Its steering is still a tad light for our liking, but that silky V8, the seamless eight-speed gearbox and those suspension refinements mean this big sedan's overall composure is vastly better than that of the LS430.

The air suspension has a lot to do with that. It irons out corrugations, reduces body roll and maintains a level attitude even pushing through hairpin turns.

Be wary, though: this Lexus is something of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Floor the accelerator, and the V8's muted growl will propel it — and you — into trouble as the speedo surges into the danger zone beyond 110km/h.

Thankfully, there's radar cruise control to keep LS460 drivers on the right side of the law.

The LS460 looks more agile and sporty than the upright LS430, with a smoother grille and a Japanese take on the 7 Series-style rear end. Some buyers may like a little more chrome to distinguish their six-figure purchase, though.

The newcomer has but 400 litres of boot space versus 573 litres of the LS430. It seems the new-fangled rear air conditioning system takes up the extra room.

In the cabin, everyone is suitably pampered with acres of leather and wood, a superb sound system and plenty of space. Large and small folk alike will be able to find an agreeable position behind the wheel.

Attention to detail is also outstanding. Like the way the insides of the doors are finished in moulded grained plastic, the subtle lighting of the “Lexus” name on the door sills, or the neat flange along the sills that stop mud and grime marking your pants.

The LS was always a well-built car. Now it can run with the luxury pack.

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Range and Specs

LS430 4.3L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $20,900 – 26,400 2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS430 Pricing and Specs
LS600hl Hybrid (4 Seat) 5.0L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $24,640 – 30,470 2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS600hl Hybrid (4 Seat) Pricing and Specs
LS600hl Hybrid (5 Seat) 5.0L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $24,090 – 29,700 2007 Lexus LS 2007 LS600hl Hybrid (5 Seat) Pricing and Specs
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