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SOUL ON ICE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Feb 9, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

SOUL ON ICE By John Grafman

Cars have souls. Mile-by-mile, one begins to get an understanding of just what a car likes and doesn't like to do. Sometimes a ride can surprise you. Unfortunately, slapping a badge on the backside of trunk lid predetermines our point of view before the engine even starts. There is only one cure: A good long road trip.

I am looking at no less than six-plus hours of highway driving on the drive to and from Las Vegas. If that doesn't uncover the true nature of the Lexus LS 460L luxury sedan, nothing will. The LS is big, and the L is a monster. The L model designates a wheelbase and overall length that's nearly five inches longer than the standard model. Astonishingly, the extra room adds less than one hundred pounds to the scale. The current styling of the 2008 and 2007 model are a break from the past, with a more contemporary look. Of course, the old models of years ago were so conservative that anything is a step forward. Perhaps one could use the word slippery to describe the exterior design. As big car go, this flows and has a much more aerodynamic appearance.

In contrast, the interior is still leaning a bit more towards the formal. Okay, this is just a tad less conservative than Fred Thompson. But, by no means is this less than attractive. Now can Fred make the same claim? As a matter of fact, this is a fairly user-friendly interior, and the complication level isn't too excessive. The back seat room is second only to a cargo van. Humongous is a reasonable word to use. Everything is in awash in materials that ring of upper class. As this on paper suggests the LS is for interstate commuting, it is appointed with enough trunk space to swallow gobs of luggage. Like the rest of the car, the finish is convincing enough along with a one-touch close button. Appearances are one thing, but we know that there is far more to a car than looks alone. The adjustable suspension sharpens from ultra-comfy, but there is still a tendency to wander off if the driver isn't staying on top it. The firmest setting is just right for most situations except for torn up roads. Highway 15 doesn't afford many challenges, except for the endless miles of travel, and the Lexus is plenty happy with that. The 460L can effortlessly get up to sports car speeds with a complete lack of drama and remain stable without effort. The 8-speed transmission is nearly reason enough to drop 80K for this sedan. In my book the super smooth shifting tranny is one of the best in a luxury sedan, without question. If you didn't know better, you would swear this is a CVT. When hammered, the shifting is still buttery smooth, and the car still steps out with authority. The gentle acceleration can mislead the driver as to the actual speed, and a glance at the speedo can be an eye-opener.

What makes this so good can actually be a liability. The flashing light coming from a motorcycle officer sitting on the bottom of an elevated arterial road that's cleverly disguised as a freeway lets me know that something bad is about to happen. Desert Inn along side The Wynn hotel does look and smell like a highway, and the LS 460L handles it effortlessly. This automobile has no problem negotiating this stretch at highway speeds. In all fairness, the Lexus isn't alone. The officer knows that many fall into a lulled sense of security on this city street, and that's why the police reside there. But I digress; the point is the LS feels composed at speeds well beyond the stated limit. For all the expansive proportions, a fellow media wag is more than happy to voice his complaint to me on the front seat travel. Did he see me wearing a customer service shirt or something? All of us are stunned to see his six-foot five-inch frame crammed up against the dash. To his rear the back seat passengers have enough room to wrestle, or maybe even play a half-court game of hoops. Just why the front seat won't travel further reward is anybody's guess. Nevertheless, the other members of the press couldn't be happier in the back. They felt as coddled as any big shot in a limo. The controls in the rear allow for a more comfortable environment.

Driving is a pleasure, but the Lexus goes beyond what I would expect. The onboard info center is providing an added dose of entertainment in the form of the mileage readout. Even at a good clip, without drafting behind a semi, the gas mileage is still returning numbers that are 10 percent better than the EPA highway numbers. I am even able to exceed that along the mindless drive. No, this isn't a Prius, it's better! Everyone salivates for a ride in the LS like Pavlov's best friend, and I'm not so sure the same statement can be made about the miserly, yet humble Prius hybrid. The LS is so enticing, it effectively becomes the carpoolers choice at every chance possible. I'm still pondering if this should qualify for a carpool lane sticker, or not. The LS does come in a few flavors, with a base model, the hybrid, and the L. The overall generous proportions and performance all work in the favor of the Lexus. After many miles down the road I see the real soul of the LS 460L. Perfection in this case doesn't mean sterile, ultra-conservative, or boring. Secure and refined are a better choices in words in describing the personality behind the nearly flawless luxury badge. And the real truth is, even liberals find it hard not to like this car.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT While big cars might not be in vogue, perfection never goes out of style. For more information about Lexus products, go to lexus.com.

SPECIFICATIONS Price: Base MSRP: $71,500 As equipped: $82,030 Engine type: 4.6 Liter 32-Valve V8 with electronically controlled intake valve timing Horsepower: 380 hp at 6,400 rpm Torque: 367 lb-ft at 4,100 rpm EPA mileage estimates (city/highway): 16/24 Drive configuration: Rear-wheel drive with Electronic Traction and Stability Control Transmission type: Eight-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission Suspension: 4-Wheel independent multilink suspension Wheels and tires: Wheels: 18" Aluminum Alloy Wheels, optional 19" Alloy Tires: 235/50R18 V-rated tires with full-size spare tire, optional 245/45/19 Y-rated summer tires. Brakes: Four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist Overall length: 202.8 inches Overall width: 73.8 inches Overall height: 57.5 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 4,332 lbs. 0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds (est.) Quarter-mile acceleration: 13.8 seconds Top track speed: 130 mph (electronically limited)

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