Behind the Sheetmetal
Inside the Lexus LS 460 and LS 460 L
Here’s a highlight-by-highlight examination of the new model.
Body: At 198.0 inches, the standard LS 460 is only 0.59 longer overall than the outgoing LS 430, but its wheelbase is up 1.77 inches to 116.9. (Add 4.72 inches for the L model.) This means front and rear overhangs are shorter. Despite the longer wheelbase, Lexus claims the standard-length car’s turning circle is “best-in-class” at 35.4 feet between curbs. Track both front and rear is 1.5 inch wider (at 63.4) and overall width is 1.8 greater (73.8), but height is 0.6 inch lower (58.1 on coil springs; 57.7 with air suspension). Curb weight is 4365 pounds, up by 375 pounds, though Lexus says that’s due to added content; the car’s basic structure is lighter thanks to more aluminum, less lead and other weight-saving measures. Weight distribution is 52 percent front. Aerodynamic drag is a low 0.26 CD, due in part to a “stepped venturi” panel under the engine which reduces lift.
Interior: Headroom is up by 1.1 inches in front to 39.2; the rear stays at 37.9. Legroom is more generous both front and rear by 0.3 and 1.8 inches, respectively. Shoulder room is 0.2 more in front, but 1.3 narrower in back. EPA trunk volume also is less, down 2.19 cubic feet to 18.01, but Lexus assures us there’s still room for four golf bags. (With 4-zone climate control, the 460 L’s trunk shrinks to 12.01 cu. ft.) The driver’s seat has 16 power adjustments. There are as many as 10 airbags. The higher-end audio system has 19 speakers.
Suspension: With the goals of improving straight-line stability, steering feel and other qualities, Lexus has re-engineered the 460 front suspension for “double joint” steering geometry resembling that introduced by Audi. Benefits are said to include keeping the tire treads more square to the road, which gives better steering feel, flatter cornering and less brake vibration. At the rear this LS continues its predecessor’s multi-link system with refinements, including more bump-steer. Most suspension links and the front sub-frame are now aluminum, and the rear antiroll bar is hollow (the front remains solid). Air suspension continues to be optional, now with three ride settings—Normal, Comfort and Sport. The L model can be ordered with a Touring suspension package, which includes larger brakes; this won’t be available on “short-wheelbase” cars in North America, though it is in Europe.
Steering: An electric system now, rather than hydraulic, the company claims benefits both fuel economy and weight (fewer parts) and also makes the optional self-parking system possible. On cars with air suspension the steering ratio varies with vehicle speed.
Engine: First of an all-new family designated UR (the old one was UZ), the LS 460’s four-cam, 32-valve V8 displaces 4608 cc with a 94.0-mm bore and 83.0-mm stroke. Redline is 6600 rpm. Horsepower is 380 (283 kW) at 6400 rpm, torque 367 lb-ft (498 Nm) at 4100. Compression ratio is 11.8:1; Premium fuel is required. This engine adopts the dual injection technology introduced on the IS 350, where fuel goes either into the ports or directly into the cylinders, depending on power requirements. A claimed industry first is electrically-controlled cam timing for improved power and economy plus lower emissions, especially at startup. Also a first is the camshaft design, which has individually-forged and ground lobes heat-shrunk onto the shafts, which are hollow for weight-saving. Roller cam followers are used. Block and head castings are aluminum, and the valve covers are magnesium. More ounces were shaved by using plastic for the water jacketing. Improved machining and polishing techniques, including a liquid abrasive method of smoothing certain oil passages, are credited for finer tolerances, reduced friction and ability to use low-viscosity 0-20W oil. Engines and drivetrains are repeatedly vibration-checked both electronically and by trained human ears.
Transmission: Going one better on certain rivals, Lexus introduces the industry’s first eight-speed automatic transmission. Though of similar size to the outgoing six-speed, it has a lighter but stronger case and fewer internal parts; its sun gear drum and clutch are aluminum, cutting their weight in half. The torque converter also is more compact and lighter, improving acceleration. Smoother shifting is claimed from a new control system with four disc clutches, two disc brakes and a one-way clutch. Revised control logic is supposed to improve everything from economy to performance on hills. Drivers can still access a manual-command mode by moving the lever to the left, into the S position; vehicle speed at that moment determines which gear is selected by default, whether fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh. All-wheel drive will become available sometime after sales begin in October.
Performance: Manufacturer’s acceleration data shows 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, and 13.8 for the quarter-mile (no speed given). Top speed is electronically limited to 130.2 mph (210 km/h). Estimated mpg is 19/27, or 23 combined. Tank capacity is 22.2 gallons (84 liters). Emissions certification is ULEV.
Goodies: LS models are pretty cushy as standard, but let your pencil run wild across the options sheet and you can add the world’s first Advanced Parking Guidance System for hands-free parking, GPS navigation with reversing video, XM traffic maps (in 22 cities only), Bluetooth telephone capability, Lexus Link radio assistance services, radar-guided cruise control and pre-collision systems, rear-seat climate control and entertainment, power-operated rear window shades and, in the L-model, the right-rear recliner with ottoman and back massager. You gotta go for that.
Details: Lexus cars are only made in a dedicated plant in Tahara, Japan. It boasts the world’s highest-pressure stamping press, which brings 5200 psi to bear on the front fenders, deep-drawing them into their distinctive shape. The plant also developed new six-axis paint buffing robots that pivot through three dimensions, to put a gleam on every angle of the body. But body sanding is done by hand—twice. Acoustic engineers strove to make the doors sound like heavy wooden ones when they close. Pause to admire the plastic headlight exteriors—new technology was invented to make them look like fine crystal glass. Upcoming: look for the huge owner’s manual to appear in searchable-database form on the Nav system.