SALZBURG, Austria -- Lexus gets riled when its products are portrayed as derivative or lacking in heritage. So touting "world first" technologies was high on its list for the flagship 2007 LS 460. So was giving the car more personality.
The most notable first is an eight-speed automatic transmission. When mated to a new 4.6-liter V-8, the car goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Not bad for a car weighing more than 2 tons.
But it's more than about power at Lexus. The redesigned flagship delivers world-first luxuries in other ways.
The basics: The LS 460 gains nearly 2 inches of wheelbase and width and a half-inch of overall length, compared with its predecessor.
The 4.6-liter engine delivers more than 30 percent more horsepower than the old model, yet Lexus says it is smoother and quieter. It features both port and direct injection of fuel into the cylinder head for more efficient and power-producing ignition of fuel.
Notable features: The long-wheelbase edition, the LS 460L, adds 4.8 inches to the wheelbase and overall length, all of it going into rear-seat room.
Some of the luxury touches are extreme. The steering wheel leather is buffed for three hours before installation. Between each coat of exterior paint and coating, the surface is hand-sanded twice.
The long-wheelbase edition features a rear seat that reclines and extends an ottoman like a business-class airline seat. The seat provides massages with air bladders. An infrared sensor measures the body temperature of the rear occupant. The car can parallel-park itself.
The engine is inspected and test-fired at its assembly, at its mating to the transmission, at its mounting in the car and on a rolling dyno when vehicle assembly is complete.
There also are the typical Lexus features, such as a power trunk, swiveling headlamps, keyless entry and ignition, eight airbags or curtains and "puddle lamps" that illuminate the ground outside the doors.
What Lexus says: "Every aspect of the LS -- engine performance, handling, suspension, safety -- was approached as if we were creating a fine musical instrument," Satoru Maruyamano, LS 460 chief engineer, said at a press event here.
Compromises and shortcomings: Unlike its German rivals, the LS 460 does not have a "three blink" lane-change toggle on the turn-signal stalk. There's no "sport" mode for suspension or braking settings. And it wouldn't be a Lexus if it weren't a little numb, as the steering wheel goes slightly off-center.
The market: The Lexus flagship goes on sale in October. Although industry wags have suggested all this new equipment will push the LS 460 base sticker price to $80,000, Lexus executives hinted at something more in the $65,000 range. Expect the long-wheelbase edition to come in slightly past $70,000. The hybrid model, which arrives in the spring, could tickle the $100,000 barrier.
Lexus hopes to sell 30,000 LS 460s annually in the United States, about 65 percent of which will be the standard-wheelbase model. The hybrid edition is expected to account for about 1,500 sales a year.
The skinny: There are those who say Lexus builds the world's best bank vaults: solid, flawless, unbreakable and devoid of personality. But one analyst who drove the Lexus unflinchingly called the LS 460 "the best car in the world, no question."
You may e-mail Mark Rechtin at [email protected]