Home > Test Drives > 2007 Lexus LS 460

2007 Lexus LS 460

     If you ever need proof that money doesn’t buy happiness, look to the Middle East.
     Fifty years ago, this region was little more than sand and camels punctuated by a few ramshackle tents that housed people who hadn’t changed their standard of living in 1,000 years.
     Today, though, much of the Middle East is swimming in cash, which gets pumped in as fast as oil gets pumped out. They have the world’s tallest building going up in Dubai, princes flying around in golden airplanes in Saudi Arabia, and more high-end luxury cars in Kuwait than in Beverly Hills. It’s ridiculous.
     If you look at just one construction project — the “We’ve Got More Money Than Allah” Tower in Dubai — it’s clear that the area is suffering from an inferiority complex. They don’t just want it to be the tallest building in the world. They want it to be 40 percent taller than any building in the history of humanity, complete with a $1 billion price tag.
     Now don’t get me wrong. Competition is great most of the time. But when it goes overboard, you end up paying so much attention to building your fancy skyscraper that you forget about the threat of being vaporized by a radical freak who wears a tablecloth on his head. To make matters worse, your neighbors still end up living in third-century huts being breathed on by camels.
     Which, of course, brings me to the new Lexus LS 460.
     When you’re within the sinfully luxurious confines of this car — Lexus’ top-of-the-line model — you’ll notice how comfortable it tries to make you feel. There’s a power sunshade that motors up and down at the touch of a button, seats that are heated and cooled, a navigation system that talks in a soothing voice, and enough sound insulation to keep it perfectly silent when Hamas blows up the synagogue next door.


     The only problem? Lexus is trying a bit too hard.
     The LS has long competed with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a luxury heavyweight that seems more German than sauerkraut, to win the hearts and wallets of gazillionaires across the globe. Both cars are ridiculously quiet, smooth and comfortable, and both are expensive. The Mercedes starts at $85,400, while the Lexus rings up at a more affordable $61,000.
     In some ways, the LS is the better car. It’s slightly quieter, and many people think it looks better than the S-Class, which undergoes styling changes on a geologic time scale.
     But you also can’t help but wonder how much better this car could have been if Lexus wasn’t constantly trying to one-up the German competition.
     For example, the S-Class came out with a seven-speed automatic transmission recently, which is at least one gear too many. It hunts and pecks for the right ratio like a 5-year-old on a typewriter, never quite settling on the perfect gear. Not wanting to be outdone, Lexus fitted the new LS with an eight-speed tranny, which makes it even more indecisive than the Mercedes.
     It’s a shame, really. Lexus’ team of incredibly talented and well-educated engineers wasted their time trying to cram another gear into an already overworked transmission rather than tackling the LS’s real problem, which is its utter and complete lack of a soul.
     This car does everything a luxury vehicle should. It coddles you on long highway trips, letting you travel with the serenity of an angel fluttering across the universe. It looks fantastic, drawing attention and giving you a dose of devilish pride. And it’s packed with so much technology that the role of the driver is almost inconsequential. Heck, if you can afford the options list, it’ll even parallel-park itself.
     But it feels like an appliance. While a great car — that is, one that has a soul — becomes a partner and a family member when you take the wheel, the Lexus is a simple transportation tool engineered to accomplish a task.
     That’s why I think the new LS, like Dubai, isn’t great. It’s merely a car that does great things.
     And that’s totally different.


Categories: Test Drives Tags: , , , , , , ,
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.