BEHIND THE WHEEL/Lexus LS 430 — King Lexus III — Quiet Still Reigns…

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Toyota Celsior III

BEHIND THE WHEEL/Lexus LS 430; Lexus III: Quiet Reigns


February 4, 2001

OJAI, BACK when the president’s dad was fried pork rinds to the House, America’s chattering scoffed at the idea that carmakers could build a luxury sedan.

Yes, knew a thing or two about fit and and Honda’s Acura Division was a slick set of wheels called the But the top-line Acura was no match for big and BMW sedans that cruised the at 120 miles an hour, and it never to match the burled-walnut chic of

Then Toyota came up the Lexus LS 400, which was a photocopy of the large Mercedes of time, and Nissan brought out the Q45, which aimed at the luxury niche dominated by The original Q45, a powerful and sedan, wowed reviewers than it impressed upscale But the LS 400, with its conservative and ride, jewel-like interior, reliability and relatively modest price, changed everything.

The German luxury manufacturers, had fallen victim to their own were forced to regroup. and BMW cut prices, polished their and worked to make sure the meshed before the cars the factory. And by attracting affluent who had never before dreamed of an import with the gearshift on the the LS 400 lit a few fires in Detroit, too. By the 1990’s, the market was brimming handsome, powerful, technologically supersedans and a bevy of »entry cars with a level of that would have unimaginable a decade earlier.

Now, for 2001, Lexus is out a third generation of its rear-drive At first glance, the latest in the division’s relentless pursuit of seems incremental: the new LS 430 looks a lot the last LS 400, save for the front end housing high-intensity and halogen fog lamps. The car is pleasing to the but it won’t drop the jaw of the parking at the Beverly Hills Peninsula.

But inside is very different the car’s predecessors — Toyota says 90 percent of the are new.

Start with the compartment. It’s bigger and airy, thanks in part to a stretch to the wheelbase. (The length did not change.)

The LS 430 comes in two trim levels: and, I kid you not, Ultra My test car was the most luxe and it lived up to its name and its $12,290 over the $55,000 base

Off-white leather seats and an dash trimmed in bleached-wood complemented the flawless silver paint. The instruments, with best-of-breed luminiscent needles, are as as ever. But the power front — with two lumbar a seat-length adjustment and a device heats or chills your — are new. So is the Mark designer stereo with a amplifier, six-CD changer in the and 11 speakers dotting the cabin.

Actually, the Ultra Luxury LS 430 is central. Other cars may global-positioning navigation systems, concierge helplines, rain-sensing and light-sensing headlights. But Lexus the ante with a DVD-based system that covers the on one disc; an »intuitive parking that uses sonar to of curbs and other obstacles; units in the back seats; and a chilled snack compartment the rear armrest. Perhaps the spectacular piece of techno-wizardry is the laser cruise control,» maintains a set distance from the car

Safety is plainly a priority. The of the front passenger air bag varies the speed of a crash; side air up front and window curtains and rear offer protection in crashes. A skid-control system the antilock brake sensors to the car from spinning out on turns.

The technology doesn’t end with and safety devices. The ultramodern V-8 has 290 horsepower at 5,600 r.p.m. Its valve timing helps to a remarkable 320 foot-pounds of torque at a slow 3,400 r.p.m. A is 0-to-60 acceleration in a zippy 6.3

The silky five-speed electronic incorporates a sensor and software that adjusts the shifting to the style. Another computer reads the speed and driving and adjusts the stiffness of the shock to balance the ride quality the vehicle’s stability.

Of course, blizzard of technology must into characteristics that value, and here I am of mixed The LS 430’s creature comforts are as as they come. At rest, the well-padded cabin is worthy of and the living-room feel doesn’t when the wheels are turning. I had before driven a car this (The silence is partly due to obsession with aerodynamics. its looks, this is the most big car on the road.)

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