My wife struggles with two automotive tasks: finding her destination and maneuvering the car into a parking space. (Locating a parking space is another issue, but why make her sound any more spatially challenged than she is?) The only voice my wife follows without question emanates from her car’s navigation system. So, issue number one sorted. Until now, she has endured her parking problem by opting for garages or HUGE spots. When she heard about the Lexus LS’ new automated parking system, she sent me to the dealer to check it out.
I tried to wiggle out of the assignment by explaining that my review of the short wheelbase Lexus LS incurred the wrath of Lexus fans across the web. But this time it was personal. To further differentiate this review from the last, I located an LS quipped with the touring edition option, which adds nineteen inch wheels, variable ratio steering and an air suspension.
Lexus has been criticized for many things by car enthusiasts, but never for their marketing savvy. In the case of their large sedan, the handling package is only available on the long wheelbase LS. Europeans typically add the handling and engine mods to their short wheelbase cars; this contrast had me puzzled. Does Lexus reserve the choice option packages only for the more expensive models?
Fortunately for my wife, the parking gimmicks are available across the line. Unfortunately, the “advanced parking guidance system” and the “intuitive parking assist” were anything but. I’d rather endure the experience of watching my wife back in and out of a spot twenty times than be guided by the Lexus’ ghost parker.
Aside from being slow and complex, there were occasions where I felt obligated to intercede, sensing imminent danger. OK, here we go:
First you must fiddle with the parking target area in the guidance system screen to make sure that the computer sees that there is a legitimate space to occupy, and you both agree on its location. Then you slowly let off the brake, keeping a watchful eye out the windows (not just at the monitor). Did the computer notice the light pole? It should be outlined on the screen.
There is entertainment value in watching the wheel whipsaw to and fro, but in the time it takes for the Lexus to park itself, all the good parking spots will be stolen from under you (at least in my town). There is no doubt in my mind that Lexus and their suppliers will perfect this concept. For now, it appears they’ve rushed it to market to have something [other than their eight speed transmission] to talk trash about.
Now, my turn…
Having thoroughly dissed the LS’ driving experience in my last LS review, I have a shocking revelation: the touring edition is fun to drive. It’s almost as engaging as the latest Mercedes S Class.
Starting out with the suspension in comfort mode reminded me why I don’t like Japanese luxury sedans: they tend to wallow only slightly less than late ‘70’s American luxobarges. A quick switch to the sport mode neatly transformed the LS into a European-like sedan. The ride quality became firm yet absorbent. The dynamic capabilities ascended from one-handed yachtsmanship to two-handed Teutonic corner carver.
The tweaked LS’ steering now has something approximating heft; you can [even] sense what the front tires are doing during cornering. I don’t get what Lexus are talking about with their “high friction brakes,” but the anchors are plenty powerful and easy to modulate.
Now that I could get past and yes enjoy the LS’ driving experience, I could better appreciate the sybaritic touches.
The luxury package includes the finest, softest leather ever made by hand of man (presumably). The leather on the steering wheel has been buffed to such a creamy, buttery consistency it feels like it’s been slathered with foie gras. The “ecsaine” headliner made me feel like I was encapsulated within a lamb’s belly. The executive class seating package had me clamoring for warmed nuts and champagne.
The Mark Levinson reference audio system– with enough memory for 2k songs– is astounding. If I owned this car, I’d probably spend more time parked, sitting in the backseat listening to the sound system, than driving it.
I’m not sure how I feel about the infrared sensors that monitor rear-seat passenger’s body temperature, and then adjust the AC to suit. Are brainwave sensors far behind? Scary stuff.
More to the point, what will my fellow pistonheads think of me now? First Porsche’s navigation system makes me pine for BMW’s iDrive. Now, a Lexus LS 460L touring edition tickles my fancy. Oh God, have I become my parents? Listen up Lexus; you need to make these touring packages optional across your line. Even German car lovers will be seduced.
RF and Greg Thome of Lexus discuss APGS below.