Can Do Attitude

12 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Can Do Attitude
Lexus LS430

Lexus LS430

Hey, Hans, bad news. Here come those guys from Japan again.

And the engine, an evolution of the existing V-8, humming along on its own display pedestal, showed off an abundance of finely machined valves, cams, and gears. The engine’s displacement is bumped to 4.3 liters, increasing torque by 20 pound-feet to 320.

Horsepower remains at 290 (a Lexus exec winked and hinted that the 300-hp threshold was being saved for a future model-year update), but the power peak has been eased down the rpm scale — torque maxes out at 3400 rpm instead of 4000 — to improve acceleration and midrange performance. Lexus says the 3950-pound car will quick-step to 60 in just 6.3 seconds — 0.3 second quicker than Lexus claimed for last year’s model, which we clocked at 6.4 seconds to 60.

After sprinting from a full stop into the three-digit range, we’re disinclined to dispute the claim. The five-speed automatic transmission is also updated from that of the previous model and is so smooth that shifting gears is more of an aural than a physical experience.

When asked what new features of his design were most significant, chief engineer Tanaka answered without hesitation, Coefficient of drag and electronic technology. The low Cd of 0.25 was eked out by intensive development of the underbody, and in max-luxo configuration, the LS430 uses 28 computers to monitor everything from the fly-by-wire throttle to the rain-sensing windshield wipers.

The low drag number also helps make this Lexus as silent as a medieval chapel, and the electronics permit such clever features as a parking-assist system, which uses ultrasonic proximity sensors to warn of impending bumper banging, and the Dynamic Laser Cruise Control, which automatically slows the LS430 if it gets too close to the car ahead.

Lexus LS430

These are just some of the LS430’s myriad standard or optional goodies. In addition to the usual luxury-car stuff, it comes with a water-repellent windshield, a power rear-window shade, and enough wood trim to build a canoe. Options include a navigation system, a killer sound system, and a voice-activated phone.

And if these aren’t enough, there’s an Ultra Luxury option package that tosses in a variable air-suspension system, an adjustable rear seat, and enough bells and whistles to start a marching band. On a more substantive note, there’s a Euro-tuned sport-suspension package with stiffer springs and bushings and 17-inch alloy wheels with W-rated tires.

We drove each suspension version of the LS430 — standard, sport, and luxury — on the highway and on the fast, 14-corner Road America race course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Regardless of the type of suspension, the LS430 glides down the road seemingly a couple of inches off the pavement, as though ripples and cracks and expansion joints weren’t even there.

At the limits, braking hard from 105 mph to set up for a 65-mph hard right, the car’s weight transfers smoothly forward without any lurching dive. It responds obediently to the merest hint of steering input and turns in smoothly and precisely. Exceed the limit, and it transitions progressively into oversteer that’s easily corrected with a slight lift off the throttle and a mere flick of the wheel.

To say that the LS430 can do it all is understatement; it seamlessly balances first-class cabin comfort and the latest in gee-whiz technology with effortless performance in a way that matches the best in an extraordinary class for thousands less. The formula still works.

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