For well-heeled drivers who face parallel panic, Lexus LS 460 is the parking ticket
ADVERTISING DEPT. AUTOMOTIVE WRITER
With Advanced Parking Assist, the LS 460 is the first car that can park itself.
It was maybe the fourth time in a row I’d re-parked in front of our house in the 2007 Lexus LS 460 — or, should I say, the fourth time the Lexus re-parked itself — when the workmen toiling at the neighbor’s home finally took notice.
They had on their faces that unmistakable look that says “What-A-Bozo.”
I wanted to shout, “No, no, no. It parks itself. Really. That’s what I’m testing. C’mer. This is amazing! You’re not gonna believe this!”
But I decided against it. I figured that, in addition to the Advanced Parking Guidance system, I’d also have to explain how a car with a base price of nearly $62,000 can ring up more than $11,000 in options, as ours did. (Yes, to our flagship Lexus we, essentially, added a Chevy Aveo in options.) It’s complicated.
The short answer: Star Wars technology.
Of course, “routine” stuff like a 380-hp V-8 (102 ponies better than the old LS 430), an eight-speed automatic (an industry first), eight air bags, “adaptive” headlights (which peek around curves), stability control, keyless entry and start, leather and real wood galore, boffo 10-speaker audio system and a ride and cabin ambience that’s cushy and quiet enough to perform surgery in are all standard.
Having regal tastes, however, we, of course, were not satisfied. So we added, among other things, a power REAR seat, astounding 19-speaker audio system (I wanted to park this thing in the family room; I figured I could tell the wife it parked there itself), voice-activated navigation and the science-fiction award winner, Advanced Parking Guidance.
That latter item, which includes an endlessly handy back-up camera, works for either parallel street parking or back-in parking-lot parking.
To parallel park between two cars, here’s the drill:
You must pull up so the Lexus’s front seat is roughly lined up with the front bumper of the front parked car. Shift into reverse and the back camera comes on displaying two on-screen icons, one for back-in parking, one for parallel parking. Choose parallel.
Next, the system, using the image from the car’s exterior camera, demarcates the target parking spot on screen with a green box, displaying a flag icon in the southeast corner of that box.
Human involvement is required at this point, as the driver must use arrows displayed on the screen to position that cartoon flag at the rear corner of the forward parked car, giving the Lexus an idea of exactly what you want it to avoid swiping.
At that point, push “OK” and the vehicle begins to move backward, the wheel — in a surreal touch — turning slowly in a ghostly manner as the car corners into the space. During the process, the driver must feather the brake to keep the car under 2.5 mph or the system gets torqued off, dinging bells and flashing the warning, “Speed is too fast.” If all goes well, the big Lexus backs itself in, turning the wheel right and then left to land about a foot from the curb.
I tried the system over a dozen times during my week with the car, and it worked all but one, the latter at night on an unlighted street with a dark car as the target of the system’s cartoon flag. The camera, apparently, had a tough time seeing the target car, so the Lexus simply moved straight back. Whooops.
Lexus recommends that the target parking space be at least 6 feet larger than the LS 460, and I suppose it could be argued that if you can’t park in a space 6 feet bigger than your car, maybe you should be taking the bus. But, that said, Advanced Parking Guidance is still amazing technology.
In a first for the LS franchise, Lexus’s flagship for 2007 is available in two versions, standard and long-wheelbase models. The former is virtually the same length as the old car, but its wheelbase, at 116.9 inches, is 1.7 inches longer, shortening the car’s overhangs. The LWB model adds 4.8 inches of length and wheelbase to provide a limo-like back seat.
On the road, the car, boasting sleek new GS-like styling, is silky smooth. Interestingly, its stability control safety net, in a first for LS, can be shut off completely, but why anyone would want to is beyond me. This is a luxo ride, not a sporting machine, its 6-second zero-to-60 mph sprint not withstanding.
The big Lexus is the best-selling premium luxury sedan in America. There’s no reason why this one won’t continue that dominance. Prices start at $61,715 for the standard car, $71,715 for the LWB.