When Toyota’s Lexus division first entered the luxury car market in 1990, it rewrote the high-end rule book and gave brands like Mercedes and BMW a swift kick in their complacent pants. Well, now it’s time to rework the car that started it all for Lexus, the all-new 2001 LS 430. Is history about to repeat itself?
It certainly looks that way to us, because the new 2001 Lexus LS 430, like its predecessor the LS 400, is bound to give its Teutonic competitors a good run for their money. All by following the same formula that made the LS 400 such a big success. By packing a slew of cutting-edge technologies into a large, powerful, safety conscious sedan, and then slapping a segment-busting price tag on it. But one area where the Lexus cutting-edge blade continually dulls is styling. As the new generation LS 430 looks suspiciously like the last generation Mercedes S class. That’s one LS tradition we wish Lexus would get over. But however familiar, this profile and especially its underside, have been carefully stroked and massaged to produce a low co-efficient of drag of just 0.26. That’s lower than most sports cars and makes for a very quiet ride at speed. The LS 430 maintains the same 196.7 inch overall length as before. But the wheelbase, now 115.2 inches, has been stretched by three inches with most of that room ending up in the rear seat area and trunk. Where you now have a spacious 20.2 cubic feet of cargo space. 17.5 should you opt for the rear seat air conditioner. Indeed, in the roomier cabin, the LS 430 pushes the level of safety and luxury to the nth degree. Starting with a full complement of airbags, including front and rear seat curtain airbags. There is a 14-way power driver’s seat with 4-point lumbar support, and a 10-way adjustable seat for the passenger. Order the Ultra Luxury Package, and those seats add a climate control system that provides heat, fan forced cooling, and a dehumidifier.
Lexus’ fine Optitron electro luminescent lighting keeps the simple gauge cluster evenly lit under all conditions. While the optional 7 inch LCD screen in the center stack displays information from the DVD-ROM navigation system that features a voice command interface for hands-free operation, from the climate control system that includes oscillating vents with sun sensors that direct cool air to the hottest side of the car, and the superb stereo system with a 6-disc in-dash CD changer developed for Lexus by high end audio meisters at Mark Levinson. Rear quarters in the LS 430 are equally sumptuous. The Ultra Luxury Package pampers with power adjustable heated seats, with massagers, a cooler built into the armrest, and audio controls.
With such comfortable surroundings, one might be tempted to pop in a favorite CD and just zone out in the driveway. But then you would miss out on some of the LS 430’s most interesting features. Like the ultrasonic Intuitive Parking Assist. Sensors in the front and rear bumpers help you avoid driveway clutter, pets, as well as aid in tight parking.
Once underway, you can activate the standard cruise control, or the Dynamic Laser Cruise Control. DLCC uses laser sensors to maintain a predetermined distance from the vehicle in front of you. A steering wheel control allows you to select three distances: long, middle, and short. Set your speed and select your distance and the system does the rest, automatically accelerating or braking as required. The LS 430 draws its power from a new 4.3 liter, four cam, 32-valve V-8 with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence. It feeds its 290 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a slick 5-speed automatic transmission, one of only a few carryover components. 0 to 60 miles per hour takes only a smooth 6.3 seconds. The LS 430 is also equipped with what Lexus calls Intuitive Powertrain Control. IPC analyzes accelerator pedal pressure along with engine operating conditions and vehicle speed for a smoother application of torque. This makes the job of driving less fatiguing for driver and passengers.
High speed handling is well governed by a four-wheel independent, double wishbone suspension and 60-Series 16-inch tires. Electronic Air Suspension and a more tautly tuned Euro suspension with 55-Series 17-inch rims and tires are optional. Vehicle Skid Control with Traction Control and Brake Assist are all standard. Street ride quality is what you might expect from a sedan of this caliber. Very sweet. In fact we have to agree with our friends at AMI Auto World Weekly when they say, “Although the LS 430, with any of its three suspensions, is no sports car, it’s plenty capable on any road and more fun to drive than its predecessor.” Pricing for a car of this caliber is simply astounding. Base price for the 2001 Lexus LS 430 is expected to be $54,000, and Lexus execs swear that a fully loaded LS will not top $70,000. In other words, with all the bells and whistles, LS prices top out about where an S-Class begins. Indeed, with its dizzying array of technologies, top drawer interior accommodations, superb powertrain and ride quality, and value pricing, the Lexus LS 430 is once again re-writing the book on high end luxury automobiles. And as long as we’re behind the wheel, it’s one history lesson we won’t mind repeating again and again.
Engine: 4.3 Liter 4-cam 32-valve V-8
Torque: 320 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.3 Seconds