Lexus’ newest flagship doesn’t set hearts racing. Which is exactly what the doctor ordered.
;The 2007 LS460 is the fourth generation of Lexus top-of-the-line sedan, and like every one of its predecessors, it doesn’t do much for me. From its debut in 1989, when short-sighted critics said that nobody would buy a Japanese luxury car, the LS has offered tremendous value, incomparable build quality and a void where the character ought to be. Unlike the big sedans from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Jaguar, the Lexus has always been a bland commodity – the greatest car ever built for people who don’t care about cars. The LS460 follows squarely in this tradition, and I couldn’t imagine why a car enthusiast would buy one – until a car enthusiast got in the car with me.
;Scott Shelton is a hard-core car guy who’s driven a slew of exotics and recently finished second in a Mazda RX-8 Touring 3 race car at the SCCA Runoffs. As soon as he climbed into the Lexus, he was all over the incredibly luscious leather and other uniformly soft surfaces of the interior, which he described as “like butter.” The ride, which I found floaty, he described as plush. He loved the eight-speed transmission, which seems to have been developed mostly to tweak the noses of the folks over at Mercedes, which had recently unveiled a seven-speed tranny to much fanfare. And, of course, both of us were amped about the 380-horsepower engine, which gave the two-ton sedan the get up and go of a car half its heft.
;My biggest gripe about the LS is that the car is so quiet – you almost seem to be hermetically sealed in the cockpit – that there’s no sense of connection to the driving experience. But Scott disagreed with my contention that the Lexus was designed for people who don’t care about cars. On the contrary, he said it was perfect for somebody who satisfied his car jones in other ways – by racing, maybe, or with a Lotus Elise or an M3 or whatever. His point was that, at $70,000, the LS probably wouldn’t be the only car in the owner’s stable. And after spending a few hours pounding around a track or carving mountain curves in a stiffly sprung thoroughbred with a rock-hard seat, an obnoxiously loud exhaust and all the creature comforts of a lock-down cell in supermax prison, then a few days cocooned in the luxo-Lexus would seem like a pretty sweet deal.
;I guess I know what the guys racing Toyotas in Nextel Cup next season will be driving between races.