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2007 Lexus LS Raises the Bar for Safety and Luxury

Standard and Optional Features Should Significantly Reduce Accidents Small and Large
Though not all of the details have been revealed regarding the fourth-generation Lexus LS sedan, at the Detroit auto show Lexus uncovered styling and gave us a peek at some new luxury features. In Geneva, more information on the big car’s safety systems was revealed. Just around the corner, at the New York auto show in April, the LS hybrid will be unveiled. Lexus has also announced that the new LS will be offered in two wheelbase lengths, something new to the Lexus strategy but which entries like the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class long have done (although Mercedes sells only the long wheelbase version of the S-Class in the USA). AutoPacific and Vehicle Voice give you a brief preview of some of the upcoming wow! systems Lexus buyers will soon get to choose from.


Counterpoint – the Devil’s Advocate
After you read the following summary of the technology coming on the 2007 Lexus LS, ask yourself these questions, “Is this technology necessary? Will this technology significantly enhance the driving experience? How expensive will all these wow! systems be? How reliable will they be? Are Lexus engineers answering questions no one is asking?”
In AutoPacific research there appears to be an undercurrent that some drivers are beginning to push back at technology that tries to do too much. “Why do I need that,” one Mercedes driver may ask. A 7-Series driver brags that they have mastered the audio functions of iDrive after owning the car for five months and is looking forward to now learning how to learn the navigation functions. A Mercedes driver complains that the “car is taking over control” and says he’ll buy something different next time. Then, there is the luxury car owner that asks, “Why is a $25,000 car like the Honda Accord never in the shop, but my $70,000 7-Series always there?” Technology needed? Or technology run amok?

Luxury Taken to a New Level.
The 2007 LS sedan offers creature comfort features as yet unrivalled, at least outside the stratified air of completely built-to-order vehicles. Not only does the climate control factor in the temperature of the air inside the car, it also takes into account the occupant’s body temperature using sensors in the seats. There is a rear-seat DVD system with a nine-inch screen, a foldaway table (in matching wood grain) for rear-seat workspace, a nineteen-speaker audio system for theater-like sound, and an ottoman and leg-massaging seats in the four-passenger long-wheelbase model. Some of these firsts come along with features that have been popping up in luxury cars for the past several years, including heated steering wheel and power open-and-close trunk.
The standard engine will be a 4.6L DOHC 32v V8 expected to deliver in the neighborhood of 380HP, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. That is not a typo – an 8-speed automatic transmission.


Astounding Level of Safety.
Lexus used the 2006 Geneva show to share some of the safety features due on the next LS. Though it will take until spring 2007 for the full complement to be available, electronic and accident-avoidance aids on the LS will be beyond anything else on the road, at least initially. Not all systems are new to the market, but the Lexus LS feature strategy has potential to be the most comprehensive package yet. Many combine active and passive elements, with suspension, braking, and steering aids improving driver’s control while others warn the driver of impending collisions and assist in minimizing unavoidable collisions.
The airbag system is upgraded with twin-chamber front driver and passenger airbags, not new to the industry but part of this impressive overall package. Lexus adds a plethora of electronic aids to help drivers keep the large, expensive sedan on the road and assist in avoiding many types of crashes. Some of these updated safety systems were first introduced on the Lexus GS for the 2006MY, but the LS predictably gets an altogether higher level of safety and driving assistance. Of the systems new to the LS but introduced with the GS are the latest Vehicle Dynamics Integration Management (VDIM, which uses Vehicle Stability Control, ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronically Controlled Braking (brake-by-wire), Variable Gear Ratio Steering, and Electronic Power Steering to detect the onset of a skid or slide and help the driver correct it.
The current LS offers the Lexus Pre-Collision System, which in its basic form takes into account vehicle speed, steering angle, yaw rate, and information gathered from an obstacle sensor (using millimeter-wave radar and stereo cameras) to warn a driver to take evasive action and then to begin to apply braking and pretension seatbelts if the system determined a collision to be unavoidable. With the new-for-2006MY GS, the system was refined again. The 2007 LS adds even more to the system.
An Emergency Steering Assist improves vehicle response to driver input, helping to avoid a collision. The Emergency Steering Assist uses the VDIM, the Variable Gear Ratio System, and the Adaptive Variable Suspension to give the driver a more direct steering gear ratio, selective brake control if needed, and a stiffer suspension setting.
Further, the PCS will include a Driver Monitoring System. This system constantly tracks the movement of the driver’s face using a mini-camera on the steering column; if an obstacle is detected in front of the vehicle, and the driver isn’t looking forward, the system sounds an alarm and initiates a “momentary, gentle braking” to alert the driver.
Though the GS added an Obstacle Detection System to the Pre-Collision System, the LS adds an Advanced Obstacle Detection System. It is now capable of detecting pedestrians and pets as well as stationary objects. Even parking aids are improved, as the LS is sure to include the Intuitive Parking Assist. Introduced o the GS, Intuitive Parking Assist uses a steering input sensor to help the system better judge changes in the distance between the vehicle and obstacles detected.
Systems to help drivers keep in their lane are not new to the industry, but new to Lexus in the LS in the form of Advanced Lane-Keeping Assist. As do similar systems from Infiniti (launched on FX) and Audi (launched on Q7), Lexus uses cameras and white road-line information to determine the car’s location within the lane. If the driver strays without signaling, an alarm is activated and steering is adjusted for a short time to help get the vehicle back in its lane. When Adaptive Cruise Control is engaged, the system also uses active steering power support to help keep the car in the center of the lane, though the driver can override the system at any time.

If Lexus continues with this level of technological advancement, chauffeurs may no longer be necessary!

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