Fourth generation Lexus LS sedan in Detroit

The motoring scribes from GoAuto were present at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit and the top shelf Lexus LS 460 certainly impressed many. The current Lexus has certainly started to show its age, by now 17 years old, so it was more than time, for a new car to be released. The current LS 430 had its last revamp and skin change three years ago and received the higher-torque, 207 kW/430 Nm version of its all-alloy 4.3 litre DOHC V8.

Though the Toyota luxury brand’s new fourth generation flagship is virtually identical to the LF-Sh hybrid concept shown at Tokyo in October, it is the LS 460’s preliminary specs that are the real news.

This new 2007 LS 460 is powered by a 4.6 litre V8 that drives the new sedan’s rear wheels through the world’s first eight-speed automatic transmission and offers an “estimated” 285kW.

While there was no sign of the rumored all-wheel drive system at the Detroit show, Lexus did reveal its first long wheelbase version of the LS – dubbed unsurprisingly the LS460L - which offers four seats and is 122mm longer between the axles and overall, at 5150mm. The standard LS 460 measures 5029mm long, while both derivatives are 1875mm wide and 1476mm high with coil suspension. At this stage it is not known which countries will get the long wheelbase model, or the mooted hybrid Lexus, to be called the Lexus LS 600h.

Replacing the Tokyo con-cept’s electrically-assisted petrol V8 powertrain in the production-ready LS at Detroit, the new Lexus V8 also delivers a more serious 500 Nm of torque and is claimed to accelerate the new model to 100 kph in less than 5.5 seconds. That is very quick for a luxury sedan.

Built on an all-new platform featuring new multi-link suspension systems, including a five-arm IRS, the new LS also incorporates electronic power steering and next-generation Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) systems.

The latest VDIM stability system integrates the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system with a new Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB) system, plus Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), Electro-nic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and engine torque via its electronic throttle.

As expected, Lexus says the redesigned LS combines new levels of performance, sophistication, styling and luxury refinements.

“The Lexus LS460 was designed to expand the definition of the full-size luxury sedan,” said US Toyota Motor Sales president and COO Jim Press at the Detroit show.

“The new LS is the product of an advanced production process developed specifically for this vehicle with remarkable new levels of accuracy, refinement, precision and craftsmanship. Considering our record for quality over the last 17 years, that’s quite a statement,” he said. It should be noted that Lexus has won the awards for quality almost every one of those 17 years as well.

New features include a heated steering wheel (I think we can delete that one for Thailand!) and seats trimmed in one of four tones of semi-aniline leathers matched to one of three coordinating woodgrain trims.

Rear occupants will enjoy power reclining seats equip-ped with power leg rests and a massage feature, while body heat sensors help maintain the optimum temperature for all occupants.

A fold-away table, matched to the interior woodgrain, provides work space for rear passengers, while a nine-inch roof-mounted rear monitor and new 19 speaker Mark Levinson sound system delivers a cinema-level entertainment experience. A self-closing boot and rear doors will also be available.

On paper, this new Lexus has everything that other luxury car makers are offering, and provided Toyota (Lexus) follows the original pattern, there will be a price differential which favors the Lexus. In the past I have criticized the large Lexus for being too quiet and comfor-
table, having lost road ‘feel’ from the driver’s point of view. However, this new model sounds as if it has put this back into the driver’s seat. We shall await road reviews with interest.

Hardly a “classic”, but the First One!

“Firsts” are always memorable, such as one’s first ‘real’ girlfriend. You remember, the one that finally proved to you that there were reasons for the anatomical differences. Ah yes, I’ll never forget whats-her-name.

In motoring terms too, you never forget your first ‘real’ car. Mine was a black 1949 Austin A40 Devon sedan, instantly recognizable as a ’49 by the fact that the 1950-51 models had quarter lights. Such brilliant engineering breakthroughs! A technical tour de force! The new model was such a step up, and so memorable!

Ah yes, it was 1959 and I was a medical student and the A40 represented two years of work as a night watchman during the week and two years of working two days every weekend pumping petrol. This lad was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. On recollection, I can’t even remember having a spoon!

I called the A40 “Gero-nimo” because it made ‘Injun’ (engine) noises, but it did not take long for the A40 to show its true age and condition and the distance traveled. It folded a piston and I was suddenly a pedestrian again. My father, bless his memory, bought me an instruction manual, and at that moment, well by page 14 at least, I became a mechanic.

Removing the cylinder head was not too difficult and the awful truth was laid bare. To use a very technical phrase, it was knackered! The wear in the bores was so bad you could practically slip your hand down the side of the pistons and check the crankshaft bearings. Piston rings, if present at all, were broken. It was a sorry sight. And so was I.

Covered in a pall of misery, I was walking past the local garage on the way to the train yet again, when Jack, the old mechanic there, asked me why I looked so glum. I told him my tale of woe and how I could not afford four new pistons and rings to fix it, but he suggested that perhaps all was not lost and he would come and look at it, privately – away from his job at the garage.

He came round that night, nodded in agreement over the engine’s diagnosis, and towed the A40 to his home. There, beside the house, was a tin shed inside of which was a veritable mountain of second hand parts, nuts and bolts and motoring bits and pieces. Jack had apparently never thrown away all the parts removed from vehicles at the garage and had brought them home, for the one day when they could be resurrected. For the A40 and I, one of those days had come. Jack and his wife, with one twin baby on each hip, scrabbled through the oily steel and aluminium offerings and came up with four pistons, with rings, a set of not so bad bearings, a couple of valves and a (newer than mine) timing chain. What a treasure trove this was!

Every night I would work with Jack, while his wife would sit on an upturned engine block and watch us while breast feeding her numerous children (she had nine under the age of seven, so Jack didn’t work all the time). I cleaned, filed, scrubbed and rubbed while Jack assembled. It took one week of nights, but it was finally fired up, an (almost) totally reconditioned engine. “How much do I owe you, Jack?” I asked while A40 purred. “A tenner’ll do,” was the reply. For ten pounds and the sympathetic nature of an old mechanic, I was a motorist again.

We need more Jacks in this world, a true gentleman of motoring.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned the Diablo, which was released in 1990. For my money this was probably the most flawed Lambo ever built, and the thumping and banging suspension (or lack of it) probably gave me a bad back for life. But didn’t it look great! When the Diablo was built, the design and development costs were reputed to be USD 84 million. I asked who picked up that bill? The answer was the (then) owners Chrysler.

So to this week. Hands up all those who remember that wonderful film ‘Gene-vieve’? It was released in 1953 and was loosely based around the London to Brigh-ton Commemoration run, organized by the RAC in the UK. There were two cars that were the (automotive) stars of the film. One was a Dutch Spyker, and the other was Genevieve, a 1904 Darracq. The film was very popular, and Genevieve became known all over the world. However, with fame there often comes people who are ready to show something seedy in your past. Genevieve was not ‘really’ a 1904 12 hp model, but had been built from many Darracq’s and the radiator was actually from a 15 hp model. But of even more interest for the film buffs was the fact
that the producer Henry Cornelius wanted a British Lanchester in the starring role. The question this week is why did he eventually use a French Dar-racq instead of the British Lanchester?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!

Classic car movement spreads through Thailand

With the classic car movement spreading (Hua Hin, Bangkok, Pattaya), Classic Cars of Lanna has decided on their very first Sun-day Run after the monthly social meeting at Chiengmai Gymkhana Club on Jan-uary 5.

According to my source in the North there was a good attendance (well, immaculate classics like a Mercedes, VW Beetle and Thailand’s ONLY Triumph Herald convertible graced the car park) and they decided that January 29 will comprise a gentle tour of the “Samoeng Loop”.

Starting from close to Wat Umong (Daniel and Kelly kindly offered their spacious grounds, plus tea or coffee from 10.30 a.m.), the route will go south down the Irrigation Canal Road towards Hang Dong before turning north west on the beautiful, winding semi-circular Samoeng road towards Mae Rim. A stopping point along the way is to be organized before they reach Mae Rim, turn south on the main road towards Chiangmai, but not for
long! A sharp left into Green Valley will get all assembled at the excellent club house there for refreshments light or heavy as the mood takes us.

There is no entry fee for the January 29 run, but if you are unable to make it, the next monthly social meeting, will be the first Thursday in February at the Chiengmai Gymkhana Club on February 2. Further details available from David, email [email protected]