FourSixOh Posted October 22, 2006 Share Posted October 22, 2006 OK, just got back from driving our new baby 150 miles or so; thought I'd fill in the post with my driving impressions. I had been very impressed by the styling, interior design and materials, and the overall quality of the new LS. However, I've always been disappointed with the driving dynamics of the Lexus Big Sedan; the last LS430 I drove (in late 2004) just didn't do it for me. It had the Sport package (not sure of the exact option name), which offered larger wheels and tires along with stiffer damping. This car just felt rough and unfinished, as though Lexus slapped on bigger wheels & tires and stiffened the springs without changing anything else on the car. We purchased our VW Phaeton shortly after driving the Lexus. I fully expected we might be disappointed by some of the driving characteristics of the new LS. I am certainly not unbiased, having just spent money on what the happy Lexus salesman described as "the most expensive vehicle our dealership has ever sold". However, I will attempt to honestly appraise the differences between the two cars. Before taking delivery I drove the LS extensively -- about 20 miles -- to be 100% certain that everything was perfect. Afterwards, my wife got into the LS460L and drove away as I followed her home in the Phaeton. The difference between the two cars was, quite honestly, night and day. I've always thought the Phaeton to be an amazingly capable car, but there are very few areas where anyone might consider the Phaeton superior. Other than having more personal preference settings (it's Adaptive Volume Control can be adjusted to your exact liking, for example) the only areas where I honestly believe the Phaeton outdoes the Lexus are: 1. The Phaeton is bigger... 2. The Phaeton has more "road-hugging weight"... 3. The Phaeton cabin feels significantly wider, with commensurately greater shoulder room... 4. The Phaeton trunk is larger and more usable (our LS460L has the Tiny Trunk option)... 5. A few of the Phaeton's interior pieces have a higher quality feel to them; the Lexus Link control panel (in the ceiling) and the sun visors feel as though they came from an IS... Here are the areas where the LS460L is superior (IMHO) to the Phaeton: 1. I never thought I'd see a paint finish that matched the quality of the one on the Phaeton. Now, I haven't yet had the chance to see how durable the paint on the Lexus is -- how thick it is and how well it resists chipping -- but the smoothness and depth of the finish is the best I've ever seen on a mass-production vehicle. The car looks as though it's been extensively color-sanded; those Lexus robots are polishing to perfection. 2. The accomodations in the Lexus are clearly superior. Though a few of the bits in the Phaeton are better designed or higher in apparent quality, the overall feel inside the Lexus is clearly a cut above the competition. 3. The design of the Lexus interior is an improvement over the VW. Though it has far more tech goodies than the Phaeton, all these gadgets are incorporated into a very simple, straightforward user interface. Sure, the car has a high button count, but the organization of buttons into subgroups makes everything fairly intuitive; what's not immediately obvious is quickly figured out. The overall feel is clean yet tastefully opulent. It feels more like a well-executed BizJet interior than anything else. 4. The tech on the Lexus is more advanced -- and it works better -- than that of the Phaeton; though it may not be fair to compare a 2004 model to a 2007, the LS460L has the following advantages: a. A HDD/GPS system that works brilliantly; it may only be two generations removed from the Phaeton's CD-based system (CD>DVD>HDD), but the Lexus system feels -- from a functional standpoint -- like using a light-saber after wielding a broadsword. b. The Mark Levinson sound system is one of the best systems I've ever heard in a car, and I've heard aftermarket car systems where the stereo work alone cost over $50K. The radio tuners on both AM and FM are spectacularly good; we live in a multipath-prone area and the Lexus radio almost never suffers from the distortion we hear on every other auto radio in our garage (Phaeton and E55, both with the optional sound systems). The overall frequency balance is very well-tuned; the system never sounds overly bright or edgy. The highs are smooth and extended, while the lows are deep, extended, and clear. The best trick this system pulls off, however, is very good stereo imaging from each of the four primary positions in the car. The Phaeton, with DSP set for the driver's position, has uncanny imaging for the driver but compromised sound for everyone else. The Lexus provides a better experience for everyone in the car. However, I do NOT like what happens with the Surround option engaged. It changes the frequency response in what, for me, is an unpleasant way; this makes the benefit in perceived image width not worth the tradeoffs in brightness and harshness. The ability to load CDs directly onto the HDD is, quite simply, brilliantly executed. However, I'd like more options -- ala iTunes -- to set the ripping to a higher quality setting. The only options are 128kbps and 256kbps; at the highest quality setting the differences between the CD and the HDD/MP3 copy are audible. If the car had a poorer audio system this would probably not be noticeable, but the resolution and quality of the audio system are ruthless -- it will clearly show you all the flaws of whatever you feed it. Lossless encoding would be a nice touch... c. The Lexus doors and trunk are remarkable; they require very little pressure to close, and -- if you undershoot -- the automatic closing feature is awfully nice. The electrically operated trunk is wonderful; though the Phaeton offered this as an option our car lacks this feature; I had to remove one of the two gas struts to make it to where my wife -- who's quite strong -- could close the lid in a reasonable fashion. 5. The build quality on the Lexus is simply astonishing. I love German cars, but this car is going to give BMW and Mercedes engineers nightmares. The shut lines on the doors, hood, and trunk are have the smallest gaps I've ever seen on a car, and they are uniformly perfect from beginning to end. The chrome trim on the side windows is a single metal casting -- unreal! The details on the car -- like the center armrest/console cover, which closes through an elaborate arc at the slightest touch -- make you giggle at first as you realize that every detail on the car is designed with the user's tactile experience in mind. 6. The vehicle dynamics of the LS460L are superior to those of the Phaeton. This was QUITE the shocker; after driving the LS for 20-30 minutes -- then hopping into the Phaeton for the drive home -- I was extremely surprised by how crude the VW felt after driving the Lexus. I'm going to get torched if any of my Phaeton brethren are reading this, but I'm trying to be as objective as possible here. Though the Phaeton has an amazing "cruise missle" feel, the Lexus feels smoother-riding, more nimble, more solidly constructed, better handling, and far quicker in acceleration than the P-car. I don't know why some testers have declared the car to be slower than Lexus' published figures; the car feels very quick to me. There's also just the right touch of engine noise in the cabin -- a new experience for LS drivers. BTW, I am used to the acceleration of my 2005 Mercedes E55 -- a rocketship by anyone's standard -- so I think I have some valid reference points for "quick". 7. The transmission on the Lexus is a remarkable achievement. Like some of the other features on the car, I initially thought this would fit into the category of overkill. But the engineering and execution of this unit consistently impresses. It's shifts are smooth yet quick and efficient, and the gearing advantage of eight ratios is apparent when flooring the throttle when entering the freeway or pulling out onto a busy secondary road with rapidly approaching traffic. 8. The handling of the car is quite good. If I were in charge of suspension design at Lexus, I would have changed the settings on the 3-position switch for Comfort/Normal/Sport. I would have replaced Comfort with Normal, Normal with Sport, and Sport with Sportier. So far we keep the car in Sport/Power modes almost exclusively. These settngs are close to ideal, but I would like to be able to go one-click sportier at times. I'm getting tired so I need to wrap this up. Are there flaws on the car? Absolutely. The Voice Recognition controls require some study and education to learn properly. The jury is still out on how well they ultimately funcion (once the operator is up to speed). The Automatic Parking feature is absolutely not intuitive to use. During our test drive -- with our knowledgable salesman in the car -- we could never figure out how to get it to back the car into a space. After 4-5 attempts we gave up; I'll have to learn how to use this but I don't think it's something we'll use with any regularity. I'd also like to be able to customize some of the functions to my liking just a little more; it would be nice, for example, to be able to customize the Adaptive Volume threshold to my exact preferences. I'd also like it if -- when I opened the hood -- there was something to see besides plastic covers that make the underhood experience appear to be something produced by Cuisinart. I'd also like a bigger trunk, but I also like the icebox feature and the air purifer. Like most Americans, I merely want it all! I also have high marks for the Lexus dealership experience. However, one problem I have is how some dealers are handling their advertising. Specifically, they typically send you off with plastic license plates advertising the dealership, PLUS cheap metal frames with the dealer name stamped above and below the plate. The cheap metal license frame rubbed through the clear coat on the back of the car. Though this may not seem significant, I would expect this area to be better designed (look at a Mercedes) to prevent this from happening. Also, I can NOT believe that there should be ANY reason to drill the front bumper of the car to install the license plate mount! There are already two holes -- from the factory -- that look as though they match up EXACTLY with the holes on a US license plate. Appparently -- and this is my read and IMHO only -- it would be more work for either the dealer's or the ports PDI staff to hold a blind nut in place while working the bold through the plate and the plate holder. Instead, they drilled two holes into the bumper of our car, and these holes have that "pulled through" look with flared edges that can't easily be repaired. So, although I've never run a front plate for the 20 years I've been a Californian, I have no choice on this car unless I want to take it to a paint shop for an expensive repair. Lexus really dropped the ball on this one; this might be OK on a $20K vehicle, but it's completely unacceptable on an $84K luxury car. There you have it -- my rants and (mostly) raves... Photos at: http://web.mac.com/raythompson/iWeb/Site/Lexus.html ------------------------------------------------------------------------ A couple of other points... Though the driver and both outboard rear passengers have multiple seat memories, the front passenger has NO ability to set memory positions. This was a big surprise; since I'm 6'7" I usually adjust seats to a position that is not comfortable for others. If you don't drink soda (we don't, at least not in the car) you have to hunt just a bit to find the short water bottles that will fit the rear fridge. Perhaps Lexus needs to come out with their own bottled water brand? The radar-assisted cruise control works brilliantly well; this is a great feature, although the Lexus has so little rolling resistance at speed that you have to -- on occasion -- get on the brakes to slow the car. The Radar/Cruise will adjust to compensate for proximity, but can't actually slow the car. I wouldn't want the system to apply the brakes, but having it select a lower gear might be nice to offer a slight amount of engine braking. The lack of integrated iPod control seems to be a major omission; I realize there are aftermarket solutions for this, but I had expected this to be incorporated into the design of the new car. The Adaptive Lighting takes some getting used to. It appears to me that it can either be turned ON or OFF; a MEDIUM setting might be nice. The fog lamps appear to be useless; they are aimed far too low and seem to be there mostly for looks, at least on US-spec cars. The owner's manual warns against using a clothes hanger on the coat hooks; apparently you might be impaled if the side curtain airbags deploy. Does anyone actually hang clothing directly on the hook without using a clothes hangar? The air purification systems (we have both front & rear) work very well; you can watch the system automatically activate the recirc function when you pull behind a diesel truck. Both front and rear filters are easily replaceable -- a nice touch. You can also activate a "Pollen Mode", where the system goes into overdrive (when required) for a 3-minute period. The increments between settings for the air suspension are well-chosen; though I would have liked a slightly more sporting balance overall, the differences between each position (Comfort, Normal, & Sport) are easily discernable without being too drastically different. The factory carpeted interior mats are -- to my mind -- of inferior quality compared to the rest of the car. Again, they should look at what the Germans provide on their cars. The all-weather mats are much better made, but all of the mats give minimal coverage on the driver's side -- far too much of the carpeting around the dead pedal is exposed to dirt and wear. I am hoping there is an aftermarket solution that offers an improvement in this area. I'd also like it if someone would make a set of those plastic tray-type mats that have elevated edges to keep all dirt and moisture inside the perimeter of the mat. Also, the all-weather mats are only available in Black or Tan -- no Grey. We have the factory car cover and will report back once I've tried it out. We keep the car garaged, and will likely use the cover only if we're out of town to cut down on dust. Apparently you CAN optimize the Mark Levinson sound system to adjust for the position of the listener; however, the Owner's Manual claims this only works when playing CDs. On the Phaeton you can use this feature regardless of source; I can't imagine why the Lexus has this limitation. The front cupholders are too small, when my wife jumped into the car with her favorite thermal car mug -- which is not particularly wide -- the edges rub on the wood. The wood in this area should have something protecting the edges, but it appears to be unprotected. Have to go shopping for narrower coffee mugs... One nice touch is that the power windows have a "soft start" feature at both the beginning and end of their range of travel. The LS460L may have the biggest glovebox in all of autodom... ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Had a chance to do some of my usual roads today; thought I'd relate some handling differences between the LS460L and our VW Phaeton. After pushing the Lexus, I have to say that there are both pros and cons to its' cornering and handling. The Phaeton has better -- and more accurate -- initial turn-in. I suspect this has something to do with the elecrically-assisted power steering in the Lexus. Also, the Phaeton has AWD; this allows you to enter a corner just below the limit, then floor the throttle. The car executes damn near perfect four wheel drifts. The overall handling on the Phaeton is very precise; though it's a heavy car the turn-in (with the proper tires) is good, and once you set the car up for a corner it stays set. In contrast, the LS460L is a bit twitchier and less confidence-inspiring under aggressive driving conditions; it's a bit harder to sense the limits, there is a bit more body-lean, and the overall feeling under hard-cornering is slightly less stable than in the Phaeton. It certainly seems to understeer more than the P-car. I'd say the German cars I've driven have a slight handling advantage (which is greater in the BMW 7-series -- especially with the Sport Package -- than the other luxo-barges) over the Lexus. However, this is all subjective until you get all the cars together on a track and clock them against the stopwatch. One thing about the Lexus -- it's so insanely quiet and well-isolated that -- quite often -- you are going faster than you might have thought. On long sweepers (Marin County/Bay Area, take 101 North and exit onto Hwy. 37 towards Vallejo/Sears Point -- the ramp is fantastic!) the car can be set into the corner at 85% or so of its' limit, then a gentle application of throttle will bring it up to about 95% or those limits. What it doesn't like are mid-course corrections; this is a car in which you need to be smooth to go fast. Twice today I had LS430 owners trying to get close for a better look. One of these occasions was on the above-mentioned ramp to Hwy. 37; in this case the (undoubtedly nice) gentleman was right on my tail entering the ramp; by the time I was on Hwy. 37 he was nowhere to be seen, and caught up to me about 2 miles down the road as I was exiting. He may have been driving his car at 50% or 90%; I have no idea. My point is the car can be driven quickly; it just takes a little bit of care. Some people here may think I'm being overly hard on the LS460L, but it does compete head-to-head with the BMW 7-series. The Lexus is superior to other luxury sedans in many ways -- and it's important to remember that cars are merely tools. Sometimes you want a spade to dig a hole, sometimes you want a shovel, and sometimes you need a stick of TNT. Given it's level of luxury, ride quality, and absolute comfort, the Lexus handles well. It would not, however, be your preferred method of transport for a long jaunt down the CA coast along Highway One. I will try to take my neighbor -- who has a 7-series with the Sport Package -- out on the road and get his opinions. If we can, I'll have him hit a few corners at the limit, and see if I can stay on his tail... ------------------------------------------------------------------------ I asked my wife how she compares the two cars. She likes the Phaeton seats better; I'd agree with that one after a few days in the Lexus. One thing the Lexus does is move the entire lower seat cushion forward to add thigh support for the vertically overburdened. The Phaeton has a Recaro-style movable bolster at the leading edge of the lower seat cushion. As a result, if I move the thigh support all the way forward in the Lexus, it feels as though I'm sitting in a hole -- or, at least, on a very thin part of the seat. She likes the way the Lexus stops better. This may be a weight-related issue, as the Phaeton has brakes that are just huge. I think she's feeling weight transfer, along with the fact that the Japanese provide more assistance on power-operated things. I'd call the Lexus brakes more touchy and the Phaeton brakes more progressive. Just what you want on the Autobahn, basically, which pretty much explains many of the differences in the car. She likes the way the Phaeton can be customized to the user. On the Phaeton you have a ridiculous (ridiculous in a good way) amount of personalization, and these settings follow you with your key. There is much less personal customization on the Lexus, and the settings don't "mate" with your individual key. She feels the Lexus is a tad more nimble; again, I think this is a weight issue. Also, the turning radius on the Lexus is tighter/better than in the Phaeton. It would be nice to compare a LS460L with the black/anthracite interior directly to our Phaeton. The interiors feel drastically different just by virtue of one (our Lexus) being lighter (grey w/dark grey wood), while the other (Phaeton) is very dark with contrasting wood highlights. I should also qualify one of my previous remarks. When I described getting out of the Lexus, then driving off in the Phaeton as a "night & day difference", I was referring primarily to the quiet of the Lexus and the suspension design. In the Phaeton the suspension feels as though it's tuned for less suspension compliance, and you feel quite a bit more of the irregularities in the pavement. Given the state of our roads in California, this alone makes for a readily apparent difference in interior quiet and comfort. When all is said and done the PRIMARY motivator that caused us to buy the Lexus was our dealership experience with the Phaeton. They are both fine vehicles in many respects... ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Just posted this in the Phaeton thread, where they are discussing this thread. They are a nice group, so no inter-brand flame wars, please! There is a lot of discussion about interior quality... http://forums.vwvortex.com/zeropost?...how&id=2889312 I'm the turncoat who posted the review on the Lexus forum... (INSERT FLAMES HERE) I am constantly learning more about the Lexus as I spend time in it. I'll keep revising my review/comparison to reflect that. Although we just spent a lot of money on the Lexus I am trying to be objective as I can. The pictures you posted are not entirely accurate in one respect. Japanese manufacturers, for some reason, have a terrible time making a beige interior that doesn't look hideous (IMHO). When the first two LS460s came into the local dealership I had my choice (being #1 on their list). The first car they pulled out was Verdigris/Green (the paint color looked great) with the beige interior you show in the photo above. My first reaction was, "You have GOT to be kidding me -- this is nowhere CLOSE to a Phaeton!". My wife felt the same way; it was one of those instant reactions where we looked at each other and jumped out of the car immediately. Then the salesman pulled out a Silver/Grey LS460L. We were substantially more impressed. First, the L has much better proportions and just looks right. Second, the interior was 100% better (again, IMHO); the grey interior uses dark grey birdseye maple trim, and it just is more coherent and classy. If you want to do a proper comparison, however, it should probably be Anthracite vs Anthracite. That beige Lexus interior just doesn't do justice to the car... I said somewhere in my "review" that cars are just tools, and I still believe that -- though it's hard to not develop an emotional attachement to well-designed objects. This quality of "soul" is something that becomes part of a car when you can tell that each designer, engineer, and craftsman who built the car put something of themselves into the car by virtue of their passion and effort. In this respect I believe that BOTH cars have the quality of soul, but one speaks with a Teutonic accent (which we are all familiar with and appreciate) while the other has a slightly different accent or flavor. Neither is inherently "right". However, the Lexus takes some of the tech promised on the Phaeton -- the fancy stereo and Nav system come to mind -- and makes it work perfectly in a fashion that is very well-integrated with the design and operation of the car. It is superbly intuitive to operate all the technological functions on this car (with the exception of the Park Assist feature -- though it makes for a great commercial I don't personally have the need or desire to have the car park itself with my (minimal) guidance). Bluetooth, Voice commands, and XM Traffic are perfectly integrated and are a pleasure to use. The XM traffic is simply amazing; I just drove 2 hours through Bay Area rush hour traffic, and the information it provided was spot on, informative, and seamless in its' operation. Much better than the XM traffic on my Garmin SP7200 -- as in night and day. The Germans need to be careful if they are to maintain their hold on this end of the market. For years they have been amazingly arrogant -- for example, they continued to produce infuriatingly inferior Nav systems that were no match for the DVD-Nav on a 1999 Honda Odyssey minivan. For the record, I had the Honda for my "work truck" and have owned a 2003 BMW M3, 2003 Mercedes G500, and a 2005 Mercedes E55 since. That 1999 Honda minivan had the best Nav system of the bunch... The Germans are displaying a similar arrogance when it comes to automotive user interfaces. The German engineers tell us, when we complain about iDrive or MMI, that this is an essential feature and is the only way they can integrate so many features into a car without overwhelming the driver. Then the Lexus LS460 comes along -- and despite it's extreme electronic complexity, the thing is stone simple to use (for the most part). We have been hoodwinked in this regard, and there are a LOT of people (my Mom comes to mind; she loves BMW 7-series V12 sedans, has owned three in a row, but is driven to TEARS by the GPS system) who will see the Lexus and realize that you can have your cake and eat it too. If I were driving unobstructed Autobahn (which hardly exists anymore) every day I would probably insist on a German sedan because of their positive handling at speed. However, I live in a world where the roads are horrid, the traffic is ever-present, and the opportunities to hit triple-digits are damned-near non-existent. There are -- I believe -- a lot of people like me who will be attracted by the features of the Lexus, along with the promise of being treated like an equal at all phases of interactiion with the dealership. I love our Phaeton, but the Lexus LS460L is a more complete automobile -- IMHO, of course... Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Join the conversation
You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.