Club Lexus, Please Welcome Lexus' Newest Members of the Family!

 
 
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03/25/2006 Torrance, CA

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It’s a regular Saturday morning in Spring. Some people get up to read the morning paper with their favorite cup of coffee, some gather at the local café for brunch and some just sleep in from the long night of partying the night before. This was no ordinary Saturday morning for a handful of So Cal and a few Nor Cal Club Lexus members. This was a special preview Lexus has arranged for the true enthusiasts, but with a special flare, a competitor car at our disposal to make a side by side comparison.

Introduction

In 1989, Lexus introduced to us their first contenders to the luxury market. They started with off with the very affordable, entry level ES250 and the LS400, the luxury sedan which caught the German dominated and American luxury car manufacturers off guard. Today, roughly 17 years later, L-Finesse has taken Lexus to a whole new dimension and refreshed its predecessors with the New 2007 ES350 and the flagship LS460, which are ready to take on the worlds finest and more.

In just three weeks after the official introduction of the all New LS460 in Detroit, MI back in January, our friends at Lexus HQ, Bill Burris and Brian Bolain had approached me with an offer we couldn’t refuse. They offered to give us an opportunity to preview one the Lexus LS460’s which we were previously limited to looking on to press release photos and auto show displays. They wanted to get the true enthusiast point of view on the new car and to give our honest feedback afterward. At the same time, they advised us there would be a competitor car on hand so we could make comparisons side by side comparisons with both vehicles. It didn’t take much convincing for me to say “YES” when they asked. Since there are only a very limited number of the special hand-built pre-productions LS460’s in existence, they are constantly being moved from one venue to the other and are still doing so as this is being written. I worked on the logistics with Bill and his team, and we agreed on a venue that was a place us SoCal CL members are familiar with, the Toyota USA Museum which is also adjacent to the Lexus USA Headquarters. We would have loved to actually drive the New LS460, but because of the time constraints and the exclusivity of the vehicle, there was simply not enough time and resources to do so. Regardless, we were able to spend a couple hours with the New LS460 and we were able to push the buttons, crank up the 19 speaker Mark Levinson system, kick the tires and also hear it the all new 4.6L V8 get started up before it was trucked away. To our surprise upon our arrival of the event, there were two brand new loaded ES350’s with the panoramic glass roof along with the familiar faces of Brad Nelson of Lexus Motorsports and Bill Burris greeting us at the door. Due to the exclusivity of this event, we had limited capacity, and the venue had to be a location out of public sight.

The Toyota Museum

This exclusive facility in Torrance houses a collection of vintage Toyota vehicles including Lexus and most recently, Scion. The inventory ranges from a rare collection of the first Toyota model to sell in the United States, the Toyopet Crown and the First Lexus LS400 ever to be shipped to the United States. Also on display is the legendary Toyota 2000 GT sports car, a few Toyota Motorsports race cars and a large collection of Toyota & Lexus awards. The museum curator is Susan Sanborn and is a wealth of knowledge on Toyota history in the U.S.A. She’s also instrumental in coordinating the “Toyota 50th Anniversary in the USA” which is a milestone Toyota is about to celebrate. Susan and her staff were gracious enough to let us preview the New LS460 right by their Lexus display of vehicles, awards and wall of fame. Ironically, the New LS460 was parked in front of its predecessor that started it all, the legendary LS400.


The Plan

Sure this was an extra special event, but we wanted to do it with a special CL twist. We wanted to surprise our friend Henry aka Rominl. In order to accomplish this, we had to devise a clever plan to make it happen. The masterminds of this twist involved Elizabeth aka Asiangirl007 and myself aka Flipside909. The CL Moderators, Admins, and guests who were present were fully aware of the plan and were asked to stall Henry (Rominl) if he were to arrive ahead of time. For many years, Rominl has expressed his interest in acquiring an LS for his own personal Lexus collection of cars. He would constantly be teased about liking a vehicle that appealed to the senior affluent kind. There were times he would spend his weekend going to the local Lexus dealers for a test drive of the current LS430. But this day was different, it was Rominl’s lucky day. He had expressed his great interest in the New LS460 when the first photos and stats were first published earlier this year. As you can see in the discussion forums, Rominl is actively involved. We all know how excited he would be about this car if we ever got a chance to see it up close. Since Rominl is one of those individuals that is hard to fool, we thought this would be a clever way to show him some surprises.

Since we are all busy during the day with work, many phone calls were made on several occasions to devise a plan. As soon as we figured out and agree on a plan, Asiangirl007, GSXOTIC and Rominl’s wife Ritsa are content we can do this. We had two obstacles overcome. The first obstacle was that we had to figure out a way for him to be in Southern California the weekend. For those that don’t know, Rominl travels up and down California every weekend give or take. He works in NorCal and lives in SoCal. We have to somehow get Rominl to the museum without announcing or making it obvious to him what our intent was, then surprise him as soon as he arrives. Everyone that was coming to the meet was told not to mention anything to him about any kind of LS460 event or preview. We wanted to make him oblivious to the fact that there are going to be CL members there to also see the New LS460. Some of these CL members are those he has not seen in a long while and also those has not seen all in one place other than our annual NorCal End of Summer Meet in the Bay Area. Secondly, we had to recruit the help of people that he frequently sees and associates with when he’s in town. The key people we enlisted was his wife Ritsa, and the other was his good friend Mark aka GSXOTIC. Now that we had our game plan, we just had to execute it.

The plan is to have Ritsa (Rominl’s wife) arrange for Rominl to come down to SoCal for the weekend of March 25th. The reason for having him come on that date is because GSXOTIC had scored some tickets to check out the Toyota Museum out in Torrance, a place they have only heard about and seen in previous Club Lexus gatherings. They would meet up in the morning and drive down to check out the goodies in the museum. As they are en route to the museum, Asiangirl007 was to contact Rominl’s wife to find out their exact arrival time and their current location. Rominl’s wife Ritsa was supposed to pretend she was talking on the phone with a friend about doing something later in the day. Little does Rominl know that little invite to the museum was more than just an invite. It was the LS460 hiding inside the Toyota Museum with all of us waiting to see his reaction.

So they day comes, and everything rolls out as planned. Since it had rained earlier in the morning, a lot of the freeways were left slick and any direction headed to and from Torrance, they were all jammed with accidents. I had arrived just a few minutes later than anticipated but was able to take plenty of photos before most the guests had arrived. Asiangirl007 calls me on the phone saying that she was running behind, and that GSXOTIC and his wife were also running behind. She also had mentioned Rominl and his wife were scheduled to get there at exactly 11am. At this time I’m thinking to myself, “Geeze I hope this works out!” As I am taking my photos, someone alerts me of Rominl’s arrival. I run outside and he pulls up to the driveway of the museum with his wife’s cleanly modified Wald SC430. Still unaware of what was going to happen Rominl steps out of the car and has this look of disbelief on his face. I greet him and he says… “Hey, what is going on here and what are you doing here? What is this, a surprise meet?” I laughed and said “Oh no way, don’t be silly, what are you talking about? Come inside, I wanna show you something!” Surprised as he already was, he was greeted by many familiar CL faces. He was shocked to see the two ES350s greeting us as we were about to enter the museum. I escort him inside, we walk through a door and turn a corner and as we stepped into the large warehouse of Toyotas and people talking and chatting amongst themselves, the room just filled up with complete silence. Rominl paused for a few seconds in disbelief and looked at me with a facial reaction of “I cannot believe this!” He stares at the car, he looks at me and says…”Let me go outside and grab my wife”. As he starts walking back, Rominl’s wife and GSXOTIC, and Asiangirl007 step in the room and smile at Rominl. I look back at them, give them a high five and cheer. Mission Accomplished! I look back at Rominl and tell him “We GOTCHA!”


The ES350

Like the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This certainly goes true with the all New 2007 ES350 sedan. Ready for sale in the late Spring 2006, the fifth generation ES is bigger, better and more powerful than ever. This New ES350 is no slouch, it has rides on the GSV40 chassis which is powered by an all new 3.5L aluminum V6 aka 2GR-FE mated to an ultra slick ECT 6 speed automatic transmission. The all new 3.5L V6 is good for 272 HP. The L-Finesse design philosophy definitely is evident in the vehicle’s styling and shape. Sleek and spacious is what you can expect out of this latest incarnation of the ES. The obvious attention to detail in design is very evident in the way the interior parts are laid out and executed, all the way to the smooth styling of the exterior sheet metal. A 14 speaker discrete 5.1 channel surround sound Mark Levinson system is available with DVD video playback. There is more interior room and the back seat passengers can enjoy easy egress with the nearly flat rear floor. There is no more chances of getting caught up on that old center hump. More than just style, it’s also functional. The feature that stood out the most is a definite Lexus first. It is the panorama glass roof which allows you to enjoy maximum sunshine inside the cabin all year round. Since L-Finesse is shared amongst Lexus’ newest line of cars, it’s a fact you can definitely see the family resemblance with New GS, IS and the next car we are going to talk about.


The LS460

The first impression that will come to mind is “WOW”. The wide front fascia, the signature grille, the strong body lines, the carved dual exhaust and surprisingly, the aggressive stance with minimal wheel gap and very good fitment of the wheels…this LS has come a long way. The New LS460’s overall presence is definitely dominating. It’s not dominating as in big and boring, the L-Finesse inspired design transforms this premium luxury sedan into a sleek, aggressive, and sporty looking sedan. The rake of the hood, along with the sleek design of the headlights definitely defines and distinguishes the New LS460’s. The design flows throughout the vehicle seamlessly, with no rough edges or awkward shapes to disturb the New LS’ historically aerodynamic nature. Being parked alongside a top German competitor, a New 2007 Mercedes Benz S500, you can certainly see inside and out that the competition has taken a step backwards overall. The New LS’ styling is not overdone or radical. Lexus has done a great job of keeping the timeless look of the LS sedan without making it look radical and boring with the “me too” engineering and the awkward styling. One walk around the car, it definitely puts a smile to people’s faces.

Opening the door, the spacious and inviting Alabaster colored interior with the rich woods decorate the interior quite nicely. There’s no silly circle pod on the center of the console and armrest here. The dashboard houses the usual Lexus signature Optitron gauges as well as a large high resolution screen which you can view the clean mapping of the fifth generation, HDD based, voice activated Lexus Navigation system. Not to forget, you can enjoy DVD movies in true audiophile fashion with the 19 Speaker Mark Levinson sound system. This all new system is engineered to accompany the natural acoustics of the New LS460’s cabin. I was able to sample some of the features of the New LS460’s Mark Levinson system. I was shocked to find an internal Hard Drive of 8GB which Lexus preloaded with high quality recordings of different genres of music. Being the tech-junkie that I am, I had to explore some of the Mark Levinson system’s new features. The capacity of the 8GB internal hard drive is good for about 4,000 songs in a high quality format. Selecting the FM setting, the regular radio broadcasts are amplified with clarity through all 19 speakers of the system. There was a good amount of bass to fill the cabin to satisfy. Switching it back to the Internal Hard Drive, I browsed through the music Lexus has preloaded the hard drive with including classical, jazz, even some rock and R&B. No matter what type of song style you selected or which ever seat you were sitting in, you can definitely tell Lexus has spent a lot of time engineering the Mark Levinson’s 19 speakers to stimulate your ears. Every seat is a sweet spot for sound.

The soft interior LED lighting accents the interior in dimly lighted situations. Every seat is well bolstered and wrapped in very fine leather. Seating position is excellent in almost every seating position. The front and rear seats are heated, but the driver’s and front passenger will enjoy the ventilated air coming through the perforated leather on those hotter days. On the dash, it houses a plethora of features and interesting buttons. One of the buttons on the dash was marked “AUTO”. We were told that the button is part of the Automatic Park System that will be available for the New LS460. How cool is that, a car that parallel parks itself? Now that’s luxury.

On the center console, you will find many new features. A Push Start/Stop button now operates the ignition including the keyless Smart Key setup. There is a gated shifter that controls the world's first 8 speed ECT-i (Electronically Controlled Transmission with Intelligence) with selectable Sport Shift mode. Pull up on the armrest, it makes way to a cavernous armrest storage where you will find an audio input for your favorite MP3 player or other audio components. Along side you will find an extra DC power input to power your accessories. Another Lexus first, the LS460 will come in two different wheelbases. The 116.9” short wheelbase version, the version that was available for us to see, and the 121.7” long wheelbase version called the LS460 L. Rear seating in the short wheel base LS460 is actually quite roomy. There is still plenty of room to cross your legs if you wish. Step out of the car and close the door lightly, and the power door closers will do the rest of the closing for you.

Open the trunk either via the Lexus smart key fob or the trunk release in the driver’s cabin and the power actuators either open or close the trunk lid all in one touch. It definitely comes in handy when your hands are full of groceries or luggage. There’s even an automatic reverse if it senses any obstruction as it closes. Look inside the trunk and you will find the cavernous trunk big enough for a set of golf clubs and a couple pieces of luggage for a quick getaway. A ski pass through is available to carry those longer items inside. Underneath, you will find a full size spare tire with alloy wheel and the necessary Lexus First Aid Kit & hand tools for emergencies. Turn on the lights, the rear taillights and license plate light are brightly lit with LEDs. In the front, the HID projector headlight system is aided with the steering-linked adaptive headlights. Open the hood and you first notice there is no front grille attached to the hood to bang your head on. The New 4.6L V8 is nestled neatly under the clean plastic covering. Look under the engine cover and you find a painted cover made of fiberglass only attached with clips on top of the motor. Upon further inspection, it is obvious this car is not a production vehicle. There are no VIN tags or Manufacturer ID plaques to signify the chassis code, colors and capacities of the car. The usual emissions labels are not found in site. This really enforced to us the car was very special. The Lexus Product Planner , Xiaole Yang was available for us to ask questions and also tell us about some of the New LS460’s technological features. She was kind enough to answer a lot of our questions that she was able to tell us at that time. She obviously knew the New LS460 inside and out, but because of the New LS' Official Short & Long Press Release in mid-April during the NY International Auto Show, a lot of information will be presented there including the debut of the much anticipated LS Hybrid. You can tell when there were some questions she couldn’t answer so she basically replied with a nice smile in return. There are so many new features to list, writing about all them will need at least another 10 pages literally.


Conclusion

During our stay, we were treated to a very nice lunch buffet. Guests were treated to beef tri-tip and salmon. A salad accompanied the meal and there were delectable desserts that many did not pass up. Of course there was a full beverage service less the alcohol to quench our thirsts after drooling over the LS460. As our time was nearing the end with the LS460, it was almost time to say goodbye to the flagship car. A handful members stayed behind as the transport driver came at 1PM on the dot. The driver was there to pick up and transport the special hand built LS460 away to the next event. During this time, Bill had made his closing remarks to us. We watched Bill and Brad Nelson put the black floormats back in the car, and packed it up. The car started and the 4.6L V8 although very smooth and quiet, roared to life. Those standing around noted how silent the V8 sounded. The next thing we knew, the LS460 was driven out of the museum and quickly loaded into the transporter to its next destination. A camera crew was present and there was a team that interviewed and record our reactions and feelings about the New LS. It is safe to say everyone passed up the German competitor to see the LS460 instead. It was definitely evident we were all blown away by Lexus’ newest flagship. We can only imagine what the public will have to say about it when it’s officially released. As always, we cannot thank Lexus enough for this rare and special opportunity for the enthusiasts. Lexus is listening, and this special preview proves Lexus is definitely “Passionate” in their “Pursuit of Perfection”.

On behalf of Club Lexus, I would like to personally thank Bill Burris, Brian Bolain, Brad Nelson, Tami Ellett, Susan Sanborn, Xiaole Yang, and the rest of the generous and hospitable Lexus staff who made this all possible. You guys definitely made this a first class experience.

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Article & Photos by: Flipside909

All Photos are property of Club Lexus - The Lexus Owners Club

Copyright © 2000-2006 Club Lexus - The Lexus Owners Club, All Rights Reserved


 

 
 
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