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More power for Lexus flagship

Restrained, yet familiar: Lexus breaks no new ground with the look of the new LS430.

The new Lexus flagship has a 4.3-litre V8 motor and new body - and is due in Australia later this year

12 Jan 1999

IT might look a bit more like a just superseded Mercedes-Benz S-class than the previous car, but the genes of the new Lexus LS430 flagship are still Japanese.

Designed with the US market in mind, the new car , revealed at the Detroit motor show, may not break any barriers in automotive design, but you can be sure three or more prestige makers based in Germany will be keen to tear down the LS430 at the earliest opportunity to see how it works.

Australian buyers will have to be patient until after the Sydney motor show in November to get behind the wheel. Sources close to the company in Australia suggest the LS430 will come fully equipped with all options, bar satnav, and it will cost more than the current car.

This price hike will reflect the additional equipment and larger engine as well as the unfavourable exchange rate. However, should the currency crisis abate between now and the end of the year it is possible the price increase will be limited.

The new car is powered by a development of the 4.0-litre V8 engine, bored to 4.3-litres capacity. The engine is compliant with Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) certification.

The car offers a more spacious interior, more passive and active safety, more luxury, a new air suspension for greater stability, response and handling, and an even smoother, quieter ride.

"With the LS400, Lexus created the benchmark by which others are judged," said American Lexus Group vice-president and general manager Mr Bryan Bergsteinsson.

"Now, as the competition has caught up in many ways, we need to set new, higher standards." The sleek exterior cuts the air with a low coefficient of drag of 0.25, the lowest of any current passenger sedan. To achieve this level of aerodynamics, Lexus engineers tested the LS430 in the same wind tunnel used in the development of Japan's legendary bullet trains.

Lexus was able to achieve the impressive wind tunnel performance despite raising overall height by 60mm.

To increase interior room in the LS430, Lexus lengthened the wheelbase by 750mm but kept overall length the same. Compared to the externally larger Mercedes-Benz S-class, Lexus says the LS430 offers more front leg and headroom and a larger boot.

Lexus has won the J.D. Power and Associates five-year Vehicle Dependability Study every year it has been eligible. This did not stop Lexus making 57 key improvements for even longer lasting durability.

The LS430 adds more leather and wood. The climate control system features temperature and sun-sensing articulating air registers.

Additional adjustments for the driver's seat include dual lumbar controls and adjustable cushion length for greater thigh support.

The standard combination wood/leather steering wheel features controls for the audio system, which will include as standard an in-dash, single-feed, six-disc CD changer.

The new CD changer location allows for a larger dual glovebox and expanded interior storage includes compartments in the centre console and under the front seats.

Options include advanced Adaptive Variable Suspension with Air Suspension and a DVD-ROM-based navigation system. The GPS includes a large seven-inch screen and integrates with the optional voice activated digital/analog phone.

Also optional is the first audio application by Mark Levinson, whose components are used in custom home audio systems costing $100,000 and more.

Additional available features include climate control front seats (which use separate heating and cooling elements, not just fans), parking clearance sonar, power moonroof, power adjustable rear seatbacks with memory, rear air-conditioner with air purifier, rear seat heat and massage, voice activated portable phone, power door and trunk closers.

The new 216kW, 4.3-litre V8 in the LS430 is mated to a computer controlled five-speed automatic transmission.

The sedan accelerates to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds. Its 434Nm of torque is produced with help from the variable valve timing system.

The Lexus/Toyota VVT-i system is said to eliminate the traditional compromise between low-end torque and high-rpm horsepower by optimising valve overlap throughout the engine's speed range (not just at one or two set speeds).

The LS430 introduces "torque activated" powertrain control, which governs the throttle based not just on pedal position, but on vehicle speed and engine rpm as well.

When climbing a hill, for example, the controller will increase the throttle opening to provide more power without the driver having to keep his foot flat.

The LS430 features a strong passenger cell protected by front and rear crumple zone structures. In addition, it adds advanced variable force front airbags and side curtain front and rear airbags. Sensors determine the force with which to deploy the front airbags, helping to maximise occupant restraint performance.

The front seats and rear outboard seats feature seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters.

Lexus has also added Brake Assist which interprets a quick, hard push of the brake pedal as emergency braking and, if the driver has not stepped hard enough on the brake pedal to activate the anti-lock brake system, Brake Assist supplements the applied braking pressure.

Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), introduced on the 1998 LS400 and now available on most Lexus models, helps maintain traction control under demanding conditions by detecting and helping to correct for understeer and oversteer.

The VSC system integrates traction control to help limit rear wheel spin on slippery surfaces. Both VSC and Brake Assist employ the sensors and actuators of the standard four-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS).

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