The Lexus started out in 1983 as a secret sedan project by Toyota. This project produced the first car of this division, the LS 400, which was introduced in the United States in 1989 as a sedan in the luxury category. This model is lauded by some as the world’s most dependable car. Only a few other more expensive makes, such as the BMW 7 series, are considered better than the Lexus. There was, however, some controversy at the start about a brake light that overheated and defective wiring. This was resolved quickly, for all affected customers, in about twenty days that linked excellent customer service with the brand Lexus.
Transmissions of the early LS 400 models showed a slight lag in response to throttle shifts. This Lexus’ transmissions were electronically controlled with some artificial intelligence programmed into the design. Its gear ratio is as follows: 2.531, for first gear; 1.531, for second gear; 1.000 for third gear; 0.705 for fourth gear overdrive. Automatic shift changes through the four gears are noticeable only if the tach needle is checked so there is no visceral feel during acceleration or deceleration.
The latest Lexus transmissions are 8-speed automatic transmissions which may also be used in manual mode. The first model to use this is the LS 460, four generations down from the original LS 400. Its upshifts from second gear to third took about one and a quarter second, including a lag time of slightly more than half that value. The latest model transmission, used by the Lexus IS F, is a Sport Direct Shift that has sequential shifting. Like the LS 460, it has both an automatic and manual mode. A performance comparison, on the other hand is another matter. This model can upshift in about three tenths of a second. If the lag time is removed, the shift itself occurs in 0.1 second which is very close to the 0.05 of Formula One race cars. It eliminates torque converter power loss in all gears except the first through its lock-up clutch system. This allows the driver to employ torque multiplication in the first gear for that fast initial acceleration. Unlike the first Lexus, shifts are felt directly and response has no perceptible lag.
The evolution of Lexus transmissions reflect an attention to what people who buy luxury cars look for, the addictive feel of racing and instantaneous response.
Lexus transmissions available
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