We’re riding in the gorgeous back seat of a Lexus LM Minivan
The minivan is great. It’s considerably more space efficient than the three-row SUVs Americans have flocked to, and the lower ride height tends to confer dynamic advantages and make getting in and out easier. But imagine how much extended space would be available if you replaced the second and third rows in a minivan with just two prince seats.
You don’t have to imagine if you travel to Asia, where the executive shuttle van is alive and well in countries like South Korea, China and Japan. Lexus debuted its new higher-end pickup truck, the LM, for luxury vehicles, earlier this year, and we just got a chance to take a short step into its rear cabin at an event hosted by Lexus at Fuji Speedway for a short ride (and drive).
Naturally, the backseat passengers are the kings of the castle, with a myriad of controls at their disposal. There is a glass divider between the front and back that can be turned up and down as well as made opaque at the touch of a button. Below that section, which spans most of the width of the cabin, is a massive 48.0-inch screen. The display has a screen mirroring function and can act as two separate halves if two passengers want to display different things. There is a refrigerator compartment in front of the rear seat passengers, and tables fold out from the armrests.
Almost everything is automated: the side curtains, the separate sunroof cover for each side, and of course the numerous seat adjustments. For the first time, the armrests and legs are heated, and an infrared sensor scans the occupants’ body temperature in four specific zones and then adjusts the HVAC, seat heating and ventilation accordingly.
Although the LM is several inches longer than minivans sold in the United States, it is actually two inches shorter in length and wheelbase than, say, a Honda Odyssey. However, move the seat until it’s nearly flat and extend the leg rest, and even this slender six-foot-five executive has enough room to fully stretch his legs, something that’s not remotely possible in even the most expansive Mercedes S-Class. . Tunes are enhanced by a 23-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, and the entire rear area is trimmed in leather and suede.
There’s also a new Rear Comfort mode, which summons rear throttle response, shifts brake distribution further back, and softens the dampers in an effort to help the driver keep the boss in the back happy. From the driver’s seat, the LM looks larger than it is because its sharply angled windshield creates about three feet of clearance between the gauge cluster and the glass.
All LMs are hybrids, with the LM350h available in either front- or all-wheel drive that uses the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-4 and the familiar planetary hybrid arrangement that makes for a CVT transmission, as in the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. The LM500h gets the 2.4-liter turbocharged six-speed, which in the RX500h produces 366 horsepower, and comes only with all-wheel drive. If buyers want more flexibility for passengers, the LM has the option of a third row. Even the more powerful LM500h doesn’t feel terrible, but the ride quality is great.
The LM is already on sale in China, starting at around $200,000, but that hefty price tag feels like an anomaly in the Chinese market. In Japan, where the LM will be sold for the first time alongside its platform mate Toyota Alphard, the price range for the Alphard ranges from $36,500 to about $60,000.
But you are unlikely to come to the United States, where not enough people understand how great a minivan is.
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Vehicle testing manager
Dave VanderWerp has spent more than 20 years in the automotive industry, holding various roles from engineering to product consulting, and now leads Car and driverVehicle testing efforts. Dave got his very lucky start in C/D when he happened to submit an unsolicited resume just in time for a part-time road warrior job while a student at the University of Michigan, where he immediately became fascinated with the world of automotive journalism.