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ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine: 2007 ICOTY Vehicle Nominees

by Martha Hindes

2007 CAR OF THE YEAR - 2007 Lexus LS 460

Car of the Year - 2007 Lexus LS 460

Wearing the Car of the Year crown is a many faceted victory. A challenge met. A perception acknowledgment. For the auto maker that can convert consumer instincts and necessities into appeal, want, even desire while retaining the basic purpose of developing an automobile that can get us from here to there, and safely at that, it's the ultimate statement of "job well done."

Our Car of the Year winner is no stranger to the victor's circle. Since the early days more than two decades ago, when Lexus designated its developing flagship car as "F1" (knowing of course that an F1 racer is the ultimate in vehicle performance and prestige) it's never lowered the bar of high tech perfection. Now, as the fabled LS starts its new, fourth generation life as a vehicle that can glide into a parallel parking space by itself, the bar definitely has been raised again.

Say the name Lexus and immediately there's a vision of solid performance under a mantle of refined luxury. We have become accustomed to its quiet-toned versions curving gently around neatly tended boulevards or clicking off miles of spectacular roadway with powerful ease. With the LS 460 under foot, that perception can only be refined more, particularly with Lexus's first-ever long wheelbase version joining the family heritage.

Lexus calls its philosophy "L-finesse" and couldn't have been more apt with that description. Exquisitely simplified lines and elegance simply "feel" like power and speed, led at night by a crystalline jewel of headlamp light. Taut lines give a sculptured appearance. Easy comfort and openness invite one inside, where rich touches of leather, wood and even an instantly warmed steering wheel set the mood before experienceing the smooth-ness of the world's first eight-speed automatic gliding from stop to top speed. And that's just one of the LS 460's countless premier technologies that blend a drive into an experience.

If there's such a thing as tranquility when surrounded by thrilling audio sound, cruising at breathtaking speeds, cradled in the surety of a safe ride, we think Lexus has managed that feat.

(Find Your Lexus LS 460 Now)

Honorable Mentions:

Audi S8
Even the name S8 seems to epitomize the feeling of speed, rather the way Mach 8 might appeal to a wanderlust space shuttle traveler. For Audi, it's a numbers game that is well defined. Any vehicle set on a throbbing 5.2-liter V-10 FSI base isn't there to be driven. It's there to become part of one's senses. To meld driver and machine into one breathing, living entity. To blend passion and power beyond what's reasonable, but oh so desired.

With a blazing zero to 60 speed of 4.9 seconds that can seem like a blur to an errant bystander lucky enough to be a witness, it announces its 450 horsepower and 397 ft. lbs. of ultimate controlling torque. Six Tiptronic speeds and wheels driven at all four corners -- all riding on 20-inch tires -- is a luxury combo that simply screams performance. Wrap around the optional 1000-watt Bank & Olufsen sound system, and it's definitely takeoff time.

(Find Your Audi S8 Now)

Dodge Caliber
We could talk about versatility, cute charm or even a little sass. After all, the vision of a compact car/crossover wearing a modified version of the recognizable Dodge crosshair grille has to bring up visions of its bigger brother's bold face bearing down in the rear-view mirror. And that, again, could generate the feeling of being in front of the semi that inspired it. Dodge's new Caliber fills a spot deserted by the former Neon auto. But it has so much to offer. Like interior space, a fifth door for easy loading, front or all-wheel-drive depending on version, a top-notch safety rating, and a cache that had one middle-aged mother bragging that her teen considered it her coolest car in ages. Dodge calls this a "big act" vehicle. RTM's judges agree.

Read RTM's Review of the 2007 Dodge Caliber
(Find Your Dodge Caliber Now)

2007 ICOTY Awards Links