Autovations: A car that parks itself?

The Lexus LS460L has an optional Advanced Parking Guidance System. Sounds futuristic – but does it work? Our tester finds out.

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Parking is such sweet sorrow. Figuring that some drivers might pay to have a luxury sedan docked for them – not by a valet, but by the vehicle itself – Lexus offers an Advanced Parking Guidance System ($700) in its flagship LS460L. This is a tech-packed ride even without it; the navigation system alone comes with a 300-page manual.

The laminated APGS cheat sheet lays out nine steps required for self-parking, an initially unnerving process in which the steering wheel whips around on its own while the driver rides the brake (2.5 m.p.h. is the preferred speed) into a parallel or perpendicular spot. Steps include positioning the car just right, then defining the desired space in the rear-camera-view touch screen. That, plus the slow creep (the car aborts if it doesn't like the setup), can leave a driver at the mercy of testy space-grabbers.

We repeatedly self-parked our quietly imposing test car, all "smoky granite" and window tint. Our first urban success was in a big loading zone, which points to a drawback: The $70,000 Lexus, already nearly 17-feet long, needs a couple more feet fore and aft to do its thing. It also seemed to favor hard curbs to flat shoulders. Still with practice, we nailed the formula and tucked into some standard spots without drawing glares. Verdict: The LS460L parks as well as we can – only slower.

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