Not Ready for Prime Time
Let me be clear about one thing first: I love this car. I love the luxury, I love the surroundings and materials, I love the hybrid drivetrain and the way it drives (and gets you 19 mpg in the process), and I love the looks. I even love the loads and loads of technology Lexus has packed into it.
Except one thing: The self-parking feature.
The idea is good, and something that I’ve always figured would come along eventually: Use the cameras and sensors on the car to help it determine where an available parking spot is and, ultimately, help the car park itself. The theory is great, but the application is, well, let’s just say it’s immature at this point.
There are two modes to the self parking mode: parallel and backing into a perpendicular (side by side) spot. We tried the parking system in both modes and decided that even a bad parker could do better than the Lexus system.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Pull next to the parking spot you want, put the car in Reverse, tap the screen for the kind of parking you’re attempting, let the car figure out where it needs to be, and hit the OK button. Then watch in awe as technology whisks you into your spot quickly and safely.
Here’s how it actually works: Pull next to the spot you want, put the car in Reverse, tap the screen for the kind of parking you’re attempting, and realize that the system can’t find the spot you had in mind. You adjust the box that appears around the screen to no avail, realizing that the car needs more room to figure out where it needs to go. So you pull forward a little bit, put the car back into Reverse, monkey with the screen again, and finally adjust the unintuitive controls to the point where the little box turns green more or less on the spot you want. Then you hit OK.
(Note that by this time, people behind you would have either taken the spot or started honking madly for you to hurry the hell up and park your damn car...expect expletives)
The car slowly backs into its spot, with you keeping a close eye on the mirrors and video screen. The bumper sensors beep with concern as the car approaches other vehicles or other solid objects. About midway through, you realize that you’re still ultimately in charge, and that the car isn’t going to clear one of the obstacles or, as in our case, you got into the spot but the car kissed the curb in the process. You put it back in Drive, pull forward, go through the machinations again, and let the car give it another try.
(At this point, the line waiting for you to park extends out of the lot, and the other drivers are trying to figure out if their combined strength is enough to flip the Lexus over with you in it.)
If you’re lucky, you’ll get it in the spot. If not, you once again put it in Drive, and just park the damn thing yourself, which is probably not the kind of self-park Lexus had in mind.
We tried this several times, and not once was it what we’d call “perfect.” There was plenty of room for improvement. The video above demonstrates a rather typical performance.
There are upsides. First, when it does work right, it’s pretty friggin’ sweet, if a little eerie the first time. Second, it’s first-generation technology, and will surely improve over time since it does have the potential to be useful. Finally, while the car is actually trying to park itself you have both hands free to either make embarrassed “I’m sorry” gestures at the people throwing rocks at your slow-parking luxury sedan...or just give them a twin-finger flip-off.
MyRide Road Test Editor