Luxury EXecutive Under Statement.
Its only a Toyota in a party frock I can hear you say. Your not fooled by the Lexus logo, so why did Toyota bother.
In the sector that this Lexus lives, name is everything , the competition has names like Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and maybe even the likes of Saab and Volvo. It doesn't have names like Ford or Vauxhall or Toyota.
Yet we don't complain that a Jaguar, or a Volvo is a posh Ford. Or a SAAB is a posh Vauxhall. Still snobbery is tough to beat, so Toyota needed an up market brand name, and as they didn't have an old failing marque tucked away, they invented one instead. Its not a Japanese phenomena, they learnt it from the Yanks and the British who have done it for years, and even the Germans who tend to do it in reverse to protect their images.
Considering it started from the blocks whilst the competition was already up and running its not took Toyota long to establish Lexus as a top brand. Some people will always see it as a Toyota in disguise and the fact the same car is sold in Japan as a Toyota doesn't help at all, for others the brand Lexus can be bandied about the poshest of dinner parties. In this atmosphere I drive a Lexus just sounds ohhhh soooo much better than I drive a Toyota GS3000 SE.
Of course choosing and generating an image is one thing getting the car to match your corporate aspirations is something entirely different indeed.
On first viewing the car is most un-Japanese in appearance, its big unadorned flanks give an almost Germanic look. In many ways it almost looks like a Mercedes. The wheels are not the most attractive alloys fitted to a car, and the rear lamps are a little fussy but other than that its a clean and simple design unadorned by the detail fripperies so beloved by Japanese stylists.
The interior follows the same trend and is almost Audi like in its simple elegance.
Restraint is the key here the leather seats are simply styled and whilst there is some (very high quality) wood veneer on show its thankfully limited to little highlights rather than great thick dashboard covering planks. Unlike other name marques, their is very little identifiable from low end group models, which is nice as you don't find gratingly cheap switchgear irritating your sensitive finger tips. The Lexus is nothing if not well equipped and you wouldn't expect anything else from Japan. There really aren't many cost extras on the option list, because they are mostly all already fitted. Thankfully apart from the auto piloting steering column there doesn't seem to be any tacky gadgets to waste your time with.
Insert the key and watch the wheel sweep down towards you. I'm nowhere near fat enough (YET) to appreciate the room it allows when getting aboard but its probably aimed at some rather more than ample Americans.
Turn the key then sit and have a double take, is it actually running? You have to rev it and see the needle move to believe its running , so quite is the engine at tick over.
Engage drive, Release the hand brake and off we pop, or we would if I could find the hand brake. Americana part two rears its head, as a quick scanning fumble reveals a foot operated parking brake and release button on the dashboard , thank god it wasn't dark I might never have twigged it.
Now on the move the steering which was twirly light at rest remains resolutely so in Audi fashion. Great for finger tipping around with minimum effort, totally in keeping with the cars reason for existing, Total unfussed unstressed luxury. though not exactly perfect for making full use of the willing engines performance.
The three litre motor drives through a 3 speed auto box that is both able companion and limiting factor to its flexibility. Whilst changes are smooth as silk and the box changes delightfully almost telepathically at the slightest beckoning from your right foot, with only three ratios its always going to have to work hard to span the gaps. There is a sport mode but it only adds a extra 500rpm to the top of the range and doesn't seem to make the transmission much sharper than in normal mode. 4 ratios and a lazy change in normal would make a great difference. The box it self is a straight forward setup without any jiggly shifting path and is all the better for it. The knob is quite unusual in shape but sits perfectly in the hand. On its side it has a overdrive switch to lock out top gear for high speed efficiency. It may work but it was still sobering to put two and a half gallons of fuel in and see the gauge move only from less than empty to just about empty, filling it to the brim would probably reduce both myself and my bank manager to tears.
The engines a willing worker as well as a quiet one. the 24 valves don't seem to do much below 4000rpm but once past that point it fairly rushes head long down the tarmac towards its red line. Maybe it the quality of the chassis that makes it feel fairly bland low down. It certainly doesn't lack pace, it shifts along quickly and gracefully . As it is the auto masks any kind of indifferent low end torque and without a manual box we probably will never know.
Luxury market light steering aside the whole plot handles remarkably well for a big bus and the chassis is well up to the job of reining in the motors output . It does it with a smooth calm quiet ride that is very hard to fault , its plush but not sloppy. Have you seen the advert for the golf GTi where its selling point is its great to sit in in traffic jams, surely a GTI should be advertised a different way, but the Lexus would suit the advert perfectly.
Is it the perfect luxury car, is there any such thing as a perfect car, off course not but in the sector this is trying to compete, it comes pretty close. If there is anything to complain about its possible that its a bit too soft, a little bit American, If the Lexus 5 series is you bag then the Lexus probably wont quite cut it for you, If your looking for something a little softer and less obvious the Lexus would be a good place too start looking.
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