RE­AS­SUR­INGLY EX­PEN­SIVE

The new Lexus is dis­creetly lux­u­ri­ous, says Neil Lyn­don

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

Here’s a dilemma many peo­ple would happily suf­fer. Not many of us are so priv­i­leged, so loaded that we can’t de­cide which lux­ury car to buy as our com­pany’s taxi. That’s the po­si­tion of two men who ca­su­ally asked my opin­ion at a re­cent gath­er­ing. Part­ners in one of Lon­don’s lead­ing prop­erty de­vel­op­ment com­pa­nies, th­ese two are ex­cep­tion­ally in­ter­est­ing, cul­ti­vated chaps. Though some of their de­vel­op­ments are among the cap­i­tal’s most con­tro­ver­sial, they them­selves are pri­vate, re­tir­ing, un­showy. They do re­tain blocks of deben­ture seats at Lord’s and Arse­nal’s Emi­rates Sta­dium but keep them for the ben­e­fit of friends and cus­tomers as much as to in­dulge their own en­thu­si­asms for the sports. Their dilemma over cars re­flects their gen­eral state of mind – and fi­nances. They need a large car to drive cus­tomers to sites they are de­vel­op­ing. They want it com­fort­able, quiet, dis­creet. What might I sug­gest? The new Mercedes S-class would be the ob­vi­ous an­swer but they wrin­kled their noses in dis­dain. Too ob­vi­ous. Too much of a cliché. Too much like a hire car. They didn’t fancy a BMW 7-se­ries, ei­ther: it re­minded them of Ro­man Abramovich. A long-wheel­base Jaguar XJ struck them as too min­is­te­rial, too Down­ing Street. A Rolls-Royce? Out of the ques­tion. “Who do you think we are? Alan Sugar? Richard Des­mond?” one of them de­manded in­dig­nantly. This was go­ing to be tricky. Who knew they’d be so sen­si­tive about ap­pear­ances? I thought of sug­gest­ing VW’s Phaeton, the four-door luxo­barge that shares much of its com­po­nen­try with Bent­leys but is so smoth­ered in anonymity that it de­clares noth­ing about its owner. “Isn’t that the one that looks like an over­grown Pas­sat?” one of them asked, in a tone that made it clear that a ve­hi­cle pur­pose-made for sales­men slog­ging up and down the mo­tor­way did not con­vey the im­pres­sion they wanted to give cus­tomers. Hav­ing re­cently bor­rowed Audi’s new shapely, fast­back S7 – a work of sub­lime au­to­mo­tive glory – I thought I might drop that name into the dis­cus­sion but bit my tongue. If th­ese chaps had of­fices in Mu­nich, the S7’s abil­ity to cruise all day up to 150mph would be just the job. But Bri­tain’s prissy, nan­ny­ish mo­tor­way speed lim­its make the 420bhp of the S7’s V8 TFSI engine lu­di­crously su­per­flu­ous. Lexus leader: ev­ery imag­in­able lux­ury is stan­dard on the GS450h At last, it came to me. The per­fect car for th­ese picky po­ten­tates is Lexus’s GS450h. No cars in mass pro­duc­tion are made to higher stan­dards than Lexus hy­brids. Their build qual­ity ex­udes metic­u­lous care from the fit of the body panels to the flaw­less­ness of the in­te­rior fin­ish. A plau­si­ble case could be made that the flag­ship LS600h, is – pound-for-pound – the best saloon car in the world; but that gi­gan­tic car­riage is for peo­ple who fancy them­selves and also like to show how much they care about sav­ing the planet. The GS450 is smaller but still more than big enough for four well-fed plu­to­crats. At £51,000 it is the cheap­est of all the cars that went through my mind; yet the per­for­mance from its 3.5litre V6 petrol engine, linked to its 650v elec­tric mo­tor will BMW Ac­tive­Hy­brid 5 M Sport Price: £50,435 For: maybe the best 5-se­ries Against: looks more or­di­nary than it is Rat­ing: match Audi’s S7 while emit­ting less C02. The GS450h is fit­ted with ev­ery imag­in­able lux­ury as stan­dard, drives su­perbly, is au­to­mo­tive par­adise for pas­sen­gers and is backed by a five-year war­ranty on the hy­brid com­po­nents. What could be bet­ter? “Never heard of it,” said one of the part­ners, walk­ing away to find a more prof­itable con­ver­sa­tion.

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