Lexus looks com­fort­able in its own skin at last

Auto Express - - THIS WEEK - John_m­cil­roy@den­nis.co.uk @ john­m­cil­roy

THESE are in­ter­est­ing times at Lexus. For years, Toy­ota’s lux­ury brand has been an in­ter­est­ing left-field al­ter­na­tive to the es­tab­lished Ger­man pre­mium man­u­fac­tur­ers and Jaguar Land Rover, but no more than that.

It nailed cus­tomer ser­vice from the start, of course, and our an­nual Driver Power poll in­di­cates that Lexus hasn’t lost its touch in that area. But the com­pany’s at­tempts to cap­ture BMW and Jaguar cus­tomers by of­fer­ing its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of ‘driver in­volve­ment’ have, by and large, fallen flat.

There are some signs, though, that Lexus is fi­nally be­com­ing com­fort­able in its own skin. The lat­est ES (above), driven this week (Page 30), is not the last word in driver ex­cite­ment. But at some point dur­ing its devel­op­ment, Lexus’s en­gi­neers were clearly given the brief to chase af­ter the prin­ci­ples of not the lat­est BMW 5 Se­ries but rather the likes of the Mercedes E-class and Volvo S90 – mod­els that fo­cus on re­fine­ment and com­fort in­stead of B-road alacrity. And they’ve suc­ceeded.

The fi­nal piece in the jig­saw for Lexus could be the seem­ingly re­lent­less sway away from diesel en­gines. More of the firm’s ri­vals are mov­ing to­wards elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, but Lexus has bags of ex­pe­ri­ence in not only de­vel­op­ing hy­brid tech, but also ex­plain­ing it and sell­ing it to cus­tomers.

It isn’t likely to over­take BMW, Audi and Mercedes in Euro­pean mar­kets any time soon – not least be­cause Lexus sees dis­count­ing as a dirty word when it’s an ev­ery­day re­al­ity, es­pe­cially in fleet sales. But it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see how in­stead of scrab­bling des­per­ately to get closer to buyer trends, Lexus is sud­denly able to al­low them to come in its di­rec­tion.

JOHN MCIL­ROY

Deputy ed­i­tor

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