There's no doubt Toyota has made a great success with its Lexus marque, and the slow, deliberate, expansion of the model portfolio is an object lesson in how to build a brand from scratch.
I vividly remember when I started at Jaguar Cars North America in 1990, how the Lexus LS400 sent a shiver down the spine of the 'smart' guys in the Luxury sector of the market.
|Lexus LS 400|
We could all see what a threat this badge posed for the established names. Maybe not so much in the first three years or so, but steadily,
has built a brand image and credentials which has ensured Lexus a faithful
following of return customers. Toyota
That's the true measure of commercial success - how many come back again.
The marque began with a reputation for solid, dependable, luxuriously-appointed cars - which in dynamic terms were competent, but boring. So
out to broaden the image with a more sporting theme so it could capture some
Jaguar, Audi and BMW owners. Toyota
There have been concept cars, and a couple of clearly roarty 'specials'.
Now a very accomplished model, the GS 350 f-Sport.
Earlier this year I drove one in
(which offers no place for a true
test of performance and handling), God the roads are boring! Florida
However, the car really impressed. It is beautifully-appointed, and the interior and dash are a piece of exemplary design, efficiency and an incredibly detailed level of impeccable finish.
The performance (such as I could sample) was really excellent. A full-throated roar from the exhaust, a great power/torque curve combination; tons of acceleration, and very responsive steering and handling.
For anyone looking for a really competent, attractive and high performance alternative to boring - then the Lexus GS 350 f-Sport is the car. It'll be a safe investment (meaning strong residual value), and you'll love driving it.
However, as I am a 'styling junkie' the evolution of the design is very interesting. It is only this latest model which was designed 'in-house' - but it hasn't strayed too far from Job One.
For the first model, the GS 300 (2004) -
turned to Ital Design in Torino, and the
Giugiaro team did what often happens among Italian design houses - they
recycled a previous concept.
|Jaguar Kensington by Ital Design|
Back in 1990 Ital Design offered Jaguar a concept car, which it hoped the
company would embrace. Alas, Jaguar declined, mostly because its own 'man'
Geoff Lawson was a pretty dab hand at putting charcoal to paper. Coventry
It's history now that Ital Design recycled the Kensington concept into four design commissions - The Leganza for Daewoo; the Aristo for
SEAT; and the GS300 for Lexus. Toledo
Here's a graphic illustration of the evolution of the Lexus version:
|Lexus GS 300|
|Lexus GS 350|
All this pedantic detail aside, however, if you have a chance to drive the Lexus GS 350 f-Sport, I'm confident you'll really enjoy it - on the right road!