Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Truly Sporting Lexus? Really, it's true!

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, Toyota has built a brand image and credentials which has ensured Lexus a faithful following of return customers.

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 Toyota set out to broaden the image with a more sporting theme so it could capture some Jaguar, Audi and BMW owners.

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 Florida (which offers no place for a true test of performance and handling), God the roads are boring!

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) - Toyota 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 Coventry company would embrace. Alas, Jaguar declined, mostly because its own 'man' Geoff Lawson was a pretty dab hand at putting charcoal to paper.

Giorgetto Giugiaro

It's history now that Ital Design recycled the Kensington concept into four design commissions - The Leganza for Daewoo; the Aristo for Toyota; the Toledo for SEAT; and the GS300 for Lexus.

Here's a graphic illustration of the evolution of the Lexus version:
Lexus GS 300

Lexus GS 350
Lexus GS 350 f-Sport

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!

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