While Lexus hasn’t confirmed anything, there’s growing speculation that the brand’s ES sedan will ultimately replace the GS. The model’s sales have trended downward since 2015, going from 23,117 U.S. deliveries that year to just 7,773 in 2017.
The brand hasn’t announced any plans to update it. Considering the fourth generation has been around since 2011, you’d think Lexus would have said something by now. But the company — like most luxury manufacturers — is preoccupied with moving utility vehicles. There’s now a three-row RX, and the smaller UX should help attract the younger demographic while allowing Lexus to dabble in a subscription-based sales model.
If it succeeds, the IS could be the next vehicle in the brand’s lineup to be tied to a tree and shot.
Ever since Ford announced its abandonment of traditional passenger cars that aren’t the Mustang, automakers have been very clear to specify whether or not they plan to do the same. The majority seem to feel as if cars have a place in the market. That said, very few manufacturers are increasing sedan output when crossovers and sport utilities are presently so lucrative. For example, Lexus owes the majority of its volume to higher-riding liftbacks, but recently made the promise to maintain a diverse production portfolio.
Accounting for roughly one third of its total volume, cars aren’t the brand’s biggest money maker anymore. But Toyota’s luxury arm believes ditching them now would be an imprudent strategy. Perhaps Lexus is keeping an eye on fuel prices, or maybe it just realizes it can’t play the game in the same manner as the already truck-focused Ford.
Oscar was orange; Grover was green. Agent 007 has no gadgets. Kramer was an agoraphobic named Kessler, and George was cooler than Jerry. It’s common for television shows (and long-running film series) to change in ways that become permanent and significant parts of their identity. When the original episodes or films don’t quite match up in retrospect with what people have come to expect, it’s called Early Installment Weirdness. “The first Puppy Bowl,” the TVTropes site reminds us, “did not have a Kitty Halftime Show.”
There’s plenty of Early Installment Weirdness in the car business — I can still remember seeing a 1953 Corvette for the first time, maybe when I was seven or eight, and saying “That’s not really a Corvette” to my father — but when I saw a very early Lexus RX300 in a parking lot last night I realized that Lexus in general, and the RX series in particular, really takes the cake in this area.
Which is important, because the RX300 is, in many ways, the machine that changed the automotive world into the “later installments” we know today.
Trademark applications provide a very hazy window into the future of an automaker’s lineup, and this one’s no different. On May 7th, Toyota filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for use of the name “LQ” on a motor vehicle.
While it partially fits into the Lexus brand’s naming scheme, the second letter of the name (after L for “luxury”) is meant to designate the style of vehicle. So, just what kind of flagship model could this be?
Every large, traditional Toyota and Lexus sedan seems to have hit that point in its lifespan where drastic surgery is needed to keep up with the younger crowd. Were these staid sedans people, they’d be milling about in the seating area of a local plastic surgeon’s office.
The first model to bend to Toyota’s desire for large cars that ooze dignified luxury but are also kind of green (and maybe kind of sporty?) was the 2018 Lexus LS flagship, appearing last year with a new platform and racy sheetmetal. The Avalon and ES will soon follow suit.
By revamping its LS, Lexus hoped to jam the brakes on a sales plunge that began after the recession and only got worse from there. Still, the automaker knew it couldn’t turn back the clock completely. There was a very specific sales goal mentioned during the launch, and it looks like the new LS delivered. Almost perfectly, in fact.
Long the preferred ride of the casual golf membership set, the Lexus ES enjoys a reputation of high reliability and very gradual change. Toss that cred out the window, as the 2019 ES undergoes what’s arguably the most significant revamp in its nearly three-decade-long history.
Revealed Wednesday in Beijing, the new ES rides atop a platform shared with its fellow Kentucky-built stablemate, the Toyota Avalon, and grows in all the time-honored ways. It’s longer, lower, and wider than the outgoing version. More power and more speeds come to the sedan’s sole powertrain, while the body undergoes a transformation that takes years off (the age of its perceived driver).
With this 2019 model, Lexus seems pretty determined to rid the ES of its longstanding image as a staid conveyance for those with high-performing mutual funds. How determined? There’s now, for the first time, an ES F Sport.
Yesterday, Matt Posky penned an article about the upcoming Toyota Supra, which will resurrect the sporty and historical nameplate from the slumber its had since all the way back in 1996.
I think we should spend some time today speculating on what other plans Toyota might have for their new, German-influenced sports coupe.
Yeah, I know, I know – we’re three months into 2018 and I am reviewing a 2017 model. That’s because some 2017s are still kicking around the press fleets, and also because I was working on other things and just now got around to writing up this GX.
Honestly, though, I don’t feel bad about the delay. That’s because the GX is one of those vehicles that just doesn’t change much over time.
Browsing the media materials, you see only incremental, minor changes for 2017 over 2016 – or 2018 over 2017. In a world in which change of all kinds occurs at such a clip that it’s almost impossible to keep up, the GX, along with a couple of other Toyota and Lexus models, remains a source of comfort in its consistency. It’s a little like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune – those shows have had the same hosts and format for what feels like forever. Meanwhile, the GX has had the same bones for what feels like, well, forever.
It’s been fun watching the Lexus ES’ face evolve over the past couple of decades. While the upscale midsizer always offered a more reserved and staid body than its brash IS and GS siblings, its grille slowly expanded over time. The grille creep sped up when the sixth-generation model arrived for 2013, with the transformation becoming complete after a 2016 mid-cycle refresh.
The ES had became fully spindle-ized.
With a next-generation ES arriving for the 2019 model year, it’s clear Lexus has no plans to swap out the model’s gaping maw. It will change its platform, however.
There’s no denying that the Lexus LC is a sexy-looking car.
Sure, there will be some detractors – no design is universally loved – but there is little wrong, at least to my eye, with the Lexus’ looks.
At least on the outside.
Step inside, and the perspective shifts. The cockpit also looks good – but that form comes with a functional cost. One that could have been avoided, perhaps.
Lexus sales slipped in the United States over the last two years. While overall deliveries remain relatively strong, the Japanese luxury brand saw its annual volume surpassed by Mercedes-Benz in 2013. BMW followed suit in 2017 and the gap only looks to be widening this year. So, what does a high-end nameplate do to lure back customers?
The answer is an obvious one: it starts building boats. It might shock you to learn this, but boats have actually been around since prehistoric times and physical examples have been discovered that are at least 10,000 years old. Meanwhile, most cars aren’t even 100 years old. Basic math proves boats to be the more sustainable product and a sounder investment. Cars had a good run, but autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing services are about to convert driving into a passive and homogeneous experience in a totally hypothetical and undetermined amount of time. Boats will be where it’s at very soon and every automaker will eventually become a sloop manufacturer.
Alright, I’ll stop being a prick (for now). What Lexus is really attempting to do is gussy up its image, endearing itself to the growing legions of super-rich people by providing contemporary yachts — something Mercedes-Benz has done in the past.
Lexus is hopping on the black craze by offering a new appearance package, starting with the RC F Sport. Limited to only 650 units, the brand’s “Black Line” special edition is also only available in one of two colors: Caviar (black) and Atomic Silver (orange). Additional visual enhancements include matte black wheels, orange or black brake calipers, and darkened chrome. The upgrade also includes Lexus’ navigation and Mark Levinson premium audio packages — as well as a moonroof, parking assist, and triple beam LED headlamps.
Extensive orange stitching differentiates the Black Line from the standard cars and appears on everything from the seats to the dashboard and doors. The vehicles also receive an exclusive wood-trimmed steering wheel that features “distinctive shades of black” created by a 200-year old Japanese calligraphy shop.
A week or two ago, a friend dropped me a line on GChat (oh sorry, it’s Hangouts now). She told me she and her husband were expecting their first child and they were going to trade one of their cars for a crossover/SUV. She wanted my recommendations.
I tossed out the usual suspects in the two-row and three-row categories (and in the $20K-$40K price range), based on what I’ve driven. I also mentioned a few models I have yet to drive that have been highly recommended throughout the automotive press.
I was intentionally a little vague because, as I told her, the final decision would come down to variables unique to her and her husband – what they feel is best for their finances, how they both like driving each individual car, their styling preferences, what features they want, et cetera. But a day later, something popped into my head. I realized I hadn’t considered a key factor: the brand, or more accurately, the brand/dealer experience.
The only thing missing is a cabriolet. With the unveiling of its new UX subcompact (“urban compact crossover” in Lexus parlance), Toyota’s premium division now spans the utility segment gamut, with models ranging from ultra-small unibodies to full-size, body-on-frame luxo-barges.
Lexus’ European arm pulled the wraps off the UX on Tuesday, ahead of the global model’s world premiere in Geneva next week. In the model’s sights are a trio of pint-sized Germans and a singular Japanese foe, all competing for a slice of a segment with unclear growth prospects.
Lexus is teasing the new UX crossover prior to its big March 6th premiere at the Geneva Motor Show, and something immediately stands out: itty-bitty tail fins. To be fair, we don’t know how much molding is actually happening in the singular photo provided by the automaker. The fins do seemed toned down compared to the earlier UX Concept vehicle — but they also look further separated from the rest of the bodywork.
Compared to a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, the Lexus’ fins could be best described as vestigial. However, they do appear to be legitimate — extending upward from the vehicle’s rear haunches in a distinctive manner.
As we told you last fall, Lexus took a hatchet to the price of its hybrid NX crossover for 2018, greatly narrowing the gap between it and its NX300 sibling. The model’s entry price fell by more than $2,000, essentially making the hybrid powertrain a $950 option on an all-wheel drive NX.
It’s not a strategy designed to get more hardcore greenies into Lexus dealers; rather, it’s a way of swaying the modestly eco-minded into springing for that all-important “h.” Despite early signs of success, Lexus is holding off on taking its pricing gambit brand-wide.
The survey, which assesses the number of reported problems per 100 vehicles during the first three years of vehicle ownership, resulted in Lexus achieving top marks with only 99 claimed issues. Toyota’s premium brand (which has won seven years running) was followed closely by Porsche with 100 reported problems, whereas Buick was the “mass market” brand with the fewest faults at 116.
Issues pertaining to audio, communications, navigation, or entertainment systems continued to yield the highest number of complaints from consumers in 2018. However, the gap between luxury and mainstream brands appears to be closing, as most of last year’s top performers lost a little ground to mid-level mainstream competitors. Infiniti saw the most improvement overall, coming from the bottom of the pack in 2017 to take 4th overall this year. It was followed by Kia, with 122 problems per 100 vehicles — proving that premium levels of quality are not exclusive to premium brands.
Okay, that headline’s just a tad disingenuous — Lexus knows exactly how to pick up new customers, and that’s by offering crossovers, crossovers, crossovers. Longer crossovers. Smaller crossovers. More seats and fewer seats.
Still, as much as an ever-expanding roster of utility vehicles can sway buyers to a brand, visibility counts for something. And a starring role in a potential blockbuster film isn’t something any automaker would pass up. Such is the case with Black Panther, a superhero movie for superhero-loving nerds, which Lexus feels is the perfect vehicle for pumping up a little brand recognition.
Lexus, you see, wants to be back on top.
Lexus’ LFA was a car nobody could have anticipated. Limited to just 500 production models, the $350,000 status symbol was as prestigious as it was rare. Strange, considering Lexus is known as a luxury brand that’s still big on value. However, there weren’t many people griping about the LFA’s price once they experienced its performance firsthand. Its high-revving, 553 horsepower V10 has been universally praised by almost everyone who’s gained access to it, and even those who haven’t.
The Toyota Motor Corporation is aware that the model’s absence has been noticed and, despite Lexus’ current focus on improving sales via sport utility vehicles, it thinks there could still be room for another flagship halo car.
In years past, flagships were often the largest and snazziest sedan a company had to offer. With consumer tastes seemingly permanently shifted to crossovers and SUVs, that standard is more frequently being borne by those machines.
Lexus has latched on to this, debuting its Limitless Concept today in Detroit. Not yet a production model, the company nevertheless says it has “the potential to shape the future of a flagship luxury crossover for Lexus.”
It looks like the big LS sedan might soon have to share its flagship crown.
In a year of great political transition, there was also much change afoot at The Truth About Cars and more than a few alterations made in the way my life intersects with the automotive industry.
2017 was crazy. Yet midst all of the external upheaval (Trump, TTAC, Apple skipping the iPhone 9, the launch of a new Honda Odyssey) and an array of internal disorder (GoodCarBadCar’s acquisition, a move to rural Prince Edward Island, Miata purchase, new job) there was at least one constant.
I drove a ton of cars. Many tons of cars, to be more accurate.
Last week we introduced a new series to TTAC called Buy/Drive/Burn. A rather comprehensive set of instructions (and an example) was given in order to prepare you for the upcoming entries into our new game. If you haven’t read that primer, go do so now. This week is the first real entry for Buy/Drive/Burn and, like the example post, we’re sticking with luxury.
Your three options to purchase, borrow, and set on fire are all luxury coupes costing over $100,000.
For several years, outlets around the Web have been alternately asking and telling us about the impending doom facing cars. That “millennials” don’t want cars. That “kids these days” don’t want to learn to drive, as their parents will chauffeur them wherever they need to go.
It’s certainly anecdotal, but in my brief time driving the new 2018 Lexus LC 500, kids and millennials alike were absolutely astonished by it. I’ve never driven anything that attracts so much attention.
The youngster shoving shopping carts at Kroger respectfully asked to photograph the car as I ran in for milk. The twentysomething – in a similarly-stunning G-Body Hurst/Olds, incidentally! – driving down my suburban street turned around and cruised by slowly for another look. The high school football team gawking – “Yo, that’s a Lexus LC 500!” (seriously) – as I negotiated the treacherous speedbumps past the stadium to retrieve my kid from softball practice. These youths were certain that, even if they didn’t know exactly what this car was, they had a primal need to get closer.
Toyota’s luxury division isn’t in the habit of leaving certain vehicle segments wide open for other automakers to plunder. Lexus fields not one, but two sport coupes, just in case one of the few buyers not interested in sedans and SUVs wanders into the dealership.
In the utility vehicle department, it seems Lexus has all bases covered, Or at least it soon will. There’s the compact NX crossover, the midsize RX (soon to be available in a longer, three-row variant), the midsize, body-on-frame GX, and the range-topping, BOF LX full-sizer (now with fewer seats, should you prefer it). There’s even a possibility of a subcompact Lexus utility in the near future.
So, what exactly is Lexus missing? A “flagship” crossover, it seems.
If American dealers get their way, Lexus’ planned subcompact crossover — first shown in concept form last year — won’t be the strictly Europe-focused proposition the brand’s parent company intended.
The UX concept, introduced at the 2016 Paris Auto Show, shares its architecture with the Toyota C-HR and is already scheduled for production. We’ll see the model debut in Geneva next March. Lexus Europe is positioning the model as a new entry point for the brand’s utility lineup, designed to appeal to urbanites used to navigating tight spaces.
But European city-dwellers aren’t the only ones who took notice of the UX concept. Dealers in the U.S. are clamoring for a chance to bulk up their growing lineup with something small. It’s something Lexus is now considering.
One of the biggest gripes when it comes to crossovers is that they swept in to replace minivans without offering much in the way of utility. Traditional SUVs are boxy behemoths, capable of holding as many children as you can produce. But smaller crossovers rarely get third-seating and, when they do, it’s sometimes an overly cramped solution that sacrifices important cargo space. However most families wouldn’t mind having the option of choosing between extra kids and additional luggage.
Having been around since 1998, the Lexus RX pioneered the midsize luxury crossover segment. But, despite consistently strong sales in the United States, it missed out on reeling in those bigger broods. Lexus shoppers with family photos that included more than five heads had to opt for the more expensive GX and LX sport utility models.
Fortunately, the company has remedied that problem by adding a three-row variant for the 2018 model year.
The grandpappy of all luxury crossovers, the Lexus RX, has long been the runaway sales leader in its segment. Last year, the RX crushed its competition like beetles under its feet, selling 109,435 units. That’s nearly one-in-five midsize luxury crossovers.
Intent on proving that too much of a good thing is a good thing, the RX will further cement its domination with the introduction of a three-row version, set to appear at this year’s L.A. Auto Show.
Snow has already touched Minneapolis pavement, meaning it’s time for automakers to hurry up and clear out 2017 models. Special offers, like the coming winter, are rolling in fast.
Not surprisingly, many of the end-of-year incentives target the increasingly unloved passenger car segment. If two or four doors and a trunk is your bag, you’re in luck, though crossover shoppers aren’t being ignored in the rush to unload old inventory. However, if you’re a fan of the Big H, and especially its sportier offerings, Christmas might have just arrived early.
TTAC commenter Bruce suggested today’s Question of the Day, and he wants to talk tech features. Specifically, the kind which are all the rage for a short period of time, then fizzled into nothingness.Today we ask you to tell us about automotive tech flops – past, present, and future.
With the aggressively styled LC 500 garnering most of the Lexus coupe headlines, what with its eight-cylinder engine and look-over-here sheetmetal, its RC stablemate often gets short shrift. Meanwhile, the more attainable Toyota 86 (formerly the Scion FR-S) seems to make headlines for not offering extra horsepower than for anything else.
America is not a forgiving place for coupes these days.
Still, which of these rear-drive Toyota-built coupes holds the most appeal to a buyer? The 86’s handling and youthful intentions aside, it’s arguably the RC, as Lexus’s coupe offers more interior room, horsepower, and clout. Even the base RC 200t, which becomes the RC 300 for 2018, brings a 241-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter to the table, handily besting the 86’s turboless 2.0.
Of course, it’s not really a fair comparison. The price gulf between the two models is quite significant. Or is it?
This is not the Lexus CT200h that was sold in the United States for seven model years.
This is the updated 2018 Lexus CT200h.
Lexus’ U.S. operations no longer wishes to bother with the CT, so 2017 is the end of the line for the hybrid hatch in America. But Lexus’ local discontinuation of the CT comes just in time for Lexus to update the CT200h for other markets.
Lexus has high hopes for the LC, we told you in March. Not yet on sale at that point, Lexus was entirely transparent about the company’s belief that it could sell 400 copies of the LC500 and hybridized LC500h every month in America.
“That’s a big number,” I wrote six months ago, expressing a measure of doubt. But Lexus was insistent, based on “tremendous response to the LF-LC show car” from 2012, a successful carryover to production of concept car design, and “positive feedback in customer clinics.”
Doubt was expressed by most commenters, as well. “Good luck with that,” Master Baiter told Lexus. “Lexus, you need help,” said thats one fast cat. “Setting a goal like this is just setting Lexus up for the unnecessary perception of failure,” dal20402 wrote. “Dumb move.” badhobz said, “I don’t think it’ll do that well.”
It’s been half a year. It’s time for the Lexus LC to stand up and be counted.
First things first: Lexus is hardly the only automaker deserving of blame for unintelligibly altering model nomenclature. Moreover, Lexus continues to offer some models for which the badge makes sense. A Lexus LX570, for example, is an LX with a 5.7-liter V8. The Lexus IS350 we tested earlier this month utilizes a 3.5-liter V6.
How sensible. How obvious. How traditional.
But for 2018, the Lexus IS and its RC stablemate will muddy the displacement waters that were already complicated in 2017 by a detuned 3.5-liter V6 that wore IS300 and RC300 badging. In 2018, while the mid-range car continues to make its power from a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 (not the upgraded 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 of the IS350 and RC350), the 2.0-liter turbocharged mill that was previously under the hood of the IS200t and RC200t is now the engine under the hood of the rear-wheel-drive IS300 and RC300.
Confused? Yeah, we are, too. Let’s try that again.
Timing is tough.
Toyota’s Lexus luxury marque launched the fourth-generation Lexus LS for the 2007 model year, just prior to an economic collapse that was followed up by an anti-car/pro-SUV shift. Lexus, which averaged more than 25,000 annual U.S. sales of its LS flagship sedan during its third generation and then topped 35,000 sales in 2007, suddenly found itself struggling to top the 10K marker.
As the fourth-gen LS’s tenure came to an end, Lexus watched as demand for the LS quickly collapsed. From fewer than 11,000 sales in 2013 and fewer than 9,000 in 2014 to barely more than 7,000 in 2015 and only 5,514 in 2016, the once hugely successful Lexus LS — a former leader of America’s large luxury sedan class and the car that was responsible for the genesis of Lexus — became an afterthought.
The fifth-generation Lexus LS is set to go on sale this winter, and Lexus expects to see a huge increase in demand for the new car in 2018. Lexus does not, however, expect the LS to generate anything like the kind of interest the big sedan did prior to the proverbial global financial crisis.
The Lexus NX, set for a MY2018 refresh, is one of America’s three most popular premium brand utility vehicles, but Lexus clearly wants customers to feel even more free to choose the pricier NX hybrid.
For the 2018 model year, CarsDirect has learned that Lexus will include the full compliment of Safety System+ active safety features as standard equipment on both the NX300 (formerly known as the NX20ot) and NX300h, but the hybrid’s additional kit is accompanied by a significant $1,385 price cut.
In fact, with the additional equipment factored in, the price reduction is even more noteworthy. Pre-collision and dynamic radar cruise control were worth $900 on the 2017 Lexus NX300h, which essentially means the NX300h’s base price has been chopped by $2,285.
Perhaps Lexus isn’t content with holding the gold and bronze-medal positions on the luxury SUV/crossover sales leaderboard. Could serious price alterations be what it takes for Lexus to be the builder of America’s two best-selling luxury utility vehicles in 2018?
Before you’ve even pressed its starter button, you’re already mindful of a number of reasons most sports-sedan buyers veer away from the 2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport.
The IS’s decidedly Japanese styling, which I’m personally quite fond of but many TTAC authors detest, is an instant turn-off for luxury-car buyers who prefer subdued Teutonic touches. The Lexus IS is a look-at-me car, especially with $595 Ultrasonic Blue Mica and F Sport bodywork.
The third-gen Lexus IS is also bizarrely packaged. Driver’s ingress is made nearly intolerable by a small aperture. The doorframe lusts after your right hip; the center tunnel is waiting to aggressively greet your right knee. Entering the IS is like crawling under your kitchen table. Sure, you’ll fit once you’re under there, but adult frames aren’t designed for such maneuvers.
More obvious, now that you’re primed to ignite the 3.5-liter, 306-horsepower naturally aspirated V6, is the array of buttons and switches and controllers and contraptions that encompass the cabin’s frontal lobe. Few are where you’d expect them to be. Many do not operate in the conventional fashion to which you’ve grown accustomed.
Buyers could be put off by the 2017 Lexus IS350’s design, by its awkward access, by its unusual ergonomics, or by all three factors. If so, they’re missing out on an exceptionally balanced driver’s car.
Those of you who follow TTAC regularly and with some interest (so, 100 percent of you) are no doubt aware of a high-level used car search I’ve been conducting as of late. A rather unexpected purchase occurred this past Saturday while everyong was enjoying their long Labor Day weekend.
Come and have a look.
This is not a proper review, not the kind of tome presented to TTAC’s audience after a major vehicle spends a full week with one of the site’s editors. I didn’t drive the 2017 Lexus ES300h across multiple states. I didn’t resolve to land on as many beaches as possible on EV power. I didn’t get a proper chance to take pictures. I hardly drove the Lexus ES300h at all.
Ah, but the one journey undertaken by the midsize luxury hybrid and your humble TTAC Prince Edward Island bureau chief was quite a journey indeed.
What happens when the least sporting Lexus car is suddenly tasked with arriving at a destination on the other side of the Island in order to be removed from Island duty? What happens when you rush a car that was never intended to be one of Lexus’ rushable cars?
Decidedly un-hybrid-like mileage, for one thing.
We’re auto writers. By our very nature, we’re irritable complainers, apt to harp and carp. Yet while we enjoy a humorous headline, needling readers, and looking far into the future, you’ll more likely find us sharing photos of horrendous automotive disappointments on TTAC’s digital HQ, Slack.
Sometimes the disappointments are obvious and consequently publicized. Departed managing editor Mark Stevenson, for example, profiled a 2015 Ford Edge Titanium’s build issues in late 2015.
Panel gaps are one means of quantifying perceived quality. Industry observers and many customers use perceived quality to make educated guesses about future real quality. If a vehicle appears to be built well, surely it is. If a vehicle appears to be built poorly, how much worse is the quality of assembly under the skin?
Today’s Question of the Day is the inverse of one I posited back in March of this year. At that time, we took your suggestions for current vehicle designs which you thought would stand the test of time.
It’s now time to cover the other side of the ugly coin; the vehicles on sale today which will become dated-looking quicker than all others.
The Lexus RX is, by a massive margin, America’s top-selling luxury utility vehicle.
Through the first five months of 2017, Lexus had already sold 38,329 copies of the RX350 and RX450h in the United States. Most competing luxury crossovers won’t produce that many sales in all of 2017.
But Lexus wants more, and with car sales plunging — Lexus car sales are down 29 percent so far this year — there’s no better means of adding volume than by expanding the utility vehicle division. Lexus has already introduced the NX to sit below the RX, and it’s a verifiable hit. But the GX and LX at the top of the Lexus SUV/CUV heap add only incremental volume.
Thus, Lexus is readying a three-row version of the Lexus RX, a natural fit given the RX’s connections to the three-row Toyota Highlander. This much we knew.
Now, based on reports from Japan’s Mag-X, we also know the seven-seat Lexus RX will debut at the Tokyo in late October 2017.
We’ve got more than a few years of driving remaining, don’t you think?
It’s 2017. People still grasp steering wheels, still prod throttle pedals, still check blind spots (sometimes), still use their left hand to flick a signal stalk, and still stop for red lights by firmly pressing a right foot against a brake pedal. Last I checked, in my driveway sits a two-seat convertible with a six-speed manual transmission.
But in a 30-second spot that aired repeatedly during the final game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Hockey Night In Canada, Lexus strikes fear into the soul of drivers everywhere in order to get you into a 2017 Lexus IS today. Today, before they — whoever “they” are — come for your manual transmissions and your steering wheels and your pedals. Before your driver’s car is replaced by an autonomous pod.
“Enjoy the thrill of driving,” Lexus says. “While you still can.”
The current 2017 model year will be the last for the Lexus CT200h.
An indirect successor to the Lexus HS250h sedan, the Lexus CT200h will end a seven-year model run in the United States that resulted in more than 90,000 sales.
Imported from Miyawaka, Japan, the Lexus CT has seen its average U.S. monthly output fall 58 percent over the last three years. Never a tremendously popular entry-level luxury car, the hybrid-only Lexus was forced to compete against very successful luxury sedans from Mercedes-Benz and Audi — CLA and A3, respectively — in the latter portion of its tenure.
The Lexus couldn’t compete.
Half an hour from Fort Lauderdale, in Margate, Florida, sits JM Lexus, the highest-volume Lexus dealership in the United States.
Even by Lexus standards, where throughput is the best of any premium automaker operating in America, JM Lexus’ 8,000-unit new vehicle sales tally in 2016 was striking. That’s more than 150 new luxury cars, crossovers, and SUVs sold each week. That’s roughly six times the volume achieved by the typical Lexus dealer.
And JM Lexus, perennially the top Lexus dealer in America, does so as part of the Lexus Plus strategy: no negotiating, a single representative per customer, fixed prices for new and used cars as well as service fees and accessories.
Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned by Lexus’ other dealers. For the time being, according to Automotive News, only 5 percent of Toyota’s premium brand stores operate under the Lexus Plus model.
In a manner of speaking, that is. A recent report cast doubt on the future of Lexus’ rear-drive performance sedan, the GS, claiming that development of a next-generation model was off the table. That would make next year the GS’ last.
While Lexus wouldn’t confirm the report, a spokesperson’s choice of words was enough to add to the rumor. In a marketplace that’s big on SUVs and downright miserable to cars, it would make sense for Lexus to get ahead of the “too many cars” problem faced by the likes of Hyundai and pare down its lineup.
Now, another report says Lexus will call on a different model to fill the gap.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: everything, and I mean everything, is utterly and absolutely context-dependent. It’s literally true on the atomic level, where we cannot accurately measure both position and velocity at the same time. It’s true at the quantum level, where “quantum entanglement” governs behavior that is currently beyond our ability to understand. It’s even applicable in your dating life; the same size-six girl who feels insubstantial to you in the long evenings at home will acquire new heft after you spend a drunken weekend away with a size two.
Since this is an automotive website and not The Journal Of Theoretical Physics And Deniable Adultery, let’s focus on what context means in the automotive sense. The definitions of fast car, big car, economical car, reliable car, and even full-sized pickup have all changed several times since the end of the First World War. Imagine you fell into a coma in 1975 and woke up today; you’d probably ask how and why cars got so tiny and trucks got so big. The first 911 Turbo was a “widowmaker” with 260 horsepower; today’s model delivers twice that much power and still isn’t the fastest car (around a track, at least) in its price range.
More importantly, our own personal context for an automobile often determines how much we enjoy and appreciate it. Think of all the people who spend their weekends restoring, cleaning and driving “classic cars” that other people threw away decades ago. Think of the over one million people who couldn’t wait to trade their Tri-Five Chevys in on something new, and of all the people who’ve spent major portions of their lives making those same cars better than they were when they left the assembly line. That’s the power of context.
Which brings me to today’s question for Ask Jack. It’s all about one man’s very unusual, but entirely understandable, definitions of “daily driver” and “weekend special”.
Popular? Most definitely. In fact, the Lexus NX is twice as popular as Lexus anticipated.
The Lexus NX, a crossover you must never confuse with the Nissan NX, is marketed in the United States both in NX200t and NX300h variants. At the New York International Auto Show three years ago, Lexus revealed the brand hoped to sell around 26,000 NXs per year; roughly 2,200 per month. At that point, in the lead-up to the NX’s 2014 Q4 launch, there were two schools of thought. One, the NX was so ghastly to behold Lexus surely wouldn’t sell 2,200 per month. Or, because Lexus is such a luxury crossover powerhouse, even the NX — with a face even a mother couldn’t love — will be more popular than Lexus anticipated.
Dealers believed Lexus’ forecast was on the low side.
But could anyone have expected the Lexus NX would be more than twice as popular as originally forecasted; that the Lexus NX would be America’s fifth-best-selling luxury utility vehicle; that the NX would account for one-in-five Lexus sales in America?
Back in the day, a properly large luxury sedan was just that — large and luxurious. No sporting pretensions were found, as any special package simply piled on the brougham.
However, Lexus has said no to a padded roof or opera lights for its newest full-size package, as it’s given the F Sport treatment to the new LS 500. Available for the twin-turbo V6 and V6 hybrid powertrains, the F Sport package adds a dash of sporting pretense to an otherwise posh sedan.
Lexus is giving its flagship sedan the F-Sport touch for the New York International Auto Show. While it isn’t likely to rival AMG’s super sedans in terms of power, Toyota’s premium brand is promising improved handling to go with a platform it claims is the “stiffest that Lexus has ever developed.”
The next-generation LS 500 premiered in Detroit back in January and was followed by the Lexus 500h hybrid in Geneva last month. Lexus is unlikely to unveil a tuned powerplant for the LS, but the F-Sport should be more than just a handling package and unique badging.
Midsized luxury cars are a tough sell these days. The SUV craze shows no sign of ebbing, with new models coming out frequently from nearly every automaker (though if Caterham starts offering an assemble-it-yourself crossover, I’ll hang up my keyboard for good). Further, these midsizers are squeezed by models upmarket and down — the compacts keep adding content, while smaller engines in the full-size models offer space and economy for not much more cost.
Lexus is unique in this space with two very different models: the front-wheel drive ES, and this GS, offered with either rear or all-wheel drive. While the Avalon-based ES is perennially one of the best-selling, this GS lingers mid-pack. Thus, it’s no surprise rumors have swirled.
Still, Lexus has generally impressed me, so I was intrigued when this 2017 Lexus GS 200t appeared since I see so few of them in the wild.
After being knocked off the top perch of the “fastest growing economy” podium in 2016, India is expected to return to the Number One spot both this year and next. The world’s second most populous country has seen average per-capita incomes rise to record levels and, while the average only amounts to $1,500 greenbacks, India’s well-to-do class is thriving.
For automakers, the untapped Indian market offers big potential. The latest to the game: Lexus, which arrived today to offer citizens something better than just a Camry.
Before we get down to the meat of this week’s question, a brief bit of housekeeping. If you have a question for “Ask Jack”, send it to email@example.com. I will accept and privately answer questions on any topic, regardless of my qualifications to do so. Perhaps you would like to know how to catch the eye of that bored, fidgety, but remarkably attractive housewife down the street. Maybe you need to reshuffle Excel spreadsheets using Perl from a command line, or make a tattoo gun using only the items available in a Midwestern prison. I can help you with any of these queries and a million more. However, in keeping with the fundamental dignity of this website, only questions of an automotive nature will be answered here. No matter what the precise nature of your business might be, please title the email “Ask Jack”.
Now where we were? Oh yes: a fellow with the world’s best car is interested in trading it for the world’s ugliest crossover.
When the second-generation Lexus GS 400 arrived in North America in late 1997, the automaker paired the introduction with a can’t-miss-it ad campaign. “Something wicked this way comes,” the glossy advertisements warned of the looming V8 model.
Well, that ominous late-90s tagline would soon be a lie, as rumor states that the 2018 model year could be the last for Lexus’ sporty midsize luxury sedan. There just might not be room in the lineup for this once-boastworthy rear-driver.
Lexus has lofty goals for the new LC performance coupe, a two-car range encompassing V8 and V6 hybrid cars. The Lexus LC, Toyota’s premium division hopes, will attract 400 buyers in America per month.
That’s a big number.
Granted, Toyota sells more than 1,000 Camrys in the United States every day. In fact, Lexus sells 300 copies of the RX, America’s all-conquering premium utility vehicle, every day.
But the 2018 Lexus LC is not America’s best-selling midsize car 15 years running, nor is the LC the dominant luxury crossover in a market gone gaga for luxury crossovers. The Lexus LC, on the other hand, is a $92,995–106,295 Japanese coupe. 400 monthly sales for a two-door priced in that stratosphere is truly a big number.
And Lexus believes it will outsell the Jaguar F-Type, Porsche Cayman, Mercedes-Benz SLC, and Audi TT. Lexus believes the LC will sell roughly three times more often than the Nissan GT-R ever has. Lexus intends to attract more buyers with the LC than Mercedes-Benz can with The Establishment, the SL-Class; more buyers than BMW attracts with the vast BMW 6 Series range.
Why? Lexus certainly has its reasons.
Continuing on its relentless path of pitching boring design out the window, Lexus is storming ahead with its styling choices, applying them to its entire model range.
Today in Geneva, Lexus unveiled a hybrid version of its flagship sedan, the LS. The model follows the world premiere of the twin-turbocharged V6-powered LS 500 at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Lexus’ next-generation LS has already thrown design heritage out the window and kicked its traditional V8 to the curb, so why not add more totally new hardware?
For 2018, the brand’s redesigned flagship sedan will again offer a hybrid variant, but that last version is yesterday’s news. Lexus didn’t need to look far to find a replacement.
December is typically a peak month for automotive sales, especially among premium brands. With more holiday-themed ads than the majority of its competition, Lexus always sees the year’s final month of sales as its best. However, it did so well last December that January saw a 26 percent drop in sales due to an exhausted supply of sport utility vehicles.
With the narrowest of exceptions for the LX, last December turned out to be the best month in the history of all of Lexus’ SUVs. The bad news is that most of those sales came at the expense of the automaker’s sedans, which saw comparatively low sales. At around 41,000 units, December 2016 wasn’t all that much different from 2015. However, cars made up a significantly smaller piece of that pie.
The next-generation Lexus LS flagship’s top-to-bottom revamp took some fans by surprise when it was revealed ahead of the Detroit auto show. Not only did it do away with a formal roofline, a V8 engine — which has powered the model since its inception — was no where to be found, replaced by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6.
It appeared as if convention wasn’t the only thing Lexus planned to ditch, as a hybrid model was neither announced, nor teased. As it turns out, Lexus did tease an upcoming hybrid variant — we just needed to look closer.
It wasn’t long ago that Lexus could reliably sell 20,000-plus LS sedans in the U.S. each year. Certainly, the model’s pre-recession sales performance fell under the heading of “reliable,” with over 35,000 sold in 2007.
Ever since great economic upheaval sent American buyers fleeing in increasing numbers into the arms of crossovers and SUV, the Lexus sedan that created tsunami-like ripples through the luxury car field in 1990 has seen its customer base erode. Just 5,514 U.S. buyers saw fit to take an LS home in 2016.
Could a redesign bordering on the radical be the medicine the LS so desperately needs?
In fairness, I was going too quickly even for the interstate. Even then, I’m pretty certain I saw a third numeral flicker on the dash display as I apexed the off-ramp onto the unfamiliar rural divided four-lane.
Then I saw a black and gold Dodge Charger sitting in the median.
I immediately asked myself if I can legitimately write off a speeding ticket as a business expense.
Fortunately, the deputy sheriff was either napping or texting, as the bellowing orange 2016 Lexus RC F was distinctly conspicuous as I slowed to socially acceptable speeds. I unclenched, took a breath, and continued in search of more enjoyable roads.