I want to be perfectly honest with you guys — this is The Truth About Cars, after all — I didn’t like driving the 2022 Lexus RX450h AWD F Sport. It’s not that the Lexus is a bad car, it’s that it’s not the right fit for me … and I mean that both figuratively and literally.
It’s of no surprise to anyone that new vehicles can be hard to find these days. Some production has been throttled thanks to supply chain challenges, more than a few dealer lots are bereft of product, and everyone seems to be at the end of their rope.
But spare a thought for customers in Japan who wish to buy a new Lexus LX. According to reports, the wait time for one in that part of the world has grown. To four years.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about Lexus’ NX compact crossover. I’ve found it to be fairly sporty – in general, and not just by staid Lexus standards – and overall more engaging to drive than the larger (and highly popular) RX, but also a bit cramped inside. Not to mention that the NX, like most Toyota and Lexus products, just seemed a step behind when it came to infotainment.
Lexus addressed two of those criticisms with the current model and did so quite nicely.
Those of you with checkered shirts in yer closet and a few pogs still kicking around may recall it was the original Lexus RX from the late ‘90s which arguably kicked off the “tall wagon” car-based luxury crossover craze. Sure, the first Ford Explorer put us all on a path to what we see in suburban driveways today, but it was the RX which placed them in the hands of moneyed types.
Lexus introduced a new RX yesterday near its home base in Texas, expanding the number of powertrains and (finally) dumping the ill-advised three-row model. And, oh yeah – we need to have a conversation about that grille.
While Honda was the first Japanese car company to have a North American showroom hit with a new luxury brand, the Legend lacked the imposing bulk to really threaten the flagship sedans of competitors based in Michigan and Europe (and, on top of that, it had Accord running gear and Rover DNA). Nissan and Toyota got into the luxury-sedan game here in the 1990 model year, when the Infiniti and Lexus brands had their debuts here with the Q45 and LS 400, respectively.
Today’s Rare Ride was randomly mentioned among some other Lexus discussion on Twitter, and your author knew it immediately needed coverage here. This very special RX was conceived at a time when McCartney and Lexus were particularly chummy and financially interested in one another. Lexus worked up a bespoke special edition car as an homage to the legendary star. And though the resulting homage was even more cringe-inducing than its title might suggest, it was at least created for a good cause. You might say this particular Lexus RoX.
Lexus’ first EV, the RZ 450e, will reportedly be debuting with a yoke-style steering wheel that will be coming to the United States as an optional feature. While we’ve seen yokes on dedicated racing vehicles, their adoption by companies producing mass-market automobiles is fairly novel, and global firms have been generally hesitant to use them inside North America.
Lexus won’t be following suit and has already confirmed that its yoke will be available to RZ shoppers living in the U.S.
Following last week’s announcement where Toyota explained its need to scale back Japanese production by 20 percent this April, the automaker has outlined planned slowdowns for the foreseeable future. It’s citing all the usual problems. Countries are still employing various COVID-19 restrictions that are upending supply chains, semiconductor production for automobiles remains insufficient, and there’s a war in Eastern Europe that’s creating all-new troubles while exacerbating some of the more familiar ones. But scaling back output might not be the death sentence it sounds like.
With last year resulting in 10 million deliveries worldwide, Toyota actually managed to improve its sales against 2020’s year-over-year global production decline of 12 percent. And the last two years have also yielded enhanced profitability for the automaker, despite it having expressed repeated concerns about procuring enough components to keep popular models (like the RAV4) in stock. In 2021, Toyota saw $249.4 billion in revenue and even became the best-selling automaker in the United States, dethroning former top-dawg General Motors.
If there’s one thing on which car manufacturers can be relied upon to do, it’s to release information about hotly anticipated vehicles in dribs and drabs. Rare is the occasion when all hands are totally surprised – though it does happen. Witness when the then-new Ford GT rolled out on a frigid Detroit stage in 2015.
Lexus is doing no such thing with its bevy of upcoming BEVs, a range that could include an all-electric spiritual replacement for the LFA.
Well, at least on the rear of their vehicles. According to a recent interview with another industry outlet that rhymes with Rotor Blend, the Lexus brand will begin appending chrome-plated L E X U S billboards to the rumps of their vehicles instead of the famed round stylized ‘L’ logo, a badge which will continue to appear on steering wheels and enormous grilles.
When Toyota first entered the high-end American luxury market with the Legendary Lexus LS400 and ES250 in 1989, it wasn’t a forgone conclusion that it would succeed. Automotive buff books of the era wrote articles questioning whether or not the yuppies would be willing to trade in their BMWs and Mercedes for a Japanese luxury car. Some even questioned whether the Japanese could be trusted to build a V8 at all, such was the xenophobic belief that a V8 luxury sedan was inherently a Teutonic thing.
A few decades on, it’s obvious that Lexus could compete successfully against BMW and Mercedes – but Toyota approached the market cautiously with its first cars, nibbling away at the S class and, later, the 190E and 3 series markets. What if it hadn’t? What if, instead of going down, Lexus had had the stones to go up? In today’s episode, our Automotive Sam Beckett travels back in time to convince Toyota that the V12 powered Century would make the perfect flagship for Lexus, and bring a vulnerable Mercedes-Benz to its knees.
We are constantly making decisions as we all hurtle through this life toward a destination unknown.
Sometimes these decisions turn out to be the “correct” decision, however “correct” is defined within the relevant context. Sometimes it’s the opposite.
The problem is that while the outcome of our decisions is sometimes obvious – I know when I order that one more beer that I’m kicking a payment of minor pain down the road to tomorrow – sometimes, the outcome isn’t foreseeable. Especially when you’re making a decision that feels correct at the moment (and defensible in hindsight), and yet a nasty surprise is just seconds away from smacking you in the face.
In other words, sometimes you make a decision that seems correct, seems low risk, one that others would agree with – and it still all goes to hell.
When Toyota announced that the Land Cruiser wouldn’t be coming back to the United States, off-road people shrugged and got back into their clapped-out 4Runners. Despite being incredibly capable wherever pavement is in short supply and having a pedigree that rivals Jeep’s Wrangler, the Land Cruiser is a prohibitively expensive vehicle. Toyota’s penchant for overbuilding vehicles merged with the model’s luxurious bent, resulting in a product that retailed at $87,030 before adding a single option, and sales volumes reflected this.
It was just too rich for most Americans and sales suffered as a result. But Lexus has confirmed the Cruiser-based LX will be returning and recently teased the new model’s next-generation online. While the manufacturer hasn’t confirmed that the 2022 Lexus LX 600 will be a rebadged version of Toyota’s off-road emperor, literally every generation of the LX series has been.
Today’s Rare Ride was the only other car accompanying Lexus’ LS 400 at dealerships in 1990 and 1991. The fanciest Camry offered in the US, it was a badge conversion from a Camry sold in the Japanese market.
But consumers saw through the charade, so while the high-effort LS 400 flew off the showroom floor, the minimal effort ES just sat there.