9 April 2007

The $104,000 Question- Is Lexus There Yet?

Lexus has unveiled the LS600h L — a performance hybrid version of its new flagship sedan — at the 2006 New York International Auto Show. Scheduled to arrive in Spring 2007, it will be the world's first vehicle of any class or category to feature a full hybrid V8 powertrain. The LS 600h will combine an all-new five-litre V8 gas engine with combined massive, high-output electric motors and a newly designed large-capacity battery pack. It will deliver a peak, combined output of more than 430 horsepower. As a SULEV-rated (Super Low Emissions) vehicle, LS600h is estimated to produce just 20 per cent of the smog-forming emissions of a conventional five-litre V8. Power is delivered to the wheels via a 2-stange ECVT transmission. It also has the first LED front headlights of any production vehicle.


And just like that, poof, the last bunker of the Euro marques is penetrated.

What's been amusing is all of the chatter following the announcement of the pricing of the LS600.

  • The domestic fans, clutching their hearts in unison because Cadillac/Lincoln don't have a vehicle to compete with the GS, nevermind the LS, have been throwing out the 'I'd take a Corvette Z06 and an Aura for that kind of money OMG LOL!!!'
  • The European fans (MB, BMW and Audi fans I'm looking straight at you) have begrudgingly given kudos to the vehicle while still being snarky and saying 'well it doesn't have the cachet of a Euro brand, and plus it's just a Toyota OMG LOL!!!'
Do either of these generic comebacks make any sense? Seriously?

Lexus is officially in the big boy club now. Alongside Mercedes, BMW and Audi- they've finally made the leap.

A breakdown if you will-

Exotic Luxury

Pretty much well the 'we have so much money that we can spend it on $10,000 paint upgrades to match our favorite polo shirt' club.

A-List Luxury

I'm still not entirely convinced that Audi belongs in this group, but the interior design and craftsmanship puts them in here in the end. This group is basically the 'you've arrived' segment of the luxury market. The Alpha Dogs of the industry if you will. They've got sales, full lineups, and a brand cachet rivaled only by the exotics. They also have a very forgiving audience- BMW, and moreso MB, have been coasting on their quality reputations in recent years, but the strength of their brand perception has been strong enough to let them overcome any possible bad stigma overall.

B-List Luxury
Jaguar (and sliding)

Infiniti made the jump very recently by coming out with some world class sedans- prior years saw them down there with Acura...and even more prior years, in the D-League. Cadillac is on a downward slide (they'll need more than the CTS), and Jaguar is one failed product cycle away from oblivion and fond reminiscence at the next Barrett-Jackson auction show. They're all very competent luxury cars, but they're missing the cachet- pretend to own one of these for a day, just tell people you drive an Infiniti, Caddy or Jag... and most won't even bat an eye.

C-List Luxury

Acura gets their very own luxury segment to themselves. Not quite at the level of the B's, but not an also-ran. At the end of the day, the perception of Acura vehicles as very very well engineered Honda vehicles has been a hard perception for Acura to shake. The vehicles in the segments which they compete in are all competitive, and sometimes class leading- it's the brand that needs work now. The worst move they ever made was dropping model names- the Acura Legend, Vigor, Integra et al were great brand builders, and they were all dismissed without any long term planning.

D-List Luxury

The end. Lincoln is almost done at this point. Saab and Volvo have never really been 'prestige' luxury makers- just solid performing vehicles with a good safety record. Not a true luxury car in my opinion, but more of a 'premium' set of brands.



Shady said...

It's a nice looking car. I can't see how some people diss it because it's a Lexus. If it wasn't made by Lexus/Toyota or didn't have the badge I bet GM fans would like it.

69Firebird400 said...

I think Lexus is on the cusp of being an "A-list" luxury brand, but their product lineup is still a little too thin on the high end. They just broke $100k for the first time with this car, after all. I think they'd need to have a credible "F" version of the LS (on the short wheelbase, of course, with better handling, and another 100-150 horsepower to compete with the AMGs and Ms of the world) as well as a large luxury coupe like the CL, and a high-end convertible like the SL. A GS-F is also a necessity, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Lexus won't become A-tier without taking a swing, and this is a definite swing. What this Lexus says to me is, more than anything else, "My Benz dealer pissed me off, and I bought this out of spite."