Amid all the clamoring among pursuers of supremacy in the luxury-car market, none retains more pluses than Toyota’s Lexus brand.
From the No. 1 perch atop the premier brands, Lexus has established a reputation of excellent never really challenged-either by Nissan’s Infiniti brand over the past two decades since either brand was launched, or by the older German cars-Audi, BMW and Porsche.
Even in Toyota’s dark days of recalls and Tsunamis, Lexus held its unchallenged No. 1 status. Veteran Detroit area dealer Hoot McInerney, who gave up his Cadillac store for a Lexus franchise, explained that “Lexus is a top-of-the-market car. It will be the choice of the well-healed deep-pockets crowd forever. It’s the must have car-best to drive and to own, without technical problems or styling flaws. Even the hybrid-engine model is as perfect as all the non-hybrids.”
McInerney was not a charter Lexus dealer, recalling that he shared doubts about its staying power in a dedicated store as a separate Toyota brand back in 1990. He was then handling Lincoln-Mercury and Chrysler franchises and admits to envy over having been overlooked for a Lexus franchise in the Detroit market. (Ken Meade, a longtime Chrysler dealer, was chosen instead, and Barron Meade, Ken’s son, runs the Lexus stores on the east and west sides of Detroit.)
Lexus is so admired by auto writers that the 2013 model ES300h hybrid sedan drew a full—page spread in the March 16-17 Wall Street Journal, complete with such Dan Neil raves as: “All in all, a handsome and sophisticated presentation.” “A gas-electric version of what is by far the company’s most successful model.” “The ES 300h powertrain continues to get sweeter, more refined, more isolated and dove-winged with every passing year…”
The ES 300h incorporates all the amenities of its sibling Toyota Avalon and Camry models, with “affordable suggested list prices of $40,345 for the 4-cylinder base model and $49,064 loaded. The front-wheel-drive ES 300h yields 200 hp and is rated at 39/40 mpg.”
What makes all Lexuses truly unique is near-total absence of engine and tire noise. Toyota, Lexus and Scion have paid careful attention to reducing the decibel count.
Not forgetting a raft of accessories-like Levinson audio ($3,745), a $2,435 package (leather trim, wood steering rim, ambient lighting, power rear sunshades, blind-spot monitor ($500), and parking assist ($500). Final plug: a 2-tone dash.
All told, a neat high-roller for the high rollers, with an (L)-like front grille blending in with the trendiest of exteriors.