It might not be the name at the top of most executives’ lists, but Lexus is a name at the top of quality and buyer feedback surveys, such as JD Power and Top Gear.
And dealers agree, rating Lexus top in 12 of the 15 categories in the most recent Sewells dealer attitude survey.
The LS430, launched a year ago, doesn’t have its German rivals’ sporty pretentions – there’s barely a mention of sport anywhere in the press pack – but neither does it have their overly firm ride (even with the so-called ‘sports’ button activated).
To Lexus, performance means comfort, safety, smoothness, stability and ride quality. Buyers who want a car that acts like a sports hatch are best directed elsewhere – the LS430 is not for them.
But if they want to drive around – or be driven – in the type of luxury that the term luxury implies – floating on the electronically modulated air suspension, secure in the knowledge that they have one of the best built cars on the market – then start drawing up the finance agreement.
It’s well built and fast: the 4.3-litre 278bhp V8 propels this saloon from 0-62mph in 6.3sec.
The LS430 comes packed with gizmos: standards items include adaptive headlights, sat-nav, rear view parking camera, heated front/rear seats, rear seat audio controls, rear seat massage, refrigerated storage box and Bluetooth connectivity. Virtually everything is included within the £56,850 starting price.
Additional surprise and delight features are centre air vents that automatically swivel, dispersing air evenly around the cabin, and the door check function which holds the door ajar at any angle for entry/exit without it either falling shut on legs or swinging open to strike an adjacent car.
On the downside, the six-speed automatic gearbox is tardy on shift changes, although it is smooth, in keeping with the rest of the car.
Dealers will sell 440 units this year, with Lexus predicting a similar volume for 2005.
Strengths: Comfort, high spec, ride quality
Weakness: Not sporty performance, lazy auto ’box
Opportunity: Build sales, create halo effect
Threat: Strength of German marques in luxury sector
The USP: A non-German luxury car
Engines: 4.3-litre 278bhp V8
Transmission: 6sp auto
Performance: 0-60mph 6.3sec, top speed 155mph
Efficiency: 24.8mpg, 270g/km CO2
Servicing: Full: 20,000 miles; healthcheck: 10,000
CAP RV (3yr/30k): £21,375 (38%)
Rivals: BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Cadillac CTS