Every brand has an identity, what makes a Lexus?
There are still plenty of people that love to say that Lexus cars are just jazzed-up Toyotas for old people who don't know any better. This stereotype may not have been so incorrect a decade ago, but modern Lexus cars are drastically different. If you haven't noticed, new Lexus models aren't conservatively styled anymore. Old Lexus models, like the ES300 and LS400, were basically bricks on wheels, but new models look like they have arrived from a different planet. For better or for worse, Lexus is turning into a different type of automaker.
We have had the pleasure of spending the week with a variety of Lexus models including the IS350, RX450h, and RC-F. These experiences really helped us figure out what Lexus' brand identity is all about. In order to explain the lineup, we have to divide it into the bread-and-butter models, and the German-fighters. Let's start off with those bread-and-butter cars. These include the ES sedan, RX Crossover, GX and LX SUVs, and the CT hatchback. These models stay true to the original Lexus philosophy of extreme luxury and detachment from the road. None of these models are direct competitors to models from Mercedes, Audi, or BMW because they appeal to the old-guard of Lexus buyers.
These are the people who are much happier buying something that comes with every bell and whistle that they want, without a barrage of expensive "sport stuff" they don't need. Among these models, only the RX and CT come in F-Sport trim, and we feel that both models are probably better in their normal trims. The ES and CT are even front-wheel-drive, which clearly shows that they aren't built to be performance models. Lexus builds the ES and the similarly sized GS, but the ES comes with a bigger backseat at a lower cost. With the GS, you get the advantage of sportier RWD, in a package that is aimed at the Mercedes E-Class instead of the Acura RXL.
If you don't care about performance driving, the ES is a far better value than the GS. However, if you love the idea of having a car that drives like one of the German brands but comes with way more options at a lower cost, Lexus has those too. The IS, GS, RC, NX, and LS are all targeted directly at the likes of the BMW 3, 5, 4, X3, and 7 Series respectively, as well as the equivalent models from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. All of these models (except the NX) come with RWD as standard and are more suited to buyers who are used to having a car with some pep in its step. Even though the ES and IS are similarly priced, their purposes are very different.
In the case of the RC and the GS, you can even get V8-powered F versions that are aimed at M, AMG, and RS buyers. So why would you choose a Lexus over one of these brands? The German brands are all so concerned with outdoing each other that they are constantly trying out new technologies which raise the price. We took a look at some local prices of the new Mercedes C63 AMG, for example, and all were priced north of $80,000. On the other hand, the Lexus RC-Fs we found were marked down from an MSRP of $72,000 to around $64,000. (Check out Lexus of Orlando if you don't believe us). The AMG might be faster around a track, but the RC-F is for the realist who knows they will never go to the track.
If you have more than $60,000 to spend on a car, you might have an important job that takes up a lot of your time. If you just want a nice car to drive every day that is also faster than you could ever need on the road, a Lexus car will give that to you. What's more amazing, is that even though the Lexus is far less expensive, it almost always comes loaded with features that are always expensive options on the German cars. Things like air conditioned seats, back-up cameras, and even leather can cost additional on some of the German rivals. If you know you want a car that is built specifically for comfort, or you want a German car that doesn't have all of the expensive headaches, then you should probably buy a Lexus.
There is a reason why Lexus is constantly winning awards for reliability. The cars aren't cutting edge as far as silly features like night-vision go, but the technology that Lexus does use always works without fault and, for some people, that is all they want from a car, a faultless work horse that does its job without complaining. In other words, a Lexus.