Combining a focus on luxury, performance and breakthrough engineering with the build quality and reliability that comes from connection to the world’s largest car brand has really given Lexus a leg up on its European counterparts over the years.
but more and more, the brand is also tapping into the elements of their DNA and cultural heritage. Whilst Lexus is all about helping to shape the future of the automotive industry in terms of design, engineering and technology, they somehow connect this with traditions formed over thousands of years of Japanese history.
Core to the Lexus philosophy is “omotenashi“ (hospitality). It’s actually really hard to describe this level of hospitality in English, which is kind of a sad thing, but broadly speaking, it is this deep-rooted sense of hospitality based around care rather than expectation and an implicit understanding that there are no menial tasks if the result ensures a great experience for a guest. It implies that you treat your guests sincerely and warmheartedly and show attentiveness by reading the atmosphere, sensing the mood and feeling of any occasion.
This, of course, then guides the experiences that customers have with the Lexus team and even media experiences. Such as the launch of the new Lexus IS range, which we will go into shortly. But this level of hospitality goes beyond the human connections and experiences, but it also guides the development of the vehicles right through from someone sculpting a blank clay form, to the person checking the final touches as each new car leaves the factory floor. It’s this sense that no detail is too small to worry about which drives this constant push for perfection and craft.
This philosophy is so much more than printed company vision statement that hangs on head office wall, it is something deep down that pervades through every layer of the company and the resulting vehicles. I’m conscious that I am sounding a little woo woo at this stage and it does sound like a nice marketing spiel but I’m old enough and jaded enough to see the authenticity in it.
This really comes through in the case of Lexus launches. Not only did we get to test drive the IS range up a big chunk of the North Island, experience a bespoke 5-star dinner at a very Otago-looking private Kinloch residence and an afternoon at the Hampton Downs race track.
Along every step of the way, this omotenashi showed through, not only in terms of the welcoming of media, but the Lexus team to each other and also the brand partners that they work with. For dinner, we were accompanied by Simon James and Scott Bridgens, the founders of Resident, which is taking awesome New Zealand design global. For breakfast, we were joined by Professor Graham Le Gros from the Malaghan Institute who shared some of the world-leading work they are doing to treat cancer. Both, of course, very different sets of brand partners but both share a real desire for impact at a global scale while also a focus on the smallest details along the way. Both are also inspiring as hell. There is a shared authenticity to the connection with Lexus that goes beyond just a logo on a bit of sponsorship promo. It is a true partnership with hospitality and understanding at the heart of it.
Anyway, I am conscious that I am 572 words in and I haven’t actually talked about the vehicle I am meant to be reviewing. I will try and make up for my emotional thousand-year history lesson with some talk about grunt, technology and design which stems from the context of this emotion and history by the way.
While there are varying degrees of power and sportiness within the IS range, there is a shared dynamic stance combined with bulging wheel arches that just gives this sense of power. This is balanced though by sharp and considered lines and offset by striking headlamps with distinct L-shaped Daytime Running Lights at the front and a slightly Cyberpunkish (probably not a word yet) treatment of the rear lights, which join across the entire rear like a really cool monobrow. That iconic front grill has been sharpened and seems to echo its shape into the edge of the wheel arches to stunning effect.
Okay, brace yourself as there is a bit of a list to get through here but the IS range includes… IS 300 – 2.0L Petrol Turbo, IS 300h – 2.5L Petrol Hybrid, IS 300 Limited, IS 300h Limited, IS 300 F SPORT, IS 300h F SPORT and IS 350 F SPORT which packs a 3.5L Petrol V6. What this means is that whether hybrids are your thing, or you still love the idea of cylinders going up and down in a V configuration, there is enough variation within this range to cater to a wide range of needs.
I am an unfortunate holdout to the inevitable EV future, so was immediately drawn to the IS 350 F Sport, both for on road cruising and the track blasts. Both scenarios brought on an immediate grin. Another display of omotenashi by the Lexus engineers. The V6 is G Force inducing fun when it needs to be and smooth comfort when it has to be. That sporty burble will always be calling though. On the track, it is an utter delight. This is helped by a bit of that pursuit of perfection and focus on the details thing as the engineers have worked reinforcement structures from the C-pillars to the sides of the roof and strengthened areas of the chassis to improve stiffness. Lighter coil springs, forged aluminium A-arms, and a new suspension stabiliser bar makes for reduced unsprung weight. While new swing-valve shock absorbers give better reflexes and a smoother ride across the range.
And while the bogan in me is just drawn to the V6, even the most petrol headed luddite will appreciate the torque and performance from the hybrid configurations. In fact, any of the range will make you feel at home. Lexus just seems to roll like that.
Find out more on their website.
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