L AT FIRST SIGHT
The Lexus ES350 is swathed in finesseBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When Toyota finally decided to roll out its luxury brand company Lexus, it was not just out of whim, but of necessity.
During those “olden” days when the US market thought of Japanese brands as functional but “uninspired,” Yukiyasu Togo, who would become president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, once envisioned producing luxury cars Americans would dream of.
To make a long story short, Toyota finally introduced Lexus in 1989, and rather than unveil it first in home base Japan, the masterstroke was that Toyota did it in the United States—hatching grounds for the grandest of dreams.
According to auto historian Masaaki Sato, luxury vehicles produced in the States had long been positioned as “cars driven by achievers of the American dream,” and thus carried dignity and composure. Sato mentioned traditional brand names such as GM Cadillac and the Ford Lincoln, which “stood unrivaled in the market, and drivers tolerated small failures.” Sato, who authored the book “The Toyota Leaders,” translated by Justin Bonsey, also related how the rise of the concept of fuel efficiency shook the foundations of these traditional brands, as he wrote, “The emerging wealth class was also changing, shying away from overbearing designs and instead tending heavily towards German luxury vehicles that emphasized functionality, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW.”
It was in this period of flux, when luxury began to adapt to the impetus of functionality, that the R&D team of Toyota set itself down to work, to design luxury vehicles on a new notion: functionality equivalent to German luxury vehicles, with the quality and reliability only a Japanese car could offer, in a price package that would justify the union of all the best qualities of the East and West.
‘One of the top brands’
A little over two decades after the first Lexus vehicles hit US showrooms, the Lexus brand today has grown to become one of the top brands in the luxury vehicle market. It has even led all nameplates in the JD Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, ranking highest in 13 of the last 22 years, beginning with the brand’s first model year in 1990.
According to the US press room for Lexus, the brand has captured four segment awards in this year’s study, more than any other premium brand. These awards include the Lexus ES350 for Entry Premium cars.
The all-new 2012 ES350 was launched July 25 at Lexus Manila showroom. The featured highlights of the ES350 include a steering and suspension that is claimed to deliver a crisp, confident driving experience, a longer wheelbase that drastically increases interior roominess, and Lexus’ signature Spindle Grille and new generation L-Finesse design.
Alfred Ty, Lexus Manila chairman, said that “the Philippines is fortunate to be one of the first countries in the world to launch the 2012 Lexus ES. Ever since it was introduced in 2009, the ES has always been a favorite for the country’s top executives.” He added that “this group of discriminating car lovers find its medium size just the right fit. Not bulky, and yet with enough room for the executive to enjoy and be seen in. Most appreciated is the signature feature of a Lexus, its noise-reduced interior cabin.”
The introduction of the 2012 ES350 marks the sixth generation of Lexus’ popular luxury sedan since its introduction over 20 years ago. Featuring the signature Lexus spindle grille, a progressive new design and enhanced handling, the ES brings new levels of refinement and quality to the entry luxury segment. The ES is expected to impress loyal consumers, and win new fans over as well.
“Since its introduction in 1989, the ES has been the benchmark luxury sedan for quality, reliability, ride comfort and value,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “The new ES350 raises the bar once again.”
The ES350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with Dual VVT-i that delivers 272 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 346 Nm of peak torque at 4,700 RPM. The six-speed gate type sequential-shift automatic electronically controlled transmission (ECT) provides enhanced driving performance, fuel efficiency and smooth shifts. Low friction materials further improve efficiency and help with the ES350‘s EPA-fuel economy estimates of 8.9 km/liter in the city, 13.2 kpl highway and 10.2 kpl combined.
During the launch, Lexus Manila president Danny Isla also announced the Lexus Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Program. Lexus Certified vehicles are set to receive a 203-point inspection and limited one-year warranty.
Owners of ES350 around the world have said that it offers the same level of luxury as its German competitors. Paul Carroll, vice president of Lexus Asia Pacific Division, who was in Manila to attend the launch, said that local buyers would “have to make their own judgment” on the ES350.
Caroll added that compared to sporty German luxury brands, Lexus offers a choice between the ES and the GS. “The rear-wheel drive GS is more sporty.” The ES, on the other hand, “is far more roomy, very comfortable.”
Different from the rest
Asked to compare Filipino Lexus buyers with other nationalities, Raymond Rodriguez, Toyota Motor Philippines vice president for marketing division, said that the Filipino buyer’s profile is quite different from the rest. Filipino customers, he observed, tend to belong to the more affluent market, as taxes in the country are proportionately higher.
“Lexus may be a luxury car in the States, but it’s more affordable to them, unlike in the Philippines where the pricing is quite up there,” Rodriguez observed.
He disclosed that an ES in the States would be equivalent to the price of a Toyota Camry in the Philippines. “Thailand has one of the most expensive Lexus, too,” Rodriguez said.
The ES350 features a Drive Mode selector. Normal mode provides a blend of performance and efficiency that is suited to everyday driving, while Eco mode favors fuel economy. Sport mode increases powertrain and steering responsiveness. Suspension changes, a stiffer body and a quicker steering gear ratio deliver more precise handling.
The ES features a class-leading 10 airbags as standard equipment, including driver and front passenger knee, front and seatmounted airbags, as well as rear seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) front seats are designed to limit excessive head movement in certain rear-end collisions, helping to decrease the severity of whiplash-type injuries.
The new ES features enhanced NuLuxe seating surfaces developed to help reduce environmental impact. The standard Lexus Premium Sound System features eight speakers with Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL), in-dash CD player, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth audio, phone transfer and a vehicle information display.
The 2012 Lexus ES350 is priced at P3.338 million.
Short URL: http://business.inquirer.net/?p=74407