Taking lessons in style and taste from Japan.
Today’s Sunday sermon comes as something of a compare and contrast. Admittedly it also lays itself open to accusations of shooting fish in a barrel, but I’m prepared to take that risk. Here at Driven to Write, we have something of a soft spot for underdogs. However, some are more equal than others, and in the case of Lexus and in particular, the flagship LC 500, its continued lack of appeal to European eyes is mystifying.
In the year to June, the LC posted perhaps the greatest sales drop (58.5%) of any make or model across Europe. Which is proof, if proof were required that people’s taste is in their… well, perhaps you ought to complete that sentence for yourself.
Meanwhile, at the recent Los Angeles international motor show, Lexus announced the LC 500 Convertible, which had previously only been seen in concept form. What took them so long is a question I wouldn’t blame you for asking, especially once you cast your gaze upon the thing – because frankly it’s a stunner.
According to Lexus’ press release, a refreshingly competent piece of writing by comparison with its German opposition, Lexus engineers, as one might have expected, did their homework. Unsprung weight has been reduced in the front suspension to account for subtle changes in weight distribution over that of the coupé, while the rear suspension brace tower has been relocated. The brace itself is now made of die-cast aluminium to reduce weight.
Spring rates have also been revised to improve ride comfort. Beneath the bonnet, the 5.0 litre, direct injection V8, developing 471 bhp at 7,100 rpm and 398 lb/ft of torque, and mated to a 10-speed direct-shift automatic transmission is unchanged.
The alterations from coupé to convertible are striking insofar as they serve to make an already handsome design appear even more harmonious and better resolved than of yore – the LC joining the ranks of cars which take on another life entirely as drop-tops. To facilitate the conversion, changes were as one might expect, comprehensive. The most obvious being revisions to the boot area, where the profile is raised slightly and the rear spoiler has been broadened.
Now of course, styling is a subjective area, but in comparison to its competition, the LC 500 simply wipes the floor in terms of visual impact, surfacing, stance, and outright desirability – and that is before we get to matters of probable durability, finish, to say nothing of customer service. In the United States, they seem to understand this and there the LC sells in (one imagines) sustainable numbers. Here in Europe, their equivalents favour instead the chintz-palace S-Class Coupé, or the Capri-on-Steroids 8-Series. More fool them say I.
Now the above title did promise an element of the ridiculous, and who am I to deny you? This week, Mercedes formally announced the introduction of the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600, the production version of last year’s Ultimate Luxury concept – a vehicle so nakedly, distressingly ostentatious as to elicit anaphylactic shock in anyone unfortunate enough to behold it. And while we’re becoming inured to this parade of vulgar trinkets for the over-remunerated, that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s quite beneath contempt on just about any level one cares to mention.
Even more disheartening is this. Mercedes-Maybach’s Director of Product Management, Martin Hülder asserts that since its re-launch in 2014, over 45,000 Mercedes-Maybach branded S-Classes have been delivered worldwide. In fact, 2018 was its best ever year, with one in seven S-Class cars sold being of the be-Maybached variety. It will surprise almost nobody that a certain far-East command economy is where the bulk of these devices have ended up. Lucky them.
But not wishing to close on such a downbeat note, and because we haven’t heard that much from him of late, I proffer this nugget of insight from the stable genius of Carlsbad C.A. “The Mercedes-Maybach brand represents ‘Ultimate Luxury’ in its most contemporary, purest form”, says Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Daimler AG. “The brand’s style is embodied in sublime beauty, supreme aesthetics and elegance. In order to define the luxury of the future, we are taking the concept of Sensual Purity to the next level and transforming ourselves from a premium manufacturer to the world’s leading design brand.”
Ah Gorden, so nice to have you back. But do us a favour matey-boy and go study that Lexus. Study it well. And then maybe we’ll talk…