Big Time

Further observations on Lexus’ 1989 gamechanger.

(c) : carsguide.com.au

Attempting to second-guess the United States customer has been the rock innumerable carmakers have perished upon over the past fifty years or so. It ought to be quite simple really. Large capacity engines, plenty of equipment, a sense of visual definition or style coupled with ease of operation. Durability too, since vehicles are likely to do large mileages in often hostile climatic conditions amid owners sometimes averse (it’s been alleged) to the prospect of preventative maintenance.

So much for generalisations, but those who have wilted under America’s often unyielding glare have largely failed to sufficiently cover the basics. Not so the Japanese, who like the Europeans before them learnt the hard way not only how difficult the US market can be to crack, but also how lucrative it could be if you Continue reading “Big Time”

Moonshot

In 1989, Toyota shot for the moon. Cars will never be made like this again.

(c) carsbase

We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” These are the much quoted words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1962, pledging his country’s commitment for the Apollo space mission.

The Apollo programme cost $billions and was only a qualified success, insofar as it did not precipitate a more widespread and far-reaching programme of space exploration. It did however succeed in demonstrating what the American government could do when the finest minds were provided with almost unlimited resources to Continue reading “Moonshot”

Sublime to Ridiculous

Taking lessons in style and taste from Japan. 

(c) Lexus.com

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 Continue reading “Sublime to Ridiculous”

Nut Job

Our correspondent’s mission for Myristica fragrans is interrupted by something shiny and yellow. 

All images (except where stated) by the author

Gulp. Sharp intake of breath. No, not because talking to the salesman makes me nervous but my first design review for this erstwhile design-centric website.

If you have yet to see my takes on design, prepare to be deflated. I like what I see. Well, sometimes. Then again, sometimes I’m horrified by what’s presented in front of me. But this particular instance I liked; a lot. An errand into town forced me past the row of car dealerships that inhabit the fringes of town. Virtually every make is available in a three mile corridor and if you can’t Continue reading “Nut Job”

Could Tiresias Have Foreseen This?

In 1998 the Lexus brand had only reached its ninth birthday. Up until 1998 it had two cars on sale in the Euromarket, the LS400 saloon and the GS300. With the LS200, Lexus extended its range into BMW 3-series territory. Was it a Good Thing?

1998 Lexus IS200: source

While consistency can be a bit tedious in the arts, in business it is generally a positive attribute. In some ways, Lexus had consistency nailed down. All their cars have been screwed together by black-belt, Olympic level robots and technicians.

The LS400 itself had already become a legend for quality. Intended to be the world’s best car until the next one came along, a case can be made that it is still the world’s best car when all measurable parameters have been balanced. In a more shallow way, Lexus did not manage consistency, not the kind valued by people who value consistency for its own sake and are utterly unwilling to Continue reading “Could Tiresias Have Foreseen This?”

Plugged-In Thinking From Lexus

As the motor industry presses towards widespread adaptation of electric vehicles, a notable voice sounds a cautious note.

Image credit: (c) insideevs

As a rule, the motor industry prefers to speak with a unified voice on the wider issues which affect its interests. Certainly, when it comes to the subject of electric vehicles, the direction of current can probably be best described as direct. Or to put it another way, on this subject at least, most automotive CEOs are broadly speaking, on board.

Ideally of course, having invested billions, they would much prefer to Continue reading “Plugged-In Thinking From Lexus”

A Cut Above

As Germany’s full-sized luxury GTs lurch further into decadence and creative atrophy, we appraise (and praise) a Lexus.  

Image credit: (c) Car and Driver

Heritage has become something of a double edged sword for carmakers nowadays. On one hand, it acts as emotional anchor for a marque’s visual identity, and employed with sensitivity and skill, lends a tremendous richness to what marketers might choose to describe as the ‘brand narrative’.

On the other hand however, the anchor analogy can also have a regressive influence, dragging the marque backwards, preventing designers from updating or reinventing a set of visual cues which may over time have lost relevance.

It’s as yet unclear to what extent BMW’s masters have elected to Continue reading “A Cut Above”

Manchester, umbrellas lost in

This is really about an advertisement. The image is from Car magazine, July 2008…

…back in the day when a) I still bought it and b) when it still carried lots of advertising.

The Lexus IS, as standard, conformed to the Lexus template of being well-made and not wholly satisfying to look at. All the reviews I looked at bang on about Lexus being conservative which if taken in aggregate is a conservative attack on conservative design and comfy driving. Motoring journalists have their own conservatism which is that cars are better being aggressive and sporty. How about that for self-reflexivity. Well, Lexus decided that there was nothing for it but to Continue reading “Manchester, umbrellas lost in”

IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective

Despite this particular group of people hardly being renowned connoisseurs of the finer things in life, manufacturers try their utmost to make the Frankfurt Motor Show a palatable experience for the press. Do they succeed?

DSC_0300

The IAA press days are all about hustle and bustle. Most attendees have appointments to make or deadlines to meet, which – coupled with the distances that need to be covered at Messe Frankfurt, not to mention the above average levels of dehydration, (courtesy of the halls’ air conditioning) one is afflicted with – can render grabbing a bite to eat a difficult necessity. Continue reading “IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective”

Micropost: Over the Curling Sky

Driven to Write has a thing about brightwork. We also have a thing about quality.

1994 Lexus LS400

The 1990 Lexus LS400 famously had nitrogen-filled tyres because mere air caused a resonance. Despite the car’s astonishingly careful conception, these aren’t much loved and few are they now in number. It’s successor (above) is a crouton in the same soup bowl.

Yesterday I got a chance to Continue reading “Micropost: Over the Curling Sky”

Sexing-Up Lexus

For years now, Lexus has stared enviously at Mercedes-Benz, hoping to emulate its success. Tired of second fiddle, is ‘the gentleman’ flinging his values on the fire?

Image: lexus.com

Last year, a former Browns Lane insider described the advent of the 1989 Lexus LS 400 to me as being “chilling in every respect”. One can be equally sure that in Munich, Ingolstadt and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, the intake of breath was no less sharp and the expletives no less lurid. That Lexus subsequently failed to achieve global cut-through over the intervening decades remains a matter for historians and academics to pick over, because the auguries at the time suggested Toyota would annihilate the opposition. Continue reading “Sexing-Up Lexus”

The Divorce of Form and Function

This brief post serves to notify readers that at Lexus the designers have finally separated form and function

2016 Lexus UX interior: source
2016 Lexus UX interior: source

This image shows the interior of the Lexus UX concept car. There are functions and there are forms and there is no apparent bridge between them. I don’t believe the person who created this image had any idea how these forms would be realised in production. I think it’s okay to do free-form sketching in the initial stages of a design programme. It’s essential, even. Usually then the “feeling” of the first loose sketches get transferred to the structure of the likely interior components with changes made to both as the iterations are iterated. Continue reading “The Divorce of Form and Function”

Geneva Bites – Japanese Concepts: The Bad

Roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas continues his trawl through the fleshpots of Geneva. Two concepts in particular captured his ire.

Image: autovia-media

Mazda RX-Vision:  A woefully silly car from a manufacturer which is getting so much right.

Lexus LF-FC:  A certain appealing lairiness, but they need to try harder.

2016 Lexus RX Is Given A Make-Over

These wilfully contrived C-pillars are a particularly nasty feature. I spent a very few minutes trying to see what the 2016 Lexus RX would look like with a revised sideglass and C-pillar. 

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You can see why the designer might do this but it still doesn’t make it right. On my revised version I scratched out the horrible bumper and sketched in some rectangles to suggest fog-lamps. Don’t look too close at the image. I don’t use Photoshop but a free programme called CrayonMoron.

Theme: Shutlines – The Fake Frameless Window Shutline

Isn’t it interesting how a design feature sometimes pops up in unexpected places, or in cars that are totally unrelated?

lexus_is_2006
2006 Lexus IS (wikipedia.org)

I lately crossed the way of a 2006 Lexus IS, and especially its rear door shutline (basically, that’s what I looked at on all cars this month). It has an interesting treatment with its horizontal top part joining the curve of the rear window. Haven’t I seen that before? Right, it was there on the early Imprezas. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The Fake Frameless Window Shutline”

A Photo for Sunday: 2001-2005 Lexus SC430

My doesn’t time fly. And why are so many of my Sunday photos red? 

2001 Lexus SC430 in Aarhus, Denmark
2001 Lexus SC430 in Aarhus, Denmark

“Breaking the copycat mould as crazy Lexus takes a swipe at Merc”, wrote Car on the front cover of their September 2000 edition. Lexus presented the SC430 first as a concept called the “Sport Coupe Concept”. The production car got a review in August 2001. So, this was one of those not-a-concept concept cars we could have discussed when ran our concept car theme in October 2015.

For the November 2000 article, Mike Duff made the point that Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 2001-2005 Lexus SC430”

Theme: Benchmarks – The Moving Goalpost

Legend has it that Lexus’ engineers explicitly used the 1991 BMW E-36 version of the 3 series as a benchmark for their 1999 IS200, right down to giving it rear wheel drive and a straight six engine.

1999 Lexus IS 200 - from Wikipedia.
1999 Lexus IS 200 – from Wikipedia. There’s a balance problem, isn’t there? The front of the car is visually lighter than the rear.

By the time the IS200 came out, the E46 had replaced the E36. The benchmark that Lexus had chosen was obsolete. At this point BMW had settled on a slow detachment from its roots as a “hard as nails” small sports saloon and was well on the way to becoming, in ordinary trim versions, a Munich Mondeo, though to be fair, that’s unfair to Ford’s Mondeo of the same period. As I see it, the car Lexus benchmarked was already Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – The Moving Goalpost”

Theme: Advertising – Off Message

Lexus’ recent creative review ditched more than the message…

Lexus-Poster-2.083_1200

All good advertising embodies an essential truth. For some years now for instance, Lexus has gone with the tagline ‘The Pursuit of Perfection’; a relatively believable goal to envisage. However, despite some success in the US market, Lexus remains stubbornly among the junior ranks of the European prestige car business. In a fit of insecurity, Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Off Message”