Blog: Dave LeggettLexus IS

Dave Leggett | 17 November 2005

The trip to Rome to have a go on the latest Lexus was informative and worthwhile, I think (there were a couple of news items on just-auto that you may have seen - one was on European volume targets, click link at foot of this posting). The new model is a whole lot better than the outgoing one on pretty much any measure you care to mention. The diesel engine (Lexus’ first) was well received by the journalists I spoke to – many preferring it to the 2.5-litre petrol unit in the 1S 250.

And it’s the diesel engine IS that is the one squarely aimed at raising Lexus’ game in Europe. Also, the interior was very well put together and refined (light years ahead of the 1980s’ Nissan feel of the outgoing one); the car comes with the kind of electronic bells and whistles (like the Pre-Crash Safety system) that enable the brand to hold its head high and proclaim premium innovator status. Clearly, the Lexus brand image is improving and has been for some time as better models have arrived.

And it’s a competitive package price, too. Should rivals like BMW be losing sleep over Lexus’ European prospects? I think not. The volumes planned for Europe are still pretty low and there is some evidence that the overall premium pie is growing (share of the European car market taken by premium products is on a growth path). And even Lexus people acknowledge that some markets, such as Germany, will always be more difficult than others.

But it will be no holds barred for Lexus in places like Russia and China.

So, BMW 3 Series or Lexus IS? Not such a daft question any more.

But the Sat-Nav in the IS did go a bit mental. One of the Lexus PRs blamed Sat-Nav glitches on Italy (plausible in some ways perhaps) but it was a little bit annoying when we realised that we were cutting the trip to the airport fine with no room for massive detours (okay, the plane may have waited but we didn’t fancy the ironic cheers from our colleagues).

Myself and driving partner Dean Slavnich (Editor, European Automotive Components) had a slightly uncomfortable half an hour trying to make up time after inadvertently leaving the programmed route (‘what happened to that chapel where we were supposed to turn right 5kms ago?’). The Sat-Nav lady was all over the shop at one stage (‘200 metres, u-turn, turn left 100 metres, reverse into ditch 2 metres, dig hole 10 metres, hover, hold….and breathe out’). And then she decided she had had enough of us and we were therefore left to the hardcopy maps. Funny old girl. Good as gold on the previous day's route, though.

EXCLUSIVE: ITALY: Lexus aims for European volume boost with diesel engine IS model


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