The Lexus brand is no stranger to this country, with many wealthy Indians privately importing Lexus sedans throughout the 1990s (a certain Harshad Mehta was one such individual, but he’s not a customer that Lexus is likely to want to remember). Back then, as now, a Lexus was renowned for its luxury, build quality, sophistication and reliability, and it was a surprise to many car enthusiasts that the brand didn’t seem to enter India officially, even well after the German Big Three came in and demonstrated that Indians had a hunger for luxury cars. There are two reasons for this — as a manufacturer, Toyota has been extremely cautious in India, preferring to wait and watch before making any major moves, and secondly, the luxury car market here is overwhelmingly dominated by diesel variants, whereas Lexus has steadfastly stuck to a petrol/hybrid strategy.
The company has finally taken the plunge, however, and it will have its task cut out for it, given the domination of the Germans (and a reluctance on the part of Indians to pay luxurylevel money for Japanese cars). That said, the three models Lexus has debuted have a lot going for them, and with more products lined up (from its F range of performance cars too), it’ll be interesting to sit back and see how the firm makes a dent in the Indian market. Speaking about Lexus’ plans for India, Lexus India senior vice president, Akitoshi Takemura said, “We are excited about what we can bring to the luxury market in India, where we see opportunities mapped to the remarkable growth the country is experiencing. This is just the beginning – we look forward to bringing more exciting products to India in the future.”
The Lexus brand was founded by Toyota in order to build ‘the world’s best car.’ After a few years of R&D, the Lexus LS 400 sedan became the first model to roll off the lines, in 1989. It is now Japan’s premiere producer of luxury cars. Other Japanese manufacturers that have luxury divisions include Honda (Acura) and Nissan (Infiniti).
On to the cars themselves, then. The gargantuan LX 450d SUV is a re-badged version of the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser LC200, and it’s the only diesel model in the company’s range (its price hasn’t been announced yet, but expect something in the region of Rs 2 crore). It borrows its massive 272 hp, 4.5-litre V8 diesel from the LC200, and is essentially the same car, structurally, only with a whole lot more luxury in the cabin and the Lexus design language written all over the exterior. Then there’s the ES 300h sedan, which calls the Toyota Camry Hybrid its cousin; again, as far as the mechanicals go, they’re similar, but the cabin has been lavished with many more features and higher quality materials. It uses the Camry’s 2.5-litre, fourcylinder petrol engine and an electric motor, paired to a CVT gearbox, for a combined output of 200 hp, and slots in between a Mercedes-Benz C-Class and an Audi A6 in terms of price (Rs 55.27 lakh, ex-showroom).
Lexus vs the world
The Lexus models launched in India will go up against competition as varied as the MercedesBenz E-Class, the Audi A6, the BMW 5 Series, the Porsche Macan and the Range Rover.
Elsewhere, the RX 450h stands out in that it isn’t based on any other Toyota model sold here. A 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol and an electric motor, mated to a CVT gearbox, make for a combined output of 308 hp, and this is an interesting vehicle because it’s been priced much higher (Rs 1.07/1.10 crore, ex-showroom) than the other cars in its segment, like the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC. In this stratosphere, it has the Porsche Macan in its sights, which is pretty serious competition. All these models will be available at guest experience centres located in New Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, and sales/ service facilities will also be available in Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kochi. Since the entire range is currently fully imported, and the Japanese yen is very strong, the prices announced are on the higher side, but Lexus will most likely look to rationalise prices as its innings gets off to a start; it will also look at local assembly.