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When you consider the Lexus brand, it’s fair to say two things will immediately spring to mind: benchmark luxury and a customer service ethic that is hard to surpass.
These two core brand values have been at the very heart of Lexus DNA since 1983, when former Toyota chairman and founder, Eiji Toyoda, gave his engineers and designers the ultimate challenge – to build the best luxury car in the world.
His principle KPIs stipulated the car must be capable of 155 mph (250km/h), achieve 22.5mpg (10.5L/100km) and record a coefficient of drag (Cd) less than 0.30 – all of which were unheard of for a luxury sedan in 1983.
It would take six long years, 1400 engineers, 450 prototypes, and 4.5 million kilometres before the Lexus LS400 was finally launched on the world.
Luxury had just taken on a whole new meaning – and all this from a first attempt.
When it came to customer service, Lexus injected the same dose of obsessive passion it had applied to the LS400 and extended it to the entire ownership experience.
In fact, they had issued the ‘Lexus Covenant’ to the entire dealer network in 1987, well before they opened the doors for business.
The crux of that document is summed-up best in the lines:
"Lexus will do it right from the start.
"Lexus will have the finest dealer network in the industry.
"Lexus will treat each customer as we would a guest in our home."
Twenty-six years on and those core brand values are just as solid. Only now, there are eight model ranges encompassing countless variants across petrol and hybrid drivetrains, including our newest long-term tester, the Lexus IS300h F Sport.
But rather than going through our usual one-week road test, we wanted to experience the Lexus buying experience for ourselves when we collected our new car from Lexus of Chatswood, on Sydney’s North Shore.
Right from the get-go, buyers can experience a level of customer service that many other carmakers can only dream about. It doesn’t get any more personalised than being greeted by a congratulatory message on a big widescreen TV behind reception.
It’s a nice sign (pardon the pun) and immediately followed by the offer of a freshly brewed macchiato by assistant sales manager, Kane Patel, who also doubled as the in-house barista.
After a brief chat over coffee, Kane handed me the driver’s manual and associated paperwork before the two of us climbed aboard for a thorough orientation around the raft of on-board technology and features on our IS300h.
Clearly, this is no rush job. Everything from pairing your phone through the car’s Bluetooth system (which can be either dead-simple or frightfully frustrating) to navigating around the infotainment system using the computer-mouse-aping controller is properly explained and demonstrated until you absolutely ‘get’ it.
The latest navigation system also allows access to SUNA live traffic updates, and there’s the ability to link the dash-mounted 7.0-inch and 4.3-inch instrument cluster displays. It’s a clever system that enables the driver to view data from the audio, mobile phone and navigation system on the screen in front of the driver.
It’s not essential, but buyers choosing the Lexus IS300h over its petrol-powered siblings will likely appreciate a more scientific description of the car’s drivetrain above and beyond the fact that it’s simply a fuel-efficient hybrid.
While the IS250 sticks with a 2.5-litre V6, which has been around for over a decade, and the Lexus IS350 continues with a 3.5-litre vee-configured six-cylinder mated to an eight-speed auto, the IS300h combines a 2.5-litre four-cylinder ‘Atkinson Cycle’ petrol engine with a single, rear-mounted electric motor and underfloor-mounted battery pack for considerably better fuel economy.
Where the IS250 and IS350 are both relatively thirsty for the segment at 9.2L/100km and 9.7L/100km respectively, our hybrid claims to use just 4.9L/100km – in-line with the most frugal German auto diesel rivals. We certainly look forward to testing this claim over the next couple of months that we have with the car.
Importantly, Kane also explains the Lexus warranty terms covering our IS300h: 48 months or 100,000 kilometres for the car, while the battery pack attracts its own warranty period of eight years or 160,000km.
There’s no capped-price servicing, but service intervals are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres. The real kicker, though, is that your Lexus dealership also provides a free Lexus loan car while the car is in the workshop, as well as collecting and returning your car to and from your home or workplace.
The entire Lexus experience is capped-off with a beautifully presented picnic box full of luxury foodstuffs and beverages (which the CarAdvice team enjoyed greatly!).
Stay tuned for our second long-term report on our IS300h in a few weeks.
Images by Christian Barbeitos.