What is in this article?:
- Lexus: We Can Keep Loyalists Happy Despite Performance Push
- More to Come
Models like the IS, NX and RC don’t mean Lexus is abandoning its loyalists, who traditionally prefer softer-riding vehicles such as the RX, LS and ES.
Lexus RC due this year in U.S.
WHISTLER, BC, Canada – In its bid to overhaul its stodgy image and win a new generation of buyers, Lexus has been on a mission to boost its performance credibility.
Last year in the U.S., theluxury brand released a new generation of its IS midsize sport sedan and later this year will launch a new small CUV, the NX, and a mid-large performance coupe, the RC and RC F. The NX boasts a turbocharged 4-cyl. and the RC F a 450-hp-plus V-8 engine.
However, Lexus has sold millions of vehicles over the years, including the popular RX CUV and ES sedan, often to repeat customers who value a quiet, comfortable ride above all else.
But the buyer who wants a more exciting driving experience and those who prefers a softer, more sedate ride don’t have to be mutually exclusive, a senior Lexus executive says.
“I look at it like (Lexus loyalists) certainly appreciate a quiet car that’s comfortable to drive,” Brian Smith, vice president-marketing for Lexus in the U.S. tells WardsAuto in an interview here. “But even our traditional buyers aren’t saying they don’t like the passion that we’re bringing to the product lineup.”
And if comfort-focused Lexus buyers do have a problem with the move toward more invigorating ride and handling, Smith says the brand has a solution, in the form of Drive Mode Select.
Over the past few years, Lexus has been rolling out the feature, which can vary throttle, suspension and transmission calibrations depending on the mode setting, in refreshed and fully revised models.
Almost two years ago, Lexus installed Drive Mode Select in the refreshed version of the LS large sedan. Normal, Eco and Sport modes are available, with another setting, Sport Plus, in the F Sport grade of the LS.
“There’s a vehicle that was very much designed for our traditional buyer base but because of the mode select feature there’s such variety now between the (Normal) and the Sport Plus modes,” Smith says. “It’s attracting people that would have never considered even that class of car in the past.”
Buyers of the F Sport LS grade are trending five years younger than the typical LS customer, whose average age is 60.
“The vehicle is still quiet and comfortable, but depending on your mood or the road conditions you can dial up (the sport quotient) now,” Smith says. “To me that’s the game-changer in the product lineup.”