Launched by Toyota in the fall of 1989, the Lexus line represents the company's effort to create a world-class luxury-car brand. Groundwork for the Lexus line was laid in the mid '80s, when the company began tapping U.S. focus groups in an attempt to define design concepts best suited for American consumers.
In early 1989, Lexus unveiled its first two models, the entry-level ES 250 and the flagship LS 400. The LS 400 was lauded by both journalists and consumers alike for offering a stellar luxury-car experience, with a remarkably silent cabin and a refined engine. The cars were, however, panned by some for being somewhat less exciting than their European competitors because of bland styling and a suspension that placed plush ride quality over sporty handling dynamics.
By the early 1990s, the Lexus brand was expanded to other markets, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Additional cars were also added to the lineup, including the SC 300 and SC 400 coupes and the brand's first luxury performance sedan, the GS 300. Over the next few years, the company grew its line to include SUVs, with the addition of the LX 450 and RX 300. By the end of the decade, Lexus had sold over a million vehicles in the U.S. The 2000s saw Lexus proving itself a trendsetter with the launch of the world's first luxury hybrid SUV, the RX 400h.
2007 Lexus ES350
The new Lexus ES350 is powered by a V6 engine, dispatching 272 hp to the front wheels via a new six-speed manu-matic. The 0-to-60 mph time drops from a claimed 7.2 to 6.8 seconds yet torque steer remains effectively muffled. Building on another strength of the outgoing car, the ES now offers optional upgraded leather upholstery that is even softer than the standard stuff. Other new temptations include a glass roof that extends over the back seat as well as the fronts, and a reversing camera and sonar proximity sensors that take all the tiresome judgment out of parking. The standard equipment list now includes keyless ignition, seventeen-inch wheels, stability control, and eight air bags. Although the car casts the same shadow as before, there's an additional 2.2 inches between the axles, which not only helps the looks but also opens up the interior space a bit. Unlike those of many cars in this class, the ES350's rear seats should elicit no complaints from passengers.
2007 Lexus GS450h
A brand new model for 2007, the Lexus GS 450h is a hybrid powered luxury performance rear-drive hybrid sedan. The 2007 Lexus GS 450h isn't just your average trumped up hybrid sedan. The 2007 Lexus GS 450h delivers the performance of a modern V8 engine and sips fuel like a four cylinder; Lexus GS 450h smog forming emissions are 80% cleaner than the average car; the level of quiet during the electric-mode is half of that during normal engine operation and 0-60 mph is as quick as a Porsche 911 with Tiptronic. Under the hood the Hybrid Synergy Drive consists of a 3.5-liter all-aluminum V-6 generating 292 hp and 267 lb-ft, and two electric motors generating a peak 197 hp. Combined rating is 339 horsepower. Lexus has refined this synergy drive to be quieter, cleaner and quicker than its cousins.
2007 Lexus RX350
The RX 330 is being reworked for 2007 and is now renamed RX 350. Though external changes are minor, the changes made under its shapely exterior panels are significant. Now sitting under the hood for 2007 is a new 3.5-liter V6. The new all-aluminum engine has dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-I), which allows for greater torque over a wider power band. The RX 350 produces 270 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. The five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission combines for great fuel efficiency. The interior has all the fancy trimmings expected; beautiful leather and wood trim with heated power front seats and two driver seat memory settings, plus a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Standard on the RX 350 is a new tire pressure monitoring system. A sensor is placed on each wheel and warns you via a warning light when the pressure gets too low. Other safety features include various multi-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger, and roll-sensing front and rear head/side curtain airbags for all occupants.
In the years since its inception, the Lexus brand has distinguished itself time and again in quality and reliability surveys. The brand may not offer as much passion as its Teutonic rivals, but for drivers interested in vehicles that emphasize quality, dependability and comfort, the Lexus line up can't be beat.