When it comes to motoring, there is a burning question to which I am yet to find an answer: Why do many car companies today seem unable to get around to producing automobiles that don't break? We have decades of motoring history to look back on and produce fine machines that overcome problems that once plagued many cars. Some brands could never get their transmission systems to work perfectly. Some had problems with their brakes. Some had issues with the radiator. Most of these problems have been solved. But what is obvious today is that not all car problems have really gone away. They're just well hidden behind fancy warranty contracts and service agreements. In the past, one could buy a car from the dealer and perform cheap, regular checkups and maintenance at a simple garage. That was because the gadgetry and mechanics of the cars were simpler. Today, there is no way a local garage can fix your car. The workers there wouldn't even want to touch it. So, if contracts and warranty extensions were not an option, would you go for a car that just keeps running without breaking or would you buy one that had a history of doing just that?
Toppings are not everything
The Japanese turned the world of motoring around when they gave us cars that would go through extreme torture for you. OK, not all of them were beautiful to look at, but people bought them because they gave off a sense of value and reliability. Looks are important too, no doubt, but that's just the nutty topping on your ice cream. Who wants the topping without the ice cream? When I talk about Japanese cars, especially Toyota and Lexus, the first factor I mention is the reliability these cars offer their buyers. Way back in the mid-1980s, Toyotas never looked all that great. Instead, it was the Germans and Americans who were producing cars that garnered a lot of points for looks. The Lexus changed that perception, especially in the early 1990s, and gave most premium car manufacturers a run for their money. What the boffins at Lexus did was follow the right way to do things. First, they ensured that their cars would perform their basic functions well - drive for hundreds of thousands of kilometres without breaking down. Second, they added modern gadgetry and looks. This brings me to the 2011 Lexus LS460L which I think is a perfect example of trouble-free premium car ownership. The design hasn't changed significantly over the past few years and as usual, the first impression you get when you step into the cockpit of the LS series is that of finesse and luxury. The Lexus badge on the steering wheel speaks confidently of both indulgence and reliability. Even with all the luxury that surrounds the occupants, you can still feel the closeness that this brand shares with Toyota. The basic character of both brands being the same, the Lexus does the luxury part a lot better.
The dashboard controls are easy to use and well positioned, as are the passenger seat adjustments which are also located near the gear shift. A lot of attention to detail has gone into the rear seats which can accommodate three people but would be perfect for two, especially with the drop-down massive armrest that houses the controls for the massage seats and rear seat audio visual entertainment. The leg room is abundant - as can be expected from a car in this segment and both the build quality and leather upholstery feel rich. The LS460L handles pretty well and the steering feels perfect for a car of this size. Highway drives are what this car was designed for, but it's powerful and easy to manoeuvre in the city as well. The rear-wheel-drive transmission combined with the torque-filled, yet smooth power is what gives this car its character.
Silent but splendid
One area, however, where I feel the Lexus lacks in terms of appeal is the absolute lack of feedback from the road or the environment. Once inside the cabin of the LS460L, the sound insulation along with the legendary Lexus suspension ensures that neither the driver nor the passengers are affected by anything outside the car. I like cars that respond to slight bumps on the road and those that make a bit of wind noise. Inside the Lexus, you don't feel a thing. The car just keeps running. Music is probably the only thing you will hear and with the premium Mark Levinson sound system, the notes are truly pleasing. I would nevertheless rate this car among the first few in this segment for its history of reliability and for its luxury aspects - a combination that is still rare in the industry.