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High End Luxury Cars

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  • carnaughtcarnaught Posts: 1,580
    So, if the Lexus is "yawningly predictable", it sells cars, so you can't blame them.

    I agree with you, BTW, about the Avalon's resemblance to the LS430. But....the C-class Mercedes resemble the S-class even more so. It's family resemblance (Mercedes family, in this case are prettier).
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Sure can't, good quality will always sell to an extant. Combine that with their dealership practices and you've got a winner for most people, just not for the enthusiasts.

    M
  • carnaughtcarnaught Posts: 1,580
    I consider MYSELF an enthusiast and Lexus' appeal to me. Regarding your comment.....I "resemble" that.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    But you own a Benz right?

    M
  • carnaughtcarnaught Posts: 1,580
    Right! current cars.....2003 E-Series, 2001 LS430, 2002 Infiniti G35.
  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,683
    how's that G35?

    mecr1 - regardless of who makes a performance suv - they should not be intended as performance vehicles. Very dangerous in my opinion. They will appeal to a crowd that will drive them recklessly and all of our insurance costs will rise as a result.
  • carnaughtcarnaught Posts: 1,580
    The G35 is fast and fun to drive. The quality of materials and dealer practices are much below Lexus and Mercedes, more on the order of "Nissan +".
  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,683
    Sat in a Q45 recently at a shopping mall near me and felt the same way about the materials.

    In Merc1's germancarfan link I read another one of those posts about how one feels a certain exhilarating feeling driving a German car. Now I've driven the old Audi 5000, the A-8, the old 7-series, the 5 series, the old (quite often) and new S and the old E-class (also quite often). Maybe I'm missing it but I never got the uplifting feeling that others advertise. In fact I've concluded it's psycholigical in nature unless you are dealing with an AMG or M. I've never driven either of the latter but I can buy the exchilaration argument on those custom-like cars at least.

    But while the more common sedans are all excellent cars I find the LS430 rivals or surpasses every one of them and the GS is right there with its competitors. Am I missing this exhilaration. Do you get it in your E-class vs the LS430 or is it indeed a psychological thing?

    Merc1 - you'll like this one. I was reading a story about one of saddam's high henchman that the allied forces attacked and they referred to his car as a superlux German or Japanese sedan. So was it an MB or a Lexus?
  • eric312eric312 Posts: 71
    I am looking to buy a 2001 740i with a sport package and about 25,000 miles on it. What would be a good price for such a car. Also was looking at the new E320 and 2001 S430 (roughly the same price range), any comments on similiarities, differences, preferences etc. appreciated.
    Thanks.
  • carnaughtcarnaught Posts: 1,580
    In answer to your question about the LS430 vs. E-Class.....the E is definitely more "fun" to drive. The road feel and suspension are just more satisfying and confidence inspiring. Even though both cars are tight, the Benz feels like a orthopedic brace with vault-like security. The LS is more luxurious with easier, more empiric controls; i.e., top notch ergonomics and comfy leather that makes you feel pampered and very roomy, compared to the more personal and intimate feel of the Benz. In short, I enjoy both cars, but for different reasons. That's why Mrs. Carnaught and I change off cars occasionally.
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    antiosama, please send me an email - pat@edmunds.com - thanks!
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I hadn't heard anything about that. I did see where they said one of his sons has (or had now) a "fleet" of Rolls-Royces. I guess he won't be ordering a Phantom anytime soon. Those types of associations with their cars (Lexus or Mercedes) isn't good, but hey the money crowd drives the same car all over the world I guess. In that country it could have been either. I see a lot of Toyota Land Crusiers on the news there as well as 80's Mercedes.

    Now you're right part of the exhilaration that German car fans speak of is a psychological thing. It comes from Mercedes being the first car around and all the times their name has been mentioned with greatness through the years, whether it be racing or innovations. Believe it or not being priced higher also carries a certain amount of currency with some. The rest of it is more or less what carnaught said. Mercedes' have always felt like they track down the road better than the rest, and their high-speed stability is often noted in roadtests, here is where I think Mercedes is better than anyone, including BMW. The tradeoff is that they won't change direction as quickly as say a BMW will, but BMWs are more nervous (relative) at high speeds.

    Now the AMG products are even more so. Car and Driver's review of the new E55 is a testament to that. Road and Track even picked the old E55 over the current M5 when it came down to high-speed stability. Now the flipside of that is the here, few people are going to drive as fast so that above 100 mph German "thing" is lost on the average BMW, Audi and Mercedes owner. Porsche owners, well they're slightly different for the most part. But even with their regular models a S500 Sport is just tighter than a LS430 with it's Euro option. A car like the previous 740i Sport was outright sporting for it's class, as is the A8. I can only imagine how the new 745 Sport models feel on the road with their 19-inch wheels. The new A8 has gotten sportier too. The LS430 is easily the "softest" car in this class now. But I see where you're coming from, if those things are not important you won't see it.

    M
  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,683
    There are TLC's all over the place over there.

    As much as I've read about the TLC I never realized how revered these vehicles were outside the US, particulary the mid-east, South America and Australia.

    Man - those pix in Iraq are incredible. It's great to see people so happy.
  • sysweisyswei Posts: 1,804
    This brings to mind VW commercials from (I think) the late 80's. They started advertising 'farphigneuggen' (someone please correct the spelling), which they defined as something like the 'special feeling you get when driving a Volkswagen'. I remember my boss at the time saying, 'well, VW doesn't have anything that Honda buyers want, so they have to make something (fake) up that Honda can't respond to'. Not trying to start an arguement, just an annecdote.
  • rubicon52rubicon52 Posts: 191
    I've seen a number of posts from MB fans bragging about MB's innovative technology and being critical of the Lexus approach of copying the technology and refining it. It seems to me that the MB buyer is paying for MB's R&D and (to some extent) Lexus's R&D. The Lexus buyer, on the other hand, is getting a more refined version of the technology without paying for the full cost of development. Wouldn't any business person jump at the chance of having his competitor pay for part of his R&D? What am I missing?
  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,683
    Your not missing anything as far as I'm concerned. It's smart business. Microsoft's been doing it for years and last time I looked they had the highest market cap on the planet.

    It's really a braggintg rights vs. smart business thing. Who's smarter - the guy who innovates and wants to be the innovation leader or the guy who innovates occasionally and perfects the innovation of others. The first guy becomes what i call the "technologist" and chases a bunch of things the expensive way. Some of the innovations never become mainstream, aren't practical or are always problematic. How many cars have ABC - maybe 3 or 4% of MB's. Bad business decision. Maybe that's also why MB is having these reliability issues. It's not the pure bread auto items that cause the problems its all that technology that doesn't work the way it was envisioned that they put around them. But they can say they are the innovation leader and the enthusiasts and the auto rags buy it hook line and sinker. But the business/finance crowd has a totally different view. Hence Daimler trades at a 5x multiple while Toyota trades at more than triple that.

    Now Toyota's approach is a lot smarter as far as I'm concerned. They develop the things that are, or become popular items but many of the enthusiast don't want to recognize. Witness merc1's comment about nav systems. In my opinion its pretty embarrassing to MB that a Camry or Corolla has a better nav system than an S-class. Who's smarter - the people who perfected a nav system and pushed it across the whole platform or the people who developed an imperfect ABC system and can only place it on a small percentage of cars. The answer is pretty obvious to me and to Wall street. But that is not what many enthusiasts care about. They only want to look at hard core auto development and in that viewpoint things that lead to bragging rights are more important than near perfect reliability, great nav systems or great stereos.

    I'm a realist. I care about things that work perfectly almost always - that I use or enjoy almost all the time, rather than bragging about having something different, that causes poor reliability and is rarely needed in the first place.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Now you bring up a very good point. A Mercedes-Benz customer is indeed paying for the R&D that goes into such things as active suspension......and Lexus is smart to take Mercedes' technologies and refine, and improve upon them....the break is that lots of people like having the original item...not the come from behind one. There is room for both camps, hence Lexus and Mercedes and BMW all selling over 200K cars a year.

    ljflx,

    How is ABC a bad business decision when Mercedes-Benz is making money hand over fist? I know you break these things down in the business manner and you're good at it, but the European car community just isn't *as* driven by that. Sure they want to make money, but they always keep the enthusiast in mind also. Thats why a NAV system isn't as important to me as a new suspension technology is. Yes a common everyday Toyota may have a better NAV system but when a car has a V8 or V12 capable of performing miracles nobody is going to care about a NAV system. I personally would never buy a car like an Acura TL and pay 2K for a "map", that is ridiculous. If it's standard equipment fine, but as option it's a waste in my opinion. This whole thing about NAV systems is funny to me because just like the Germans aren't that good at it, the same thing could be said of the Japanese when it comes to styling. Styling being a trivial thing among Japanese luxury car fans. Why, because the Japanese aren't any good at it.

    Wall Street doesn't carry much weight when it comes to car development. Nor does the average high-end luxury car buyers car about which automotive stock is trading at what, unless they have some of it.

    This constant following of German brands by the Japanese only adds luster to the German brands for some.

    M
  • tasillotasillo Posts: 51
    As I don't visit this site every day, I was surprised by the volley of comments between the Lexus camp and the Merc/BMW devotee's It was quite interesting to me as we own both Lexus and BMW vehicles.

    I would agree 100% that for high-speed handling, roadholding, stability and braking, the German marques hold an edge. However, that edge is narrowing every day. My 740iL is a tremendous long-haul bullet, really coming into it's own at speeds above 80mph. Below that threshold however, the Lexus is the better daily driver. From an ownership standpoint however, Lexus clearly has set the bar that BMW and Mercedes are playing catch-up to.

    The most disappointing aspect or car ownership is the "aggrivation" factor. The Germans unfortunately, own this category. Whether it's a balky trip computer, inoperative central locking, noisy A/C or routine maintenance, BMW certainly is lacking in the responsiveness department compared to Lexus. My feeling is that the mechanical and styling/design trends set by the Euro's have been easier for the Japanese to implement into their vehicles than the electronic innovations offered by Japan have been for the Euro's to perfect. I agree with merc1 that I would never select a vehicle based on the NAV system. But if it has it and I paid for it, it better work and work well. BMW (and Mercedes) CD-ROM based NAV technology is dismal compared to the Japanese (and Americans). Quality of assembly and longetivity of trim components and body hardware is also lacking compared to Japan. Finally, while I don't have one, please remember the BMW engine debacle of the mid 90's with aluminum blocks failing at extremely low mileages due to the sulfur content in US gasoline. Many owners were out 7-10k replacing engines in expensive vehicles, although eventually BMW made most owners whole again. Regardless, the resale of these vehicles took a big hit.

    I realize I'm comparing BMW, not 'Benz to Lexus. I just believe that both cultures do some things extremely well and then do some things with tremendous mediocrity. As a car enthusiast, I respect all marques, but really think the Japanese have set the ownership bar and the europeans are struggling to catch up. As cars get more complex, the Japanese will gain an advantage as their skills integrating complex electronics into vehicles seem to be well ahead of the Europeans, witness the new 7 series.

    Anyway, there's certainly room on the American road for both groups. As the old saying goes, "you pay your money and you take your choice".
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    Gosh. I thought this firefight was over, but always fun to come back in for a few rounds?

    * It would seem to me that everyone has opinions on issues like the ?copying?. IMHO, no one is an authority, self-appointed or not.

    * In my opinion, subjective stuff like anyone?s assertions aren't 'facts', they are just opinions just like my opinions are just opinions. It?s subjective because it can?t be measured by an objective yardstick. ?Looks like, sorta like, reminds me of? yeah, maybe. Copy no.

    * It's interesting to kick around points of view here on Edmunds, but the only 'authority' at work in the end is the car-buying marketplace.

    All that being said, I of course, like my own opinions and theories the best.

    The Theory of Copying ? Or Never Let a Really Good Idea Go Unstolen

    * Toyota entered the Luxury car market in the U.S. long after BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac, Lincoln, Rolls Royce, etc. made names for themselves, earned their wings, created an brand and image, got loyal customers. Toyota did it because those folks left a big wide opportunity for them.

    * One of the challenges for Toyota ( and for Infiniti and to a lesser extent Acura ) was how to create a package that had the right mix of features, feel, style, performance and service, at the right price points, with a car that was adequately differentiated without being startling from a styling point of view. Given all the existing players, their model?s form factors, geometries of given class entries, limitations imposed by physics, materials sciences and reproducibility, the trick was to ?fit in? and ?stand out? at the same time.

    * With all of the strengths that the competition brought to bear: strong mature brands, loyal customers, widespread distribution and effective logistics - Toyota would have to find an edge.

    * They had three strong things in their favor:
    - deep pockets - they have the most efficient factories, best profitability and highest 'market cap' of any car manufacturer
    - a 'platform' approach to design that allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility in vehicle size, shape and dynamics while holding down R&D and sharing learning across 100,000's of vehicles.
    - the ability to produce the most reliable cars available due to the Toyota Production System (which is highly differentiated from MB, BMW, GM, Ford, etc. and was first developed in the 1970?s)

    * The research that they did must have shown them that the attackable weakness, across the board in the "luxury" market, was disappointing reliability in most brands, often arrogant dealerships, poor service and frequent part scarcity.

    So they did the obvious:

    - Leveraged all of their strengths. They spent a lot of money. They took advantage of their platforms and most importantly, the fact that they could build them in factories that are more efficient with better* suppliers than market incumbents. They do seek perfection, because failure to do so means money, time and human labor are wasted on creating defective products. Their automobiles have achieved a level of reliability, availability and quality* that no other car company can match at ANY price point. The remarkable thing is that these levels of achievement are across all of their products.

    - They borrowed (or copied) features, feel, and styles that were accepted in the market and combined them to create a ?fit in and stand out? model line. They hit the performance targets on the nose including horsepower, torque, and handling.

    - Built a standalone sales and service organization without peer from scratch.

    From their perspective this market was 'ripe for the picking' and pick it they did.

    Epilog:

    You know, there used to be TV stores all over the U.S. with sets from Motorola, Zenith, RCA, GE. They required delivery assistance, lots of service and a life time of adjustments. They lasted a few years and had to be upgraded. They were leading technology. Their advantage was brand, merchandising and local presence. They left the same kind of market entry for Japanese competition as the car companies have.

    The only way Sony, JVC, etc. could enter the market was to ?copy? what they had and make them service free, easy to use and self-adjusting. They made products that lasted for a very long time.

    The other guys aren?t in that market anymore. They stopped being technology leaders at the peak of their market leadership as the new entrants had to figure out how to make their sets work better, last longer and work out of the box without service for years. You don?t upgrade their sets. They aren?t designed to be ?serviced? after sale.

    Did the Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and JVC sets look like Zenith, Motorola, RCA and GE. Sure they did ? for a while. Four legs ? round or square, hifi then stereo sound, built in record players and radios, sure. Now that the other guys are gone, they set the styling.

    For the record, the US patent and trade market office shows 8,060 issued patents assigned to Toyota. There are 2,227 assigned to Daimler Benz.

    I think this story is playing out just the same as TV sets.
  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,683
    Great post.
  • sysweisyswei Posts: 1,804
    Thanks for your comments, tasillo. I think we should all pay attention to commentary from people who have actually OWNED both German and Japanese product, as you can relate the total long-term ownership experience, not just the experience from a test drive.

    Footie, I especially liked your comparison of Toyota vs Daimler-Benz patents. There is more to innovation than the exterior styling of a vehicle (pay attention, Merc1, though exterior styling is still a matter of debate/opinion).
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Who ever said that styling was an innovation? Clearly I never, ever stated that.

    tasillo,

    Very interesting post. I cannot take issue with most of it. I'm not knocking Lexus for their quality or anything on that level, its the other side, the enthusiasts side that finds their cars lacking. About the two different cultures, that is the same thing I stated on the News and Views boards. The Germans and Japanese just have a different concept of luxury. German carmakers didn't understand or care about lots of things they thought were trivial like cupholders, stereos, or nav systems. They simply didn't see those things as being important, as they weren't in Germany. Not until customer here demanded them did they act. Thing thing that gets me is that some speak of the Germans' cars as having complete junk for their NAV, stereo systems etc. Obviously it can't be that bad as some try to make it seem other wise the cars wouldn't continue to sell year after year. I also disagree with out about material and mechanical longevity, or at least when it comes to Mercedes-Benz. I totally disagree. MB's aren't falling apart any higher rate than any Toyota/Lexus product is.

    I do agree that reliability is not a negotiable thing, for the most part. Agreed, all cars should be reliable, but like footie stated Lexus had the chance to start from scratch and address every weakness the existing luxury brands had. That in itself was stunningly brilliant.

    footie,

    The number of patents means what? Are you saying that Toyota has contributed more to advancement of the automobile than Mercedes-Benz? I hope not. You do realize that you can get a patent for simply improving an existing idea? I bet if we look at that list Mercedes-Benz has more firsts than anyone else, only Cadillac or Peugeot would be close. Having researched patents before I can tell you that just because someone has a "patent" doesn't mean it revolutionized anything.

    M
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    Patents are a way of protecting intellectual property for a period of time.

    Almost all of them are incremental, because true innovations are rare. However, none of us want to ride around today with ABS braking systems that were developed and patented in the 50's and 60's. Good ideas, even great innovations, require refinement and testing before being widely deployed in marketplaces.

    Sometimes history even loses track of who was first on very major stuff.

    The oldest patent that I can find for disc brakes and ABS was filed in 1949 by Dunlop Rubber Company in the UK and granted in 1952. It wasn't Japanese or German because I would expect that they were still rebuilding after the war. Have you found earlier ones?

    Regards
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    No I haven't looked recently, but when I did before Diamler-Benz (before Chyrsler) had a plenty registered as firsts. Even more in Europe.

    M
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    I have scoured the Patent site and can't find anything that identified a patent as a 'first'. That would be very difficult anyway, since so much is incremental. Also, any given patent has to be a 'first' of whatever it is that is being patented or it wouldn't get patented.

    About the best you can do is an advanced search on a subject and look for the oldest patent listed. Then you can go back to the oldest first patent in the referenced patents until you run it to ground.

    The EU and US patent systems are cross referenced too. When you file patents they are generaly filed in country of origin and through international clearing houses like the EU Patent Office and Japan.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I'm not talking uspto.gov, I'm talking about what Diamler-Benz lists themselves as having patented first. Some they list as being firsts other they listed as being an "existing feature" that they improved upon or modified.

    M
  • ejerodejerod Posts: 86
    You guys are smart !!! Lol, I've enjoyed reading the recent posts, especially those of Rubicon52. You sound like a stock analyst to me. Great speeches guys/girls. I have to agree that the Germans are playing catch up when it comes to reliability of any new technology they introduce. The best possible merger would be MB or BMW with Toyota or Honda. Think of the products that would produce ? Or maybe Porsche with Nissan ? Whoa, great speed, handling reliabilty and technology that would cause even the geekiest techno freak to go "whoa!!!" I think in the future there will be mergers of this sort as the world economy continues to unite. Don't get me wrong, I love my Benzes and my Lex, but yesterday I saw the new Nissan Maxima for the first time. I was so impressed I went by a dealership to get a closer look. Sure the materials inside look cheap, but for 35k you get a whole lotta car. No, I'm not buying one, but this is just an example of what the Japanese are so good at doing, taking current technology and upping the ante.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    The S350, A8 3.7, 735i, and XJ8 3.5SE, all small V8's except for the Benz which actually has a 3.7L V6, not a 3.5L like it's badge would suggest.

    A8 - "The cabin architecture is just as fine as the exterior styling. Nobody does interiors better than Audi and this is one of the maker's best. Clean and simple instrument binnacle....Move off it's a quick car...the fastest here. It's the sportiest car here."

    S350- "The Benz is the least suited at charging on the twisties, yet as good as any car at devouring the motorway miles. Wind noise is better than the Jaguar, and tyre noise is better than the Audi. It's a handsome, if conservative shape, more modern than the Jaguar, more stately than the Audi and better balanced than the 7. The cabin is fetching. The Quality of materials use is the best here and there is a solidity and built-for-life feel about the Benz. You can see why the S dominates this class, outselling it's rivals in virtually every country....The Benz feels the best made and probably offers the best prestige, despite its ubiquity. Yet it's not going to win here. In V8 guise it may win.....As a V6 it can't quite match it's 8-cylinder oppostion."

    735i - "The BMW is the best on the motorway, has the most refined powertrain, is the most relaxing to drive, has the most room and ticks more luxury car boxes than any other. But I can't live with the those looks or controls. This BMW is badly let down by it's design....But the more I study and stare at a 7-Series, the worse it looks. It's a mess especially around that twin layer tail. The interior is just as bad.........."

    XJ8 - "The power-to-weight ratio is also best in class, shading the A8. It doesn't acclerate as har as the Audi and has a slower top speed (blame blunter aerodynamics). Step behind the wheel.......and the it feels like a more old-fashioned car than the Audi or 7-Series. A classic car, almost, both inside and out. Old fashioned it may be...but still handsome and classy. Inside the car feels cosy, warm. There is the low-speed magic carpet ride of the XJs of yore mixed with almost sports saloon-like sharpness when the going gets fast. No car in this comparison has better ride/handling mix."

    "These cars from Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi and BMW have never been so evenly matched. With cars this good every buyer is a winner."

    The A8 was declared the winner.

    "I'd buy the Audi....its more involving mien may make for a marginally less relaxing drive, bu it is still a brillian fast cruiser. It offers the the strongest engine, best cabin and doesn't lose space or praticality....the final clincher for me is the shape;s sheer desirability. A piece of sculture........"

    I agree.

    M
  • aki86aki86 Posts: 15
    what country is that from?
  • magnetophonemagnetophone Posts: 605
    Car is based in the UK.

    The A8 is my favorite of the list, but it doesn't sell too well in England.
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