Five Favorite Gifts with a Big Red Bow on Top

This was a year full of firsts for Victory & Reseda – or, rather, my automotive writing.

I could do a full "year in review" and attempt to recall everything that happened this year, but I'll spare you the bandwidth. In short, I am very grateful for the people I've met and interacted with on all sides of the automotive world. It is truly a joy to finally be able to work my true passion as an automotive scribe.

Some defining moments occurred that resulted in a full indoctrination with a brand I always wanted to cover – Lexus. The result yielded two reviews of their products on this site, with additional coverage of one of these products on Lavender Magazine. The Lexus CT 200h became the first automotive review with my byline on their online version of the LGBT publication covering the Twin Cities.

It is always good to have some form of history and reference with a brand. Having witnessed its birth in 1989, Lexus became a player in the luxury car market since day one. Though they received high praise in the beginning, there had always been criticism and doubts cast upon Toyota's premium label.

Yet, I always try to include them in the conversation – unless I get shouted down by fans of certain brands. In my mind, Lexus is amongst the brands I prefer in that arena. For me, they're very straightforward. Once I learn to use a particular feature – the Remote Touch, for example – then it becomes second nature for me to use it when necessary.

Lexus also feeds the geek in me. The technology, the approach to design and attention to detail…I can always find something exciting once I approach it from a different angle. That is what Lexus enables even the staunchest critic to do.

And, according to Lexus, they make great Christmas gifts!

As a way of celebrating the brand's impact on V&R and my automotive writing, I figured a Five Favorites post will do.

1990-1994 LEXUS LS: Toyota became serious when they wanted a flagship that could conquer the world. Their target was the Mercedes-Benz S-Class – a huge one, at that. To accomplish equity with the Merc, this Toyota had to be beyond anything they ever built. To further accomplish this mission, it had to not wear the Toyota badge in one of its most important markets – the USA. The result was the Lexus brand, with its marbleized showrooms and top shelf service treatment. On the floor of the showroom say the first LS: A rear-drive, V8-powered, technology laden tour de force. Everything was exacting, from panel gaps to the feel of the leather and wood. The way the 4.0litre V8 left its spot was amazing to see. Toyota built a Mercedes-Benz, from what we witnessed. Mission accomplished.

1991-2000 LEXUS SC: What do you do for an encore to the LS? You take one of Toyota's most prestigious vehicles in their home market – the Soarer – and adopt it to the standard Lexus consumers demand. The Soarer is a two-door personal coupe, the kind of car that would be supplanted by SUVs during the 1990s. There was still a market for luxury coupes since executives needed their own space to transact deals, show off clients and terrorize golf club parking lots. The SC became quite the popular option, grabbing its market segment for the first several years of its life. What I loved about the SC was that it never compromised. No matter how many number of cylinders were under the hood, the design never apologized for its roots and the luxury always accommodated drivers the way they wanted to be treated. Some may call the first SCs gaudy, over-the-top, too pretentious for even the most flamboyant of folks. Perhaps this was intended for Lexus to get those kind of customers in the door – rightfully, so.

2011 Lexus IS 250C 3

2000-Current LEXUS IS: Years after it met the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Toyota had another target to aim for: The BMW 3-Series. The question for Toyota was whether they could make a premium sports sedan with the moves of a 3-Series. The answer came in a rear-drive short stack that had an appetite for the tarmac. The first IS sedans (2000-2005) were sharp in every way. Geekery was on an all-time high when you factored in the dial-in-a-dial instrumentation and the detailing of every inch of the car inside and out. The best way to describe the first generation IS was hardcore. That hardcore philosophy continued into its SportCross wagon. So, why did they "civilize" the second generation (2006-Current)? Actually, they didn't. That is where the IS F comes in. Take the "civilized" chassis, drop a 5.0litre V8 under the hood and see what happens. Where the IS truly shined was through a personal benchmark in my life and career. My review of the IS 250 C became a defining point in this career. What else would you take to your final presentation in graduate school?

2005-Current LEXUS RX h: When Lexus introduced their first hybrid petrol-electric vehicle, either no one expected it to show up in the luxury ranks or they suddenly figured out that Toyota had bigger plans for its system. I was amongst the latter. It was a natural for Lexus to maintain its leadership in the luxury marketplace to play in the hybrid sandbox and placate the growing number of celebrities changing out their rides for the Prius. The idea was to get a hedge on fuel economy while cutting emissions. Yet, a consumer at a Lexus dealership would have to understand the scale of buying the RX with a hybrid drive system than a Prius when it comes to real world economy. Instead of a small four-banger tacked into an electric motor, there is Toyota's V6 in its place. Having seen the first one at the 2004 Chicago Auto Show, I knew that it would be a smash hit in its own right. It certainly helped continue the RX's leadership in its market segment, as others attempt to follow its lead.

2011-Current LEXUS CT 200h: It is worth repeating that any hybrid petrol (or diesel)-electric vehicle that could take a curve and excite the soul gets my vote. In both V&R and Lavender Magazine, the CT graced the interwebs with its golden sheen (with lime and yellow elements). It also made fans of those curious about the five-door, Euro-influenced compact self. Some may scoff at it being a hybrid, but take it on a curve. Let it grip through a wet surface. Play with the Drive Mode Select and find that happy medium. Oh, and match my consumption figure of 43.7MPG! You’ll know why I still have a fondness for the little Lexus.

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