Opulence or at the very least, being thought of as doing well in life seems to be the goal of many Zimbabweans when it comes to vehicle purchases. ”Kunyaradza vavengi” which translates to “Silencing the haters” in the local Zimbabwean Shona language is what many of us ‘Zimbos’ strive for.
As a result, there are go-to’s Zimbabweans love, all thanks to the phenomenon of brand perception and association. German brands like BMW and Audi or British brands like Land Rover and Jaguar do ooze that ‘Mbinga’ or ‘Mbingaret’ vibe but none of them come close to the clout associated with owning and driving a Mercedes. Models such as the C Class, E Class, S Class and ML/GL reign supreme here in ‘Zimboland’, as they are the preferred weapons of choice to indeed ‘silence the haters’.
In a way, those that do buy these sorts of cars indeed are living the rich life because old Mercedes cars (mid to late 2000’s models in particular)are notoriously expensive to maintain and require frequent repairs or replacements…cough cough air suspension and electronics
But what if you wanted the best of both worlds? A car that oozes luxury but does not let your wallet ooze those precious US dollars you’ve worked so hard to convert from ZWL bond. Fortunately, such cars exist and they adorn the famous Lexus emblem. Some say that Lexus IS, GS and the LS models are Japanese Mercedes equivalents. In this article, I will try to illustrate why this may be a more accurate description than you thought.
Right off the bat, we shall start off with one of the Lexus attributes which make it an enticing alternative to the big German three. ‘Lexuses’ or ‘Lexi’ are well known to last forever and this has been well documented over time. This all makes sense since Lexus is after all the luxury brand of Toyota. To have any vehicle with Toyota underpinnings most certainly guarantees endless kilometre coverage. One of the famous examples of this hails from the USA. It is a 1989 Lexus LS400 with an odometer which currently reads 999,999miles, yet it still runs like it has a million more miles to give. Astonishing!
Although modern Lexus models seem to be playing catch up in this category, older iterations give their German competitors a good run for their money. Take the 2007 Lexus LS for example. You can have this car with a 19-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, automated parking, 6-way power seats which are heated and cooled and an overly quiet and luxurious cabin for relaxing drives.
A Mercedes has been long praised for seamlessly combining a comfortable ride with exceptional driving dynamics (sporty driving feel). Guess what, the Lexus can do it too… to an extent of course. It still leans if you push it hard in the corners, however, power delivery is often smooth like a Rolls Royce, thanks to the linear build-up in power. One must remain tentative to the speedometer though, as it is easy to find yourself going beyond the speed limit with minimum effort. This is accompanied by steering feel that is both light and relatively intuitive making it easier to sense what each of the front wheels is up to.
This stems from both initial purchase prices and the cost of ownership over time. People often forget that preventative maintenance is often cheaper than repairs. When engines misbehave or transmissions fail, it is sometimes due to a lack of preventative maintenance which is usually deemed expensive, especially in European make models. For Lexus vehicles, on the other hand, plenty of parts are interchangeable with Toyota models which are fantastic since Toyota is the most popular auto brand in Zimbabwe.
However it’s not all rainbows and sunshine with Lexus automobiles. They too have drawbacks of their own. One of them is related to their Hybrid variants. Buying a second-hand hybrid model, in general, is always tricky as one more often than not buys it with an electric motor or battery pack that is already past its shelf life or is nearing it. As a result, you are not able to benefit from the mark-up in price that comes with hybrid and instead will have to fork out more to replace the battery and power units.
It is no secret that Mercedes, Audi and BMW car designs have a presence. This is aided by big grilles, big emblems and distinct styling cues e.g the BMW kidney grilles. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for pre-spindle grille era Lexus models as they had somewhat regular faces and overall body styling. They are not ‘vanilla’ but they come pretty close at times.
Looks however are subjective so this is always open to debate. All I know is, I DO believe that Lexus is indeed the Japanese Mercedes, and I hope you see it too as this could save you a decent chunk of change in the long run if you’re in the market for affordable luxury.