>Momentous occasion today…

…I traded in my 16 year-old Lexus LS 400…


…for a 2006 Toyota Prius

Bit of a change, wha‘…?

I’ve been the proud owner of two Lexuses over an 8 year period. The first one was a bit of dog, to be honest, and I moved it on after a few years when I just couldn’t keep up with the maintenance bills. The second one, which I’ve just traded-in, has been much easier on the pocket in terms of maintenance.

While we were planning our house move, I decided that I wouldn’t make a long commitment to keep the Lexus – just go from NCT to NCT and see what happens. The next NCT test would have been due next April…

…but then bits started going wrong and the cost of repairing/replacing them would have been more than the car is actually worth. And sourcing used parts for a Lexus is not any easy thing to do, particularly when online retailers can’t or won’t guarantee that the replacement part is a matcher for the part being replaced. And the only way to find out if the part matches is to go through the process of physical replacement – the hard and costly way…

In addition to this, I suppose I was starting to get somewhat guilty about driving a 4-litre V-8 behemoth in these environmentally-conscious (not to mention recessionary) times. So a few months ago I started the process of looking for a newer car, either a hybrid (essentially a Prius – I could never warm to the notion of the Honda Civic hybird for some reason) or a big diesel automatic.

As time wore on, the maths won me over to the Prius – the road tax for a big diesel would have been significantly more expensive than that for the Prius (though still cheaper than the Lexus) and I’m not entirely convinced about diesel-engined cars. A mate at work has a 2007 BMW 520d and he’s getting impressive fuel economy (c. 42 mpg) and I’m sure the engine sounds fine when in motion. But I still think an idling diesel engine sounds like someone rattling spanners in a rusty bucket. Big diesel engines sound much better at idle, but then you’re back to the tax issue, innit?

I’d had a Prius on hire in France a few years ago and was very impressed with its fuel economy and, in fairness, taking into account the purpose for which it is designed, its performance ain’t half-bad.

So I pulled the trigger and made the change this morning. Initial impressions?:-

  1. While not exactly going “like stink” on the motorway, it gives a good account for itself acceleration-wise
  2. The stop-start system is wonderful and makes a hell of a difference to fuel consumption
  3. The cabin seems to be roomy and comfortable
  4. The boot isn’t great in terms of capacity, but no small-medium sized car has a big boot, to be fair. And having once owned a Vauxhall Carlton estate, which had a pretty hefty cargo space, I was never particularly impressed with the boot in the Lexus, to be honest. Plus, I have to say that the days of family holidays with a fully-packed car are unlikely to be a feature of the future. Time marches on and that…
  5. Not mad about the design of the back of the car – looks rather narrow and that spoiler affair is a minor nuisance. Having said that (a) I don’t intend spending too much time looking at the back of the car (b) as evidenced by the photo above, if you come at it from a particular angle, it doesn’t really look that narrow (c) they seem to look wider when seen on TV…
  6. Speaking of which, three of my TV heroes drive Priuses:- Dr. Cal Lightman, Larry David and…er…Brian from Family Guy
  7. Costwise, I’m already getting a significant discount on my car insurance from having switched from the Lexus. The cost of taxing the Prius for the year is cheaper than the cost of taxing the Lexus for three months. And I reckon my spend on petrol per month should at least halve. So, I’m hoping to save at least €200 per month with the Prius.
  8. So, fuel economy -starry, bud? After driving about 50 km today, including two short sprints up the M7, and two or three trips in and out of town, my average consumption at the moment is 5.4l/100km, which equates, in terms that Jeremy Clarkson would understand, to a smidge over 52 mpg. I always reckoned that if I got a decent run on the motorway with the Lexus, I’d get around 23 or 24 mpg. Around town, I reckoned I’d get the same level of fuel economy as you would in an ordinary family car which had holes drilled in the petrol tank…

So far, so good. But there is a twist to the tale – I have already advised Mrs. P that as soon as I can find a decent and affordable Lexus hybrid, I’ll be switching back to the prestige marque. That won’t be for a while, I’m guessing…;-)

I still think the Lexus LS400 is a beautiful car, with the sweetest-sounding “lazy” V-8 I’ve ever heard. I would occasionally delight in driving into a multi-storey car park, wind down the window and just listen to the engine as I slowly (and very bloody carefully) ascended the ramps. Sad bastid…

My love-affair with the LS started in 1989. I was flying to the US for a wedding and the in-flight magazine carried an article on a new Toyota car that was going to take-on the Mercedes S-Class. There and then, I vowed that I would get me a piece of that action, and some thirteen years later, I duly did.

I’ve had no real regrets about owning Lexuses. OK, the bills could be shocking (and were occasionally hidden from Mrs. P) but the sheer joy of owning a big, luxurious car was significant. Plus there was the satisfaction of being able to “scratch that itch”. Not many people are able to do that.

Alright, I have one regret – that I couldn’t afford to take the Lexus off the road for a few years and wait for it to become a vintage vehicle, with all the financial advantages attaching thereto. It would have been nice to be able to put a few bob into doing up the car and, you know, taking it for the occasional run at weekends and on holidays. Unfortunately, my name is not Croesus of Lydia, and while I could probably scrape few bob together to do a few jobs on the car, what would happen if, next April, having put a grand or two into the car, it failed the NCT irreparably? Naah, the wise thing to do in this case was to jump before I was pushed. So, on balance, no regrets…

Beep-beep,

djp

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