The underpriced option.

Seemingly every time I undergo a life event of any significant magnitude, I inexplicably react by making an undisciplined beeline for the local classifieds in search of a new car.

You’ll recall that it was scarcely more than a year ago that I parked the then-25-year-old Mercedes 560SEL affectionately dubbed “Saddam” in my underground parkade, having at the time recently learnedi that I was – fingers crossed and barring an “accident” down a flight of stairs – set to be a first-time father by late summer. Not that it was an unplanned pregnancy, but neither did that seem to dampen the Richter-rocker of a subterranean earthquake deep in my consumerist-lizard subconscious.ii My life was about to materially change from devil may care bachelorhood to goodness only knew what, and all I could tell was that adaptation was the order of the day. And that meant a bigger car.

Prior to Saddam, my previous automotive expenditureiii was similarly incited. I’d been driving a 2012 Fiat 500 Sport – una macchina bel bianco e frizzante – as my go-to urban run-about ever since spontaneously transitioning careers away from the morally corrosive golden handcuffs of civil service and towards a mishmash of various projects – affording the luxury to sleep ad libitum – but foregoing remunerative consistency in the process. Not coincidentally, my decision to pivot my life at that juncture was facilitated by my personal EUREKA!!! vis-a-vis Bitcoin.iv But that’s probably not much of a surprise to anyone.

Before that ? I decided to skip out on medical school in Ireland to find gainful employment in my hometown… because of a girl. What did that lead to ? A six-speed Nissan 350Z, of course. (And later, a son by the same lass). Needless to say, the pattern here fits awe-full-ee well :

Pete has life change = Pete buys new car.

Whether this is a sensible or even respectable formula is difficult to say from this vantage point. From one lens, it’s what it is : a relatively harmless and apparently hardwired coping mechanism by which material objects are unwillingly encumbered with the responsibility of at once marking the passage of time as well as distracting me just enough that I’m not overwhelmed by the moment. My best self-analysis of this phenomenon is that I fundamentally see cars as manifestations of my identity (goodness knows I’m not alone in this) and that a change in the man in the mirror begets a change in my external representation thereof. I’m not entirely persuaded that this approach has been overly effective, ultimately dissatisfied with each and every one of my purchases thus far as I’ve been, but nor does this history of failure seem to dissuade my illogical attempts to try and try again, such is the depth of my disdain for city driving, of which I do about 10k per year.

From another lens : what’s always grated on my intemperate nerves is the wincing and grimacing imposed upon my gentle demeanour by Edmonton’s frost-fracked roads and the either a) sport-tuned,v or b) old and haggered suspensions of every car I’ve thus far owned. My last two attempts to buy first a newer car and then a larger car were both ever-so-slightly off the mark, but the Bayesian approach of inching ever closer to my ideal goal with each subsequent attempt will fail me not! So without further ado, let’s check out the new wheels. This time, on the heels of unprecedented disruption within the disruption, I’ve taken home another giant luxury barge.

This time, it’s the Lexus

Pete's Lexus LS460L profile

Boasting similar overall dimensions, but with a smaller engine, a smaller gas tank, more horsepower, more torque, twice as many gears,vii DVD navigation,viii back-up camera, parking sensors, autoparking,ix adjustable dampers, heated/cooled ventilated front seats, heated/reclining ventilated rear seats, telescopingx heated steering wheel, speed-sensitive steering, a motherfucking genius “hold” button,xi a dirty 19-speaker sound system, and functional everything else besides,xii the as-yet-unnamedxiii cruiser has none of the latest controller-driven infotainment stupidity, yet remains very much in the same genealogical vein as the 560SEL – both are the last words in build quality and statesmanlike luxury, forged to withstand the cruel abuses of Time better than their peersxiv – just separated by two decades.

Funnily enough, the girls who’ve already seen it don’t observe the family resemblance. Whereas I see two high-end family cars with distinguished airs about them, they see one terribly old sedan, not at all unlike a stretched Delta 88, and one surprisingly new sedan that’s borderline Old Man Car but inexplicably fails to cross the actual threshold. I see two long wheelbase sedans with gizmos and gadgets galore,xv they see one rusted-out clunker and one $120k limousine wrapped in a highly alluring red carpet of parental responsibility. I see an old mechanical charmer whose best days are sadly behind it and a modern Japanese reinterpretation thereof, they see a weathered brick on 15s and an actual status symbol on 19s.xvi

Looks aside, how did I end up choosing this ebony sculpture from the lot ? After inquisitively surveying everything from the Porsche-built Mercedes 500E to the newer W211 S550, from the original NSX to the 12th gen F-150, from the G-Wagon to the E36 M3, and from the E55 AMG to the aforementioned Siebener that copied the copy of its father,xvii the LS460L appeared to be an underpriced option in the marketplace, something I’ve always relished and certainly profited from more than my fair share.xviii Whether it was Apple in November 1999, Bitcoin in March 2013, or MPOE in May 2015, I’ve been fortunate enough to have landed in the money on more than one historical opportunity. Granted, like intelligence and ethics, you can only tell whether you’ve struck upon an opportunity or a mirage ex post facto – and even the best speculator won’t hit paydirt every time he rolls the dice – but that doesn’t mean that calculated risks are any less essential for success, if not even basic survival. Still, everyone talks up their “hits” and downplays their “misses,”xix and I’m under no misapprehension as to the economic nature of cars as depreciating money pits. Even Bugatti Type 37s and Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradales that “appreciate” against the withering dollar require your own in-house mechanic, and what do those cost ? Cars, then, are an expense ; if, to my mind at least, one to be optimised.

Which brings us back to the Lexus LS460L, a car that, in my estimation, will have a TCO (True/Total Cost to Own) that will be no greater than my 560SEL was ; a vehicle that ended up costing more to fuel, insure, and maintain for a single year than it did in initial capital outlay… by a factor of *gulp* two-and-a-half. Not that I’m one to sulk about sunk costs and keep the stupid thing because “I’m already too [emotionally] invested to sell,” which is the kind of insanity that keeps poor people poor for the long haul and makes the personal accountants of upper-middle class folks weep hopelessly into their monthly statements ; but since I am my own accountant and I’m not one to cry over spilled milk, I’m doing the sensible thing and upgrading from a funky character car that a few guys here and there “got” but that generally irritated me with its leaks and creaks, to one of the most understated and underappreciated gems of 21st century motoring.

How not ? I literally couldn’t walk into a Toyota dealer, nevermind a Lexus dealer, and drive away with any car for less than I paid upfront for the Lexus LS, a model known to run strong for over A MILLION MILES. Oh, you wanted heated seats with your new Yaris ? Here’s a can of beans, start tootin’. Even on the used market, you couldn’t have bought a 4.6L Hyundai Genesis sedan for less, and the Koweean Rugsury Kaw not only has fewer comforts and the most unnatural throttle tip-in this side of CVT-saddled Juke, but it also has all of the cachet of a closet full of moldy dildos.xx Nonsensically, even the RX350 that cost barely half as much new commands the same money today.

Compared to these, and essentially every last one of every car I’ve ever driven,xxi the long wheelbase LS460 rides like I wish every car would : genteelly, serenely, and most importantly, unflustered by broken pavement. And did I mention that the bloody thing *gleams* as if it were barely off-lease,xxii despite having already covered a large fraction of the miles as Saddam has, if in a third the time ? Also, if my causative theory holds any water whatsoever, it doesn’t hurt that this car fits the bill for my starring role as Russian-Jewish mobster to a tee, which is a role that I’m genetically predisposed towards and strongly drawn to despite not having the faintest hint of it in my very Canadian upbringing. Take that, Nature vs. Nurture debate!

Maybe one day the 560SEL will have the curbside gravitas we wish it did, but until such time as the romanticism for mechanical motoring in the large luxury sedan segment is revived (and if that’s not hoping for the Second Coming I don’t know what is) or until such time as my personal rose-tinted lenses are so obfuscating that I’ll knowingly tolerate inferiority because reasons, the LS460L cleans up pretty nicely and is at least subjectively superior to the old Merc in essentially every way save… hm… maybe there’s no “save” after all. Essentially every way!

We’ll touch base again in a year’s time to see how well priced this option really was.

Now just watch the transmission asplode…

___ ___ ___

  1. While vacationing in Melbourne, no less.
  2. God help me if I succumb to other consumerist fetishes aside from cars, like Berlinese belts or Hirsch’s leather watch straps… OHHH FERFUXAKE!! IT’S TOO LATE!!!1

    I swear to God if this gets any worse and you see me dusting off my decade-old Tissot T-Touch with super kawaii orange band, please tell my family I love them.

  3. What investment ? “But Pete, cars are the second-biggest investment that families make after houses!” If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in Avignon.
  4. In March 2013, I didn’t sleep for 3 weeks – the first and only time in my life I’ve experienced such a damn-near-spiritual revelation.
  5. No “normal” car, certainly not anything you’d even halfways consider using as a daily driver outside of a city with roads like Singapore’s, under any circumstances or for any reason whatsoever, should have afucking sport-tuned suspension. You want to crash and bang about pretending like you’re Sebastian Vettel ? Then your car had better look like a cross between a goddam Zonda and Lindsay Lohan circa 2004. Unless you’re trailering your “sports car” to the track and back, your out-and-out idiocy is impressing exactly no one aside from other morons like you. In a better time, you’d be the cannon fodder you’re so clearly built to be.
  6. Lest anyone else serve me my own words for me to eat, allow me to hoist myself on my own petard, proprio manu, before you even get the chance :

    Tellingly, Tag Heuer used Tiger Woods as their spokesman for the Monaco for many years, speaking directly to the middle-upper class men who tee it up 40+ times per season at their members-only course. Said target demo isn’t impoverished by any stretch of the imagination, but nor do they confuse themselves for landed gentry. They drives Lexuses for chrissake. (And in case this reference is lost on you (you lucky dog), driving a Lexus means that you’re automatically the least interesting person to talk wherever you happen to be, regardless of whether it’s at a baseball game, a wine+cheese party, or a bar mitzvah. Why ? Because they’re “educated” in the worst possible sense of the term ; they’re Bernanke-blowing dunning-krugerists through and through. Really, garbage men are 1000x more compelling conversationalists. So if you value your sanity, the rule of thumb is DON’T TALK TO LEXUS DRIVERS. Mkay ?

    AND THIS WAS ONLY FOUR MONTHS AGO!!!!1!!1! This only goes to show just how utterly useless predictions are, whether they’re proffered by “economists” or “central bankers” or “CEOs” or politicians or any other brand of in-vogue charlatans. Then again, and upon further reflection, in the aforementioned quote I was really only referring to the “educated” fillies (regardless of gender) who drive RX350s : particularly the imbecilic F-Sports with their nutso “sporting” pretensions.

    The LS is obviously excluded from this categorisation for two reasons : i) I can’t say I’ve ever actually met a driver of a newer LS, and ii) it seems to be sufficiently accommodating transportation for the current Heads of State of Bolivia, Chile, Denmark, Honk Kong, Iceland, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Monaco, Norway, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Oh, and Ashton Kucher, Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Paul McCartney, and Tom Brady besides, but these latter mass-market celebriFAGgots (and the no-dicks, obviously) drive the smaller-trunked, 900 lbs more portly, suck a big fat green cock 600hL “hybrid” version. You know the one, right ? The one with the batteries that are just now hitting owners bagholders of early models with $8`000 – 10`000 replacement bills, and all the while yielding worse fuel economy on the “highway” (which the EPA considers to be a modest ~50mph) ? Aha. Bingo. That’s the one.

    So perhaps we ought to more thoughtfully refine our definition to the sub-type of Lexus driver that ought only be interfaced with like so : hybrid, crossover, and F-Sport drivers. Any objections ?

    Not that I’m encouraging you to approach me with any less caution either, albeit for entirely different reasons. While the aforelisted undesirables are wont to bore you with long tales of the bathroom tile grouting that they sustainably imported from Iqaluit, I’m liable to troll you into next week. I guess this is why WoTs are a thing, huh.

  7. The LS’ 8-speed(!) transmission caused no small amount of stir upon release. “NO ONE NEEEEEDZ THAT MANY GEARZ MKAY” screamed Reddit et al. at the top of their prepubescent lungs, demonstrating that the only thing actually needed was more beatings for said mouth-breathers. Money prevailed in the end, as it always does, and buyers lapped up the smoothness and fuel efficiency offered by the extra cogs. Eight-speed transmissions are now standard on practically every luxury car, and 9- and 10-speeds are readily available.
  8. That is, in addition to an updateable navigation system that’s particularly useful in Sprawlalot, the LS460 also has an in-dash DVD player. For better or worse, the DVD player, like the phone dialing and a few other functions, only work when the car is at rest, though defeating this “safety” feature is no more than a 30-minute hack.
  9. Look it up, it’s a thing. And unlike fully autonomous cars, it actually sorta works. Furthermore, using the auto-parking feature gives you some notion as to the complexity if not outright intractability of the full meal deal. Until you’ve seen the Lexus auto-parking in action, it’s hard to fully appreciate just how stupid computers are. We’re talking IQ of 14 here. And you’re telling me that’s going to be safer than cheap immigrant labour, ever ? I tell you I don’t see it.

    Now I’m not suggesting that you hire an ironic Masters student who thinks that being your chauffeur while his friends are out on a Friday night is “a funny snapchat moment” inb4 he drives you both off the side of a bridge, but seeing as how Trump and Trudeau can never and would never completely end all immigration, why the fuck would you hire one of those “educated” “sensitive” manchildren when you could hire a FOB (in the literal, not derogatory sense) who won’t take “personal days” every goddam Thursday ?

  10. Saddam’s helm only tilted, and I’m not known for being short of leg.
  11. You may think nothing of it, you may even think it a silliness akin to the BMW G13’s “gesture control” – which is truly new-for-newness’-sake and almost guaranteed to confuse other drivers into thinking that you’re telling them off when in fact you’re simply declining a phone call – but a great many years of high-level amateur athletics have conspired to transform my right ankle into an inflexible fossil the likes of which is rarely seen outside of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. As such, a steering-wheel-mounted button that acts to “hold” the car in place at a red light or in stand-still traffic, so I don’t have to depress the left pedal, is a godsend the likes of which I never even knew existed before! Almost all the other electromechanical wizardry I could do without, just leave me this, cruise control, and the sound system and I’ll be happy as a clam soaking in champagne.
  12. Saddam’s cruise control, sunroof, and motorised radio antenna didn’t work at all. Also, his rear passenger door didn’t open past the first stop (which was still sufficient for ingress and egress of child) and the power steering pump and hoses were leaking at rates noticeable but uneconomical to repair.
  13. Though “Jay” for Jay-Z is a strong contender. After all, the man’s been rollin’ in Lexes since the beginning and like my new LS460L, Jay-Z is black on black without being a n*gger (ie. contemptible regardless of race or gender, so calm your tits SJW, no one asked you).

    Jay-Z Lexus LS400 rap video

  14. Seriously, show me the 26-year-old Audis. Ok, but now show me one outside a junkyard.
  15. Fun fact : the LS460L is the first long wheelbase sedan from Lexus.
  16. You can thank Bacchus Buddha Bangle for the looks too. It’s actually somewhat interesting to see how Lexus jumped from aping Mercedes with the LS400 and LS430 to following BMWs “flame-surfaced” styling lead with the LS460. But what was truly fascinating was the impact that the LS460 in turn had on BMW. Under the guidance of Chris Bangle, the E66 broke new visual ground in the segment back in 2001, certainly enough to catch Lexus’ eye, but after the Japanese demonstrably improved on the recipe with the tautly sculpted LS460, BMW’s Karim Habib came right back and stole the majority of Lexus’ improvements with the 2008 F01 7-series, most notably the curving light-pipe taillights, seen here.

    Pete's Lexus LS460L taillight

    Returning to our LS460 story lest this humble footnote take us into waters so deep we never return, let’s hand the mike over to Yo Hiruta, chief designer of the pre-Altima-esque-full-retard* (pre-2013) LS interior and exterior, from an interview he gave back in 2007 :

    We’re a Japanese company so we thought we should find a unique approach related to Japanese culture and history. The Japanese way is to be elegant, understated, simple, interesting. Dynamic visual contrast creates excitement, but avoids exaggeration, which is critical to the Lexus character.

    With otaku-like obsession, even the side-window moldings were crafted like a katana :

    This was the most expensive design cost on the car. It’s die cast, not extruded. It is hand-polished, then chromed. What’s very important about it is that the piece’s width changes over its long span. It also shows the arrowhead detail front and rear. Finally, it’s just two pieces, front and rear. We wanted to make it perfect. When you stand in front of the door, this molding is the most important part. So we made a large investment on this part. It’s beautiful. It’s like a piece of art.

    Perhaps inevitably, Lexus has now forgotten about this “understated Japanese way,” if much to the delight of their dealership managers across the continent as sales have jumped markedly in the last few years. While the new LS is a visual sore spot, marred with a stop-gap grill it doesn’t deserve, the latest L-finesse direction isn’t all bad news : the upcoming LC500 coupe looks the absolute tits, and it’s essentially the gone-but-not-forgotten Toyota FT-HS concept from 2007, which was itself intended as a reincarnation of the Supra before the macroeconomic shit hit the fan and the US suddenly remembered that poor people don’t deserve credit like you and I do.

    But time has apparently healed papered over even this wound, and in the interim, Toyota has learned from Nissan’s mistake in failing to badge the GT-R as an Infiniti. Now, all the pieces are in place for the LC500, it’s just taken Toyota/Lexus a decade to put all the pieces in place. This is all well and good, really, because that’s pretty well how long the gestations of the ground-shaking LS400 and mind-melting LFA took, and they’re arguably the two most exquisite cars that the firm’s produced in the past 30 years. If the LC500 is anywhere near that special, it’ll be downright irresistable when I’m scouring the used market a decade from now in search of a car-shaped assuager of mid-life crises.

    So there’s that.

    ___ ___

    *Lexus Altima - full retard

    I think that’s enough for one footnote, this is already the longest article to ever grace the pages of Contravex. Back to the show!

  17. The F01 750i was easily the most disappointing of the lot : it’s as if it was built and designed by men and women who were insufficiently bullied as children, who thought that “good enough” was just fine and dandy, and that the other kids in class were supposed to eat their lunches. Fucking RATTLING CUPHOLDERS in a $130k car!!!
  18. A “fair share” is a term of art, of course. There’s nothing fair in this world, nor can there be, nor should there be, nor will there be. Not for all the self-loathing landwhale tears in Tennessee. Not for nothin’.
  19. When I think “misses,” silver bullion and Akamai come to mind, both of which were attempts to “diversify” in the domains of sound money and tech stocks, respectively. Not that either cost me more than $10k in losses, but combined they were enough to cure me of “Portfolio Theory” and related “diversification” scams for the rest of my life.
  20. Speaking of cachet, the Lexus brand really is nowhere near Mercedes to my mind, maybe it’s the lack of F1 presence (not!), but holy shit do acquaintances think otherwise. Maybe it’s just the middle-class nature of this town where “reliability” counts double. Who knows ?
  21. I’ve driven upwards of 150 different models of cars in my day. That may not be a lot compared to some auto bloggers, but in just a decade of driving, that’s certainly a broader basis for comparison than most.
  22. Not only is the LS460 hand-sanded in between coats of paint, giving it a richness that reversed my previous vow to never buy another black car, but Lexus spent six months developing the fucking control logic for all-new six-axis buffing robots that could handle the complex 3D geometry of the flame-inspired surfaces. Previous robots, which only prepared the sheetmetal for painting by buffing the surfaces up-and-down, were deemed inadequate. Almost a decade after leaving the showroom floor, this ear-biting obsession with quality still shines like a Kate Blanchett’s smile. Bravo Japan!

23 thoughts on “The underpriced option.

  1. BingoBoingo says:

    I’m calling the suspension before the transmission. Also I dun see any fender flags.

  2. […] you not ?? I do it nearly every day of the year that it’s not -30C outside, and I can afford the toys! […]

  3. […] that I’ve left the best for last, my long-standing crush on Japanese culture and cars being recently renewed. It is, after all, the nation that’s built more of my cars than the rest of the countries […]

  4. […] When in fact I wrote it six years ago. And even then it was clear to see my nigh-on obsession with long wheelbase luxury sedans, a problem I don’t seem to be shaking off anytime soon. […]

  5. […] browsingi for new summer wheels for Jay,ii and not one to waste timeiii driving from tuner shop to tire shop to tuner shop to tire shop, I […]

  6. […] almost certainly set me off on the course whereupon I’d pick up first a 560SEL then a 460L, though neither has yet to see a closed […]

  7. […] an investment grade vehicle because they’re all marks of a man : one who will happily give up the creature comforts of modernity  for a Spartan’s battle sword. Think GT3 RS 4.0, Viper ACR, M3 CSL, or Vanquish GT12. Even […]

  8. […] end – like October is 1`000 miles away and we’re walking there on foot.iii As I park Jay and Saddam semi-permanently in exchange for my Focus hybrid,iv I’m not the only one […]

  9. […] Jay needed a new radiator this week. Why ? Because high mileage cars need craaazy love yo, and besides, nothing lasts forever, not when something is well used. Not hard drives, not computer monitors, not control arm bushings, and certainly not radiators. Thankfully, Japanese cars aren’t burdened by the scores of additional bullshit, usually of the electrical/software variety, that owners of newer German cars tolerate, like oh I dunno, notchy steering or assasination attempts!!1  [↩] […]

  10. […] as a general principle, which is why Saddam didn’t go on the market after I bought Jay three months ago. I actually need two cars (and a bicycle!) at any given time or else I get […]

  11. Pete D. says:

    Apparently one UStard shit his pants at the “unprecedented disruption” of March even harder than I did. This 19yo kid’s diaper now has two M3-shaped logs in it in exchange for his 530 btc.

    Turbo-turkey dollars, indeed.

  12. […] individuals and all that, so go figure that I’d find myself being frustrated to all hell with Jay on a very prototypical day in the Great White North, one where it snowed from sunrise to sunset […]

  13. […] Continental Mark III, a car worth less than $10`000 today but still very much the area’s underpriced option. There was even a cute little giraffe sculpture out […]

  14. […] months and as many megametresi into my journey with Jay – my stalwart Lexus LS460L – it’s time to assess the expected value proposition against the actual one given that […]

  15. […] Dodge basically makes the most unreliable pieces of shit this side of the F-35 program. So if you’re looking to either face the Zombie Apocalypse head-on or to flee in abject terror in the other direction, you’ll want a Toyota. Just like the real terrorists from ISIS on upwards. […]

  16. […] new set of wheels. The alert reader will recall that new cars are only welcomed into my garage as four-wheeled forgings of the crucible of life, meaning that something significant has manifested of late. But what ? Well, fiat’s […]

  17. […] that “fortune” is between $100k – $1mn. Ace isn’t that rich, he’s not Jay-Z now, but still a far sight more successful than his audience. […]

  18. […] update, Jay is currently ringing the tills in at an eminently reasonable $0.87 / km of driving. An underpriced option ? Compared to the dearly departed ultimate status symbol, it really is. […]

  19. […] that means that Jay parks on the street or driveway at home, but with an unheated garage and Jay’s remote […]

  20. […] West is not Picasso I am Picasso Kanye West is not Edison I am Edison I am Tesla Jay-Z is not the Dylan of anything I am the Dylan of anything I am the Kanye West of Kanye West The Kanye […]

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