Three years with Jay.

Two years and twenty-seven thousand kilometres since I last reported on my stalwart Lexus LS460L – “Jay” – this seems like as good a time as ever for his final update. Wait, Pete…. final ?

Yup, Jay’s now in his final month in my (metaphorical) garage,i and since our last proper update lo these many moons, Jay has gone and… totally redeemed himself! Certainly in the sense of resources expended to operate – both time and money.

Jay FW19After that rather tough first year in which he spent 15 days in the shop and $10`750 in servicing costs,ii since then he’s only spent 4 days in the shop and $3`750 in servicing costs. That’s quite the turnaround! A German car of this calibre, y’know the Siebener set, would’ve kept piling on unrecoupable expenditures in perpetuity, but not this Japanese icon, oh no. This midnight cruise down Kitakami just needed a few items fixed up commensurate with its age and mileage, and voila, good as new!iii But what about the experience of it all ?

Let’s start with the things that I still love about this stealthwealthmobile after three years of ownership : soft-close doors,iv quiet cabin, like a really quiet cabin, like no really super quiet, like quieter than a buddhist temple on a weekday quiet, and of course the smooth ride.

Things that I still don’t love about this mildmannereddaddymobile after three years of ownership : winter handling,v ummmm… crouching to do up buckles on car seats in the back ? a trunk that’s too small a handful of times a year ? windshield wipers that rest in a position wherein they’re obstructed by the hood so that you have to turn the wipers on and shut off the car when they’re midway just so that you can knock stubborn snow and ice off ? a rear window and side mirror defroster that’s on a pushbutton switch with a timer instead of a latch ? a steering wheel heater that’s also on a pushbutton switch and also doesn’t latch ?vi Yea, you can see I’m having to stretch a bit here.

Overall, Jay has been quite the commendable partner in crime. While Japanese cars often get a bad rap in the auto-media for being so dependable that they’re soulless, like washing machines or microwaves, this one might’ve had just enough little foibles to make himself missed.

I guess we’ll soon see.
___ ___ ___

  1. The garage can really only be metaphorical at this point in my life because I’ve chosen an idyllic mid-century (and at the time, middle-class (now more “professional” class) suburban neighbourhood fitted with just a single car garage (as seen decorated here) and a generous backyard for playing and gardening (as seen growing sour cherries here), instead of a late-20th century or early-21st century abode with a a double- or triple-garage. As such, my daily driver, whether the Lex or Saddam or whatever replaces them both, gets parked on the frozen street outside my house.
  2. This was a “tough” first year for Jay but Saddam spent about that much money and twice that much time in his first year in my garage. 
  3. In fact, the running costs have made such an about-face that it went from costing 45% more than its at-the-time-stablemate Saddam to costing 42% less on a per-kilometre basis. Not that its replacement will be purchased with an eye towards reducing this metric at the expense of all other enjoyment – it surely won’t – but I’ll still keep track of “TCO” going forward because 1) I care about such trivia, and 2) you can never fully discount the value of time and energy expended, nor should you.
  4. In case you’re unfamiliar with “soft-close doors,” it’s a technology essentially composed of a small motor moving a small arm in every door frame that grabs a partially latched door and quietly latches it completely. It eliminates slamming, if too the “solidity” that comes with slamming a very robust steel door into a very robust steel body, such as on the Mercedes 560SEL (and hardly anything else since). It’s not a technology unique to Lexus, but in this application at least, its reliability after all these years and miles feels like a very Japanese sort of solidity, quality, and elegance all its own. Soft-close doors are also perfect when you have little kids who’ve dozed off in the back seat during a drive home and you don’t want to wake them while you go into the house for a few moments of solitude. 
  5. Even when it saves your bacon now and again.
  6. Incredibly, the parking sensor on/off switch is also on a pushbutton switch with no latch but it has a SOFTWARE LATCH. Why the steering wheel heater, side mirror heater, and rear window heater couldn’t have been so programmed will forever remain a mystery. Though I’d secretly love to read the “tell all” book recounting the engineering meetings that made this particular call.

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