We have had some healthy debate over the past few days and I would like to give some reasons why Lexus is Inferior to Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz.
The major reason why they are not in the same class is because Lexus does not have an S, RS, M or AMG brand so cannot be considered a true competitor to the German companies.
The reason that German brands are far superior to Japanese (previous Honda owner) is that they are willing to take risks with new design, engine technology, safety, etc while most Japanese brands simply copy them and make it mass market. That is while they may not be as reliable the first year the car comes out, but I would much rather support ideas that are new and move the industry forward rather than is accessible to every consumer possible.
There is nothing wrong with the Lexus products per se but when compared to its German rivals is so weak in every aspect (materials, design, technology) that it is not considered a true competitor. BTW, petigree matters as cars are emotional purchases not basic transportation for many people. Hundai Azera may be a great car but most people will not buy it because of its petigree no matter how great the car is, and this is not a bad thing because a brands repuatation is important for most consumers.
I think the snob appeal argument does not really apply because all these cars cost a lot of money. For example, the IS costs a little more than the 3 series and I think its a folly to say they deliver similar driving experiences. I can see how if someone does not want to pay 20k extra for an S Class or a 7 Series that they may buy a LS430 but only if they are not looking for a spirited driving experience. If I am paying 50k I dont mind paying 70 for all the intangibles that come with the german brands. I have personally driven the IS, the GS, and LS and can safely say that the concept of value for getting a similar experience for less money does not exist. Lexus consistantly gets outcalssed in every segement except for the Landcruiser which is an international success.
I think what it comes down to is two fundamental business models and philosophies about car building. PlanoA4's user profile says "Vorsprung durch Technik", which means "Progress through Technology" in German. This is inherently superior to the Japanese brands sensiblities regarding efficiency and refining but not innovating. We the German car fans think Lexus isn't a true competitor because German brands have been market innovators for 100 years and their cars have character.
I am glad you brought that up because it highlights my point about German vs Japanese brands "firsts". The overwhelming majority of advances in automotive technology has been found by German brands and then refined by Japanese brands. I choose to like Audi / BMW / MBZ not because they are willing to try new things for the benefit of the consumers rather than make a buck after all the heavy lifting is done as far as R&D is concerned. BTW in my personal expereince the notion that German cars are deemed "less reliable" is not credible as I have never experienced a mechanical or design flaw problem (Ahem, MASSIVE Toyota RECALL) and in general better parts and enginnering go into German cars (metal timing belts, not rubber). I would rather give my company that are pionners in their industry and are willing to try new things for the benefit of the consumers rather than make a buck after all the heavy lifting is done as far as R&D is concerned. Another reason is that our local Lexus dealer is a total pompus ass and so my perception is mediocore product and bad service = I am not going to support them.
The reason Lexus is more reliable is that they dont bring meaningful innovation to benefit consumers year after year. Lexus fans play up reliablity, and thats because they dont produce anything new. Ford makes a great sedan with the Crown Victoria and they have their fans but they also have not brought anything new to the table with that car for 25 years. Yes its reliable, but I would not buy one because I dont reward laziness and exploitation of customers that dont know or dont care. Making a good car has nothing to do with heritage and/or whoever came out with a product first, but making a great car has everything to do with heritage and how much risk they are willing to take to benefit car buyers and the entire industry.
In closing, I want to thank you for reading all this text and consider that if you can afford a Lexus, you should consider a Audi, BMW or Mercedes Benz if you value innovation and bold ideas about moving the industry and benefiting consumers rather than not do anything and steal technology from European brands and minting money from it. Lexus fans cannot expect for their brand to be on the same level as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz no matter how hard they try.