Service meets luxury: A writer discovers ‘omotenashi’ and new electrified vehicles on the road with Lexus

Surprises come in many forms in the newest, electrifying chapter for Lexus.

Tested and driven for Lexus by Cari Johnson

There’s no English word that exemplifies the ancient Japanese term ‘omotenashi’. A dictionary defines it as hospitality. But the true meaning of omotenashi is deeper, enigmatic even. It encompasses the passion for designing the finest experience; when one anticipates guests’ needs and desires — even before they arise.

When I sink into the elegant cockpit of the new Lexus NX 450h+, a plug-in hybrid electric SUV, omotenashi slips into my mind. We are one — rider and groomed steed — intuitively accelerating onto SH1 without a blip of noise or resistance. Fellow travelers and I head to Tauranga to celebrate the brand’s electrification journey, each of us scooting off in a brand-new electric Lexus vehicle.

I wait to feel the regenerative braking when coasting through Ngātea. Using excess kinetic energy from braking is one of the ways a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle recharges, which can often be felt at the wheel. But no, not Lexus. The technology has been so refined I feel none of what is cleverly maximizing energy for me. Braking is smooth, undetectable and ever-so omotenashi. Should I desire to amp up the fuel efficiency, I need only plug this beauty into a home charger — as effortless as topping up one’s phone battery.

“Luxury is much more than what meets the eye. Luxury is personalized; it’s a feeling that lingers long after the new-car smell fades.”

Electrified vehicles are no longer a futuristic fantasy. Increasing Kiwis are seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and Lexus is leading the charge. This I expect from the luxury car manufacturer. What I hadn’t expected were the subtleties — tangible and intangible — I never knew I craved. “Hey, Lexus,” I coo to my virtual sidekick through the glittering interface. I ask her to change the song and she acquiesces, leaving me to dissolve into a Crowded House tune that spills from the luxury SUV’s 10-speaker sound system.

Afternoon tea awaits at a café at Waihī Beach. Brownies and a steaming mug of peppermint tea (my arvo go-to) are served as I’m seated. Should I be surprised? Not at all, I begin to realize. Post-cuppa, I settle into an all-electric Lexus UX 300e, where my belongings have magically appeared. A half-eaten pouch of almonds greet me in the front cup holder, the precise location I left it in the previous vehicle. Lexus, I’m on to you.

The Lexus UX 300e is one of the quietest electric vehicles on the market.

The UX 300e, I learn, is the first zero-emission vehicle in the Lexus NZ family. Mine is a lithe blueberry-hued number, an SUV as dapper as it is peppy. Instantly, my new pal reacts when I hit the pedal as if it’s predicted my need for speed. There’s no lag nor revving. This is functional design at its finest.

Coral and blush saturate the sky as our convoy glides into the car park at a glamorous estate outside Tauranga. If we are in some of the quietest vehicles in the market, I ponder, will Lexus know we’ve arrived? Of course — leave it to this brand to be one step ahead. I whisper farewell to the UX, lulled by the voice of a guitarist inside a glasshouse laden with blooms and festoon lights. A feast of salmon and pinot noir, my favourite pairing, awaits.

Come morning at Lexus of Tauranga, something hits me somewhere between a bite of a croissant and a yarn with a bright-eyed member of the sales team. Luxury is much more than what meets the eye. Luxury is personalized; it’s a feeling that lingers long after the new-car smell fades. Luxury is undeniably omotenashi.


Since 2005, Lexus has pioneered the electrification of vehicles in the luxury market. By 2050 it aims to achieve carbon neutrality across the entire portfolio and life cycle of its vehicles, from the manufacturing of materials to the final disposal and recycling of older vehicles.

In true Lexus spirit, the car manufacturer makes no compromises in craftsmanship and forward-thinking with its newest electrified SUVs — the NX 450h+ (plug-in hybrid) and UX 300e (all-electric). The UX 300e, with an estimated official driving range of up to 360km, can reach 75 per cent of a full charge within 50 minutes at a fast-charging DC station. Even more, the UX 300e qualifies for the Clean Car Discount, a government incentive for eligible buyers of low- or zero-emissions vehicles priced at up to $80,000.

NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.

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