Japanese automakers are globally recognized because of their extremely reliable and well-made vehicles, and even though their best-selling models are usually budget-friendly, brands such as Toyota, Nissan, and Honda have their respective luxury subsidiaries.
While the Toyota’s Century might just be the most renowned Japanese luxury car, the majority of high-end makes belong to its brother company, Lexus, where competition is fierce against the likes of Infiniti, Acura, and more.
It isn’t easy to determine a clear winner among them, and even though they’re all usually great, all are guilty of releasing some pretty underwhelming models in the past. Here are 10 Japanese luxury cars that failed to meet expectations.
10 1997 Acura EL
When considered on its own, the first-gen Acura EL wasn’t a bad car, but it didn’t come even remotely close to Acura’s standards as the luxury branch of Honda. The EL was essentially a rebadged Honda Civic with just a tad more standard features, which didn’t make it worth buying at all when customers could pay less for the Civic without noticing too many differences.
9 2007-2008 Lexus IS 250
As far as its drivetrain and overall chassis go, the 2007 Lexus IS 250 is actually a comfortable luxury sedan with good power and handling, but that isn’t where its issues lie. See, when you pay extra for a premium vehicle, durability has to be all but guaranteed, and the IS 250 utterly failed in that respect. According to Vehiclehistory.com, in heavy heat conditions, the model’s dashboard and door panels are prone to extreme melting, and its older infotainment screen commonly malfunctions.
8 2014 Infiniti Q50
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 might have initially seemed promising to buyers, with either 328 horsepower or a 380-hp hybrid powertrain, along with a comfortable and techy cabin as well as the looks to go along. However, the model failed completely in long-term reliability, receiving a 72 out of 100 J.D. Power rating, which is actually worse than it sounds when you consider the average hovers around 80. Worst of all, most of the Infiniti Q50’s reliability issues have to do with its powertrain and drivetrain, ouch.
7 2002 Acura TL
Despite costing nearly $30,000 when new – which equates to about $50,000 in today’s money, the 2002 Acura TL didn’t do much to come off as a luxury sedan, with subpar materials and the only notable features being standard heated and power-adjustable seats. Additionally, Carcomplaints currently suggests you should ‘avoid it like the plague’ with 421 total complaints, most of which concern the Acura TL’s faulty transmission
6 2007 Lexus ES 350
Much like the aforementioned Lexus IS, the 2007 Lexus ES 350 presented common interior issues despite essentially coming off as a complete luxury sedan. Despite its 272-hp V6 with great fuel economy and a relatively well-equipped cabin, dashboard, and door panel melting issues rapidly became a common problem, and carcomplaints.com currently has more than 800 total complaints.
5 2010 Acura TL
As the second Acura TL on this list, the 2010 model gains its unfavorable reputation for other reasons. Of more than 100 complaints on carcomplaints.com, most have to do with engine malfunctions – excessive oil consumption – to be specific. The 2010 Acura TL also received several NHTSA complaints regarding problems with the vehicle’s seat belts and airbags, which is something you definitely don’t want to be worrying about when cruising at 100 mph.
4 2019 Infiniti QX60
While the Infiniti QX60 has always been a comfortable luxury three-seater with plenty of space, tech, and a smooth transmission, 2019 was the model’s worst year by far. The SUV’s overly-soft suspension makes it feel like a boat when cornering, making for a J.D. Power driving experience rating of 69, which is far below average, especially at the QX60’s price point. It isn’t exactly reliable either, with a subpar rating of 74.
3 2009 Lexus RX 350
Despite its good overall reputation, the 2009 model year left a blemish on the Lexus RX 350. The luxury SUV currently has more than 150 complaints on carcomplaints.com, most of which refer to interior issues such as a cracking dashboard and melting window seals. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with several other reports concerning drivetrain issues as well as engine and transmission problems.
2 2014-2020 Acura RLX
On paper, there’s actually nothing wrong with the Acura RLX, and it actually seems pretty good with a 3.5-liter V6 that churns out 310 horsepower or an efficient hybrid powertrain that delivers 377 horsepower. However, sales figures for the Acura RLX were incredibly low during the model’s entire run, which is why its production run got cut short. It’s difficult to know exactly why, but with just about 6,700 sold units between 2017 and 2020, it was a definite bust.
1 2007 Lexus LS 460
Seemingly a common issue with Lexus models in 2007 and 2008, the Lexus LS 460’s seemingly luxurious interior was immensely prone to dashboard and door panel melting when exposed to high temperatures. Carcomplaints.com compiles more than 160 complaints regarding issues with the 2007 LS 460, and there are also several NHTSA reports regarding issues with the vehicle’s braking system, suspension, and transmission.
Sources: Carcomplaints, Vehiclehistory, Edmunds, J.D. Power