Thirty years ago, the most-expensive Japanese car available in America was the Acura Legend. At just under $20,000 with automatic transmission, the Legend listed for almost exactly twice the price of a same-year Chevrolet Impala.
Skip ahead to the present day. The most-expensive Japanese vehicle available to U.S. consumers lists for just over $150,000, more than five times the base price of a new Chevrolet Impala.
What happened? Well, one thing that happened was Lexus, a now 25-year-plus-old brand that now competes on an evening field with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The other thing that happened was the Japanese makers’ fondness for dabbling in performance.
While Toyota is currently without a Supra-like vehicle in its lineup, Nissan offers the GT-R, a performance car bargain given a raw-capability to price ratio that shames anything built by Ferrari or Lamborghini.
What may startle some folks is the price of Toyota’s/Lexus’s big SUVs. Though both trucks are clearly luxury vehicles, their near six-digit prices are jarring to folks who remember $10,000 4Runners.
Nissan GT-R: $103,365-$164,485
Boasting 545 horsepower, all-wheel drive, massive brakes, and a curb weight under 4000 pounds, the Nissan GT-R is something of a performance-car bargain at around $100,000. The $151,585 limited-edition NISMO version ups the power ante to 600, and can be ordered with a$12,900 titanium exhaust system. Not surprisingly, sales are sparse, with just over 1400 GT-R models finding new homes in 2015.
Lexus LS 600h L: $121,390-$135,445
This king of the Lexus sedan lineup employs hybrid technology not just for improved fuel economy, but for added performance as well. Available only in long-wheelbase all-wheel drive configuration, the LS 600h L employs a 5.0-liter V8 instead of lesser LS model’s 4.6-liter engine. With hybrid assist, the big V8 boasts 438 horsepower and an EPA combined rating of 20 mpg.
Lexus LX 570: $90,780-$95,310
This big Lexus SUV comes only one way: fully loaded. The only options available are a Mark Levinson audio system ($2350), rear-DVD system ($2005), and heads-up display system ($900). A Mechanical clone of the Toyota Land Cruiser, the LX is really an Americanized version of a vehicle that is most popular in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.
Lexus GS F: $85,390-$86,770
New for 2016, the GS F is the ultimate expression of the midsize GS sedan lineup. Packed full of 5.0-liter V8 goodness, the GS F should appeal for folks looking for something just a little less hardcore than a BMW M5 or Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S. Lexus shoppers looking for a little less exciting will be glad to learns that the GS 200t starts at a relatively affordable $46,565.
Toyota Land Cruiser: $84,820
Really just a slightly dress-down version of the Lexus LS, the Land Cruiser is easily the most-expensive model in the Toyota-brand lineup. Though available is less-costly trim in other markets, the Land Cruiser is available only in one-price fully-loaded guise in the U.S. It’s worth noting that the Lexus LS actually outsells the Land Cruise by a healthy margin (3884 units to 2687 in 2015).