Buying a new car is a big investment, for most people the second-biggest chunk of money they’ll hand over for something, after the family home.
Some manufacturers take your money, sign you up for a service plan, but offer little else in the way of ownership benefits. Others do offer limited ownership programs that can incorporate track days, or special events, or perhaps a discount on merchandise. Lotus is particularly good when it comes to track days.
And then there’s Lexus’ Encore Owner Benefits program – in our eyes, one of the better programs of this type in Australia.
It’s been around a while, too, but for 2020 Lexus Australia has expanded the program, adding a second, more exclusive tier to sit alongside the existing Lexus Encore tier.
Ever keen to spruik its Encore program, Lexus invited us to sample some of the benefits available to Lexus owners.
As the entry-level owner benefits program, open to all buyers of a new Lexus, the Encore tier offers some pretty sweet perks. There’s the newly-added Caltex fuel discount of 5c a litre, which can quickly add up over the three years' coverage of the program.
Capped-price servicing is part of the deal too, across the range – $495 per visit for each of the first three annual/15,000km logbook services for Lexus CT, UX, IS, NX, ES, GS and RC models. That jumps to $595 for the Lexus RX, RC F, GS F, LC and LS ranges, while the Lexus LX large SUV requires a check-up every six months/10,000km, each of the six visits over three years priced at $495.
Additionally, Lexus continues to offer a complimentary loan vehicle while the owner’s car is at the workshop. Owners can choose to collect the vehicle from the workshop when they drop off their Lexus, or, if they prefer, can request to have the loaner delivered to their home or place of work. That’s some pretty good customer service right there.
And, as it has always done, Lexus will wash and vacuum your car after it has been serviced, handing it back to you spick-and-span.
Lexus’ complimentary roadside assistance program goes above and beyond by sending a technician to you and your stranded vehicle.
As well as the usual roadside repairs such as a flat battery or tyre, Lexus DriveCare includes complimentary towing if required, to a Lexus dealership or workshop.
Additionally, if a Lexus is off the road for more than 24 hours and stranded 100km from home, then Personal Assist will courier packages and urgent documents for you. And there’s a one-way metropolitan cab fare of up to $150, while $250 will cover personal effects and clothing.
As part of the Encore program, Lexus owners are also able to enjoy a wide range of benefits at a number of partner hotels, resorts and money-can’t-buy events, many featuring the skills and talents of Lexus Ambassadors.
The newly-introduced Encore Platinum program ups the ante for owners. It’s not for everyone, though, with only owners of flagship models, such as the LS, LC or LX or F performance models – RC F and GS F.
Additional benefits include free valet parking at Westfield shopping centres around the country, as well as Chadstone in Melbourne.
And then there’s the big daddy, Lexus on Demand. And this one, we reckon, just might be the pick of the bunch. Simply, it allows owners of those flagship models to book, via an app, any vehicle in the Lexus range when travelling interstate. It's capped at four trips, up to eight days each, over the three-year life of the membership program.
Lexus Australia says owners can tailor the vehicle to their needs, citing the availability of a seven-seat RX-L, or a Lexus LC for those looking for a weekend getaway, or even the large SUV Lexus LX, should they require something with a bit more off-road capability.
Vehicles can be booked via the Lexus on Demand app (I did, and it worked seamlessly, and 24 hours later I had my bum in a Lexus RC F) and can either be collected from an airport or a participating Lexus dealership across Australia.
Once I collected my Lexus RC F ($136,636 plus on-roads as standard but fitted with the $5000 Enhancement pack that adds a tilt-and-slide moonroof, and 19-inch forged alloys), it was time for a road trip in the burbling and growling V8-powered coupe.
That 5.0-litre atmo V8 under the long and sloping bonnet is good for 351kW and 530Nm, and it’s a beast. Celebrate its existence, because it won’t be around forever.
A day spent touring the NSW south coast highlighted its charms, a rev-happy and bellowing V8 with a nicely-resolved ride, despite a touch of firmness. It’s as docile around town as it is manic when pushing on, a duality of purpose that is hard to not get comfortable with.
This very car is part of the Lexus on Demand fleet, so if you find yourself eligible for the Encore Platinum program, book it out for a weekend and have some fun. As an aside, while the program is eligible on all new-car purchases, Lexus Australia is backdating the program to anyone who bought an eligible car from 1 January, 2020.
A key component of the Lexus Encore program are the many and varied member exclusive events. My day as a guest of Lexus Encore ended with one such event. And it was a beauty.
Renowned chef Neil Perry is a long-time Lexus Ambassador. Apparently he’s a pretty dab hand in the kitchen, not something I’d ever experienced on my car journo budget.
So, to have Neil Perry cook an outrageously good meal in a pop-up restaurant on the edge of Sydney Harbour, was something else again.
To ensure everyone remained safe, Lexus Australia created a socially-distanced environment to enjoy the evening, each table set in its own bio-hazard bubble under Sydney’s iconic Harbour bridge. Certainly a unique experience, and one I won’t forget any time soon.
Lexus continues to rate so highly in customer satisfaction surveys. Roy Morgan Research states Lexus customer satisfaction is 96.8 per cent, the highest percentage across the automotive sector.
And after a day spent as a ‘Lexus owner’ it’s easy to see why.
MORE: Lexus news and reviews