Car Stereotypes: BMW, Lexus, Mercedes

Interesting | May 25th, 2009 by 43
bmw m3 lexus is f and mercedes benz c63 amg

I have to warn you from the beginning that in this article I will be going a little bit out of topic and talk about …

I have to warn you from the beginning that in this article I will be going a little bit out of topic and talk about some stereotypes that I keep hearing left and right. While attending social events or parties, I always find myself in the middle of interesting conversations, some of them related to the auto industry or car brands in general.

One of these common conversations that I’m sure many of you encountered as well, is always around the myth surrounding certain auto manufacturers. People love to talk about cars based on different angles: reliability, social status, performance….. and the list can go on.

bmw m3 lexus is f and mercedes benz c63 amg 498x311

Now for years I have been hearing pretty much the same old record over and over again: Japanese cars are the most reliable, Mercedes is all about luxury, BMWs offer great performance that comes with hefty repair bills and the list can go on and on.

It got even more interesting since I held this conversation with a young lady who totally fits the profile of someone that enjoys to drive luxury cars and most important, “cool cars”. To my surprise, out of all the luxury brands out there, she chose Lexus. Sure, you might say perfectly normal so far, but when asking why would she choose the Japanese brand, her answer was simple: reliability.

Going deeper into the conversation, she acknowledged that BMW are fun cars to drive, but don’t offer anything else. Of course, I let her continue since I wanted to find out more. So why not Mercedes, I asked? “Too luxurious for me plus it’s something what my mom or dad would drive, even my grandparents.”

While one person doesn’t represent a large sample of opinions, during the last few years, I have heard similar statements, from different people with distinct background, social status or financial situations.

Now before I hand over the microphone to you, let me share with you my opinion. I agree that Japanese cars are somewhat more reliable than many vehicles out there, but I can certainly say the same about BMW and my opinion is shared by many former or current BMW owners. Also, just last year, BMW won the Fleet News Reliability award, ahead of brands like Toyota, Honda, VW or Mercedes. Oh….did I mention that BMW offers more than just performance? I would add to that list, luxury, innovation and safety.

To destroy another myth, I also firmly believe that the Mercedes-Benz is far from being a brand that targets an older crowd and at the same time, their cars mean more than just luxury.

So, what do you think? Do these car stereotypes apply today?

43 responses to “Car Stereotypes: BMW, Lexus, Mercedes”

  1. Andy Pan says:

    Let me guess – was she Asian?

  2. BMfan says:

    I really dont know what luxury is in Mercedes, that’s not in BMW. BMW to me is always ahead in innovation. As at 2007 there was still no comfort access in Merc and till now I doubt if their brands-even the S class-comes with soft close doors. I could be wrong but I was in an auto fair recently and as I opened the new E-class boot it flew on my face as against the BMW that glides open gently-wats the luxury in merc then.

    • W202 says:

      The S-Class has had “soft-close” doors since 2001!

      • POES says:

        CHECK THE BMW 850!

        • Anonymous says:

          Benz had them in 1991 on the 600SEL =D….. Why argue over Benz and Bimmer??They are both great manufacturers. Mercedes fits the owner who wants to display his wealth and show that he has arrived and values comfort and prestige, whereas BMW is for the owner who doesn’t want to lose the drive and dynamics. If anything, it should be BMW vs Audi and Mercedes vs Lexus

    • Wade says:

      Have you driven an X3? I own a BMW X3 and the driving is horrible. That is the most uncomfortable ride. I previously owned a BMW X5 that I exchanged for a more technological Honda Civic (at least the Honda’s navigation system didn’t talk while the music was playing, plus the sound system was much better). When I bought my X3 I fully loaded the car, I paid for premium sound, and it is worse than the Camry sound. I really don’t understand why a 25K Hyundai has back up cameras and more technology than a BMW X3. Did I mention the Hyundai is 23 thousand less? I don’t see BMW as an innovative automaker. I see BMW as a bad experience of an expensive car that has a 3 color Navigation system with an annoying transmission. For the record, my BMW is 2008.

      As a response to Lawrence, BMW is not as reliable as you might think. How do you explain 36k miles of warranty? I remember there was a problem in Europe because the BMW 3-series from 1998-2002 didn’t back up, they had something wrong that made the cars not to back up when put in reverse. Since most of the BMWs experienced that after they reached 100k or 5 years, BMW did nothing about it. I remember a friend from London telling me about it. it is an old story, but I am sure you can find more information on the internet.

      For people who didn’t know, the BMW X3 is not even built by BMW, it is a Magna Steyr car. Built under contract for BMW.

      • Ken S says:

        You sound like a hater! My girlfriend has the X3 and it’s much nicer than a Toyota or Honda that I drive. Hyundai steal’s all of it’s ideas from German engineer’s teaches robot’s how to build it and you think that’s great. Maybe you’re just the typical American cheapskate who will do anything to stretch all you can out of every penny.

        All car’s have problem’s German cars are the best but in many way’s but will breakdown in certain area just like the knockoffs’ you like

      • John says:

        Back up cameras=more technology! Undbelievable that anyone in there right mind would think so. How hard is it to strap on a camera, some wire and a screen. Have you ever thought of comparing the engines or other ‘key’ components? NO im not talking about horsepower and all those ‘noob’ details that anyone can look up online. But take a look deeper into what you are buying. I would love to see a Hyundai technician work on a BMW! They would be lost! And don’t say that I don’t know what Im talking about because I have been a BMW Tech for the past 6 years. When you look at what goes into a BMW and the design, production, and quality of what it really is that you are buying, you would be amazed of what you truly are driving. An ultimate machine to say the least!

      • DasdaAd says:

        Do me a favor and stfu… you dont know what you want, navigation, sound system, korea cars, german cars, london, america, magna steyr… i dont think i have ever read so much BS in my life
        Just buy the old volkswagen beetle and enjoy

    • Kalafat says:

      you don’t know your cars, better go and study bit more…

  3. Giom says:

    I agree whole heartedly with you Horatiu. I think the problem with assumption is the lack of knowlidge about anything other than your prefered brand.

    The reason I prefere BMW to any ather marque is because I know where BMW is strong and the others arn’t. To me it’s not a bline faith thing. I know who pioneers and who follows. But most people don’t know enough about the other makes to make up their own minds. Everything they know is what they hear from other people. And thats a pitty.

    • Javynene says:

      great opinion Giom, also when you arrive to a very nice restaurant in your BMW or MB people see you as WOW hes in, when someone arrive in a lexus they dont pay much attention to that car, hahaha I’ve seen that happen.

  4. Lawrence says:

    BMW is a solid brand that most people have no knowledge of. BMW’s are extremely reliable if properly maintained. And dont forget, these car manufactures can say how reliable there cars are but I think reliability comes from the engineering and BMW does phenominal engineering on all of there cars especially the M3. So that girl may have picked Lexus, but how is Lexus’s engineering? Does Lexus’s engineering stack up against BMW?, I dont think so.

  5. _Auday_ says:

    dont want to sound negative here, but some stereo types have a reason. BMW are great and reliable cars but compared to Lexus they are less reliable.
    BMW specifically has a problem with interior parts, for example door panels, door handles, glove boxes, even sun roofs… they all have some kind of failure after the years. Simple things like CD player that skips like hell in a sport car that is designed to have firm suspension, a glove box that rattles from day one in a convertible, a door panel (especially E36) that goes off because it’s attachemnt liner is attached by glue.

    If you buy older cars and do lots of DYI, you will discover lots of things that are very badly designed an manufactured in BMWs.

    Other than interior, there were lots of other issues even low suites against BMW regarding things like rod bearings failure, subframe differential mounts … etc.

    I drove my aunts 1998 Lexus ES and the car felt and worked like it’s just coming out of the showroom, everything in the interior is rock solid, zero rattles, and all electronics work perfectly. But yes it’s very boring.

  6. sam says:

    I totally agree with _Auday_ the interior parts of BMW are fragile! One time I forgot to push the cup holder of a 5-series back in place, and then when I enter the car I accidently kneed the thing, and it broke. The thing is literally destroyed.. and not covered by warranty.

    Like said, these stereotypes don’t happen without a reason. I mean, imagine choosing between a 2000 BMW and a 2000 Lexus as a reliable daily driver. Any sane person would choose the Lexus. My coworker owns a 2000 E46 323i and just in this year, he had a cracked hose and a failed water pump, both of which cost over $4k in repair. BMW labor rates FTL.

    • London says:

      Not disagreeing with your initial argument, but a broken water pump and a hose doesn’t sound like 4k in repair. Performance cars like BMW’s require regular maintenance. Unlike Lexus, but thats the sacrifice you make to drive something that feels like a mommy car haha.

      • Javynene says:

        Also I dont think lexus I mean Toyota Im sorry lexus their interior are not all that, they re just simple.

  7. jon H says:

    @BMfan: S-classes have had quiet close door foeer, beginning im pretty sure two generations ago.

    Im not defending mercedes but I just know this for a fact as many of m friends parents had them. If the door was partially closed the system would pull the door closed the rest of the way and seal it.

  8. samK says:

    Lexus vehicles are just basically luxury Toyotas. Its all about branding actually. Even though BMW interior isn’t up to par compared to other brands, I still prefer it towards Lexus interior. I just find Lexus interior very plastic and gives you a fake-luxury feel.

    BMW 7 Series/ Mercedes S Class > Audi A8/ Lexus LS

    @jon H: I do like the S-Class’s door closing feature. Its really a cool feature! :)

  9. Gil says:

    *shrug* I have all 3 brands sitting in my driveway, and then some. I love cars too much. In the end, all these cars *are* reliable if properly maintained. The question is: how often and how much? From my personal experience, my (1999) 740iL goes in about every other month. But it’s aging quickly, so things do break more often, and I understand that. I love that car too much I’ll keep it running forever and ever.
    And that’s followed, in order:
    2006 X3 (not amused by the frequency of service),
    2006 GTI Mk.V,
    2003 S500 4matic,
    2001 LX470,
    and amazingly, the old clunker 1993 GMC Suburban, which requires the least amount of service. Surprised? :)

  10. whitby says:

    Stereotypes often have their basis in facts. I have had 12 BMWs and very few Japanese cars (one in fact, it was an Infiniti). In general BMWs need to be looked after and, sadly, the ones built in the US are the worst from a reliability point of view (2 x X5s and a Z4 Coupe). I have also owned a MB (E500) which required as much work to keep it going as the worst of my BMWs. Bottom line is that BMWs require lots of love, care and attention which is the price you pay for a performance car. The Lexus appears to be for the “give it gas, oil and water and it will give you sterling service” group. However a Lexus drives like soggy rice pudding and does not give you the driving experience. You “pays your money” and take your choice. Me, I love BMWs and will continue to buy them, but I do not fool myself into thinking they are super reliable and cheap to run. They are not.

    • Kalafat says:

      Mercedes fixed most of their quality issues on the newer models, the time between 2001 to 2007 for mercedes spells out poor quality (as in less quality then expected by customers)

    • Kalafat says:

      Mercedes fixed most of their quality issues on the newer models, the time between 2001 to 2007 for mercedes spells out poor quality (as in less quality then expected by customers)

  11. Artmic says:

    I sat in a Mercedes C300, and the interior “looked” very nice, but the climate knobs were so cheap if a person with meaty hands pushed too hard they would break…. I guess Mercedes luxury does not go down to the C class of car. knobs made in China. i guess that is where they will make their money, 400,000 new knobs at $25 a knob.

    BMW’s interior is boring, and needs a refresh badly IMO. The AC grills need to be made bigger IMO.

  12. Tuesmq says:

    There’s no doubt that Lexus is more reliable than BMW as a brand. The link you provide is from a UK press, which has nothing to do with the U.S. market.

    If you browse the BMW forums, you’ll see that many owners do not plan to keep their cars after warranty expires, or plan to purchase extended warranty. Consider that usually the people who are on the forum are usually more informed and more enthusiastic about cars, you get the bigger picture.

  13. Carlos Perez says:

    Still there are more old BMW in the streets, and no to many lexus, and one more thing the press, and the market are two totally different things, the Uk press is related to the BMW Brand, so it applies because the cars that are sold in the USA, are the same that the ones in the UK, MEX, etc… they are build in Germany, so the reliability of the cars should be the same.

    I think that the Lexus replacement parts are a a lot cheaper, because they use Toyota parts, and still sell them to you more expensive.

  14. D solomon says:

    BMW is always going to have technology inovation, but I guess people are looking for light, camera and action in the interior. Like Lexus and Mercedes Benz but BMW is prestige like the clock Big Ben, it has a classic interior and heavy, I have drove Japanese Cars and their not as heavy as the BMW and you hear wind in the inside. Get back to the topic, cars will always change the minds of people just because of the stage of life where that person is at. BMW will always be one of my first choices because of BMW heart. All of the Auto Manufactures are getting soft and putting cheat material in their car, suv, and truck segments. Give me what I pay for and that’s luxury and performace!

  15. The Lee says:

    I’m not entirely sure how “cool” = “reliable”. Then again, I guess it’s not very “cool” to be broken down on the side of the road while on a date…

    There are a ton of car stereotypes, and (often enough) they’re fitting. BMWs attract a certain type of person, as do Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, 911s, Escalades, Camrys, etc. And they’re supposed to. The great thing about having such a diverse amount of cars to choose from is that they all appeal to different people for different reasons.

    We happen to like BMWs. Are they expensive to maintain? They can be. Do their owners have a tendency to be arrogant? They certainly can be. Do they tend to be owned by geeks that probably ramble on about the vehicle’s features to others that couldn’t care less? We’re all reading this, aren’t we? That means we’re at least geeky enough about our Bimmers to browse a site simply to keep tabs on what they’re coming up with next.

    We are what we are. So be it; I’m perfectly fine with that. At least I’m not a mullet-wearing, Lynyrd-Skynyrd-jamming, Coors-drinking Camaro driver… (put your guns down, F-Body owners; I’m just joking around.)

  16. Dean says:

    If you want reliability you wouldn’t buy BMW or Mercedes, or just about any other luxury car for that matter. Other than Lexus and Cadillac, the rest of them are far below average in reliability. Additionally, repairs are costly no matter what you get. They aren’t likely to fall apart as soon as you drive it out of the lot like a Hyundai or a Kia, but some repairs should be expected.

    If it’s just reliability you want, get a Toyota or a Buick or maybe Honda but I don’t think they’re all that reliable in the past 15 or so years…

    As far as luxury goes, I’ve driven many older, upscale cars (’81 and ’84 Buicks for example) and I would take those interiors over just about anything on the market today. Today’s cars are all made of cheap plastics. But if you like the standard European car interiors (BMW, Mercedes), they’ve generally kept their interiors pretty much the same over the past 35+ years.

    Also the reason you see more BMWs on the street than Lexus’s is quite simple – 20 years later, what’s worth keeping? A 1989 Lexus? I could just as well get a car 10 years newer and a whole lot more luxurious for the same price. Lexus has got better recently, but they had no appeal when Toyota first launched the brand…

  17. Dan says:

    Lexus/Toyota used older tech in their cars because it is reliable. That is coming from my friends that work in the Toyota/Lexus plant in Cambridge, they all don’t or wouldn’t drive a Lexus because they know what the car is really about, you’re paying a premium price for a car that is not cutting edge like a BMW. So what if you don’t have to maintain it as much or it doesn’t have as much service visits, when i spend 40k-60k on a car I want something that is the latest and greatest, not yesterdays standard. By definition you can’t even consider Lexus a true premium car considering that it is really just a Toyota underneath and is full of outdated tech, BMW and Benz are the only “true premium cars” out of the major luxury car brands. They have the most cutting edge tech and best engineering in their cars and they may be prone to more service issues however the true premium buyer isn’t concerned with a cars reliability, their concerned with having the best performance, safety and engineering.

    • Wade says:

      Did you know Mercedes used to own Chrysler? I didn’t see any Mercedes underneath?

      Did you know the BMW X3 is a Magna Steyr car?

      I wouldn’t consider BMW and Mercedes premium cars. They are just luxury automakers. On the other hand, Bentley, Maserati, Maybach, they are premium luxury automakers. You have some mixed definitions between the luxury car segment and the premium luxury car segment.

      I have owned several cars between 40k-60k, who happened to be BMWs. Driving felt just like a Japanese car. In fact, my Civic had more technology than my current X3. When you own a 40k-60k BMW, it is going to feel like you are driving a Camry.

      • Javynene says:

        From someone who had cars 40k-60k now is driving a Civic, hahaha too funny. You dont know about cars I see. hahahahahaa.

    • Javynene says:

      I agred with Dan.
      A Beamer is always a beamer
      A Lexus will always be a Toyota.

  18. IchLiebeMeinE38 says:

    If you want a luxurious appliance that gets you from point A to point B without much emotion, and more tolerant of neglect, by all means Lexus is the car for you. If you want a safe and luxurious ride and want to feel richer than most of the people on the road you share with them, Mercedes-Benz may be the ride for you.
    If you want an eye pleasing, smile-inducing, head-turning high performance machine with safety and luxury thrown in it, then definitely get a BMW. But be warned though, BMW is not very fond of neglect. It requires some TLC from its owners. A well taken care of BMW will give you lots of love and driving pleasur in return, but mistreat and neglect it, and it will bite you in the butt, taking your wallet with it.

  19. Showardno112 says:


  20. James says:

    I’ve owned a BMW and Lexus. I’ve had my last car for the past 13 year with not one problem! Lexus is better! The quality, smooth ride, and reliability is superior. Who wants to be stuck on the road?

  21. LexusLover says:

    I would pick a Lexus over a BMW Audi or Infiniti any day hands-down. Period. They are amazing vehicles I own one. Every person I have ever heard of that’s had a BMW has had nothing but repairers repairs repairs repairs…. Thanks but no thanks.

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