BUYERS of luxury cars are faced with more choice than ever before. To differentiate themselves, the car companies have started offering something extra to entice would-be customers. Most of the big luxury car marques offer driving trips to their customers, giving them the chance to tour a variety of stunning locations in their new car.
Lexus, the Japanese luxury car brand owned by Toyota, does things a little differently. Buyers of a new model are able to choose from a handful of tailor-made experiences that have been designed with the typical UK Lexus customer in mind. There is an English gentleman’s experience, for example, which offers a morning of shooting at a Holland & Holland shooting ground followed by a slap-up dinner and a night in a luxury hotel.
Lexus customers get preferential rates for these trips, but it isn’t really about saving a few bob. These experiences have been designed to especially suit Lexus owners. Quite often it offers holidays or day trips that are tricky to book individually, let alone as part of a package. They aren’t on offer elsewhere.
I decided to give the Mountain Lodge experience a try. Customers who pick this trip get three or more nights in a luxury ski lodge in La Clusaz, a charming little French ski village, which is just an hour away from Geneva airport.
The trip starts when my chauffeur-driven Lexus arrives at the crack of dawn to whisk me to Heathrow airport. There I catch a British Airways flight to Geneva, which takes just over an hour. On arrival, I’m met by another chauffeur. The lodge has a fleet of four Lexus RX 450h sports utility vehicles, which the staff use to ferry guests around the resort.
They are pretty cool cars that suit the location perfectly. The quartz paint job blends in with the snow-capped mountains while the car’s green credentials – the “‘h” denotes the fact that the engine is a hybrid – seems fitting when you survey the stunning scenery.
The Aravis lodge, which has been working with Lexus for over a decade, is simply wonderful. As you’d expect, the accommodation is pretty luxurious, but then luxury ski lodges are not hard to come by. What makes this place so special is the welcome you get. Jerry, the Londoner who owns the lodge, is such a friendly guy, and his enthusiasm trickles down to all of the lodge’s staff.
After just a few hours, it really does start to feel like a real home. Two huge lounges, furnished with big down-stuffed sofas, are heated by a pair of roaring open fires. The delicious evening meal, prepared by a British chef with a passion for Haute Savoie cuisine, is eaten around a large pine table. The setting helps spark conversation, as do the locally-sourced fine wines.
The piece de resistance has to be the hot tub, which boasts stunning views of the surrounding mountains. A bottle of Ruinart champagne while you soak after a hard day’s skiing? Don’t mind if I do. Whoever said you could have too many bubbles? Meanwhile, a pair of gypsy caravans double up as massage parlours, perfect for when you’ve overdone it on the slopes.
La Clusaz isn’t the most happening skiing village, but it must be one of the prettiest. There is none of the 1960s era development that has spoiled so many French resorts, while there are more than enough slopes at varying levels to keep skiers of all experience levels occupied. Nor is there any of the snobbery that is often found in the likes of Meribel or Val d’Isere.
Jerry knows La Clusaz like the back of his hand, meaning everything from hiring ski equipment to finding the right instructor is much easier than it would be if you were going it alone. He can help you arrange a variety of off-piste activities, such as paragliding with skis, which is less scary than it sounds.
He can also get you reservations at some of the most exclusive restaurants in the area, such as Albert’s, a rustic gem where the food is divine. This restaurant is so exclusive it makes El Bulli look like a McDonald’s. The owner, who runs the outfit with his wife – there are no other staff – doesn’t take reservations unless they come with a recommendation. Finding it is impossible. Don’t even bother searching on Google – it’s not there.
Of course, you would probably be able to plan this kind of trip for yourself. But it would take a huge amount of time, and there would be no way of guaranteeing those things that made this holiday so special, such as the incredibly friendly staff or the hidden restaurants.
So if you find yourself stuck choosing between two luxury car makes, it might be worth finding out what else is on offer too.