The Truth About Cars » Lexus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:53:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Lexus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/lexus/ Los Angeles 2014: Lexus LF-C2 Concept Unmasked http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-lexus-lf-c2-concept-unmasked/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-lexus-lf-c2-concept-unmasked/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 01:10:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948401 Not everything that glitters is gold, that shooting stars — like Lexus — can break the mold one time too many. This golden concept, the LF-C2, serves as both a harbinger of design cues for the Japanese premium brand, and the foundation for a grand-touring convertible to replace the aging IS C. The concept rides […]

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lexus-lf-c2-concept-2014-la-auto-show-02

Not everything that glitters is gold, that shooting stars — like Lexus — can break the mold one time too many.

This golden concept, the LF-C2, serves as both a harbinger of design cues for the Japanese premium brand, and the foundation for a grand-touring convertible to replace the aging IS C. The concept rides upon the bones of the RC 350, with a width of 72.4 inches; the former’s length is slightly longer at 185.6 inches.

If the business case is there — convertible sales are falling in the United States, after all — the 2+2 LF-C2 could become an RC convertible, with power derived from the RC 350’s 3.5-liter V6.

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Lexus Europe Boss: Teutonic Trinity “Impossible” To Beat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/uyttenhoven-teutonic-trinity-impossible-beat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/uyttenhoven-teutonic-trinity-impossible-beat/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=944057 While American premium brands Cadillac and Lincoln look to the Germans for inspiration — and their places on the podium — Lexus Europe chief Alain Uyttenhoven proclaimed that the Teutonic Trinity — BMW, Mercedes and Audi — were “impossible” to beat on a global scale, settling for fourth if possible. According to Just-Auto, Uyttenhoven says […]

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2014 Lexus CT200

While American premium brands Cadillac and Lincoln look to the Germans for inspiration — and their places on the podium — Lexus Europe chief Alain Uyttenhoven proclaimed that the Teutonic Trinity — BMW, Mercedes and Audi — were “impossible” to beat on a global scale, settling for fourth if possible.

According to Just-Auto, Uyttenhoven says the parent company is “out of its adolescence,” a turbulent time that included taking a one-two combo from the Great Recession and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Global sales prior to the occurrences topped out at 518,000 in 2007, with 2013 sales hitting a new peak of 523,000 units sold. That figure is just a quarter of what Audi aims to sell by 2020.

He adds that after establishing a reputation for high quality, customer service and environmental responsibility, Lexus will now focus on “emotion.” Thus, more high-performance vehicles with better driving dynamics, and likely more Predator grills. Diesels in Europe, on the other hand, will need more work:

The next big discussion will be about particulates. CO2 is not behind us, but we have to go to 99g/km by 2020. So, diesel has been growing because that CO2 average is easier to achieve with diesel. But the cost of purifying a diesel car is going to rise, so in the future, these engines are going to cost a lot more… For us, [petrol] hybrid is the answer.

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Consumer Reports: Infotainment System Woes Mark 2014 Reliability Survey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936826 Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems. According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a […]

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Infiniti InTouch - Infiniti Q50

Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems.

According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a crowbar to the whole thing. The brand itself took a beating, dropping 14 points to 20th out of 28 as a result of the Q50’s issues, as well as the overall reliability issues in the QX60. Other infotainment systems ironing out the bugs included Ford’s MyTouch, Honda’s HondaLink and Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s UConnect.

Concerning overall reliability, Lexus once again took the top of the podium, while Toyota and Mazda respectively brought home silver and bronze, and Honda finished in fourth. Buick, meanwhile, was the only brand among the Detroit Three to place in the top 10, jumping from 16th to sixth on the strength of its entire portfolio.

As for why the other Detroit brands failed to reach the top 10, Consumer Reports says domestic small and compact cars, along with full-size trucks, are holding everyone back. Tesla also didn’t make the list, but that was due to criteria than low quality: the publication only rates brands with a minimum of two models, a situation that will be remedied when the Model X rolls out next year.

Finally, Audi took fifth behind the Japanese makes, while Porsche took ninth ahead of Kia. BMW and Volvo remained within the top 20. Only Mercedes-Benz took a hit among the Europeans this year, falling 11 spots to 24th thanks to the new CLA and S classes.

The Consumer Reports 2014 reliability survey obtained its information from 1.1 million vehicles, the largest survey of its kind in the publication’s history.

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NHTSA Issues Urgent Recall For Takata-Equipped Vehicles In Humid Climes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nhtsa-issues-urgent-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles-humid-climes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nhtsa-issues-urgent-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles-humid-climes/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934178 If you happen to own certain BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan vehicles, and reside in a humid climate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging you to take it in for repairs linked to the Takata airbags installed. Though the agency didn’t explain exactly the need for urgency, the airbags made […]

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Takata Airbag Cutaway

If you happen to own certain BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan vehicles, and reside in a humid climate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging you to take it in for repairs linked to the Takata airbags installed.

Though the agency didn’t explain exactly the need for urgency, the airbags made by Takata have been linked to humidity-related failures, where upon detonation, metal shrapnel would be sprayed into the cabin, injuring or killing all within.

Owners of the following affected vehicles may need to bring their vehicles in for repairs if they call Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands or Hawaii home:

Toyota: 778,177 total number of vehicles potentially affected
2002 – 2004 Lexus SC
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2004 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2004 Toyota Tundra
2003 – 2004 Pontiac Vibe

Honda: 2,803,214 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord (4 cyl)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord (6 cyl)
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 -2007 Honda Pilot
2006 Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 -2003 Acura TL/CL

Nissan: 437,712 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2003 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2003 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 Infiniti FX

Mazda: 18,050 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2004 Mazda6
2004 Mazda RX-8

BMW: 573,935 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

General Motors: 133,221 total number potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2003 Buick LeSabre
2002 – 2003 Buick Rendezvous
2002 – 2003 Cadillac DeVille
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Impala
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Venture
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy XL
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Aurora
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Bravada
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Bonneville
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Montana

Recall letters are being sent out to affected owners, who can also look up their VIN through SaferCar.gov to determine if their vehicle is under recall.

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Review: 2014 Lexus GX 460 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-lexus-gx-460/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-lexus-gx-460/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916530 The various models of the Toyota Land Cruiser are some of the most respected off-roaders in the world. But what works elsewhere in the world does not necessarily work in North America. Dressed up in what is perceived to be luxury, how does this fancy Land Cruiser Prado, as its known everywhere else in the […]

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2014 lexus gs 460 side

The various models of the Toyota Land Cruiser are some of the most respected off-roaders in the world. But what works elsewhere in the world does not necessarily work in North America. Dressed up in what is perceived to be luxury, how does this fancy Land Cruiser Prado, as its known everywhere else in the world, perform in the United States?

2014 lexus gs 460 front

Get in and right away you realize that this is a truck and not a car disguised to look like one. It drives like a truck, it handles like a truck, and it feels like a truck. Guess what, it’s a truck. If that’s not your thing please stop reading and consider buying the excellent Toyota Highlander.

The exterior shape is a classic SUV two cube design. Being a Lexus, it has body cladding and running boards which are supposed to make it look upscale and softer in order to attract someone other than rich adventure travelers. New for 2014 is a Lexus family grill, the contours of which do not match vehicle’s utilitarian side profile, and frankly it looks like an add-on made by an Eastern European aftermarket company.

2014 lexus gs 460 dash interior

Hop into the driver’s seat and you will be greeted by a high seating position and large windows which yield a very commanding, Range Rover-like, sitting position. The whole dash has a very vertical feel to it, much different than anything else on the road. I was disappointed to see that the dash felt more like a Toyota, good quality but not pleasant to the senses, rather than any of the excellent new Lexus cars. All the commonly used controls are nicely laid out and very easy to use. Unfortunately the infotainment screen feels old due to its low resolution and inability to perform more than one task at a time. Instead of a new grill Lexus should have invested the money into the dash.

The rear bench is big, soft, and flat – exactly what it’s supposed to be in a vehicle like this. It does not slide, despite being on rails to allow third row access. The two-passenger third row seats are best used for short rides due to difficultly of access and lack of legroom. The third row folds in an interesting way; the bottom cushions slide under the rear cargo floor and then the seat-backs fold flat to form the cargo floor. With the third row folded, the cargo area is large and tall, something rarely seen in the days of sporty CUVs with sloping roofs. The floor is raised several inches, like on the Yukon, to accommodate the folded rear seats. There is no hatch but rather a large door hinged on the right which is a little heavy to operate. The rear window pops up for quick access, but I wish it rolled down into the door like on the 4Runner.

2014 lexus gs 460 third row cargo hatch details

Power comes from an aluminum 4.6-liter DOHC port-injected V8 which puts out 301hp and 329 lb.-ft. The engine feels heavy and it sounds loud, like a truck is supposed to. Several years ago this power would have been sufficient, but now it is lagging behind its competition. The only transmission choice is a six-speed automatic that is connected to a two-speed full-time 4WD transfercase. Compounded by a 5128 lb. curb weight, the GX gets 15mpg in the city and 20mpg on the highway. It’s not a fast vehicle, as it does not like abrupt full-throttle application, but it is smooth at any speed.

Start driving and you will immediately notice the soft suspension, a trait common to vehicles with real off-road abilities in order to allow axle articulation and traction. All potholes, no matter the size get absorbed, even at high speed but at the expense of handling. It’s not that the handling is bad; it’s just truck-like and not CUV-like. Steering feel and braking are also truck-like. To put it simply, the GX 460 requires a certain amount of respect – don’t drive it like a lunatic.

2014 lexus gs 460 interior details

Astute readers and buyers will be interested in how the Lexus GX 460 compares to the Toyota 4Runner. Underneath the sheet metal, those two are basically the same vehicles. Mechanically, the biggest difference is that the Lexus has a V8 engine, standard third row seats, and a hinged rear door. The 4Runner comes only with a V6 engine but offers a choice of 2WD and 4WD, optional third row seats, and has a tailgate with a roll-down rear window. The difference in power is not really noticeable because of the Lexus’ extra 400lb of luxury weight and the two vehicles drive nearly the same. GX’s advantage comes in maximum trailer towing: 6500 lbs. versus 4Runner’s 4700lbs. People who think of actually taking their vehicles off pavement may want to look into the new 4Runner TRD Pro which comes with locking diffs, fancy suspension, and proper mud tires.

2014 lexus gs 460 front side

The 2014 Lexus GX 460 starts at $49,085. As shown here, $4710 Premium Package adds leather, wood, automatic wipers, LED fog-lights, parking sensors, heated/cooled seats, and touch-screen nav. The somewhat flimsy cargo cover is $150 and the wheel locks are pretty pricey at $81. Total comes down to $54,826 before $910 delivery fee. A Luxury model starts at $60,715 and it includes nicer leather, air suspension, fancy headlights, and many other minor upgrades. If you have been noticing more new GX 460s on the road, it is likely because Lexus has had very aggressive lease rates on them, comparable to a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, a much less expensive vehicle.

Despite what seems like a lot faults, I personally like this truck, but I do have a general bias toward proven off-roaders. It’s honest; it does not try to be all things to all people like, say, the BMW X5. It feels strong and solid, like it could take a lot of abuse and just shrug it off. Fortunately for those disagreeing with me, the market is full of cars that resemble trucks.

2014 lexus gs 460 rear side

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. provided the vehicle for this review.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Lexus CT200h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-lexus-ct200h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-lexus-ct200h/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 12:51:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=884489 To ignore the fact that auto reviewers head into a review with preconceived notions is to forget that we’re humans, not robots. A car review isn’t a specifications chart, it’s language, however artfully (or not artfully, in this case) penned. I don’t decide in advance to dislike a car. Indeed, as often as not, the […]

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2014 Lexus CT200To ignore the fact that auto reviewers head into a review with preconceived notions is to forget that we’re humans, not robots. A car review isn’t a specifications chart, it’s language, however artfully (or not artfully, in this case) penned.

I don’t decide in advance to dislike a car. Indeed, as often as not, the cars I feel certain I will like instead leave me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. But if the information which I possess aforetime causes me to start the week with the assumption that I might not favour a car, I don’t robotically cast that notion aside. I am not capable of doing so, just as I am not capable of saying, “I will be completely open-minded about this meal of battered catfish served on a bed of refried beans with a side of grits and an extra-large helping of black pudding.”

The restyled 2014 Lexus CT200h didn’t completely change my mind. I assumed it would be terribly slow, and it was. I assumed it wouldn’t be completely worthy of a premium badge, and it wasn’t. I figured its cargo area would be too small, and I was correct.

Yet in a large number of ways, the CT200h was decidedly better than expected, so much so that I could, if I squinted, see the car’s appeal, something I wouldn’t have said the day the car arrived. So maybe I’m more open-minded than I thought, even if I won’t eat catfish or black pudding.

The CT’s front seats are among the best I’ve sat in, good enough for me to see the overall appeal of the small Lexus, even without an up-down function for the power lumbar support.

The CT’s infotainment unit is easy to use, with quick access buttons for audio, home, and back surrounding a centre console-mounted circular control knob. There’s no slow-to-respond touch screen here, and long before week’s end I stopped looking away from the road to operate vital functions.
2014 Lexus CT200Outside, the CT provides onlookers with lots to see. It’s not conventionally pretty, nor is this specific car (a $39,745 Premium Package CT200h in Canadian parlance, similar to a $37,704 CT200h in the U.S.) as aggressive as the F Sport models. You may not think it’s a cohesive effort, as the new spindle grille is not as effectively integrated as it is on the IS. But from the tailgate’s bizarre shelf to the conspicuous hybrid badging to the wrap-around rear glass and the shapely hood, there’s something to look at. The CT is not boring, which from a company that formerly used car styling as anesthesia, is a good thing.

For the moment, the CT200h is also unique among premium brands in that it’s an entry-level hatchback. No, there’s not a lot of space behind the rear seats – we’ll get to that later – but it’s a flexible layout, and space for four or five occupants is better than decent.

Perhaps the greatest surprise to me was the CT200h’s handling. Yes, the car rides rather stiffly, so we expect a compensating degree of handling prowess. The electric assist steering, which doesn’t feel as artificial as so many modern systems, and the comfort with which the CT adopts and maintains a position when hustling down my favourite local roads, combine to make for a car that’s at ease with fast driving. (Once you eventually get up to speed.) The Lexus lacks the enthusiasm of Mercedes-Benz’s CLA whether the CT’s prominently-mounted knob is turned to Eco, left in Normal, or moved to Sport, which definitely upgrades the car’s personality and takes away some of the most drastic slow sensations.
2014 Lexus CT200Then again, isn’t there always (often? sometimes? every now and then?) something a little bit charming about a slow car being driven quickly? And me oh my, is it ever slow. Instrumented tests say 60 mph arrives in under ten seconds, but I’m not sure what kinds of seconds those are. The CVT just eats up so many of the 134 Prius-donated horsepower. Because you must work the CT hard when trying to keep a gently-driven Pontiac G3 in sight, half the slowness-related problem originates with the accompanying racket of a hybrid powerplant whose revs periodically head in a different direction than you expected. Perhaps with a conventional V6 the CT would be quiet like a Lexus is supposed to be. With this mode of propulsion, with some disappointing tire hum and a speck too much wind noise, it’s not.

The lack of refinement, the lack of adequate motivation, and the overarching feeling that traffic is going that way and I’m not joining them, is enough to leave me feeling like the CT shouldn’t be called a Lexus. It’s a bit like the family reunion of mostly successful siblings, most of whom run half marathons and attend PTA meetings and eat goat cheese and grow high bush blueberries along their white picket fences, where that one younger brother who’s kind of chubby showed up wearing a WWE t-shirt, actually sprayed his hamburger with Cheez Whiz, and started singing, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” after the grandchildren sang, “The Wheels On The Bus,” at the evening campfire. Maybe it’s not exactly like that. But it’s a little like that. There’s an awful lot of obviously shared DNA: the hybrid addiction and the spindle grille and the love of cheese and the affinity for music. But there are notable differences.
TTAC_2014_Lexus-CT200h-interior-2Our press car had fewer than 4500 miles on the odometer, but the driver’s seat side bolster that gets chafed with every entry was quickly wearing away. The brakes have that prototypical hybrid regen grab, but then lack further bite. Why do I have to move a shift lever up and over and down and back but then use a separate pushbutton to put the car in Park? I’m pretty sure I just used a foot-operated parking brake. And with 14.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, the CT is way down from the Mazda 3 hatchback’s 20.2 cubic feet and even farther away from the new Volkswagen Golf’s 22.8 cubic feet. These are huge gaps in load-lugging ability, gaps we weren’t very willing to disregard when the CT was maxed out by one large load of groceries.

And then, like the guy who drives ten miles to save a penny per gallon on fuel, I temporarily lost all perspective when I filled up the CT200h before the car went back to Toyota Canada. It had burned less fuel (46 mpg) than even its EPA ratings (40 highway, 43 city) forecasted. This was pre-confirmed by the car’s own onboard computer, which I had assumed couldn’t possibly be accurate given the EPA ratings and the manner in which I drove the car.

I couldn’t overlook the CT200h’s lack of urge, its handful of non-premium missteps, or its ineffective cargo hold. I’d be happier in a fully-equipped Mazda 3 or a diesel-powered Golf, and I suspect most Lexus CT buyers would prefer to drive an Audi A3.
2014 Lexus CT200hMaybe I’m missing the point; maybe I don’t grasp the importance of the CT’s uniqueness. The buyer who wants a mid-$30s upmarket car but can’t stand spending money on fuel – who presumably figures her Lexus will feel like a Lexus, and who used to own a Prius – likely doesn’t find those other cars all that appealing. Personally, I can see the CT’s appeal, I just can’t link it to my own tastes. Or the tastes of the vast majority of the auto-buying public: this car has not proven very popular.

Even though it does boast an unexpectedly tiny fuel bill, a Lexus badge, a long standard equipment list, a sense of style, and surprisingly decent handling.

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BMW M235i Bests Corvette, 911 In Consumer Reports Road Testing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-m235i-bests-corvette-911-in-consumer-reports-road-testing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-m235i-bests-corvette-911-in-consumer-reports-road-testing/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855833 BMW’s M235i has earned the highest marks ever bestowed upon the German automaker’s lineup from Consumer Reports, while also besting the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette in road tests whose results were recently released online. Bloomberg reports the coupe earned a 98 out of 100 in its road test, falling one point short of the […]

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BMW M235i HR 04

BMW’s M235i has earned the highest marks ever bestowed upon the German automaker’s lineup from Consumer Reports, while also besting the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette in road tests whose results were recently released online.

Bloomberg reports the coupe earned a 98 out of 100 in its road test, falling one point short of the all-time leaders, the Tesla Model S and Lexus LS460L. The 911 and Corvette, packing more firepower with less comfort than the M235i, earned 95 and 92 out of 100 in their respective road tests.

Deputy editor Jon Linkov proclaimed the M235i a “dual-purpose car” that anyone “could drive to work every day of the week” without leaving the driver in pain, followed by a weekend at the track taking on the likes of the 911 and Corvette. He added that this particular BMW “has almost a direct lineage” to BMWs of the past that lived up to the marketing of “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Neither of the trio were recommended by the publication, however, as the BMW and the Corvette were too new for reliability reports, while the 911 has below average reliability according to those surveyed.

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Toyota Dominates Consumer Reports Used Car Recommendations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/toyota-dominates-consumer-reports-used-car-recommendations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/toyota-dominates-consumer-reports-used-car-recommendations/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:07:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=774913 Several Toyota models dominated this year’s Consumer Reports list of used car recommendations, with 11 out of 28 overall belonging to the automaker’s Scion, Lexus and namesake brands. Automotive News reports the 2011-2012 Camry and 2010-2011 Camry Hybrid among the best sedans between $15,000 and $20,000, while the 2006-2007 Lexus RX shares the same pricing […]

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2014 Toyota Camry

Several Toyota models dominated this year’s Consumer Reports list of used car recommendations, with 11 out of 28 overall belonging to the automaker’s Scion, Lexus and namesake brands.

Automotive News reports the 2011-2012 Camry and 2010-2011 Camry Hybrid among the best sedans between $15,000 and $20,000, while the 2006-2007 Lexus RX shares the same pricing space with the non-turbo 2009-2010 Subaru Forester. The 2004-2007 Prius, 2004-2006 Scion xB and the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix twins all took the $10,000 or less small car category, while the 2008-2009 Highlander Hybrid, 2011 Avalon and 2006 Lexus LS took their respective segment spots for vehicles between $20,000 and $25,000.

Overall, all but three of the 28 recommended used cars were made in Japan or South Korea; the 2011-2012 Lincoln MKZ, 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the aforementioned Pontiac Vibe were the only domestics to make the recommendation list.

Consumer Reports also unveiled their “worst of the worst” used car picks, where all but six were made by the Detroit Three, including the Chevrolet Cruze 1.8-liter and Impala, the Chrysler/Dodge trio of minivans, and the orphaned Saturn Outlook and Relay. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and MINI make up the remainder of the 21 picks to avoid.

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Uchiyamada: Hybrids Soon Reaching 20 Percent Of Global Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uchiyamada-hybrids-soon-reaching-20-percent-of-global-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uchiyamada-hybrids-soon-reaching-20-percent-of-global-sales/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=769666 The father of the Prius and Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada foresees hybrid sales climbing from 13 percent of global sales today to 20 percent in the near future. Automotive News Europe reports that while hybrids make up a good part of sales in the United States and Japan, they are currently a niche market in […]

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2014 Toyota Prius v

The father of the Prius and Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada foresees hybrid sales climbing from 13 percent of global sales today to 20 percent in the near future.

Automotive News Europe reports that while hybrids make up a good part of sales in the United States and Japan, they are currently a niche market in Europe in the face of equal- or better-performing diesels with lower price tags. However, Uchiyamada believes so strongly in his forecast that he didn’t factor plug-in hybrids in to his forecast, nor give a separate outlook for plug-ins.

Speaking of plug-in hybrids, Uchiyamada believes the key to success lies in higher volumes, especially among suppliers:

Suppliers need higher volumes to slash costs of components specific to plug-in models, including batteries that should be bigger and more capable than the ones used in traditional hybrids.

Regarding the Prius, Uchiyamada said the project — known as Project G21 — was a challenge, beginning with the proposal that the future Prius would net “one and a half times better fuel economy than anything that had existed before,” only to be told by top management to double the proposed number. Then, after a successful debut at the 1995 Tokyo Auto Show, he and his team spent 49 days trying to get the proto-Prius to move, finally doing so near the end of that year, “but only for 500 meters.”

Today, with 25 hybrids between Toyota and its premium brand Lexus, as well as a global total of over 6 million hybrids sold, Uchiyamada may have aged out of the title bestowed unto him regarding the Prius:

Maybe I am the grandfather by now.

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Review: 2014 Lexus GS 450h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-lexus-gs-450h-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-lexus-gs-450h-with-video/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750313 Last time TTAC looked at the Lexus GS Hybrid, Jack and I descended upon Vegas, drank too much, shared too much and one of us got purse-slapped (it wasn’t Jack). In other news, Jack found the GS a willing partner on the track, I kept drawing comparisons to the Volvo S80 T6 and Hyundai Genesis, […]

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2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004

Last time TTAC looked at the Lexus GS Hybrid, Jack and I descended upon Vegas, drank too much, shared too much and one of us got purse-slapped (it wasn’t Jack). In other news, Jack found the GS a willing partner on the track, I kept drawing comparisons to the Volvo S80 T6 and Hyundai Genesis, and both of us agreed the GS 450h would be the car we’d buy. Despite telling you all that we would have a full review in “a few months,” it has in fact been “a few years.” Since that pair of articles hit, the luxury hybrid landscape has changed dramatically.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-001

The GS used to be the only hybrid game in town, but times have changed and nearly everyone has joined the party. BMW has their turbocharged ActiveHybrid 5, Mercedes just launched the E400 Hybrid, Infiniti has re-badged their M Hybrid the Q70 Hybrid, Acura is finally selling the all-wheel-drive RLX Hybrid and Audi has announced the A6 hybrid will come to America “soon” . This means that the S80 T6 and Genesis are no longer on my list, because we have head-to-head competition now.

Exterior

Lexus used to be known for restrained styling but the current generation GS marked a change for the Japanese luxury brand. In addition to taking on more aggressive front end styling, the GS was the first Lexus to wear the new “spindle” grille. The schnozz that seemed so controversial three years ago seems downright demure today, especially since this form has been adapted to the enormous (and some say questionable) LX 470. Perhaps because the GS was the first to wear the corporate grille, the styling seems slightly awkward from the front 3/4 shot (seen at the top) but looks better in person. Unlike the IS, which gets some sheetmetal swooshes on the side, the GS’s profile and rump are luxury car restrained. Overall I think the Infiniti Q70 hybrid, despite being a little long in the tooth, still wins the beauty contest. The Lexus and BMW are a bit too sedate for my tastes, and the RLX and A6 suffer from decidedly front-wheel-drive proportions when compared to the rest and the Mercedes lands smack in the middle.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior

Interior

The GS’ interior is dominated by a large and tall dashboard with a strong horizontal theme highlighting a large 12.3-inch LCD. The interior arrangement is certainly dramatic, but causes the cabin to have a slightly oppressive feel in the black shades our tester was cast in. While other car makers are moving to stitched leather dashed, Lexus seems content to blend stitched pleather and injection molded parts together. The combination of textures and  “un-lacquered” bamboo (exclusive to the hybrid) make the interior look Scandinavian. The light wood is more attractive in person than pictures might indicate, and while I question the “renewable resource” marketing on a large luxury sedan, like the hybrid drivetrain, I’m sure it will make shoppers feel special.

Base hybrid models get very comfortable 10-way power front seats, but most of the GS 450h sedans I saw on the lot were equipped with 18-way seats. The high-end throne sports the same types of articulation as BMW’s excellent “sport seats” with an articulating back, inflating bolsters, adjustable thigh support, four-way lumbar and  “butterfly” headrests. Needless to say, if you have trouble finding a comfortable seating position, you’re not human. This puts the GS hybrid at a distinct advantage in front comfort over the Mercedes, Audi and Infiniti models. Out back the GS’s rear seats are spacious, comfortable and optionally heated. While the Lexus and Infiniti fail to offer a folding rear seat, the Mercedes E400 hybrid has a generous cargo pass-through behind its optional 60/40 rear thrones.

Infotainment

Wide-screen infotainment systems are all the rage, so Lexus dropped a 12.3-inch LCD in the dash. The system ditches the intuitive touchscreen interface Lexus used for the better part of a decade for the Lexus joystick (it’s officially called Lexus Remote Touch) but importantly doesn’t alter the software to adapt to the input method. I hate it. It occupies a great deal of room on the center console, and it takes far more hand-eye-brain coördination than a touchscreen. Every time I am in a Lexus I find myself glancing at the screen and fiddling with the little control pad far more than when I’m in a competitor’s luxury sedan. This increased distraction hasn’t gone unnoticed by my better half who constantly nags me about keeping my eyes on the road. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion.

To soften the blow Lexus throws in the same media device voice command interface as the other Lexus and premium Toyota products receive. The system is snappy, managed to figure out every command I threw at and has a more natural sounding voice than MyLincoln Touch. Helping counter the nagging LRT caused (see how that’s not my fault now), the available Mark Levinson sound system can drown out even the most shrill mother-in-laws.

Perhaps reinforcing that Lexus focuses on the “meat” of the luxury segment and not the one-percent, you won’t find the same level of gee-wizardry in the GS as some of the Euro competitors, even in this top-end hybrid model. You won’t find night vision, a full-leather dashboard, expensive ceramic knobs, massaging front seats, or LCD instrument clusters. Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of bamboo that would Lumber Liquidators make blush.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine-001

Drivetrain

While the GS 350 recently got an update in the form of a new Aisin 8-speed automatic, the GS 450h continues with just a minor software update. This means under the hood you will find the same direct-injection 3.5L Atkinson-cycle V6 engine and RWD hybrid transmission that launched in 2011. Combined with a 1.9 kWh NiMH battery pack in the trunk the system is good for 338 combined horsepower, 286 of which come from the gasoline engine. This is essentially the same engine found in the Highlander and RX hybrids, but the transmission is more similar to what Lexus uses in the LS 600hL. The unit combines the two motor/generator units with a 2-speed planetary gearset to improve efficiency at high speeds (as in on the Autobahn) but without the AWD system standard in the LS 600hL. The 2014 software update improves “sportiness” in sport mode and now imitates an 8-speed automatic instead of a 6-speed. While 338 horsepower compares well with the 6-cylinder competition, the GS 450h has the unenviable task of trying to be both the most efficient GS and the performance version as well. For reasons nobody knows, the more efficient GS 300h which uses a 2.5L four-cylinder engine is not sold in America.

By design, the Lexus hybrid system is very different from the competition. The two motor/generator units and the electrical circuitry combine with a single planetary gearsest to “act” as a continuously variable transmission. This setup allows the drivetrain to act as a serial hybrid (kind of), parallel hybrid, electric generator, or a pure EV at low speeds. In contrast Mercedes, BMW and Infiniti combine a traditional transmission with a single electric motor that replaces the torque converter. Transitions between electric and gasoline drive modes in these systems aren’t as smooth as the Lexus system because of the clutch packs involved in reconnecting the engine. Meanwhile Acura combines a dual-clutch robotic manual transmission with a twin-motor pack in the rear for the only AWD hybrid luxury sedan in this category.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-002

Pricing

GS 450h pricing starts at  $60,430 which is a considerable jump from the $47,700 GS 350, but in true luxury car fashion, you may be disappointed with what $60,000 buys you. Unlike BMW and Mercedes which offer plenty of ala carte options, the GS hybrid comes in three feature levels.  Base models don’t get navigation or snazzy LED headlamps. If you want those toys plus the 18-way front seats, semi-aniline leather, steering headlamps, heated steering wheel, 3-zone climate control, black and white heads up display, blind spot monitoring and a trunk mat, be prepared to lay down $72,062. A fully loaded $76,726 example gets the buyer heated rear seats, headlamp washers, a “high intensity heater” (an electric heater that will heat the cabin faster in cold weather), a windshield de-icer, water-repellent glass, radar cruise control with pre-collision warning, lane keeping assistant, remote engine starter, glass breakage sensor and a rear spoiler.

76 large may sound like an expensive buy, but the ActiveHybrid 5 takes the cake with a starting price of $61,400 and a fully loaded price of $87,185. Acura has been cagey about RLX hybrid pricing but their presentation at the launch indicated they plan on following Lexus’s pricing structure quite closely. Meanwhile, the Mercedes E400 hybrid delivered an unexpected value proposition with a low $56,700 starting price and when fully equipped with features not available on the GS it manages to still be slightly cheaper at $76,095. The Infiniti hybrid hasn’t changed its value proposition despite the name change and the Q70’s $55,550-$67,605 is the lowest in the group. Audi hasn’t announced A6 hybrid pricing but I expect it to slot in around the E400.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-003

Drive

To put things in the right perspective, I have to go back to the GS hybrid’s conflicted mission. Since Lexus decided to kill off the V8 GS sedan in this generation, Lexus doesn’t have a direct answer to the BMW 550i, Mercedes E550, Audi S6, or even the Infiniti Q70 5.6 (formerly known as the M56). This means the GS 450h has a secondary mission as the top-end GS trim while the other hybrids (except for the RLX) are middle-tier options and this puts the GS in an odd bind. Lexus tells us that the reason the GS lacks a V8 is that only 5% of the Germans are shipped with one. While that may be true in Europe, it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case in California.

The split mission is most obvious when it comes to the performance numbers. Despite having more power than the GS 350, the GS 450h is slower to 60 than its gasoline-only stable mate and considerably slower than the BMW, Infiniti, and even the Acura with the only the Mercedes being slower to highway speed. Still, 0-60 in 6-seconds is hardly slow and the GS performs the task with the silence and serenity you expect from a luxury sedan. Although Lexus describes the transmission as an eCVT, this isn’t a belt/pulley CVT like you find in economy cars. As a result, it feels more civilized and less “rubber-bandy.” I found the CVT manners throughly appropriate for a luxury car and the smooth acceleration befits a brand built on smooth drivetrains. Unlike a “real CVT,” engaging the eight imitation speeds is quick and easy with fast shifts from one “gear” to another. Unfortunately this does little for the GS hybrid’s sport credentials and in no way helps it compete with the V8s from the German competition.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-009

Although the GS gives up plenty in the thrust-department, it really shines in the bends. The GS’s chassis is well sorted and nearly perfectly balanced. All GS hybrid models get a standard adaptive suspension system with several levels of damping, but unlike the air suspension in the Lexus LS, the GS’s adaptive suspension is based on electronically controlled struts much like the BMW system. This eliminates the “disconnected” and “floaty” feeling you get with air suspensions found on full-size luxo-barges. When pushed in the corners the GS quite simply feels better than the BMW. Yep. I said it. Today’s 5-series has a more luxurious mission in mind, so the little it gives up to the GS shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Mercedes and Infiniti feel very accurate, although heavy, and the Audi and RLX are a mixed bag. Unless Audi works some unexpected magic, the A6 hybrid will remain decidedly nose-heavy. The Acura RLX, although it has a similar weight distribution problem as the Audi, has a slick torque vectoring AWD system in the back. Not only can the RLX torque vector in power-on situations like a electronically controlled conventional rear axle, but it can torque vector in “neutral” and “power off” situations as well. Although the RLX feels by far the most “artificial” in the group on winding mountain roads, it is one of the better handling sedans and at the moment the only AWD hybrid in this category.

Of course the primary reason for buying a hybrid is to save on gas. Right? Maybe. With a 29 MPG City, 34 MPG Highway and 31 MPG combined rating there’s no doubt that the GS 450h is a fuel sipping 338 horsepower luxury sedan. However at more than $10,000 more expensive than a similarly equipped GS 350 it would take you more than 20 years to “save money.” We did average an excellent 31.5 MPG over 800 miles with the GS hybrid, a notable improvement over the Infiniti hybrid and the short time I spent in the RLX hybrid. Although we haven’t extensively tested the BMW and Mercedes hybrids yet, brief spins in both indicate they will slot in under the GS. There’s one more problem for the GS: Mercedes’ new E250 diesel. No, it’s not a speed daemon, but at 34 mpg combined it not only makes up for the higher cost of diesel with the higher fuel economy, it starts around $9,000 less than a GS 450h as well.

The GS 450h is without a doubt the best Lexus GS sedan available. It gives up little in terms of performance while delivering excellent fuel economy, a quiet and comfortable cabin and most of the gadgets and gizmos a luxury shopper could buy. Trouble is, unless the Lexus dealer is the only game in town, nearly every other alternative in this segment has a list of reasons to buy it over the GS. The RLX has a trendy AWD system despite the discount brand association, the Q70’s brand image isn’t quite as premium but it’s thousands less, the Mercedes takes the sweet spot in the middle known as “value” (how’s that for a surprise?) and the BMW offers the best performance and the biggest list of options if you can afford it. As the top end trim for the GS line the 450h also has troubles coming in just about as expensive as the competition’s V8 offerings but offering no better performance than the GS 350. The biggest problem for the GS however is the price. If the GS 450h was $5,000-$7,000 less expensive,  this would be an easy win. As it is, the GS manages to be the car I liked the most in this segment, but the one I’d be least likely to buy.

 

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.88 Seconds

0-60: 6.01 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.49 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPH over 800 miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 68 dB

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Capsule Comparison: Infiniti M35h vs. Lexus GS450h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/capsule-comparison-infiniti-m35h-vs-lexus-gs450h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/capsule-comparison-infiniti-m35h-vs-lexus-gs450h/#comments Mon, 20 Jan 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=702946 Both Infiniti and Lexus know how to ruin a car. The Lexus GS 450h and the Infiniti M Hybrid are what results from taking a fundamentally good car and adding a bustle full of batteries. It’s more galling now because of what’s happened to these two. For years, both the M and the GS were […]

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GS450h_01

Both Infiniti and Lexus know how to ruin a car. The Lexus GS 450h and the Infiniti M Hybrid are what results from taking a fundamentally good car and adding a bustle full of batteries. It’s more galling now because of what’s happened to these two. For years, both the M and the GS were mildly interesting also-rans that couldn’t compete with the established segment leaders on any measure but price/value. But now, you’ve got an Eastern Jaguar and a crisp Arleigh-Burke class sedan that are mounting a more credible challenge against the benchmark Germans. The M and GS have learned how to control dynamics to deliver the Patris, fillii et Spiritius Sancti of performance, handling and luxury. Hybrid versions of these cars seriously blunt the excellence, and it’s a damn shame.

First, holy crap are they expensive! Cars that cost like a Cayenne and don’t deliver on their promise of increased performance are offensive. For all that extra blood and treasure, you get a GS 450h and an M Hybrid that are as satisfying as non-fat bacon. The very thing Lexus and Infiniti charge a premium for is what totally mars the driving experience.

M35H_01

The M35 Hybrid is an example of Infiniti aping more than just Jaguar’s styling. This sedan that’s all swoops and haunches comes in at a Coventry-worthy $54,750 base price. The Malbec Black M35 Hybrid I drove a few months back was certainly good looking. The wine-inspired color looks black in most conditions but blooms a subtle deep purple in bright sunlight. It’s pretty, and Infiniti does great interiors, especially this car with its Deluxe Touring Package upgrades. There was buttery leather all over the place, and the light-colored Stone upholstery contrasted handsomely with the dark exterior. Glossy wood accents and organic forms round out the cabin in the Infiniti, all to beautiful, expensive-feeling effect. That’s good, because who wants to spend the $67,000 for the M Hybrid I tried and get a cheaped-out interior?

M35H_17

To get from the $55K base price to $67,000 takes just three steps. The Stone interior with White Ash silver-powdered wood trim requires the addition of the $4,200 Premium Package and its Deluxe Touring Package cohort, a $3,900 sidekick. That $8,100 spiff buys you navigation, Bose audio, heated steering wheel, climate-controlled seats, and rear sonar in the Premium Package. The Deluxe Touring Package side of the packing sheet is how you get the silvered wood and deeper-dyed semi-aniline leather, more soft-touch materials, stitched meter hood and suede-like headliner. Wonder what it would take to get an actual suede ceiling. You get surround sound too, silly in an automotive interior, especially for content that’s largely *not* surround-encoded, but whatever. None of this has anything to do with the enthusiast’s definition of touring, deluxe or otherwise.

M35H_19

 

The final push to $67,000 for the M Hybrid came courtesy of the $3,050 Technology Package, chock-full of crap to annoy you if you’re accustomed to the act of actively driving. That’s three grand better spent on driving courses. Or, if you like paying more to be aggravated, that sum buys a lot of current pop music that you can listen to on the horribly-phasey surround sound rig (it sounds fine in stereo mode.)

GS450h_02

 

The Lexus GS 450h may not have the outward expressiveness or interior decorator flair of the M Hybrid, but it’s no ugly duckling. Attractive in a more conservative way, the GS has straighter lines in its styling and that polarizing Spindle Grille up front. The interior of the GS 450h follows the same pattern. Well-assembled, high-quality, an overall solid effort that doesn’t try to break new artistic ground.

GS450h_04

Looking at the GS and M Hybrids next to each other, you might get distracted by the glitz of the Infiniti and think it costs more, but the GS 450h was the pricing heavyweight in this matchup. What I drove was $70,252 worth of disappointing cha-ching. In general, I’m not as over the moon for the GS model line as I am for the excellent new IS that slots in below it, but part of the mission of this model was to reinvigorate the Lexus/Toyota lineup with more passion and enthusiast-pleasing dynamics. It succeeds on those points except as a hybrid.

GS450h_08

As with the Infiniti, the Lexus GS 450h can push into territory that seems absurd, though I suspect there’d be less squawking if we were talking Roundels or Stars. The GS 450h starts at $59,600 promising V8-like thrust and fuel economy and emissions figures that look more like what you’d expect from a 2.0 liter. That’s two extremes of hyperbolic bullshit for the price of…both extremes. 338 total horsepower is not V8 level power anymore, and 2.0 liter engines do better than 34 mpg highway. A Corvette now comes close to that. The GS 450h is well-equipped out of the gate, with perforated leather seats, 10-way power adjustable with heating and ventilation for driver and front seat passenger, handsome matte-finish bamboo wood accents offering the Lexus counterpoint to Infiniti’s glossy wood, power window sunshades, a host of automatic features like rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, climate control, power tilt and telescopic steering column, and premium audio.

GS450h_06

 

A spreadsheet comparing the GS and M hybrids is going to have lots of tit-for-tat checkmarks. These are closely-matched cars. The options and packages side of the GS 450h is a bit more a-la-carte than the way Infiniti does things with high-content (and high cost) packages. The biggest optional extra on this GS 450h was the $5,255 Luxury Package, which added power-folding self-dimming exterior mirrors, a power moonroof, 19” wheels, roof rails, memory for the driver’s seat, mirror and steering wheel settings and LED headlights. Adding navigation to make full use of the 12.3” LCD costs $1,735, and the heads-up display (a feature I adore and want to be mandatory in all cars) is $900. Blind Spot Monitoring runs $700, and the power trunk will empty another $400 out of your wallet. Intuitive Park Assist piles on with its own $500 surcharge, too.

GS450h_10

 

Both of these cars feature a farcical knob to adjust driving dynamics. Oh, it has an effect – selecting the sport settings on either will sharpen responsiveness and twiddle damper settings with noticeable results. It’s just that these are both still turkeys when it comes to being performance sedans. Low rolling resistance tires, the weight of a bunch of extra hardware and weird powertrain handoffs between electric motor, gas engine, regeneration and friction braking and numbed-up steering completely ruins it. There is no fun to be had here.

M35H_13

The GS undergoes a more dramatic shift when you call up the sportiest of sport modes. The steering, which is actually nicely weighted, gets appropriately heavier, but there’s still nothing tactile at all about it. What is tactile is the way the powertrain bumps and flails around between electric-only, gas and electric and gas-only propulsion. There’s good chassis discipline, though, even on the horrible tires that are probably the biggest contributor to the disappointment. The M Hybrid, with its more gruff engine note and even more pronounced sensations is worse, though it’s more willing to run farther and faster in EV mode. The M will sail along on the highway and readily kill the V6, something the GS is a lot more reluctant to do at 60-something MPH. Total M Hybrid power is a more robust 360 hp, too. Going hybrid with either of these cars is  an unsatisfyingly weird way to go about the business of being a premium sedan with some performance capability.

M35H_05

Against the most refined hybrids in the business, Toyota/Lexus, the Infiniti almost feels like a prototype. That doesn’t mean the GS got off scot-free. Lexus has done its best to isolate the occupants from the mechanicals, but that’s hard to do when the car is supposed to have some extra enthusiast appeal, where a palpable connection to the hardware is considered a feature. In both cars there’s a noticeable shudder when the gas engine is fired, and it also creates a surge, however subtle, in acceleration. On several occasions, the Lexus became very confused about what to do during steady-state cruising and set up its own odd and annoying throttle oscillation. Engaging the somnambulant Eco mode quashed that one.

 

Let’s talk braking. Regenerative brakes are de rigeur for hybrids, and they’re awesome at capturing kinetic energy and putting it back into the battery. They’re even now pretty good at the transitional handoff to the friction brakes, but they’re not perfect. In both these cars, the low-traction tires and regenerative brakes conspire to deliver less braking than you think you’re getting, leading to a couple days of “oh crap!” hard stops before you acclimate. The systems also sometimes didn’t know when to hand off, and would vacillate between a stab at the hydraulic stoppers and a dollop of regen, otherwise known as stopping like your Uncle Morty in his ‘78 St Regis. Barf.

Let’s be clear, I am a fan of hybrids. There are some vehicles like the Prius C, that I get a tremendous kick out of. That little hatchback, with its battery supply of automotive TPN, is a great time. It gets stellar mileage, it’s even entertaining to drive. The GS 450h and M 35 hybrid, do return improved mileage over their gas only counterparts, but the difference isn’t that large. The Lexus returned me about 29 miles per gallon average over 600 miles. That’s pretty good for a vehicle its size, and it’s right on the 29 mpg city number, but my driving was 60 percent highway, and so should have been closer to the 34 mpg highway number. The Infiniti M Hybrid is supposed to return 27/32, and I saw about 28.5 mpg average, though the experience lagged even that of the excessively-compromised Lexus.

M35H_10

So let’s address the inevitable “you’re missing the point, these are hybrids! They’re boulevardiers!” If that were true, would Infiniti be marketing the M Hybrid as the “fastest accelerating full hybrid on the planet?” Would Lexus be trying to make hay out of the GS 450h’s 5.6 second 0-60 time? Would there be a “Sport” mode in each of these? No, the point both Lexus and Infiniti are trying to make is that you can have your cake and eat it, too. That’s just not true. You’re right, though, these cars are boulevardiers. Good ones. There’s plenty of trunk space in each, the interiors are sumptuous, both cars look good in their own way. The overheated marketing must help them move iron by giving people who will never clip an apex a bunch of facts and figures to rattle off. Kinda like GTO in Two Lane Blacktop, without the GTO.

This can’t come down to a draw, there has to be a winner, and I think first place goes to the Infiniti M Hybrid. There is no official scoring, just an informed opinion and time behind the wheel. The Infiniti is more powerful, it’s more expressively styled, and it’s less expensive. Another plus is the Infiniti has easier to use tech. The Lexus does have more features and capabilities with its infotainment and driver-assistance features, but they’re not as easy to use. That opens the door for the years-older Infiniti system to better the much newer Lexus software and control. The Lexus system may be new, but it immediately feels dated and is more cumbersome to use. It will, however, read text messages to you, and when your friends find out, they’ll send you all sorts of amusingly vile phrases for Lexus-voice-lady to read.

The outcome would be different if we were talking gas-only, as there’s a better chassis and platform underpinning the Lexus GS. Since neither of these cars can come anywhere close to using their underlying potential, it comes down to which is less annoying to drive. That goes to the Infiniti M Hybrid. The fact that you can widen the price gulf further in the Infiniti’s favor by leaving off the Technology Package (again, it’s filled with stuff I immediately disabled and left disabled for my entire time with the car) makes it pull away from the GS even more.

M35H_08

The biggest takeaway from this comparison test for me is the fact that the next generation of both these cars will probably be really fantastic. I’m looking forward to the day these things go down the road seamlessly. Or, if you don’t want to wait for hybrids to get that good, get a Tesla now and be extra-smug.

M35H_01 M35H_03 M35H_04 M35H_05 M35H_06 M35H_07 M35H_08 M35H_09 M35H_10 M35H_11 M35H_12 M35H_13 M35H_14 M35H_15 M35H_16 M35H_17 M35H_18 M35H_19 M35H_20 M35H_21 M35H_22 GS450h_01 GS450h_02 GS450h_03 GS450h_04 GS450h_05 GS450h_06 GS450h_07 GS450h_08 GS450h_09 GS450h_10 GS450h_11 GS450h_12 GS450h_13 GS450h_14 GS450h_15 GS450h_16

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Lexus RC-F Unveiled Prior to 2014 Detroit Auto Show Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/lexus-rc-f-unveiled-prior-to-2014-detroit-auto-show-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/lexus-rc-f-unveiled-prior-to-2014-detroit-auto-show-debut/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 20:11:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695273 From the same division that birthed the Lexus IS-F and LFA comes the RC-F Coupe, which will turn up next week during the 2014 Detroit Auto Show to punch both BMW and Mercedes-AMG in the face. Though the luxury automaker hasn’t dropped any hard numbers thus far, Lexus claims the V8 behind the unmasked Predator […]

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2015 Lexus RC-F 01

From the same division that birthed the Lexus IS-F and LFA comes the RC-F Coupe, which will turn up next week during the 2014 Detroit Auto Show to punch both BMW and Mercedes-AMG in the face.

Though the luxury automaker hasn’t dropped any hard numbers thus far, Lexus claims the V8 behind the unmasked Predator face will be their most powerful yet. How powerful? The IS-F dropped 420 horses in its day, so it’s possible the former’s 5-liter will be massaged to expel 500 horsepower to the rear wheels through its eight-speed Sport Direct Shift Transmission.

Aside from the aforementioned beastly visage, the RC-F Coupe — based upon the original RC that debuted at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show — features tons of creased surfaces broken up by flared wheel arches. The front bumper directs airflow over the car and toward the brakes and engine, while vertical air vents positioned behind the front wheels allow heated brake air to escape. Stacked dual tailpipes and speed-sensitive active aero in the rear complete the package.

 

2015 Lexus RC-F 01 2015 Lexus RC-F 02 2015 Lexus RC-F 03 2015 Lexus RC-F 04

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Capsule Review: Lexus IS250 AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-lexus-is250/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-lexus-is250/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 16:28:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=690634 It’s happened, all in a neat confluence of threes. By my decree, the third generation of the Lexus IS has surpassed the BMW 3 Series. While BMW has been busying itself creating niches for increasingly grotesque vehicle-type-things, Lexus has turned out a pair of legitimately great sports sedans, first in the GS and now in […]

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DSC_4625
It’s happened, all in a neat confluence of threes. By my decree, the third generation of the Lexus IS has surpassed the BMW 3 Series. While BMW has been busying itself creating niches for increasingly grotesque vehicle-type-things, Lexus has turned out a pair of legitimately great sports sedans, first in the GS and now in the new 2014 IS. This from a company who’s top sellers are Camry cousins.

After spending a week with the 2014 Lexus IS250 AWD it took me another couple weeks to shut up about it. That rarely happens, and when it does, it means that the car is simply fantastic. You’re probably all incredulous now, especially since this isn’t even the F Sport version with its stiffened suspension tune. This IS should be the least exciting of all, except it’s not.

There’s something about the way this car is pieced together and highly burnished that transcends the tiny 2.5 liter V6 and its equally-tiny 204 hp, not to mention the even-tinier 184 lb-ft of torque. A base-model Chevrolet Malibu has 10 more lb-ft and nearly as much horsepower from a four cylinder. A six-speed automatic, even with paddle shifters, pales in comparison to the eight- and nine-speed proliferation, and the IS has always been known for its cozy dimensions. And yet, it all comes together to just feel right.

Let’s get real for a minute. A 204 hp V6 in this era is only noteworthy for what it lacks, but look past the cylinder count and you’ll find that the output numbers square with the displacement. That Malibu I cited earlier has a 2.5 liter four cylinder, which, when you think about it, explains why the torque is better and the horsepower is about the same. The Lexus uses Toyota’s 4GR-FSE V6, which has 77 mm of stroke, while the Ecotec in the Malibu has a 100 mm stroke. There’s your torque difference, right there, though the Chevy’s 88 mm bore is also larger than the 83 mm cylinder diameter of the Lexus V6, which means bigger pistons travelling a longer distance and fewer firing pulses to go around. So, while it rocks a small V6, the power level is right on the money for a 2.5 liter engine, and because it’s a 60-degree V6, it doesn’t rock like a four.

The BMW 3 Series, the clear benchmark for anyone making this kind of car, now uses a four cylinder as its standard engine, and back when it was still an “E” instead of an “F,” it was about the same size as the 2014 Lexus IS. The 3 Series has put on inches and pounds while the IS 250 has stayed tight. The new Lexus styling language, Spindle Grille and all, is at its most handsome here, with characterful taillights that blend seamlessly into the creased shoulder line that runs across the tops of the doors and the pointed outer edges of the lenses align cleverly with a feature line rising from the rocker panels. The new IS is a handsome car.

Because of its standard V6, the IS 250 has fewer bad vibrations to manage, and maybe that’s why so many good vibes are able to make their way to the palms of your hands and the seat of your pants. The IS used to feel tiny and old. It was tighter than a Corolla, kinda growly and didn’t reward the driver for putting up with any of its shortcomings. The 2014 Lexus IS is still about Corolla-sized. In fact, there’s significantly more rear legroom in the lowly Toyota, and other dimensions, like wheelbase, overall length and trunk size are within spitting distance of each other. Just looking at the numbers might give you the impression what the IS is just a Lexus Corolla, but that’s just not so.

Have you stopped dreaming about what a Lexed-up Corolla would be like? It’s not likely that you’ll confuse the workaday Toyota with the sufficiently premium 2014 IS. Getting into the IS 250 is a reminder of a time when cars didn’t trade visibility for crash test stars. The base of the windshield is nice and low, and from the driver’s seat it’s an easy lean to adjust the furthest passenger side HVAC vent. The IS is a cozy environment, with the A pillar topping out just above your forehead. And of course, there’s that back seat with a scant 32.2 inches of legroom. With just 101 cubic feet of passenger volume, claustrophobes need not apply.

The benefit of this dimensional tidiness is that it makes the tired, two-bit car writer phrases work. Controls really *do* “fall close at hand,” for example. The materials are high quality, from the supportive, comfortable, widely-adjustable seats to the plastics on the dash and door panels, right down to the knobs. The 2014 IS 250 feels good in your hands, even the secondary controls. The acorn-colored, handsomely-stitched seats with heat and ventilation were very agreeable, though the extra bolstering of the available sport seats would have been plenty welcome.

Control stalks feel precise, the steering wheel has nubbins to promote a proper grip for getting the most out of the chassis, and even the touch-sensitive cabin temperature adjustment is responsive and not infuriating like the button-free options in Cadillac or Lincoln models. It may be somewhat devoid of whimsy, but the interior of the 2014 Lexus IS is a den of quality. The Lexus mouse is right there, too, giving you control over the infotainment system that can link up with your phone and an online account and apps. The system can read text messages to you and there are also canned responses that you can send back through your paired phone while driving. You can add to the presets, as well, and that’s pretty slick, if not a whole lot less distracting than fumbling with a handset.

The IS is now highway bomber happy to strafe along in the fast lane at highly extra-legal speeds without being the least bit perturbed by it. It may be powered by a small engine, and the AWD version I drove has extra underbits to sponge up acceleration, but that tiny V6 is a heart of gold. In fact, while the IS 350 has 100 more horsepower that’s surely entertaining in its own right, the IS 250 doesn’t lack for grins. There’s fewer places where you can exercise the bigger stable, anyway, but you can enjoy the polished ride and handling balance that is a just-right blend of control and supple absorption. Someone at Lexus knows how to tune a suspension, and again, this isn’t even an F-Sport. Every corner becomes an opportunity to find the line, you get useful feedback through the steering wheel and it even loads up through corners just like it’s supposed to.

If you’re looking to be astounded in 2014, take a 2014 Lexus IS for a spin. Start with the 250. I promise it’s all I’ve cracked it up to be. To use another tired-ass hack autowriter phrase, the 2014 IS 250 AWD is truly a Goldilocks car. It’s always entertaining, it has AWD for crappy weather (probably only actually useful when paired with winter tires), it’s a high-quality car that’s very comfortable and highly composed, and even with the small V6, it’s confident and assertive on the road, if not outright speedy.

Here’s the highest praise I can give a car: I would buy this. That’s right. If I had $45K to spend on a car, the 2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD would be a purchase I’d happily make. Now you know the secret of what the car pundit would drive if this industry paid as handsomely as we wish it did.

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Review: 2014 Lexus IS250 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-lexus-is250-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-lexus-is250-with-video/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 20:58:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=639233 After taking a sales hit due to tsunami-related production woes, Lexus has been trying to regain their mojo with a new product offensive. Things started out with the new Lexus GS sedan that Jack Baruth and I loved on and off the track, followed by a revised RX. With the redesigned IS, the bulk of […]

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2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior

After taking a sales hit due to tsunami-related production woes, Lexus has been trying to regain their mojo with a new product offensive. Things started out with the new Lexus GS sedan that Jack Baruth and I loved on and off the track, followed by a revised RX. With the redesigned IS, the bulk of their lineup has been overhauled. Initially, I was a little concerned that the Lexus IS sedan would receive nothing more than a new nose and some LED lights for 2014 but the Japanese 3-Series fighter came out swinging when we were invited to the launch event earlier in the year. I came away impressed with the IS 350’s road manners, but most buyers will be shopping for the less powerful IS 250 and it’s taken us this long to get our hands on one.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 Exterior

Instead of refreshing the IS, Lexus decided to give their smallest RWD sedan a complete overhaul for 2014. Lexus crafted a new IS platform with a 3-inch longer wheelbase that addresses a big complaint about the old car – it was too small inside for American consumers. The result is an entirely new unibody that is three inches longer than the old model riding on a three-inch longer wheelbase. In addition to the stretch the 2014 model gets a hair wider, a hair taller and ground clearance drops by half an inch.

2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

In addition to the Lexus “Spindle” grille up front, the IS sports an entirely different side profile that is easily the most expressive in the small luxury segment. Although I like Cadillac’s new ATS on the outside, I think the IS provides a more balanced blend of aggressive and luxury styling cues from the angry front end, to the almost-Swedish shoulder bulges. Unfortunately I just haven’t warmed up to the Lexus daytime running lamps which are now divorced from the headlamps and have their own cut-out in the bumper cover. Lexus says they are styled after the Lexus “L” but they just look like Nike “Swooshes” to my eye. Even so, if it were my money to spend I’d be torn between the restrained but elegant BMW 328i and the aggressive but sometimes questionable IS 250. I like Cadillac’s angular lines, but I slot the design just below the BMW and Lexus in my mental tally. Add the F-Sport package to the IS 250 however and Lexus breaks the tie with a more aggressive grille. (In the picture above.)

2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Because the GS and LS share interior design cues I had expected the IS to follow suit, I was wrong. While the other Lexus models have opted for a more open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver. The feeling is amplified by a high beltline and a tall center console. If you like your car to make you “feel big,” then this is the sedan for you. Rather than the “double bump” style that seems to be popular right now, Lexus opted for a tall two-tier look with the infotainment screen positioned farther away from the driver than the gauges, and centered in the tall dashboard. Opting for the F-Sport package replaces the analog gauges with a configurable LCD cluster.

Cabin plastics in the IS lead the competition, especially those farther from the driver’s usual reach. While BMW cut a few corners with the current 3-Series by using hard plastics low in the dash, the IS maintains a quality feel no matter how low your hand wanders. As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather. “Can” is the operative word here,since  real leather can only be found in the top two option packages in the IS, while all other models get Lexus’s faux-cow that is bonded directly to the seat foam to prevent stretching or folding as the seat ages. The imitation-hide is perfectly convincing and the only covering available in the IS 250 F-Sport.

Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week with the IS 250, easily besting the Audi A4, Mercedes C250, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i – but if you want the best seats in this segment, you’ll find those in the Volvo S60 or the optional M-Sport seats in the BMW. Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, rear legroom is up by 1.6 inches over the last generation IS, while front leg room grows about an inch at the same time. The improved rear legroom is welcome as that has long been an IS shortcoming, but it’s obvious by both Lexus and Cadillac’s latest 3-Series fighter that nobody expected the 3-Series to grow as much as it did in this last generation. As a result the 328i beats the IS 250 by a whopping three inches of rear legroom. The Lexus does counter with a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be slightly more advantageous in the BMW balancing out the extra cube the IS offers.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Although I couldn’t find a single example on a dealer lot, the base IS with no options is the only way you can escape the infamous Lexus Remote Touch joystick. All other models use a small controller with haptic feedback to control a software interface originally designed for use with a touchscreen LCD. Regardless of the input method, all IS models get a 7-inch color LCD positioned far away from the driver. The base model sports a noticeable low resolution screen while all other models get a high resolution screen of the same size. The distance from the driver and the large plastic bezel conspire to make the screen look much smaller than it is. The problem is further compounded by the screen being actually smaller than the competition as well.

2014 brings some mild software updates to the infotainment software including a new home screen (shown above), HD Radio support and traffic information via HD radio instead of satellite so you don’t need an XM subscription to get a color-coded traffic map. If you can get beyond the input method, the system proved reliable and moderately intuitive. Overall however I am still forced to rank this system below BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s MMI, Infinit’s new two-screen setup, Volvo’s Sensus, and even Mercedes’ aging COMAND system. The only system to offend my inner-nerd more is with the Cadillac CUE system.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Operating by the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fit it” mantra, there are no significant changes under the hood for the IS 250 this year. That means we have the same 2.5L, direct-injection, 60° V6 engine as before, good for the same 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of twist. (The IS 350 gets a 3.5L version of the same engine, making 306 HP and 277 lb-ft.) Just as before, we have a 6-speed transmission on offer (The RWD IS 350 gets a newer 8-speed), with AWD commanding $2,535 more. Should you opt for the F-Sport package, Lexus will add a sound amplifying snorkel to the intake plumbing to amplify the engine’s growl.

With everyone else moving to forced-induction four-cylinder engines, the smooth V6 engine is what sets the IS 250 apart. I know that calling a V6 “smooth” or, dare I say it, “buttery smooth” sounds like sacrilege, but since BMW no longer offers their naturally aspirated in-line 6 under the hood of the 328i, the refinement crown goes to Lexus.  There is more going on here than just the numbers however, because the small turbos not only deliver more torque, they do so across a much broader RPM range than Lexus’ 2.5L V6. Even the Mercedes 1.8L turbo in the C250 blows out more torque across a broader band than the six cylinder mill in the IS 250. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h, which mates the same engine to Lexus’s RWD hybrid drivetrain, remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The IS’s 2.5L V6 may be down on power compared to the Americans and Germans but it is no contest when it comes to refinement or engine note. Sadly refinement isn’t what propels you to 60, so when the light turns green you’ll have a whisper quiet view of the competition’s rear bumpers. Our tester ran to 60 in 7.02 seconds, a full 1.3 seconds slower than the 328i and 1 second slower than the ATS 2.0T.  Even the 1.8L turbo in the Mercedes C250 and the bargain-basement BMW 320i beat the IS 250 to 60 MPH by a few tenths.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the 2014 model. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while the third generation chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system in the IS feels like a team player from the numb suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbone front suspension. While the IS isn’t the hard-core corner carving machine the ATS 2.0T is, the IS 250 feels more harmonious and balanced on the road. Oddly enough, the BMW is the wild card. The E90 3-Series (previous generation) was precise and engaging, but the F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. Meanwhile the Audi and Volvo plow like a John Deere when they encounter a corner and the Mercedes feels just as you would expect: heavy and soft. That’s not to say the IS is the performance winner. The Lexus is a hair heavier in the nose than the BMW, so at-limits handling is not as neutral as the ATS and because of the power deficit, the 328i is faster around the track. While the Lexus feels more precise and engaging than the BMW, the 328i’s better weight balance means it is both faster in the straightaways and holds its own in the corners. How about the Cadillac? It beats both the Lexus and the BMW hands down.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-004

Without taking price into consideration, the IS 250 makes a compelling argument for those that value smooth drivetrains, excellent steering feel and chassis dynamics. If however you value performance, luxury amenities and cabin room, the BMW is your best bet. If you’re a BMW shopper that is after the “ultimate driving machine” then you need to visit the Cadillac dealer.

Reviews are nothing without pricing information however. The IS 250 is the cheapest car in this shootout by a long shot. The IS undercuts the BMW 328i by $3,600 (adjusting for feature content) and even manages to be $1,700 less than the BMW 320i. Option up the BMW and Lexus with navigation, sport pack and leather and the delta grows to more than $5,000. The story is the same with the Cadillac and Mercedes with the ATS ringing in $4,200 to $7,500 more and the C250 a whopping $5,500-$7,500 more. The Infiniti Q50 may seem like a natural competitor but Infiniti has yet to release a model that competes directly with the low output options in this segment.

After a week with the IS 250 and a few hours in the Cadillac ATS and 328i in the same week something dawned on me. Lexus and Cadillac have managed to do what they set out to: beat BMW at their own game. Cadillac has nearly replicated an E90 3-Series in terms of handling and chassis performance, Lexus has crafted a drivetrain and steering rack that are superior in smoothness and feel to what BMW is selling. But just when the competition caught up BMW decided to play a different game. By chasing luxury, roominess and fuel economy, BMW has shifted the focus away from driving dynamics. (Yep, I said that out loud.) And in the process BMW is laughing all the way to the bank. By chasing BMW Lexus has created the finest IS 250, yet the sales indicate what Lexus should have been chasing is the customer.  For a car guy like me, the way the IS 250’s systems seem to work in perfect harmony combined with the low sticker price make it a winner. For the average shopper however, Lexus is an 8-speed automatic and a four-cylinder turbo away from true competition.

 

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.58 Seconds

0-60: 7.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.37 Seconds @ 89.1 MPH

Cabin Noise at 50 MPH: 66 Db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 27.5 MPG over 591 miles

2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine 2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine-002 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-001 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-002 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-004 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-005 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-006 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-007 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-008 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-009 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-001 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-002 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-003 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-004 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-006 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-007 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-008 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-009 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-010 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-011 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 Trunk

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Lexus No. 1 in Reliability, Ford Near Bottom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/lexus-no-1-in-reliability-ford-near-bottom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/lexus-no-1-in-reliability-ford-near-bottom/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 13:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=638705 If reliability is the No. 1 trait your next car must have, you may then opt to visit your nearest Lexus dealership before considering anything from the Ford dealership across the street as far as Consumer Reports is concerned. Lexus, Toyota and Acura dominate the consumer magazine’s Top 10 in reliability for 2013, with a […]

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If reliability is the No. 1 trait your next car must have, you may then opt to visit your nearest Lexus dealership before considering anything from the Ford dealership across the street as far as Consumer Reports is concerned.

Lexus, Toyota and Acura dominate the consumer magazine’s Top 10 in reliability for 2013, with a total of seven Japanese automakers taking almost all of the marbles; the only non-Japanese makes to make the Top 10 were Audi (No. 4), Volvo (No. 7) and GMC (No. 9).

Meanwhile, Ford was pushed into the No. 26 slot after being stranded in the 27th position last year. Lincoln fell back to No. 27 on reliability, with BMW’s MINI in dead last on the side of the road. Reasons for both Ford and Lincoln being where they are include complaints about the automaker’s MyFordTouch system, and problems with their EcoBoost engine.

If you’re at the Toyota dealership, however, Consumer Reports recommends anything but the Camry, Prius v or RAV4. The magazine retracted its recommendations for the trio due to poor results in crash testing as conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a decision the publication doesn’t take lightly according to Consumer Reports Director of Auto Testing Jake Fisher:

Honestly, we don’t take this lightly, but virtually every vehicle now in the family sedan category has been tested and the only one that has gotten a ‘poor’ is the Camry. At this point, we don’t feel we can continue to recommend people buy a Camry when there’s other good choices out there that do better on the test.

That said, there may be hope for redemption regarding the Camry: Toyota’s engineers have gone over the car’s failings, and will retest with IIHS in December.

Fisher also said that with 50 vehicles tested by the IIHS, his publication has enough data to begin weeding out any vehicle with a “poor” rating. Thus, expect to see more recommendations retracted on some cars the next time you head to the newsstand to pick up the latest issue of Consumer Reports.

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Capsule Review: Lexus LS460 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-lexus-ls460/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-lexus-ls460/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=631442 This is the Lexus LS460, the luxury boomer that built the brand. It was the Lexus LS that launched the Automotive Battle of Hastings back in 1990, attacking the European establishment with devastating competence. The 2013 Lexus LS460 is still that great, and yes, the ride is still more Chris Craft than hardtail. Lexus has […]

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This is the Lexus LS460, the luxury boomer that built the brand. It was the Lexus LS that launched the Automotive Battle of Hastings back in 1990, attacking the European establishment with devastating competence. The 2013 Lexus LS460 is still that great, and yes, the ride is still more Chris Craft than hardtail.

Lexus has seemed distracted. The HS250h and CT200 are not surprise success stories, but predictable failures. At leas the best-selling ES350s and RX crossovers aren’t tone-deaf attempts like the other two. You might even be worried about Lexus. The LS 460 will restore your faith that Lexus is not becoming Toyota’s Mercury.

Here’s the hard-boiled car review stuff on the LS460. The 386 hp V8 is 4.6 liters of unrealized potential. Wind it up and you get the power, plus an overly-muted V8 roar, but the rest of the car doesn’t want to play along. Even selecting SPORT mode with the Drive Mode Select knob doesn’t seem to do a whole lot, though Lexus says it “alters the powertrain for faster gear changes and more dynamic throttle mapping.” In this case, “alters” is more aptly defined as what happens to Fluffy the Domestic Short Hair during a visit to the vet.

Drive Mode Select also includes an ECO mode, which turns out to be handy in stop and go traffic thanks to its heavy filtering of driver inputs. Manually shifting the automatic is only somewhat encouraged by the manual gate. Let’s face it, an LS 460 bouncing off its rev limiter might seem untoward, so instead it upshifts for you. Why bother with the half-hearted measures?

For a car that’s credited with creating such a splash, the LS 460 certainly blends in. It won’t command the attention of the Nimitz-class Mercedes or BMWs, the LS is more like a Littoral Combat Ship that navigates under the radar. The exterior styling is attractively innocuous and the interior is both comfortable and blandly luxurious. Lexus would probably dispute that, but just look at how much Camry there is in the LS. Or is it LS in the Camry? Does it matter, either way?

Well, that’s about the long and short of it on the car end. The Lexus LS 460 is as the LS has always been, now with some added technology to serve as press release talking points. The bigger thing going on with Lexus is that it’s become a part of the establishment it was conceived to slap around.

In 1990, the Mercedes-Benz S Class was the top dog, a resolute car that was also never short on innovation. The LS 460 is every bit the obsessively-fettled accessible high-ender it’s always been. This car is a known quantity, and the impressions of the original LS 400 are pretty much the same thing you can say about the LS 460.

When did the Lexus LS go from gob-smacking revolution to same-as-it-ever-was? Maybe around the time Autoblog said something like “Lexus-quiet,” but probably before that.

The LS 460 is passionless and competent. It’s got all the acronyms, there’s more tech than you’ll want to bother with, let alone learn to master. The haptic controller is both loved and loathed, but the heart of the matter is that the Lexus way of navigating around its app suite and infotainment system can be a more positive experience than stabbing at a screen with your finger. Those that hate it probably want to hate it.

There’s a lot of words in press releases, but the LS 460 doesn’t create a lot of conversation about itself. It’s quiet, comfortable, it ticks all the boxes, but it’s still not likely to get your ticker going.

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Review: 2014 Lexus LS 600hL (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-lexus-ls-600hl-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-lexus-ls-600hl-with-video/#comments Wed, 25 Sep 2013 11:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=520497 The LS 600hL is the pinnacle of Toyota and Lexus engineering. It is the largest Lexus sedan, the brand’s most expensive model, the most expensive hybrid in the world and, with the death of BMW’s V8 ActiveHybrid system, it is once again the most powerful hybrid on sale. Yet the LS 600hL hasn’t had an […]

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2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The LS 600hL is the pinnacle of Toyota and Lexus engineering. It is the largest Lexus sedan, the brand’s most expensive model, the most expensive hybrid in the world and, with the death of BMW’s V8 ActiveHybrid system, it is once again the most powerful hybrid on sale. Yet the LS 600hL hasn’t had an easy time of things. The large luxury sedan has been lambasted for being the antithesis of green thanks to its EPA combined 20 MPG score. Critics also question whether the 600hL’s enormous premium over the LS 460L can ever be “justified.” I too questioned the logic behind the 600hL at first, but then I spoke with someone who changed my mind. Before we dive in, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The 600hL starts at $119,910. With all the options checked, you land at $134,875. Without destination. Put your eye balls back in their sockets and click past the jump as we dive into an alternate universe.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I don’t live in a world filled with chauffeurs, champagne and caviar. Heck, I don’t even live in a world with indoor plumbing. (Seriously, my house doesn’t have an indoor shower, but that’s a story for a different time.) This meant I needed help in order to view the 600hL through the right lens. Fortunately I have a family connection with a guy in Atherton who is exactly the kind of guy I was looking for: one with deep pockets. Being the private jet/vacation mansion owning guy I was looking for, I expected him to be put off by the LS 600hL’s simple lines and unmistakably “discount” $71,990 LS 460 roots. Instead he had an opinion I hadn’t considered.

In a town where the money is piled high and deep, but paradoxically being flashy is considered tasteless, the LS 600hL strikes the right balance. Or so I am told. By looking like a lesser LS, it doesn’t scream “I spent twice your salary on my car,” but at the same time your neighbors will know your trust fund is still returning 15% a year. While he agreed that a similarly expensive 2014 S-Class was far more attractive and exciting, he felt it was too “nouveau riche.” From the mouth of babes…

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesInterior
$119,910 doesn’t buy you a leather-clad dashboard standard, if you want that you have to add a few options to your spendy hybrid. No matter what package you add, the age of the LS platform shows in the front seats. Sharing the same mechanisms with the pre-refresh 2012 LS, the seat fails to contort in the same variety of directions as the Germans, or even the cheaper Lexus GS which has more modern seat frames. Still, 600hL buyers are likely to only experience the front seats when Jeevs has a day off.

Because 2013 is more of an extensive refresh than a clean-sheet design, the LS 600hL doesn’t get a fancy LCD instrument cluster, opting instead for a four-dial arrangement with a “wine glass” shaped multi-function display in the center. A full-disco-dash arrangement isn’t a requirement for me as there are plenty of traditional gauges in this segment but I had hoped for more from a luxury car designed in a country obsessed with electronic gadgets. The same thing can be said for the large 12-inch display in the middle of the dash. The display is bright and crisp but the software hasn’t been significantly re-worked for some time making it feel dated.

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-009

Gadgets & Infotainment

No 600hL would be complete without the $7,555 Executive Package. For the cost of a used compact car Lexus adds an Alcantara headliner, deletes the middle rear seat for a fixed console, covers the dash in leather, wires up a 120V inverter, and installs the best rear seat available in America.

That seat is the 600hL’s raison d’être. It is also so mind-blowingly insane, I have decided it will hence forth be known as the “Lexus throne”. The 600hL’s throne contorts in 10 ways via controls in the substantial center console and boasts manual butterfly headrests. If that isn’t enough it will also vibrate and massage your royal personage while you put your feet up on the power ottoman. The massaging function isn’t like the systems employed by the German competition in the front seat. Those systems use a series of air bladders that inflate/deflate in a pattern to initiate a massage. The result feels more like a rodent trapped between the foam and the upholstery. The Lexus system uses a system more similar to the pneumatic rollers you find in airport “massage station chairs.” Only classier. And without the stench of the peasantry.

Activating the massage is easy once you get the hang of the 17-button remote control nestled next to the 26-button infotainment remote inside the 45-button console. If you rank your rides by button count, we have a winner. Lexus tosses in a blue-ray DVD player, wireless headphones and a single LCD that drops down from the ceiling. Although the Lexus Remote Touch joystick lives on up front, those being coddled in the rear can forget about the clunky controller and can control many of the car’s functions via the button bank. On the one hand this is less integrated than BMW’s iDrive for rear passengers that allow them top play with the nav system, but it does shield the owner of the LS 600hL from dealing with the evil that is Remote Touch.

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

The wealthy are frequently in a hurry and have the resources to pay Texas-sized speeding tickets. Unfortunately for them, Lexus hasn’t updated the 600hL’s hybrid system for the new model. While I still think of the 600hL’s setup as one of the most advanced hybrid systems in the world, I just can’t call it “powerful” anymore. Rated at 438 system horsepower, it is outclassed by a wide variety of V8s in everything from a Dodge Super Bee to the German’s base V8 options. That’s even before we talk about the V12 luxury barges Lexus is attempting to target. The “old” S65 AMG cranked out 631 horses and enough torque to cause the earth to rotate in the other direction. What will 2014 bring? You can bet the answer will be: more.

Operating much like a Prius hybrid system on steroids, a 385 horsepower 5.0L V8 engine is mated directly to a planetary gearset employing two motor/generator units. The larger motor is capable of 221HP on its own, but the battery pack in the trunk of the LS can only supply 53 HP at a time limiting the EV mode to around 30 MPH. The engine and motors work together to provide seamless and linear acceleration unlike anything on the market save a Tesla Model S. This design is quite different from the pancake motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission that you find in the German hybrids. Lexus won’t comment on how much torque the combined unit is good for, but my gut tells me it is around 450 lb0-ft combined.

Lexus continues to use a 288V Ni-MH battery pack that is similar to the one used in the Lexus RX hybrid. The 1.6kWh battery pack isn’t as space efficient as the more modern Lithium based batteries but had a proven track record and allows high current discharges with a smaller number of cells. Unfortunately it’s not as slim as the trendier cells and occupies a large portion of the trunk. Combined with the plumbing for the four zone climate control and the massaging throne, they slice trunk capacity from 18 cubes to 13 making it difficult to fit large luggage in the rear.

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

With 5,500 pounds of luxury sedan riding (yes, you read that number correctly) on an air suspension, you can cross corner carving off your list. I suspect that such activities are frowned upon when the help is driving you anyway, but the weight and relatively narrow 245/45R19 tires mean stopping distances are long as well. Dynamically the LS has always been an excellent vehicle with a well controlled chassis, nearly perfect weight balance and a solid feel. When scaled up to the 600hL, you can tell those traits are still there but they are masked by the weight and the standard adaptive air suspension.

If I might digress for a moment, the LS platform is the perfect vehicle to experience an air suspension in on a test drive. There aren’t many cars that have a standard steel-coil suspension and an air suspension available in the same car and the LS is one. Air suspensions have an entirely different feel to them so when you compare an S-Class with Airmatic with a 7-Series that had only a partial rear air suspension it’s difficult to compare unless you’ve experienced what the air bags do to the feel of the car. I encourage anyone looking in this segment to give the LS a spin with and without the air suspension so you can really be familiar with the changes these systems make to the feel of a car.

Back on topic, let’s talk thrust. At the stoplight races the LS 600hL accelerates faster if the engine is already on. This is fairly logical since some of the motor’s twist would be consumed by starting the engine. Our numbers were taken with the engine “stopped” by the hybrid system which is the normal state of affairs. Thanks to the massive torque from the electric motor and the 5.0L V8, we hit 30 MPH after a scant 2.36 seconds. After this point the heavy curb weight comes into play with 60 MPH happening after 5.44 seconds followed by a 13.96 second quarter-mile. A BMW 750 and Mercedes S550 scoot to 60 about a half second faster while the V12 BMW 760 is a full second quicker. On the flip side even the new 8-speed ZF transmission feels like a farm tractor compared to the Lexus Hybrid Drive system. Acceleration in the 600hL is extraordinarily linear, unbelievably smooth and eerily silent. Comparisons to the Tesla Model S in terms of acceleration linearity and feel are entirely appropriate. All of a sudden the hybrid drivetrain combined with the throne in the back make sense: if I’m being driven, I want a smooth experience. Forget about the driver having fun, it’s all about the party in the back.

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

After a week with the LS 600hL I still have problems looking at the expensive cruiser in the “right” way, but I am closer to understanding the point. That point is less about fuel economy (which was 21.8 MPG over all by the way) and more about silently and smoothly cruising below the radar. If that’s your mission, then mission accomplished. The LS 600hL is also the least expensive vehicle that I know of designed with the chauffeured set in mind. Except that makes the LS 600hL the oddest duck I’ve met. Being obviously designed for owners with drivers it makes a value proposition that logically shouldn’t matter to the intended audience. If you’re being driven, the smallest part of the expense structure over the life of a vehicle is the price of the vehicle. Your driver and his benefits are likely to eat the bulk of your budget. My sounding board in this process is still trying to convince me that looking at the LS 600hL in this light is missing the point. Perhaps, but it does explain why the LS 600hL sells in such small numbers. It also explains why he still has a 2010 XJ8.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Best. Back. Seat. Ever.
  • Avatar on Blue Ray never sounded so good.

Quit it

  • Everyone will wonder why you didn’t buy an S-Class.
  • 438 ponies is hardly class-topping in 2013.
  • Despite being told otherwise, 21.8 MPG still seems to be missing the point.

 

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

0-30: 2.36

0-60: 5.44

1/4 Mile: 13.96 @ 105 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 21.8 MPG over 623 miles

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Engine 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-002 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-003 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-004 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-005 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-006 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-007 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-008 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-010 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-001 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-002 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-003 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-004 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-006 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-007 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-008 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-009 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-010 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-011 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-013 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-014 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-015 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-016 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-018 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-019 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-020

 

 

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Review: 2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/review-2013-lexus-rx-350-f-sport-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/review-2013-lexus-rx-350-f-sport-video/#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 20:09:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484893 I remember when the RX rolled onto the scene in 1998. It was truly the first successful crossover as we would know it today. While everyone else was trying to produce a truck-based luxury SUV, Lexus took the Camry/ES platform, put a jelly-bean inspired box on top and jacked the ride height up to 7.7 […]

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I remember when the RX rolled onto the scene in 1998. It was truly the first successful crossover as we would know it today. While everyone else was trying to produce a truck-based luxury SUV, Lexus took the Camry/ES platform, put a jelly-bean inspired box on top and jacked the ride height up to 7.7 inches. The result was instant sales success. As we all know however, success has a price. The marshmallow-soft FWD RX lacked road feel, steering feel and sex appeal. Although it’s a bit late in the game, Lexus has decided to fix that last problem with the introduction of the 2013 RX F-Sport.

Click here to view the embedded video.

F-Sport is to Lexus what M-Sport is to BMW. (No, not M, M-Sport.) That means the RX gets a new grille, flashier wheels, some suspension upgrades, a new transmission and interior tweaks. You’ll notice I didn’t say “more power.” That’s because this is “F-Sport,” not F.

We should talk competitions first so we can discuss the F-Sport in the proper light. First up, the MDX. We need to cross that one off the list. Why? Primarily because it has seven seats, but also because the all-new MDX is being shown off in the next month or so. (Check back for an RX vs MDX overview at that time.) That leave us with the Lincoln MKX, Cadillac SRX, Volvo XC60 and the Audi Q5. Yes, in some ways the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLK compete, but their RWD drivetrains put them in a different league. Not to mention Mercedes and BMW owners don’t seem to see the RX as competition.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The nuts and bolts of the RX date back to 2009 when the platform received its third redesign, while the bumpers received a nip/tuck for the 2012 model year. The 2013 F-Sport builds on that refresh, retaining the new spindle grille but swapping horizontal slats for the signature F-Sport “squiggle” grille. Since our readers have complained we don’t offer enough subjective styling criticism, here we go. I’m feeling the love for Lexus’ F-Sport nose, especially on the RX. The new IS F-Sport takes the F-Sport squiggle theme to the extreme with lines going from the hood to the air dam, but the RX breaks things up with a body-colored bumper section in the middle. Overall I find the look elegant with just a hint of aggressiveness. My only issue is: every RX should look like this.

I’m not sure what Lincoln’s engineers were smoking when they styled the MKX’s nose, but it must have been some strong stuff. As much as folks think I dislike GM products, I find the SRX to be aggressive, bold, and stylish, all in good ways. The Q5 makes me yawn. Volvo’s styling has always struck a chord with me, but the Swedes aren’t known for bold and daring. The MDX? I can’t get past the beak. My personal style ranking would be: SRX, RX F-Sport, XC60, Q5 and then the MKX. Sorry Lincoln.

Interior

The 2012 refresh didn’t bring sweeping changes to the interior. In truth, aside from an infotainment software update and a new steering wheel, the only changes were to the color palette. That means we still get the slightly rubbery (but still soft) injection molded instrument panel dominated by an infotainment screen. The shifter still pops horizontally out of the dash, and we still have 2009-era plastics. Keeping the competition in mind, the MKX has an interior style I appreciate more, and has more soft-touch plastics. However, Lincoln’s interior quality is more of a mixed bag than the Lexus. The Audi Q5 strikes me as a little cheap on the inside, sorry Audi fans. The Volvo scores points in my book for diverging from the typical CUV interior style and ties with the SRX in terms of style, fit and finish and interior feel. The Lexus slots in second, followed by the MKX while the Q5 brings up the rear.

Back in the RX, the front seats are comfortable and supportive, just as you expect from Lexus, but the passenger seat doesn’t have the same range of electric adjustibility as the driver’s seat. In tune with the RX’s mission as an upscale crossover, (marketed towards buyers older than the RAV4 rabble) the rear seats are higher off the ground and more suitable for adult transportation. Thanks to the FWD based drivetrain, the RX has no differentiable “hump” in the rear making sitting three-across far less painful than RWD based crossovers. Cargo hauling is the RX’s strong suit with the largest hold of the bunch.

Infotainment

You won’t find many examples on dealer lots, but base RX models get a standard 7-inch “multi-information” screen in the dashboard. Available as a separate $860 option, standard on F-Sport and included on most option packages is the “display audio” system. Display audio bumps you up to an 8-inch LCD with a backup cam, HD Radio, rotary controller in the center console and the 12-speaker Lexus branded audio system. This middle system is my personal preference because it is the only way to get the 8-inch screen without Lexus’ joystick controller device.

Lexus calls the controller “remote touch,” I call it the most aggravating input method so far. Remember Volvo’s pop-up nav with the controller on the back of the steering wheel? This is worse. Don’t get me wrong, the system is easy to use; it works like a computer mouse: just point and click. My problem is two fold. First, you have to spend more time staring at the screen to operate the system than you did with the old Lexus touchscreen interface. Second, the location of the controller makes it difficult for your front passenger to use the system. If you want to know more, check out the video at the top of this page.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, Interior, Center Console, Picture Console of Alex L. Dykes

If SMS text-to-speech and smartphone app integration are must haves, be prepared to shell out $2,775 for that navigation system ($1,916 over the display audio system). Nearly three grand is a steep premium, even in this segment. On the flip side you do get full voice commands for your USB/iDevice, XM radio with XM data services, and Lexus tosses in the 12-speaker sound system.

I appreciate my tunes, do I’d also need to splurge on the $995 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. With 330-watts and a subwoofer, the system is a noticeable step up from the base or 12-speaker systems, but is not as impressive as the 650-watt system in the XC60, or the Meridian systems in the Range Rover Evoque. With the blind spot monitoring system ($650), the nav, up-level sound and parking sensors, our RX 350 F-Sport rang in just under $53,000 without destination.

Drivetrain

Since F-Sport isn’t about power, you’ll find an identical 270 horsepower 3.5L V6 engine under the hood of the RX 350 and the RX 350 F-Sport. This is the same smooth “2GR-FE” engine used in everything from the Toyota RAV4 to the Lexus ES 350. That also means this mill doesn’t benefit from Lexus’ direct-injection sauce used to increase power and torque in the IS and GS. With only 248 lb-ft of twist on tap at a lofty 4,700 RPM, the only competitor with less is the Volvo XC60 3.2. But we must compare apples-to-apples and that’s a problem here because Volvo also offers the most powerful engine in this segment at 325 HP and a whopping 354 lb-ft of twist from the 3.0L twin-scroll turbo in the XC60 R-Design.

To compensate for the power deficit, Lexus connected the V6 to the world’s first 8-speed automatic transaxle. The new U880F transaxle features a much lower effective first gear ratio at 17.31:1 vs 14.48 for the non-F-Sport model (gear x final drive) and a taller final gear at 2.28:1 vs 2.66:1. The new ratios make the F-Sport quicker off the line, quicker to 60 by 4/10ths and improves fuel economy by 2MPG on the highway. The 18/26 MPG (city/highway) score ties with the 8-speed Q5 3.0T for the best fuel economy, 2-3MPGs better than the Americans or the Swede.

Drive

The RX has never been known as a corner carver, something that is expected of a sports package. So Lexus stiffened the dampers, fiddled with the springs, made the optional low-profile rubber standard and dropped in a version of the cross damping system found in the CT hybrid hatchback. The system uses two braces with integrated gas-shocks, connecting the left and right side of the chassis (front and rear). The braces aren’t there to increase rigidity, but rather to absorb and compensate for body vibrations. I wouldn’t say the system makes a night and day difference, but driving the F-Sport back-to-back with a “regular” RX on broken pavement, there was a difference. Depending on what you expect from your RX, that difference may excite or disappoint. If you want a marshmallow soft ride with more shove, get the RX 450h. If you’re just interested in a polished ride, get the regular RX 350 since the F-Sport tuning seems almost at odds with the RX’s mission.

You notice I didn’t say: wider tired. Most companies include wider and grippier rubber in their sports packages, but that could have led to more road noise, lower fuel economy and a crashier ride. Those don’t sound very “Lexus” to me, and apparently the engineers thought the same. Pity. While this is an omission you can fix aftermarket, the narrow 235-width tires and hefty 4,510lb curb weight mean the RX lands at the bottom of the pack when it comes to grip. That means even the porky 4,430lb MKX manages to hustle through the twisties with more poise than the RX. If grip is what you seek, look no further than the XC60 T6 AWD R-Design thanks to the lowest curb weight and some seriously wide 255/45R20 rubber. You know, for this segment.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, Gauges, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The case for the F-Sport starts to fall apartwhen you look at that $53,000 price tag and consider our RX lacked a few options like the heads-up display and radar cruise control. That’s a $7,000 premium over the faster Volvo XC60 T6, and a $3,000 premium over Volvo’s performance trimmed XC60 R-Design. Feature for feature, the F-Sport commands a higher price than the Lincoln, Cadillac or Audi as well, not to mention those Germans we didn’t talk about. Lexus counters with a reliability and dealer reputation that is second to none. But, you can have plenty of off-warranty repairs done to your Euro crossover for the difference. Still, the RX leases well thanks to a high residual value and I suspect that has something to do with its continued dominance when it comes to sales.

Lexus has, without a doubt, created the perfect RX. It looks better than the regular RX, goes faster, is more economical, and handles slightly better as well. If you’re reading this because you want the RX, then go ahead and buy one. If however you want the best handling and performing small luxury crossover, stop by the Volvo dealer. Want sexy? Check out the 2014 Evoque with the new 9-speed.

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • I have to admit, the F-Sport nose job works for me
  • Lexus reliability reputation

Quit it

  • Down on power compared to everyone else.
  • Lexus Remote Touch. Enough said.

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.35 Seconds

0-60: 6.55 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 19.2 MPG over 679 miles

 

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Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 15:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480822 While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 […]

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While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 F-Sport. It was only a matter of time until the spindle grille and the looks-fast F package appeared on Lexus’s flagship LS. Can a “looks-fast” and “handles-better” package help the LS regain the sales crown? Or does Lexus need to go back to the drawing board for some go-fast love?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Lexus’s new styling direction has been somewhat controversial, which is probably a first for Lexus having subscribed to the “simple is elegant” mantra since 1989. While I wasn’t sure about the new “spindle” grille on the 2011 GS and I need to see the 2014 IS to figure out if I like it, the spindle on the LS suits me just fine. The problem in my mind is the proportions. The LS’ blunt nose, wide stance and long hood just work while the shorter snout and more pronounced spindle on the IS seem a bit too “try hard” to me at the moment. In addition to the blacked out grill you see above, F-Sport models get a lowered stance, Brembo brakes, revised suspension tuning and unique wheels. The cost for the added kit? $12,080 over the base LS 460’s starting price of $71,990. Out the door at $84,965 the LS 460 F-Sport undercuts a similarly equipped BMW 740i M-Sport by nearly $2,000. Mercedes? The 295HP V6 S400 starts at $92,350. If you thought the LS sells on reliability and value, you’re right.

Interior

Most manufacturers spend the cash on the outside of the “sport” model leaving less of the budget for interior tweaks and so it is with the F-Sport. We get some tweaked seats, aluminum pedals, a black Alcantara headliner and Lexus’ hallmark wood trim has been swapped for aluminum. The rest of the standard LS’ split-level dash remains, dominated by a large 12.3-inch LCD. Befitting a vehicle this expensive, the interior in our tester screamed “attention to detail” with perfect seams, high quality materials and perfect color matching.

That price tag is important to keep in mind. While the LS F-Sport ranges from $84,965 to $88,115, even the “lowly” 740i can be optioned up to $111,295 if you’re not careful. As a result you won’t find some of the expensive options on the BMW like a full-leather dashboard, heads-up display, night vision, or fancy ceramic knobs. Of course, few 7-Series shoppers check those option boxes and the more you add the more there is to go wrong. Lexus’ mantra has long been to keep things as simple as possible by offering high levels of standard equipment, bundling options in packages and steering clear of any gadget or gizmo that could go wrong within a warranty period. Few BMW shoppers load their 7-series to the gills anyway, so 90% of shoppers will find all they seek in the F-Sport’s black-only interior.

 

The F-Sport’s 16-way power driver’s seat and 12-way passenger’s seat have beefed-up bolstering and embossed logos on the headrests.  While I found the seats to be very comfortable for my 6-foot frame, the GS’ 18-way seats offer a wider range of motion and customization. Thanks to the thicker bolstering on the seat back and bottom the F-Sport will hold you in your seat should you decide to drift on your way to the financial district. All F-Sport models come with an F-Sport specific steering wheel based heavily on the standard LS tiller. An electric tilt/telescoping steering column with memory is standard.

Lexus’s flagship sedan is as much about the rear occupants as the front. To that end the F-Sport still has a three-position rear throne with outboard “buckets” and a high-mounted center seat. Thanks to the typical RWD “hump” and the bucket-like design of the outboard seats, the center spot should be left to homunculi. Ditching that 5th person will make the rear more comfortable anyway and four full-sized American adults will have no headroom or legroom issues in even the short wheelbase LS. Befitting the “adult” tastes the LS is designed to appeal to, the rear seat cushions aren’t sitting on the floor providing more thigh support than your average sedan. As you would expect with any vehicle this size, the LS sports a large 18 cubic foot trunk.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Widescreen infotainment systems are all the rage and 2013 the LS up to date with a large 12-inch LCD in the dash. Positioned in its own “pod”, the screen is higher and closer to the normal sight lines of a driver than before. The system ditches the intuitive touchscreen interface Lexus has used for the better part of a decade for the Lexus joystick (it’s officially called Lexus Remote Touch.) I won’t beat around the bush, I hate it. I am however open to suggestion, so please post your thoughts and experiences with Remote Touch in the comment section below.

My issues with LRT are: it occupies a great deal of room on the center console,and it takes far more hand-eye-brain coordination than a touchscreen. Every time I am in a Lexus I find myself glancing at the screen and fiddling with the little control pad far more than when I’m in a competitor’s luxury sedan. This increased distraction hasn’t gone unnoticed by my better half who constantly nags me about keeping my eyes on the road. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion.

To soften the blow Lexus throws in the same media device voice command interface as the other Lexus and premium Toyota products receive. The system is snappy, managed to figure out every command I threw at and has a more natural sounding voice than MyLincoln Touch. Helping counter the nagging Lexus Remote Touch caused (see how that’s not my fault now), the available Mark Levinson sound system can drown out even the most shrill mother-in-laws.

Perhaps reinforcing that Lexus focuses on the “meat” of the luxury segment and not the one-percent, you won’t find the same level of gee-wizardry in the F-Sport as some of the Euro competitors. You won’t find night vision, a full-leather dashboard, expensive ceramic knobs, massaging front seats, heads-up displays or full-LCD instrument clusters in the Lexus showroom. Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of wood that would make Jaguar blush. New for 2013 is an optional collision prevention system that augments the collision warning system from last year’s model with the ability to fully stop the car while traveling at low speeds to prevent an accident. Much like the system Volvo has been stuffing in their cars since 2009, the system is active from about 5-24 MPH. Lexus has also tweaked their radar-based dynamic cruise control to now take the LS to a complete stop and take off again in stop-and-go traffic.

Drivetrain

The naturally aspirated luxury car V8 is an endangered species now that BMW, Audi and Mercedes are embracing turbo love. Lexus is the lone holdout using the same 4.6L naturally aspirated V8 engine the LS 460 debuted with in 2006.The direct-injection mill produces 386 ponies at 6,400 RPM (dropping to 360 in the AWD model) and 367lb-ft of twist at 4,100. Power delivery is typical of a medium-displacement DOHC V8; there is enough grunt at the low end to chirp the wheels, torque builds in a linear fashion and most of the “go” happens near red-line. The observant will note the F-Sport is down on power when pitted against the latest in German twin-turbo V8s putting the F-sport at a serious disadvantage when stoplight racing. In terms of power, the LS 460 compares most directly to the 740i with BMW’s turbocharged six-cylinder engine. On the bright side, the F-Sport’s engine is incredibly smooth and has one of the best engine sounds on this segment (you can thank the turbos for messing up the German symphony.) Why didn’t Lexus drop the 5.0L V8 from the IS-F into the F-Sport? The world may never now.

For F-Sport duty the LS gets a few software tweaks and performance-themed upgrades. The 8-speed automatic has been reprogrammed to rev-match downshifts, there are some snazzy shift paddles on the steering wheel, and there’s a Torsen limited slip differential out back. F-Sport tuning adds variable gear ratio steering to the electro-mechanical power steering unit and an additional “Sport+”  driving mode for the engine, transmission, steering and suspension systems

Drive

The naturally aspirated V8 defines the way the F-Sport at the dragstrip. Because the engine needs to rev to 4,100 RPM for torque to peak, it lacks the immediacy and urgency you feel from the twin-turbo Merc and Bimmer. The 8-speed automatic uses closely spaced low gears to help improve off-the-line performance allowing the F-Sport to hit 60 in 5.47 seconds. That’s a hair slower than the BMW 740i and half a second slower than the 750 or S550. However, if a great soundtrack is more important to you than shove, consider that turbos interfere with classic V8 sounds due to their location in the intake and exhaust plumbing. Further boosting the high-revving V8 howl, Lexus dropped a sound tube into the intake to pipe more “V8″ into the cabin.

The mission of sport packages is primarily to improve looks, and secondarily improve handling. That makes Lexus’ decision to put an air-suspension in the F-Sport a bit unusual. You see, there are three basic types of adaptive suspension systems. The first uses a strut filled with a ferromagnetic fluid whose viscosity changed when electricity is applied (GM and Audi like that one). The second is a more typical gas-filled strut with an electronically controlled valve to alter damping characteristics (Volvo, Ford and Chrysler use this one). Last is the air-suspension. Unlike the other two, air systems don’t just alter the damping, they are also involved in maintaining (or altering) the ride height. This means they both damp and keep your car off the ground. By altering the pressure in the internal air bags, ride firmness and height can be adjusted. While air suspensions have a pedigree (everyone from Rolls Royce to Jaguar uses one) having a vehicle ride on four small “Aero Beds” leads to an unusual feel when the road starts to curve. I’m no stranger to this technology, my own Jaguar Super V8 uses a similar system, and it delivers a similar feel. There’s a reason  Jaguar ditched the system for their new breed of corner-clawing kitties.

Despite the F-Sport having a lowered ride height over the regular LS and the air suspension being tweaked for a firmer ride, the system is firm but floaty. Sort of like over-inflating that air mattress you pull out for overnight guests. (My Jaguar feels exactly the same and so does the Mercedes S-Class.) That doesn’t mean the F-Sport is a land barge, it just means the feeling is unusual. Feelings aside, the F-Sport handles extremely well thanks to grippy low-profile rubber and Lexus’ variable gear ratio steering system.

VGRS (as Lexus calls it) has a more natural and direct feel than BMW’s active steering system, especially on close-quarter mountain switchbacks where you’re sea-sawing the wheel as you alternate mashing the stop and go pedals. The system fools you into thinking the F-Sport is lighter and more balanced than the BMW when in reality they very similar. At 53:47 (front:rear), the F-Sport is a bit heavier in the nose than the near-prefect 50:50 BMW 740i (but not far off the heavier 750i), but the Lexus hides it well, only giving up the secret when you’ve hit the limit and the nose begins to plow. Compared to the heavier 750i or S550, the LS feels lighter on its feet. Surprised? You shouldn’t be, after all, BMW is the new Meercedes. While I would take the more neutral vehicle, I know a majority of real-world owners prefer a car that leans toward understeer. (Fear not, if your foot is mashing the go pedal, the F-Sport will get all kinds of tail-happy  on you.)

Out on the highway or driving through pot-holed downtown streets, the air suspension makes more sense because it soaks up pavement imperfections like a Cadillac Fleetwood, which is after all the raison d’être of the Lexus brand. While I think I would have demanded the engineers swap the airbags for some steel coils, I don’t think that would make the F-Sport sell any better. Without more shove, the F-Sport will never be direct competition for the new breed of German luxury sedan. Instead the F-Sport is quite simply the best looking Lexus to date and the most dynamic large sedan the Japanese have ever built.  Is that enough to regain the sales crown? Only time will tell, but the bold grille, F-Sport model and low sticker price sure can’t hurt.

 

Hit it

  • Well priced luxury car without a discount brand cachet.
  • Impeccable reliability reputation.
  • The F-Sport isn’t as demure as a modern 7-series but not as flashy as a Maserati, etc.

Quit it

  • The Lexus joystick device is my least favorite infotainment input device.
  • Fewer gadgets and gizmos are available compared to the BMW 7-Series and Audi A8.

 

 Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.215 Seconds

0-60: 5.47 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.09 Seconds @ 100.4 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: xx MPG over 585 Miles

2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Steering wheel in motion, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Joystick Controller, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, LED Headlamp Module, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Engine, 4.6L V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Lexus Enform 12.3-inch LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Lexus Enform 12.3-inch LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Infotainment, Lexus Enform Screen, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Lexus Enform, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Infotainment, Lexus Enform Screen, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front Grille Profile, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Memory Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard Clock, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Button Bank, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Drive Mode Selector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Heated and Cooled Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Lexus Remote Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, F=Sport Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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First Drive Review: 2014 Lexus IS (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/first-drive-review-2014-lexus-is-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/first-drive-review-2014-lexus-is-video/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 15:34:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481480 Every car company hates the BMW 3-Series. It’s always the benchmark, always the sales champion, always the golden boy. BMW shifted nearly 100,000 3-Series models in America last year and they did so not by being “the best” luxury sedan, but by pandering to the shopping public’s desires. Buyers have shown they want a comfy […]

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Every car company hates the BMW 3-Series. It’s always the benchmark, always the sales champion, always the golden boy. BMW shifted nearly 100,000 3-Series models in America last year and they did so not by being “the best” luxury sedan, but by pandering to the shopping public’s desires. Buyers have shown they want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, they want good fuel economy and they want to hear journalists say how well the car handles on a track. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there. The old IS was a good car on the track, but its demure looks sold more on Lexus’ reliability and dealer reputation than the car’s track diaries. As we know from Volvo and Lexus’ sales numbers in this segment, two things don’t move metal: reliability and safety. For 2014 Lexus went back to the drawing board completely redesigning the IS sedan to be their most dynamic sedan ever. Does it have what it takes to take on the Germans and Infiniti’s new Q50?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way up front: the IS-F and convertible IS C are continuing as-is for 2014. Lexus wouldn’t comment on any time-frames for their refresh, but you can bet nobody in Japan wants to keep stocking parts for both generations of IS vehicles. 

Lexus’ exterior styling has always stuck me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. While that mantra holds true for the side profile of the IS, the front reveals the largest and most stylized grille, not just for Lexus, but for the whole small luxury segment. The photos above are of the F-Sport model which has a more aggressive “squiggle” grille rather than the more reserved horizontal lines of the regular IS. Regardless of the model you choose, this is one big maw. Lexus tells us the sloping profile and demure grill of the old IS, got no respect on the autobahn while this ginormous opening makes Germans run for their lives for fear of being devoured. That I believe. I tried to keep my distance for fear of being consumed myself. Whether you like the grille or not (I find it quite attractive on the F-Sport, a little unbalanced on the regular) our drive around Texas proved the grille received more looks than the old IS.

Out back, less has changed with the rear being more reserved than the front but it’s the side profile where things really change. The 2014 IS is a whopping 3.5 inches longer than the 2013 model and rides on a 2.7 inch longer wheelbase. Combined with the blunter nose which makes the hood look longer, the IS has gone from stubby to elegant. Remind you of anyone else in the segment? Yep, the BMW 3 grew by leaps and bounds last year. Unlike the Caddy designers who didn’t expect their target to shift so much, Lexus outpaced the 3 landing about an inch longer than the BMW.

Interior

Rather than evolving the IS interior, Lexus has gone for a revolution appearing to have changed absolutely everything about the IS’ interior. I’m not 100% sold on the design yet, mainly because of that enormous airbag bump on the passenger side. Unlike the Germans and Swedes that seem to enjoy using exactly the same interior design scaled up or down in every model, Lexus opts for similar cues but unique components. I give them credit for going this extra design mine but for my tastes I think I prefer something less avant-garde. But then again I own an X308 Jaguar XJ, the antithesis of modern.

Most companies would shy away from discussing their standard pleather seats but Lexus is a different sort of company and spoke at length about their NuLuxe faux-cowhide. In a further twist, F-Sport models eschew real leather for the fake. Thankfully this is one of the best leather look-alikes going and if you didn’t have a leather model on hand to compare it against you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference by touch. Smell is another thing, the NuLuxe interiors don’t have an unpleasant aroma, but its obviously not a leather smell. On the flip side Lexus tells us these are the first seats where the foam padding is molded into the upholstery fabric making the padding and the surface one unit. This supposedly will result in a longer lifetime and less “bunching” over time.

It’s hard to say what the IS would be like to live with since we had such a limited time with the car, so be sure to check back with us when we can snag one for a week. During our limited time in all varieties of IS, the front seats proved supportive with a nice range of motion although the seating position may be low for some drivers. Rear seat room has increased a much needed 1.6 inches while front legroom has gone up nearly an inch allowing a 6′ passenger (yours truly) to sit behind a 6’2 driver in relative comfort, a significant change from the last generation IS. Sadly however all that room had to come from somewhere and while some came from the wheelbase stretch, plenty came from the trunk as well with the cargo hold dropping from 13.3 cubes to 10.8 which is about 40% smaller than BMW’s cargo hold.

Infotainment & Gadgets

One item that hasn’t changed for the better (in my opinion) is the infotainment system. 2014 brings a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and some slick smartphone app features. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. Sadly I find little joy in the mouse-like controller. Don’t get me wrong, it is intuitive, I just don’t find it as easy to use as the competition’s knob interfaces and I think it takes way more eye-time off the road to use than Lexus’ old touchscreen systems. To counter this problem, the 7-inch LCD is placed higher the the dash where it looks small thanks to a housing that would appear to be designed to accommodate a larger screen. BMW’s wide-screen 8.8-inch display may not be that much bigger, but its up-close-and-personal location make it look large in comparison. In an odd twist if you don’t buy navigation you keep the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Since the systems we experienced were not production ready and not all the features were available for us to test but we were able to preview a number of features that may help soften the blow if you’re not a joystick fan. First up, the base IS models without navigation now get weather reports and a static traffic map updated via free HD Radio broadcasts so you don’t have to shell out for an XM subscription.You also get smartphone app integration standard with pass-though voice commands to supported phone apps. The optional navigation system sports improved graphics, redesigned menus making it easier to use the jotstick, more frequent live traffic updates and the ability to predict future traffic. The future traffic prediction feature uses historical data to show you what traffic will be like later and allow you to alter your travel plans accordingly. If outdated POI databases raise your hackles, the nav system will not simultaneously search the car’s POI database and an online POI database via your paired smartphone simultaneously and use the more recent search results.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display ala BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. No pricing on how much the IS or any of its gadgets will cost, but you can bet that Mark Levinson system won’t be cheap. The F-Sport package adds one more standard gizmo that makes it an absolute must-have package: the best LCD disco dash I’ve ever seen. Based on an 8-inch LCD the display uses a physical ring (you can see it in the picture above) to frame the tachometer so it looks more like a real gauge. The F-Sport also has a party trick up its sleeve, the moves. Sliding left in perfect synchronization with the display software it  “reveals” the trip computer, configuration menu, infotainment displays and vehicle info on the right. Based on a similar display in Lexus’ supercar (the LF-A), this has to be the coolest cluster available this side of the Tesla model S. Lexus, I almost forgive you for the joystick.

Drivetrain

IS models still use the same smooth V6s as last year with the IS 250 getting (logically) a 2.5L 204HP direct-injection V6 and the IS 350 gets a 3.5L 306HP direct-injection V6. As you would expect from naturally aspirated engines, full power is delivered at 6,400RPM for both engines and torque comes to the boil at 4,800. Compared to the 3.0L turbos in the Audi, BMW and Volvo, the IS 350’s 277lb-ft is a distinct disadvantage. Meanwhile the IS 250’s 185lb-ft pale in comparison to the 255-266lb-ft from the small turbos in the same Euro trio. If that sounds like Lexus is at a disadvantage you may be right, however BMW is chasing Lexus down the power market with the 180HP 320i.

The IS 250 RWD uses the same A960E 6-speed automatic as last year while IS 250 AWD and IS 350 AWD models still use the same beefier A760H 6-speed. The big change is in the RWD IS 350 which gets the 8-speed cog-swapper from the fire-breathing IS-F bringing the IS350 up to gear-parity with BMW and Audi and one cog ahead of the Infiniti Q50 and Mercedes C. The extra gears grant the IS 350 RWD an extra MPG on the highway (28) but the city and combined numbers remain the same (19 and 22.) The IS 250 RWD enjoys a bump of 1 MPG, but only in the combined score bringing it to 21/30/24 (City/Highway/Combined.)

The reason for the slight change is that the 8-speed transmission and final drive ratios have performance in mind with a very low 16.59:1 effective first gear ratio compared to the 14.36:1 in the 2012 IS 350. 8th gear manages to be only a hair taller than 6th in the old unit at 2.47:1 vs 2.38:1. Gears 3-6 are all close ratio gears which help the naturally aspirated V6 stay in its [comparatively] narrow power band. Helping the IS 350 feel a bit more responsive the transmission fully locks the torque converter in gears 2-8 and the whole system is programmed to blip the throttle on manual downshifts.

For reasons known only to themselves, Lexus has decided not to offer the hybrid IS 300h for sale in America. The cagey answer we were given is that Lexus is “continually reviewing their product planning.” Pity, it is the IS I would buy tomorrow if I could.

Track Drive

Most of my time with the IS was spent on an intriguing track with tight corners, little banking and two straights where we hit 110+ in the IS 350 F-Sport RWD, a BMW 335i M-Sport a C350 with the AMG sport package and of course, last year’s IS 350 as well. The lack of an Infiniti G37 was understandable since the new Q50 is replacing it soon. The lack of an ATS 3.6 was interesting considering Caddy’s recent sales success (the ATS ranks fourth in sales YTD, behind the C, 3 and G.)  Out on the track the IS 350 F-Sport RWD proved to be a very responsive sedan with excellent grip and  suspension tuning that is near perfection. The variable gear ratio steering is well weighted but just about as numb as anything you’ve driven. Of course numb steering is nothing new to this segment as both the BMW and Mercedes were devoid of feedback as well. ]

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners really demonstrated Lexus’ dedication to making every system in the IS work well together. The dynamic suspension, variable gear steering and the intelligent downshifting logic in the transmission made the IS feel incredibly nimble. The Mercedes felt just as I had expected on the track: heavy and soft. Despite this the Merc has a decent amount of grip and is well matched to the IS 350 in terms of power. Hop in the BMW 335 however and the IS 350’s major deficiency is obvious: thrust. Despite the BMW feeling less buttoned down than the IS 350, my laps were faster and the experience was more entertaining because you had to have more skill to handle the heaps of torque put out by the 3.0L turbo. While my overall lap time was faster in the 335, I noticed I wasn’t as fast overall in the sweeping straights in the BMW, and that’s because the IS feels more connected to the road, more stable and a bit more predictable. While there wasn’t an Audi S4 in the pack, I can tell you what it would be been like. The S4 and the Volvo S60 T6 put some incredible power to the ground and I love AWD, but (and this is a big but on the track), they are both fairly nose heavy and that’s really obvious on a track like this. The ATS 3.6 however I suspect would have won “journalists” choice at the event owing to Cadillac’s efforts to replicate the driving dynamics of the old 3-Series, you know, before the 335 became “American-sized.”

While the IS 350 F-Sport felt like one with the track for the most part, high speed braking is a problem area for the IS. Because of a hairpin turn at the end of the straight you have to drop from 110+ to 35 as quickly and smoothly as possible while maintaining control. The Mercedes and the 335 accomplish this maneuver without a problem but the IS 350 felt light under hard braking and on some road surfaces a little squirrely as well. In fact the IS 350 may be slightly lighter in the rear than the Germans but it’s not a huge difference with the IS coming in around 52/48 and the IS 350 51.5/48.5.

Does any of that matter out on the road? Nope. The IS 350 is a perfectly competent luxury sedan in either setting. While the IS 350 gives away something to BMW under high-speed braking, the IS 350 never felt out of control. The feel behind the wheel is excellent, albeit slower than the 335. Without pricing available from Lexus it’s hard to form a final opinion on the 2014 Lexus IS, but since it is unlikely to have changed much it should pose a good value slotting in under the 335 in price. If you can give up thrust for a more connected feel, reliability for a smaller infotainment screen and high-speed-braking feel for something more nimble in the corners, the IS 350 is your car. Until Lexus’ brand image shifts (or they jam some turbos on their smooth V6), the 3-series will continue being hated and secretly loved by the competition.

 

Hit it

  • Excellent road manners.
  • The F-Sport nose job makes it the most aggressive looking vehicle in the segment.
  • Coolest LCD instrument cluster. Ever.

Quit it

  • Down on power.
  • The infotainment screen is small and the joystick is a pain.
  • Fewer electronic gizmos available than the competition.

Lexus flew me to the IS release event in Austin where they stuffed me full of food and beer.

2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, F-Sport LCD Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, F-Sport LCD Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Back Seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Standard Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Infotainment and HVAC controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Drive Mode Selector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Interior, USB Port, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Interior, Glovebox, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Raer Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Raer Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Lexus Enform Infotainment Screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, HVAC Controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, front seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, seat controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, seat controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Front Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Review: 2013 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-lexus-es-300h-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-lexus-es-300h-hybrid-video/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 11:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481436 The ES has been Lexus’ best-selling sedan for 15 years yet the front-driver started life as something of a side-show. In 1989 the ES was a thinly veiled Camry, supposedly rushed to market because Lexus dealers couldn’t envision launching a brand with one vehicle (the LS 400) and were unwilling to wait for the SC […]

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The ES has been Lexus’ best-selling sedan for 15 years yet the front-driver started life as something of a side-show. In 1989 the ES was a thinly veiled Camry, supposedly rushed to market because Lexus dealers couldn’t envision launching a brand with one vehicle (the LS 400) and were unwilling to wait for the SC and GS. This explanation makes sense to me and explains why the ES was the only FWD car in a brand created to compete with the Germans. Of course, this odd fit within a full-range RWD luxury brand is exactly why the ES sells. Wonder why Acura’s wares never had the sales success of the ES? It’s all about the brand baby.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The first ES was a Camry with an LS 400 aping nose job. Since then the ES and the Camry were developed together on a common platform, but with every passing redesign the marriage has become more rocky with the two sharing less and less with one another. Like any couple “trying a separation,” divorce was inevitable. For 2014 the papers are served and the ES is now shacking up with the Camry’s big sister, the 2014 Toyota Avalon. Oh, the tongues will wag.

The platform swap means the ES has grown an inch in length, an inch in height and the wheelbase has stretched nearly two inches over the 2012 ES, making it two inches longer than the new GS. LS owners shouldn’t fear, as the flagship is still the biggest Japanese luxury vehicle on the market. For 2013 Lexus has ditched the former ES’s suppository side profile for a blunter nose, taller greenhouse, longer hood and shorter trunk. The new proportions make the ES look like one of the family, not an accident that happened later. It also makes the new Lexus spindle grill look particularly good in my mind, not something I was able to say about the GS or some of the other mugs wearing the new grin.

Interior

Snazzy gizmos aren’t worth anything if they aren’t delivered in style, just ask Apple. The redesign brings the ES’s interior game up a few notches in some ways and down in others. The dashboard now features the latest in automotive interiors crazes: the faux-stitch. Like Buick’s LaCrosse, the ES uses a standard injection-molded dashboard that is then run through a sewing machine (by hand, because this is still a Lexus) to put real stitching on fake seams. While I appreciate the extra effort, I must point out that the ES’ sister-ship Avalon uses real pieces of pleather mechanically quilted together on a sewing machine and fewer hard plastics within easy reach of the driver. As a result I found the Alvaon to have a more premium look and feel with the exception of the fake-wood in the Toyota. Yea, I scratched my head too.

The interior’s design mimics the two-level style introduced in the 2011 GS. Basically we have an inset infotainment/navigation LCD in the dash separated from the system controls by satin nickel and wood trim. I’m still unsure if this is a design theme I’m happy with, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. While fit and finish in our ES tester was excellent, we found more hard plastic in this cabin than in the old model and while it didn’t bug me on the preview junket a year ago, it did raise my eyebrows after having the new Avalon for a week. On the flip side, all ES hybrid models get new light bamboo wood which has to be one of the most appealing wood veneers I have seen in a vehicle cabin.

The ES’ front seats contort in 10-ways with an optional extending thigh cushion on the driver’s side. Thanks to supple padding and improved NuLuxe (pleather) upholstery on the base hybrid and regular or semi-aniline leather on up-level trims, your backside won’t notice you racking up highway miles. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid may have a slightly snazzier interior, but the ES’ front seats are more comfortable. The steering wheel is borrowed from the GS sedan, complete with soft leather. Should you want a more premium tiller, the same bamboo can be applied to two-thirds of the wheel and heating is optional as well.

Rear passengers are treated to the most rear legroom of any Lexus sedan – including the six-digit LS 600hL. If you look at the picture above, the driver’s seat is positioned for a 6-foot tall driver in a somewhat reclined position. The result is more combined (front/rear) legroom than a Lincoln MKS or a short wheelbase 7-Series. Since the ES has a more mature audience in mind, the rear seat bottom cushions are higher off the floor making them more comfortable for adults than a Camry. Sadly, the cushy rear seat have something of a flaw: they don’t fold. I had hoped the old Avalon’s reclining rear seats would have made it to the ES, but they were lost on the cutting room floor for both vehicles. ES 350 shoppers get a ski pass-through to help ease the pain, but hybrid lovers must not be winter-sports folks; that opening is plugged by the battery. Speaking of batteries, the nickel-hydride battery pack exacts a trunk-toll of 3.1 cubic feet, reducing your cargo hold to 12.1 cubes, a heftier price than hybrid GS buyers pay.

Infotainment & Gadgets

For $39,250, base ES 300h models get an 8-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and iPod integration and XM radio. Opting for the $740 “display audio” option, buys a 7-inch LCD coupled with a Lexus-branded surround-sound system and backup cam. You will be hard pressed to find either of these on dealer lots as an inventory search by my local dealer turned up zero ES 300h base models in California and exactly two of nearly 300 ES hybrids on dealer lots. That’s fine by me since I demand more toys on my ride.

Most ES options are sold bundled in packages ranging from the $5,250 “premium” to the $10,650 “ultra luxury.” All packages bump you up to the 8-inch LCD navigation/infotainment system, include an electric power tilt/telescoping tiller, in-dash DVD player, and a steering wheel with wood inlays. In addition to iPod/USB media voice control, smartphone text messaging and app integration, the system has ditched the intuitive touchscreen interface for my least favorite input method: Lexus Remote Touch, aka the Lexus joystick. The joystick is intuitive to use because it’s just like a mouse on your computer. You wiggle the controller and the cursor on the screen wiggles. Simple enough, right? I have two problems with it. First, it occupies a great deal of room on the center console, an area the Avalon uses for more conveniently located latté-holders. Secondly, the basic software driving the system hasn’t changed since the touchscreen days. See the problem? With the old system you could glance at the screen, look back up at the road and let your right hand stab the option, even my 91-year-old grandmother has the hand-eye co-ordination to do that. With Remote Touch you have to spend far more time watching the screen to see if the cursor is on the option you want, a potentially dangerous situation if you like playing with your gadgets while you drive. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion. The Avalon uses a version of the same software but retains the touchscreen interface and oddly enough the ES’ base audio system (one notch above the LCD-free ES) uses a knob-style controller like Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

The ES wouldn’t be a Lexus without a few gadgets and expensive options. Top on my list are the $3,745 (yes, you read that right) Mark Levinson sound system which sounds fantastic (as it should for the price), $500 parking sensors, $400 power opening/closing trunk, and the $1,500 radar-based active cruise control with pre-collision warning. Of course all these gizmos are included with the ultra-luxury package bringing the top-end ES 300h to a cool $50,795.

Drivetrain

The Avalon Hybrid, Camry Hybrid and ES 300h share the same hybrid drivetrain. Driving the system is a new-for-2012 2.5L 2AR-FXE four-cylinder engine. Running on the Atkinson cycle, the four-pot puts out 156 HP and 153 lb-ft of twist. That engine is coupled to a revised Lexus Hybrid Drive transaxle (labelled as Toyota Synergy Drive in Toyota products), in essence a beefier Prius hybrid system. The planetary gearset and two motor/generator combination allow the system to drive electric only for short distances at limited speeds, motivate the vehicle solely on engine power or combine the 156HP with extra juice from the battery pack in the trunk to deliver 200 ponies until the battery has been depleted. Lexus doesn’t specify a combined torque rating for the ES Hybrid, but based on the 7.24 scoot to 60 we clocked, I estimate the combined number is around 200-220 lb-ft. That run to 60 is a hair faster than the MKZ and about 1/2 a second better than the LaCrosse eAssist.

Performance is better than these numbers might indicate thanks to 199 lb-ft from 0-1500RPM courtesy of the hybrid motor. Lexus is sticking to nickel based batteries and not the trendier Lithium batteries found in the Lincoln. Despite this, the ES averaged an impressive 42 MPG over 780 miles of mixed driving. While that may sound worse than the MKZ’s 47/47/47MPG trifecta, nobody seems to be getting more than 39 in the Detroit hybrid. Meanwhile the ES bested it’s 2008 EPA numbers of 40/39/40 (City/Highway/Combined.)

Drive

There is no other front-wheel-drive hybrid with a luxury logo on the grille to compare to the ES 300h. Sure we have the eAssist Buick LaCrosse and the Lincoln MKZ, but aside from the MKZ being a size-class down and the LaCrosse not being a “true” hybrid (its not even sold as such), neither brand has the same cachet as Lexus. Remember what I said at the beginning? The ES’s strongest selling point is its brand. If BMW made a large, soft front driver, you can be sure its sales would exceed the ES. What does that have to do with the way the ES hybrid drives? Everything. You see, the way the ES handles, brakes and accelerates isn’t as important to the stereotypical driver as the way the car looks, the logo on the grille, how quiet it is, how reliable it is and hoe well the dealers treat you. When it comes to these qualities the ES 300h is the prefect driving appliance.

The ES’s cabin is still peaceful at highway speeds but Buick’s dedication to sound deadening is extreme and the LaCrosse is quieter under most circumstances especially in terms of engine noise. Since the three FWD luxury hybrids all use four-cylinder engines, sound deadening is important. Despite growing in this generation, the ES’ ride isn’t as thoroughly damped as the outgoing model, that’s thanks to Lexus’ efforts to make the ES handle less like a marshmallow. The suspension engineer’s efforts paid off with the ES feeling neither too floaty nor too harsh. The 215/55R17s our tester wore had more grip than I had expected and the ES hybrid didn’t head for the bushes when driven hard. When the road started winding the ES never felt sloppy or out-of-place maintaining its Lexus trademark poise over broken pavement and uneven turns. When it comes to absolute horizontal grip the ES comes in behind the competition, mostly due to the wide 245/40R17s worn by the LaCrosse and the 225/50R17s on the MKZ Hybrid.

Still, the overall experience is what the ES is about, it’s about dealership satisfaction, a polished purchasing experience and a long warranty. The competition has caught up here as well with the MKZ Hybrid and LaCrosse aAssist delivering the same bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty terms and Lincoln is now tossing in 4 years and 50,000 miles of scheduled maintenance. The ES 300h’s trump cards remain the same as before: Lexus’s brand image and their reliability reputation. There’s just one further problem: the 2013 Avalon Hybrid. The Avalon Hybrid Limited starts higher than the ES 300h at $41,295 but ends far lower at $44,145 despite having an incredibly similar feature set. Our friends over at TrueDetla.com tell us the price difference ends up at $4,476 for comparably equipped models. Is the Lexus brand, a longer warranty and a snazzy dealership worth the difference?

Hit it

  • Excellent fuel economy.
  • “Short” four-year payback vs the non-hybrid ES.
  • Lexus warranty, reliability reputation and that all-important brand image.

Quit it

  • Lexus Remote Touch is harder to use than the old touchscreen system.
  • Plenty of hard plastics within easy reach.
  • The Avalon hybrid is a better value.

 

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.95 Seconds

0-60: 7.24 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.67 Seconds @ 91.1 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 41.2 MPG over 785 Miles

2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel Wood Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Infotainment, Lexus Enforn, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Remote Touch Controller, Infotainment, Lexus Enform controller, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Bamboo Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Cargo Room, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Drivetrain, 3.0L Hybrid System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Drivetrain, 3.0L Hybrid System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, HID Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front Overhang, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment, Remote Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Comparison review: 2013 Lexus ES 350 vs. Hyundai Azera http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/comparison-review-2013-lexus-es-350-vs-hyundai-azera/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/comparison-review-2013-lexus-es-350-vs-hyundai-azera/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2012 13:55:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461509 Even when stacked up against other Lexus models, the front-drive ES has long been considered boring. Yet the Camry-based sedan has been a best-seller for Lexus and in its segment. For this reason, it has become a benchmark; just as every compact sport sedan targets the BMW 3-Series, every upper-midsize near-luxury sedan targets the ES. Well […]

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Even when stacked up against other Lexus models, the front-drive ES has long been considered boring. Yet the Camry-based sedan has been a best-seller for Lexus and in its segment. For this reason, it has become a benchmark; just as every compact sport sedan targets the BMW 3-Series, every upper-midsize near-luxury sedan targets the ES. Well aware of the beads drawn on its back, Toyota Lexus has redesigned the car for the 2013 model year. But has it raised the bar enough to keep Koreans with upward aspirations in their place?

Earlier this year the recently redesigned Hyundai Azera handily dispatched two other aspirants to the near-lux throne from Buick and Ford. Even with the 2013 Lexus thrown into the arena, the Hyundai appears the most modern and the most “money.”

Buick, Hyundai, Lexus, and (on the horizon) Lincoln were all thinking in the same direction, but Hyundai pushed the “swoopy coupe-like sedan” theme the farthest and finished it best. In contrast, Lexus appears to have been held back by other considerations and its innate conservatism. The lines of the new ES, though a definite leap forward from the staid old car’s, don’t flow as well as those of the Azera. Or do they? The wind tunnel actually finds the visually stiffer ES a little slipperier (0.27 vs. 0.28). The ES’s nose wears the make’s new “spindle” grille. While lust isn’t likely to be provoked, it is distinctive.

Lexus interiors have always sold more cars than Lexus exteriors, and the ES fares better once you’re inside it. The bi-level instrument panel first seen in the 2013 GS works on a functional level, maximizes perceived space by abutting the doors and center console at sharp angles, and covers both “sport” and “luxury” bases.

Just about everything looks and feels at least a little more posh and refined than in the considerably more cockpit-like, and consequently more cramped, Azera. (One exception: the leather on the Hyundai’s seats has a richer hand. Also, while the Lexus’s upholstered-by-master-craftsmen IP is a nice touch, the upholstery is too obviously synthetic and doesn’t continue onto the upper doors.)

Both cars are available with panoramic sunroofs, but one of them is considerably more panoramic than the other and has a single power sunshade rather than two manual ones. Guess which car has the manual sunshades. Guess again.

Stop gazing at the stars and direct your view forward, and the Lexus regains major points. The Azera’s so-relaxed-it’s-nearly-asleep windshield translates into a very tall, very deep instrument panel. As a result, it’s difficult to gauge the front end of the Hyundai from the driver’s seat, both along a curvy road and in parking lots. Thanks to the more conservative rake and position of its windshield, the Lexus provides the driver with a more confidence-inspiring view. Both cars have large, supportive front seats compared to those in the previous ES, though the Azera’s headrests jut a little too far forward for my upright build.

The Lexus ES is no longer based on the Toyota Camry. Instead, it’s now based on the upcoming Toyota Avalon…which is based on the Camry. A push for more rear seat legroom drove the switch. But if rear legroom was such a priority, why isn’t there any space for the rear passengers’ toes under the front seats? Lexus has stretched the car’s wheelbase to add four inches of rear legroom (for a generous total of 40.0 that roughly matches the Buick LaCrosse as well as the Azera) only to then effectively lose four inches through poorly designed front seats. Lexus is far from alone in this, but did your mother ever accept the excuse that “everyone else was also doing it”? Toe space is tight beneath the Azera’s front seats, but it’s there. Combine this with a larger, better-positioned rear cushion, and the Hyundai is a little more comfortable in back. There’s also an extra cube in the Azera’s trunk (16.3 to 15.2) and this trunk, unlike the Lexus’s, can be expanded by folding the rear seat.

Lexus put all of its powertrain development hours into a new ES hybrid. Like the Camry with which it shares a basic powertrain, the ES 300h can dish out more shove than most people expect from a hybrid, but doesn’t make $40,000 noises and has a sizeable EPA fuel economy rating deficit relative to the 2013 Ford / Lincoln sibs (40/39 vs. the Ford’s 47/47).

Put another way, the ES 350’s non-hybrid, non-DI V6 has been carried over with no major changes. And it doesn’t matter. This 3.5-liter remains a sweetheart of an engine, with a pleasantly plump torque curve (that too readily chirps the grip-deficient Turanza EL400 tires) and among the smoothest, richest tenors you’ll find in a V6. The direct-injected 3.3-liter V6 in the Azera peaks higher (293 vs. 268 horsepower), but its midrange is noticeably weaker and it doesn’t sound or feel as refined. Its NVH isn’t bad, but the Lexus’s is simply the best. On top of this, the larger, old-tech engine in the ES 350 earns higher EPA ratings (21/31 vs. 20/29).

As with the latest Camry, Lexus has removed considerable float, slop, and pillow-soft glide from the ES’s suspension. A little low-speed ride quality has been lost, but a fair amount of handling precision and control has been gained. The ES still isn’t a sport sedan, but it no longer trips clumsily over its own sidewalls when hustled, either.

Hyundai doubled down on the same bet. The Azera has heavier, quicker steering and a more aggressively damped suspension. But it’s not significantly more fun to drive, partly because the steering doesn’t communicate much and partly because of the confidence-impairing view forward. Either car easily outpoints the soggy old Lexus ES, but neither can induce grins the way an Acura TL SH-AWD can. They’re curious about heading in a sporty direction, but far from committed to the lifestyle. Both cars get a little jumpy over tar strips and expansion joints, but the rough edges are more frequently exposed in the less well-sorted Hyundai. On many roads the Azera feels smooth and luxurious. On others it just can’t settle down.

The Lexus ES’s higher grade materials and additional refinement come at a price. Its $36,995 base is $4,120 higher than the 2012 Hyundai’s. A quick run through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool finds that the Hyundai is also better equipped, to the tune of about $600. (The ES has a standard sunroof, but the Azera has standard leather upholstery, seats heaters in both rows, and nav.) Load both cars up, and the Hyundai’s price advantage more than doubles ($36,975 vs. $46,450). Adjusting for the Lexus’s additional features narrows the gap to about $8,000.

Paid out-of-pocket, $8,000 would seem a serious chunk of change. But roll it into a lease with a correspondingly higher residual, and it’ll seem much less sizeable. Factor in the Lexus’s more prestigious badge, more upscale interior, and greater refinement, and the ES will remain the choice of those buyers not seeking a deal. And, if the lease terms are favorable enough, perhaps of those seeking a deal as well. This said, Lexus best step up its pursuit of perfection, as Hyundai’s cars have been improving at a faster rate and the latest Azera isn’t far behind. Carving out some space beneath the front seats and enlarging the roof portal would be a good start.

Both cars were evaluated at media events where breakfast and lunch were provided. The Azera was driven again during the Lexus event thanks to the helpful folks at Ralph Thayer Hyundai of Livonia, MI (734-425-5400).

Michael Karesh operates truedelta.com, a provider of car reliability and pricing information.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ES front, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES front quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Azera front quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES side, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES rear quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES rear quarter high, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES interior, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES instrument panel, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Azera instrument panel, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES rear seat, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES trunk, picture courtesy Michael Karesh ES engine, picture courtesy Michael Karesh Azera panoramic sunroof, picture courtesy Michael Karesh

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Pre Production Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/pre-production-review-2013-lexus-ls-460-and-ls-600hl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/pre-production-review-2013-lexus-ls-460-and-ls-600hl/#comments Fri, 10 Aug 2012 15:50:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455800 The LS and I have had a long relationship. Back in 1993 I was an impressionable teenager nearing that holy-grail of ages: 16. This meant I dreamt of driving constantly. My parents were Oldsmobile and Chrysler folks, so my choices were a 1980 Custom Cruiser, a 1985 Cutlass Ciera, or a 1988 Grand Voyager. The […]

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The LS and I have had a long relationship. Back in 1993 I was an impressionable teenager nearing that holy-grail of ages: 16. This meant I dreamt of driving constantly. My parents were Oldsmobile and Chrysler folks, so my choices were a 1980 Custom Cruiser, a 1985 Cutlass Ciera, or a 1988 Grand Voyager. The Oldsmobiles were diesel. Need I say more? One day my best friend’s dad pulled up in a brand-new 1993 Lexus LS 400 for the school run. I had no idea cars could be assembled with that kind of precision and my world was changed forever. Needless to say, when the Lexus invited me to the unveiling of the fifth-generation LS, my expectations were set high.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The first thing to know about the all-new fifth-generation LS is it’s not all-new. 2013 brings a major refresh to the “FX40″ LS sedan where some 3,000 parts were changed compared to the 2006-2012 model (which was face-lifted in 2009). Being a major refresh, there are sheetmetal changes and only the doors, roof and rear quarter panels remain the same. Lexus fitted a very aggressive interpretation of their new “spindle” finally giving the LS similar “rear-view mirror” presence as the German competition.

Interior

Lexus has a reputation for interior perfection. Even though we were in a pre-production car (which normally means there’s going to be something wrong), there wasn’t so much as a seam out of place. That’s not to say that the LS is class leading in interior parts. The LS 460 still uses a molded dash and pleather door panels while Mercedes and BMW have been doubling down on stitched leather goodness.

While the LS’ seats are among the most comfortable I’ve ever sat in, the GS’ 18-way seats offer a wider range of motion and customization. Should you be lucky enough to be buying an LS to be driven in rather than to drive, the 10-way power rear seats have no equal. Oh, and the right rear seat shiatsu massages. Like Mercedes and BMW, Lexus offers a short and long wheelbase version of the LS. Due to the age of the LS’s basic dimensions however, the LS 460L’s interior is noticeably shorter than BMW’s stretched 7 series.

Aside from the opulence of the rear seat in the stretched LS, the gadget list is a reminder of two things. One: the 2013 LS is a refresh. Two: historically Lexus has been a company that perfects rather re-invents. To that end you won’t find a snazzy LCD gauge cluster or any whiz-bang-I-gotta-have-it tech. Lexus has even quietly removed their complicated self-parking option. Instead, Lexus has doubled-down on what their target market has demanded: perfect leather, perfect seams, the quietest ride you have ever experienced and quantities of wood that would make Jaguar blush.

Infotainment/ Gadgets

In the center of the new dashboard is a standard 12.3-inch infotainment/navigation screen. This latest generation of Lexus “Enform” is essentially the same software as last year’s model, adjusted for a wider screen. The screen is bright and easily readable, unfortunately Lexus’s awkward joystick came along for the ride. If you think iDrive is a pain to use, Lexus’ pointer device may take you to an all-new level of frustration. As with the system in the current GS, the graphics and interface are step behind iDrive, MMI and Volvo’s Sensus.

The optional 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is as close to audiophile perfection as you will find in a factory-installed audio system. While the 450-watts on tap places this system behind the Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen systems used in the competition, its unlikely to be a problem for most buyers. USB, iDevice and smartphone app integration are the same as in the rest of the Lexus line up delivering a solid and stable interface without voice commands ala Ford’s SYNC and even Toyota’s Entune.

Drivetrain

With all the changes inside and only 50% of the parts being new, it’s obvious what hasn’t changed; the drivetrain. The same 4.6L engine and 8-speed transmission that were ground-breaking in 2006 remain with only minor software tweaks that bump the engine by 6HP to 386HP total, or 360HP when equipped with the optional AWD system. Should you feel particularly spendy, Lexus will continue to offer the LS 600h L delivering 438HP and seemingly unlimited torque through all-four wheels (and consuming large amounts of gasoline in the process). The observant in the crowd will notice these numbers pale in comparison to the twin-turbo V8s from the Germans, but remember that the LS stickers for considerably less.

Drive

When the rubber hits the road, you don’t hear much if you’re piloting an LS. Lexus always been known for  serene rides, but the LS takes things to an all-new level. Even at triple digit speeds, it’s still possible to carry on whispered conversations with rear-seat passengers. The LS is so quiet the new LS F-Sport LS uses a sound tube to duct engine noise from the engine’s intake into the cabin. Aside from this duct, the F-Sport receives no engine modifications making it a suspension and appearance package. Despite this, the F-Sort is more engaging on the winding roads in Northern California than the Mercedes S-Class thanks to low-profile summer tires, but the BMW feels more poised.

Back in the “regular” LS 460, the ride is tuned to the softer side of luxury , especially when the LS is equipped with the air suspension system. It’s not the LS’ spring rates that define the handling however, the curb weight of 4,277-4,794lbs has the biggest impact on what the LS does when you enter a corner. Before you’re ready to dismiss the LS as a land-yacht, keep in mind the V8 S-Class and 7-Series are several hundred pounds heavier than the LS and have a very similar weight balance. The result is a very precise, albeit numb, vehicle.

Our short time with the LS included a hands-on demonstration of Lexus’ new driver assistance systems. First up is Lexus’ first all-speed radar cruise control which, like Volvo and Mercedes’ systems (the best on the market right now) will finally handle stop-and-go traffic. During a 20 mile trip in heavy Bay Area traffic, the system proved itself to be an equal of the benchmark systems.

2013 also brings Lexus’ interpretation of Volvo’s City Safety system. Instead of a single camera and laser scanner, as Volvo’s standard system uses, Lexus uses a stereo camera with IR illumination setup. The Lexus system is active to 24MPH vs 19MPH on the 2010-2012 Volvos and 31MPH on the 2013 Volvo models. In 2011, the IIHS released their first study on City Safety in which they reported the XC60 (the first model with the tech standard) had 27% fewer liability claims, 51% fewer injury liability claims, and 22% fewer collision claims compared to other midsize luxury SUVs. A logical person would conclude that LS models with this tech would reap similar statistics.

My personal history with the LS had set my expectations high and I was honestly somewhat disappointed. But should I have been? After all, Lexus as a brand is steeped in perfection, not necessarily innovation. This fifth generation improves significantly upon the previous generation LS. Compared to the German competition, Lexus has done little to correct the LS’ infotainment deficiencies despite the new wide-screen interface, but the precision with which it is assembled is unequaled. The LS is not without its charm, Lexus continues to deliver the most serene ride on the road this side of a Rolls Royce with large, cushy seats that will coddle your bottom for cross-country road trips. Lexus’ impeccable reliability reputation, coupled with a price that is likely to undercut the competition makes the LS a vehicle that has a place on your short list.

 

 The Lexus event was held locally so no flight was required. Dinner, a hotel room, and all-you-can-drink Coke were provided.

2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Steering Wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Infotainment controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, F Sport wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, F Sport front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, F Sport logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, F Sport grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, headlamps, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, headlamps, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Steering Wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Steering Wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Steering Wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, rear door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, instrument cluster, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, instrument cluster, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, instrument cluster, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, front door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, switch gear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, start button, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, analog clock, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Dashboard analog clock, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, front seat controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, Steering Wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Engine, 4.6L V8, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL, Exterior, headlamps, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Lexus ES 350 & ES 300h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-lexus-es-350-es-300h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-lexus-es-350-es-300h/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2012 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447618 The Lexus ES has been the best-selling Lexus sedan for decades, outselling every Lexus model except for the RX. While the ES was originally designed as the Japanese luxury brand’s entry-level vehicle in America, it is slowly becoming one of Lexus’ flagship products. To prove to us that Lexus has what it takes to reign […]

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The Lexus ES has been the best-selling Lexus sedan for decades, outselling every Lexus model except for the RX. While the ES was originally designed as the Japanese luxury brand’s entry-level vehicle in America, it is slowly becoming one of Lexus’ flagship products. To prove to us that Lexus has what it takes to reign supreme in the FWD luxury class they created in 1989, they flew us up to Oregon to sample the all-new, sixth generation ES 350 and 300h hybrid.

Exterior

“Why would you pay more for a fancy Camry?” Every Lexus owner has heard that statement from someone before. For 2013, the new ES rides on a variant of the Toyota Avalon’s skeleton. You won’t find any “Avalon” in the ES’s sheetmetal however. While the ES remains a very sedate sedan, the “spindle grille” seems to suit the ES better than the more expensive GS. Despite sharing nothing with the old ES, the new model is instantly recognizable, and that’s how Lexus owners like it (or so we are told.)

Interior

Aside from the rubbery dash and the wood trim, the old interior had a very “mid-market sedan” feel to it, primarily due to its and aging style. Lexus decided to bring the ES significantly upmarket with an all-new interior themed after the 2013 GS model we sampled earlier in the year. While the style isn’t quite my cup of tea, the fit and finish is perhaps the best in the Lexus lineup, easily rivaling the current generation LS. Regardless of your model or color choice, the dashboard is always black and always sports hand-stitched pleather. Unlike Buick’s molded-then-stitched dash, the ES’s interior is actually crafted by a skilled team of 12 in Japan, on sewing machines. While nobody at Lexus would comment, I couldn’t help drawing a comparison to the Lincoln MKS and Cadillac XTS. Why? Because the ES has grown inside, dishing out a whopping 40 inches of rear legroom (4 more than before, and suspiciously identical to the XTS). The ES’s interior is easily several steps ahead of the domestics when it comes to haptic quality, except for one major faux pas: the key fob. Like the new GS, the ES’s key feels incredibly cheap. Key quibbles aside, the ES delivers all the luxury schtick you could ask for, from heated rear seats and rear window shades to 10 standard airbags and a power trunk lid.

Drivetrain

While the 268HP V6 and 6-speed automatic transaxle are carried over from last year’s ES, Toyota has tweaked the transmission’s shift logic for greater efficiency. We tested the V6 model and it sprinted to 60MPH a hair faster (6.35 seconds) than the 2012 model we tested recently. This is thanks to revised transmission and traction control software that allow the vehicle to apply power with less wheel spin. While these refinements are interesting, the big news for 2013 is the ES hybrid. For the ES 300h, Lexus lifted the hybrid system out of the Camry Hybrid. Delivering 200 total system horsepower and about 200lb-ft of torque (Lexus has not released an official number yet), the system was able to scoot the model we tested to 60 in 7.28 seconds, or 3/10ths of a second slower than the lighter Camry Hybrid. Lexus is promising a luxury-segment besting 40MPG city, 39 city, 40 combined.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Infotainment

Base ES models were unavailable for testing, but we are told they are equipped with an 8-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and iPod integration and XM radio. Opting for the “display audio” buys you a 7-inch LCD coupled with the standard surround-sound system. A bump up to the navigation system gets you an 8-inch screen and opens the door to the 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. The ML system sounds as good as it does in the GS with a very natural balance and an excellent surround system. Sadly, Lexus’s awkward joystick/mouse interface came along for the ride. With Lexus’ market leaning towards older customers, I have a hard time believing my parents would be able to use the system.

Drive

Our brief 120 mile drive around the Oregon countryside, it was obvious there were no major theological shifts at work inside Lexus. The ES is still a softly sprung FWD highway cruiser. The thick rimmed steering wheel and sport button promise sporty driving, but when pushed moderately, the front heavy ES heads for the bushes. You know what? I’m OK with that. If you want something sportier, get a GS F-Sport. Out on the road the hybrid ES 300h gives up a bit more grip thanks to different tire choices and a bit more curb weight, but it countered that with an impressive 42MPG average in our brief test. Thanks to electric power steering, all models are as numb as a remote-controlled car. As the industry continues to chase MPGs, numb steering is getting so normal that the ES is no worse than a number of German vehicles I could mention. Despite what Lexus may tell you, the Sport mode doesn’t help much.

 

Lexus has not finalized pricing as of this time, but we were told to expect the ES 350 to be “substantially similar” in pricing to the 2012 model. In addition to not raising the pricing bar, Lexus claims the ES will have “the lowest hybrid premium in the luxury market.” Since the Lincoln MKZ hybrid is the same price as the gasoline version, make what you will out of that. With a pricing scheme likely to range from $37,500-$48,000, it is worth pointing out that this significantly undercuts the FWD Lincoln MKS and the FWD Cadillac XTS by a fair margin. While the new ES may not set your loins on fire, it does offer a compelling balance of luxury features and will no doubt continue to be Lexus’ best selling sedan. With competition like this, Caddy and Lincoln had better watch their back, Lexus isn’t pulling any punches.

Lexus flew me to Porland and put me up in a swanky hotel for 20 hours so we could attend the regional launch event. The food was great, the weather was terrible.

Specifications as tested

2013 ES 350

0-30 MPH: 2.55 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 6.35 Seconds

2013 ES 300h

0-30 MPH: 3.2 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 7.28 Seconds

 

2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front, spindle grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Cargo, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Cargo, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, door panels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Hybrid engine, 2.5L, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Hybrid engine, 2.5L, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Comparison Review: BMW 528i xDrive vs. Lexus GS 350 AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/comparison-review-bmw-528i-xdrive-vs-lexus-gs-350-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/comparison-review-bmw-528i-xdrive-vs-lexus-gs-350-awd/#comments Sun, 06 May 2012 19:21:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443098 With each revision since 1990, BMWs have become more like Lexus. Meanwhile, Lexus (some of them, anyway) have become more like BMWs. With the latest iterations, have the 5-Series and GS met somewhere in a muddled middle, or does each retain a distinct identity? With the latest, “F10″ 5-Series, BMW softened the car’s lines, returning […]

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With each revision since 1990, BMWs have become more like Lexus. Meanwhile, Lexus (some of them, anyway) have become more like BMWs. With the latest iterations, have the 5-Series and GS met somewhere in a muddled middle, or does each retain a distinct identity?

With the latest, “F10″ 5-Series, BMW softened the car’s lines, returning it at least halfway to the cleaner look of the E39. There’s nothing here to turn people off, but not much to turn them on, either. I personally prefer the tauter, more athletic appearance of the E60, despite its aesthetic excesses.

The first Lexus GS was designed by Giugiaro to be a Jaguar. But Jaguar didn’t want it, and Lexus did. [Update: a commenter notes that Italdesign has debunked this widespread belief. Though the world saw the Jaguar first, the firm designed the GS earlier.] The second GS’s more aggressive appearance was clearly an in-house effort. With both the third and latest generations of the car Lexus has claimed a new, distinctive design language (“L-Finesse” and “Waku Doki”), but each has nevertheless, like the second, appeared vaguely German. Viewed from the side in Luxury trim, the 2013 GS 350 looks much like a pudgier F10 5-Series, itself a pudgier E39. Medium red does not flatter the car.

Opt for the F-Sport (with a more aggressive fascia and gray 19-inch wheels) in silver, and the new GS looks much better.

Inside, the cars remain dissimilar. Though BMW interiors have become more artful over the years, their ambiance remains more businesslike, even severe. The GS’s interior looks and feels softer and more conventionally luxurious. One odd touch: a partially upholstered (in insufficiently convincing vinyl) instrument panel has padding in the areas farthest from the passengers. Done right, an upholstered instrument panel takes an interior up a notch or two. This one isn’t done right.

Much more important and done right: the highly adjustable seats included in both the F-Sport and Luxury Packages are far superior to the smaller, oddly contoured front buckets in the previous GS. They’re also both more comfortable and more supportive than those in the BMW. The Lexus approach to four-way power lumbar adjusters, with independent upper and lower adjustments, yields a better shape than a single bulge that can be shifted vertically. No longer offered in the BMW, but included with these seats in the Lexus: power-adjustable side bolsters. You sit a little higher relative to the instrument and door panels in the Lexus than in the BMW. Both have roomier, more comfortable rear seats than their predecessors, rendering the LS and 7-Series less necessary. Not so comfortable in the Lexus: a large bulge beneath the driver’s right calf (to accommodate the AWD system’s transfer case). A folding rear seat to expand the trunk is available in the BMW, but not in the Lexus.

BMW has continued to refine its iDrive control system, and the latest iteration’s simpler navigation poses little challenge. Lexus’s “remote touch” system, with a mouse-like force feedback controller, while niftier has a steeper learning curve. Theoretically, with more flexibility it should get you where you want more quickly, but in practice this is too often not the case. Specifying firmer feedback reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, the number of inadvertent selections induced by bumps in the road. Even then, navigating in two dimensions (versus the one-dimensional lists in the BMW) requires more conscious thought and manual precision. Both systems employ large displays capable of displaying two screens simultaneously, but that in the Lexus is a couple of inches larger. Unfortunately, BMW also felt the need to reinvent the shifter. The Lexus’s conventional lever feels better and is easier to use.

For 2013, Lexus offers only one non-hybrid engine in the GS, a normally-aspirated 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The 2012 BMW offers three turbocharged engines, with four, six, and eight cylinders and 240, 300, and 400 horsepower, respectively. While the six might seem the closest match to the Lexus, a case can be made for the tested four-banger. At lower rpm it’s about as powerful as the 3.5 and the 528i’s price is much closer to that of the Japanese car.

Before driving the 528i, I wondered whether a four-cylinder was up to the task of motivating a two-ton sedan in a manner worthy of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” label. Well, power isn’t an issue unless you require an especially energetic shove in your lower back. The four gets up to any legal speed nearly as quickly as the six. Character could be more of a stumbling block. The 2.0-liter engine doesn’t idle nearly as smoothly as the six and at low rpm sounds surprisingly like a diesel. The action of the automatic start/stop system sends a mild shudder through the car. Adding insult to injury, the eight-speed automatic tends to lug the engine unless in Sport mode. But select Sport mode and the transmission holds a lower gear even when cruising, severely impacting fuel economy. At higher rpm and with a heavy foot the four sounds much better, but still not quite in character for a luxury sedan.

The Lexus’s engine delivers its power much differently. While I wouldn’t call it “torqueless”, it’s not a neck-snapper off the line. But cross 4,000 rpm and power jumps dramatically (in a style reminiscent of Honda’s high-performance VTEC engines). At the same point, the engine’s aural output also gets louder and fuller, with a tuned character intentionally similar to that of the IS-F. Credit (or blame) a “sound symposer”, a tube that channels sound from the engine’s intake to the cabin. Some might find this sound overly massaged, but I personally enjoy the livelier sound and feel of the Lexus engine more than those of the Germans’ boosted mills.

While Lexus offers an eight-speed automatic in some models, the 2013 retains the old six-speed. Between this and its larger engine, the GS 350 AWD’s EPA ratings (19 city, 26 highway) don’t approach those of the 528i xDrive (22/32). In casual suburban driving with the engine warmed up the trip computer reported about 22 in the Lexus and about 25 in the BMW. Drive more aggressively and the difference between the two narrows a little, with the Lexus falling into the high teens and the BMW dropping to just below 20. Take full advantage of “Eco Pro” mode in the BMW, which yields a Prius-like throttle response, and the gap widens. I observed an average as high as 30 in the BMW (vs. a high of 25 in the Lexus). But I also observed an actual Prius tailgate then pass me. The GS also has an “Eco” setting, but its impact is much less dramatic.

Even with the optional Sport Package’s dampers set to “Sport” the new 528i feels a little soft and sloppy. There’s some float following dips and bumps and a surprising (if still moderate) amount of lean in turns. Mild understeer is the defining trait. While the 550i xDrive retains the character of a rear-wheel-drive car, the four-cylinder, with two-thirds the torque, can’t produce the same effect. Body motions in even the Luxury Package GS are better controlled, and the F-Sport feels tighter still. All-wheel-drive limits the influence of your right foot on the attitude of the chassis in the Lexus much like it does in the BMW—neither car employs an active rear differential or torque vectoring. Steering is nicely weighted in both cars, but with a firmer feel in the Lexus.

Yet the BMW remains the easier car to drive quickly along a challenging road. Additional bobbling about notwithstanding, the 528i can be more precisely placed through turns. Its steering seems little more communicative, yet the driver receives more nuanced information, much of it through the ears and seat rather than through the fingertips. Even in F-Sport form, the Lexus insulates the driver more. There is an upside to this last difference: going down the road, the more refined GS sounds and feels more upscale and more luxurious. The F-Sport rides more firmly than the basic car, but remains far from punishing. A sound meter might detect little difference between the BMW and the Lexus, but the quality of the noise that gets through is another matter. Where BMW might have simply aimed for low decibel readings, Lexus has carefully tailored the noise that reaches your ears to convey a sense of luxury and quality.

As tested, the Lexus were priced at $58,997 (F-Spot) and $59,759 (Luxury). These two packages cannot be ordered together, so you must choose between the former’s more attractive exterior and firmer suspension and the latter’s softer leather and additional amenities (articulating upper backrests, memory for the front passenger seat, automatic climate controls and heat for the rear seats). I’d readily opt for the former. The BMW 528i, equipped more like the F-Sport, listed for $61,125. Both cars are available with quite a few additional options, including adaptive cruise control, head-up displays, night vision systems, premium audio, and (with rear-wheel-drive only) four-wheel active steering. Run both cars through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool to adjust for unshared features, and the difference comes in just under $2,000. Probably not enough to be a factor at this level—but recall that the BMW is the 528i, not the 535i. For the latter, add $4,100.

Despite their convergence, drive the BMW 5-Series and Lexus GS back-to-back and they remain dramatically different cars. Despite a softer, less direct feel than past 5ers, the BMW still provides the driver with a larger amount of more nuanced feedback than the Lexus does. Meanwhile, the Lexus continues to more thoroughly insulate the driver (and passengers). For this and other reasons, the GS 350 also looks and feels more luxurious. Of the three cars reviewed, the GS 350 F-Sport best combines performance and luxury. It’s a very pleasurable car whether driven aggressively or casually. Lexus clearly goes further beyond objective criteria to the subjective experience of how the car looks, sounds, and feels. The largest advantage of the BMW, one for which the marque hasn’t been known in the past, is fuel efficiency. You can, of course, get the GS in hybrid form, but only if you’re willing to give up all-wheel-drive—and an additional $10,000.

Phil Coron of Meade Lexus in Southfield, MI, provided the Lexus GS 350 F-Sport. He can be reached at 248-372-7100.

Lexus provided the GS 350 Luxury, while BMW provided the 528i, in both cases with insurance and a tank of premium gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

528i and GS 350, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i GS 350 side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i_GS_thumb GS 350 front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 Luxury rear seat controls, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 split screen, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front quarter 2, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

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