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. Mon, 27 Oct 2014 19:12:18 +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 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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Piston Slap: To Battle The Moonroof Rattle? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-moonroof-rattle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-moonroof-rattle/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:32:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=921905 TTAC Commentator Sobro writes: Hi Sajeev and your goateed evil twin Sanjeev! Beige. We all know it, we all love it, especially when it comes in Lexus Pearl White as my wife’s 2003 ES 300 does. This vehicle has had exactly one non-maintenance item replaced since bought new: the A/C compressor relay. My wife installed […]

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Capture

TTAC Commentator Sobro writes:

Hi Sajeev and your goateed evil twin Sanjeev!

Beige. We all know it, we all love it, especially when it comes in Lexus Pearl White as my wife’s 2003 ES 300 does. This vehicle has had exactly one non-maintenance item replaced since bought new: the A/C compressor relay. My wife installed it since her office is near the Toyota dealer. And it was July. In Nashville. It was my research in the Lexus forums which led to this fix for the flashing LED in the A/C button.

Which brings me to my question.

The sunroof has started to clunk occasionally when hitting bumps, and the clunk is directly overhead of the driver. This sort of thing drives me nuts, so I’m glad I don’t commute in the wife’s ride. The Lexus forums have very little to offer, and what they do tend to start with “remove the sunroof”. Any ideas? Thanks!

Long time lurker, first time caller!

Sajeev answers:

Take it from someone working on moonroofs for 10+ years, you almost always remove the glass to do anything. The forums seem scant on info on a cursory glance but–ZOMG R U SAYIN’ ME AND SANJEEV COULD BE DAVID HASSELHOFF?

(photo courtesy: www.teamknightrider.com)

Wait, that’s no goatee on Garth!  (sigh of relief)

So anyway, moonroof rattle: since you mention the glass itself opens/closes/seals like new (no wind leaks), I betcha the rattle comes from the shade or the wind deflector.  Rule out the shade by pressing your palm against the shade and drive over a road known to cause the rattle. Start with light pressure and use more if the rattle doesn’t go away, to ensure the shade can’t possibly mask another problem with the track.

I have my doubts about the shade, as most Lexus’ products have a rather heavy and rattle-resistant shade, adding weight to silence a rattle isn’t likely. The (often spring-loaded) wind deflector is my bet. But other problems could be at fault: judging by the Sunroof Doctor‘s comprehensive repair kit.

What’s the fix?  Get a factory shop manual (no exceptions) to ensure you don’t break anything.  I’d venture a guess, but I’d prefer to remain lawsuit free after you install it wrong and the moonroof launches itself on the highway.

Sanjeev answers:

Wait, wait: you think anyone cares enough to actually want to sue you?

I’m too busy growing a goatee now, otherwise I’d tell everyone about that time you didn’t install a moonroof correctly and it flew off the car. If only people knew The Truth About Sajeev

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Lexus Topped Premium Brands In The U.S. In July, And How http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/lexus-topped-premium-brands-u-s-july/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/lexus-topped-premium-brands-u-s-july/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:20:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899386 In July 2014, for the first time in twelve months, Lexus outsold all other premium brands in the United States. Back in August 2013, Lexus sold 29,792 vehicles, 5269 more new vehicle sales than BMW managed; 5031 more than Mercedes-Benz, excluding Sprinter vans. Last month, Lexus’ margin of victory over the two brands which now […]

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2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesIn July 2014, for the first time in twelve months, Lexus outsold all other premium brands in the United States. Back in August 2013, Lexus sold 29,792 vehicles, 5269 more new vehicle sales than BMW managed; 5031 more than Mercedes-Benz, excluding Sprinter vans.

Last month, Lexus’ margin of victory over the two brands which now routinely outsell the Toyota premium division was much smaller. Mercedes-Benz reported the sale of 27,192 new vehicles; Lexus another 141 units.

The annual U.S. race to be tops among premium brands was last won by Lexus in calendar year 2010. Yet as Mercedes-Benz and BMW blossomed with expanding utility vehicle lineups, Lexus’s 3-Series-fighting IS aged and the brand continued to rely very heavily on the RX.

July’s key difference relative to the recent past? Although the small NX isn’t here yet and Lexus fell back on the RX for more than one-third of the brand’s volume, the IS is now a moderately high-volume sports sedan. IS volume has increased on a year-over-year basis in each of the last 13 months and July’s 4542-unit performance marked the third occasion this year in which IS sales have topped 4000 units. IS volume increased by 901 units in July, by 5420 units over the last three months, and by 13,688 units through the first seven months of 2014.

Yet the IS, which accounted for 17% of the brand’s volume in July, was only Lexus’s third-best-selling model. The ES, sales of which rose 4% (and are only slightly less than level year-to-date), generated 6326 July sales, more than four out of every ten Lexus passenger car sales last month. The ES – with its entry-luxury price tag, front-wheel-drive orientation, and spacious interior – has no genuinely direct rival at Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

Lexus July 2014 sales articlesThe GS, on the other hand, does stand up as an E-Class or 5-Series challenger, though not on U.S. sales volume terms. 2001 GS sedans were sold in July, a 16% year-over-year increase. With larger lineups (the E-Class is available in four different bodystyles, for example), Mercedes-Benz sold 6648 Es in July, a 19% jump, and BMW sold 5676 copies of the 5-Series, up 17%.

While BMW sold 6187 versions of their five X models in July and Mercedes-Benz’s G, GL, GLK, and M-Class combined for 9038 sales, Lexus sold 9658 RX hybrids and RX350s. (Lexus also sold 1955 GX SUVs, representing a 122% increase. LX sales fell 15% to 248 units.)

Among premium brand utility vehicles, the RX is an astonishingly and consistently popular nameplate. RX sales jumped 14% in July and are up 5% year-to-date.

It’s on the basis of the RX’s success that Toyota feels it can sell 2200 NXs per month. Challenging styling aside, it’s hard to doubt the company’s expectations. To the NX’s extra volume, Lexus will also add a few sales with the RC.

If those figures cause you to think Lexus could return to the top of the heap more consistently and for the long-term, you wouldn’t be crazy. But you may also be forgetting that Mercedes-Benz will soon be selling a sub-GLK GLA. The race among upmarket brands to generate increased sales, and thus decreased exclusivity, requires many a move down-market.

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Chart Of The Day: At Least Toyota Has Toyotas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/chart-day-scions-flagging/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/chart-day-scions-flagging/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 12:30:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=893482 Having reached a four-year peak in 2012, the year in which the FR-S first arrived, sales at Toyota USA’s Scion division slid 7.1% in 2013. Through the first seven months of 2014, every Scion model except the tC is selling less often than they did one year ago. The iQ’s 47% drop equals 1244 fewer […]

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Scion U.S. sales chart July 2014Having reached a four-year peak in 2012, the year in which the FR-S first arrived, sales at Toyota USA’s Scion division slid 7.1% in 2013.

Through the first seven months of 2014, every Scion model except the tC is selling less often than they did one year ago. The iQ’s 47% drop equals 1244 fewer sales through seven months. The FR-S’s 24% decrease translates to 2802 fewer sales.

Scion sold 173,000 new vehicles in 2006, the brand’s best year on record. With likely no more than 65,000 sales in 2014, Scion will have declined 62% from that point. (It was, not surprisingly, worse between 2009 and 2011.)

Scion’s Toyota parent company, however, sells a rather large number of vehicles in America. With just 2.6% of U.S. Toyota volume coming from Scion – 12% from Lexus – it’s not as though this has to be a long-term headache. Twelve different nameplates, on their own, outsell the Scion brand as a whole.

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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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CAFE Case Study: Lexus NX Gets Different Fascia To Qualify As “Light Truck” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cafe-case-study-lexus-nx-gets-different-fascia-to-qualify-as-light-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cafe-case-study-lexus-nx-gets-different-fascia-to-qualify-as-light-truck/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 15:43:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=882282 Although we’ve covered CAFE and its effects on the new car market before, the launch of the Lexus NX provides us with an interesting example of just how far auto makers will go to have their offerings classified as “light trucks” under the U.S. regulatory scheme which incentivizes manufacturers to offer these sorts of vehicles […]

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2015-Lexus-NX-Exterior6

Although we’ve covered CAFE and its effects on the new car market before, the launch of the Lexus NX provides us with an interesting example of just how far auto makers will go to have their offerings classified as “light trucks” under the U.S. regulatory scheme which incentivizes manufacturers to offer these sorts of vehicles beyond mere market forces.

To recap quickly, CAFE splits vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) under 8,500 lbs into two categories: cars and light trucks. Each vehicle has a “footprint” formula based on the vehicle size, with fuel economy targets it must meet. These are added up to a “fleet average” for each manufacturer, and there are a whole host of byzantine rules regarding “credits” for different technologies, like start-stop systems, hybrids and EVs that can be applied. They key concept here is that two vehicles can be the same “footprint”, but the “light truck” has to meet a fuel economy standard that is less stringent than the “car” standard. This (along with market forces) has been one reason why crossovers have become such a prominent segment in the American auto market.

As the crew at Top Gear Philippines discovered, the Lexus NX doesn’t just meet the standard of being a “light truck” by virtue of its approach angle. The solution is a different fascia  for North American markets, such as the one shown above. Compare that to the one below, which has a “fuller”, square-jawed appearance.

The change in fascia isn’t the most onerous hurdle to overcome, but it does illustrate the fickle nature of the regulations, and how far auto makers will go to meet them – and exploit the various loopholes contained within.

lexus_nx300h_world

 

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Generation Why: A Sub-$30k Car “Wouldn’t Be A Lexus” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/generation-sub-30k-car-wouldnt-lexus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/generation-sub-30k-car-wouldnt-lexus/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:45:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877265 Mercedes and Audi all have a sub-$30,000 entry in their American model ranges. BMW’s cheapest model is just a few hundred dollars above that price point. Infiniti will likely have their own model in that space. So why not Lexus? Speaking to Automotive News, Lexus boss Mark Templin said “We could go down and build a […]

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1024px-LEXUS_CT200h_Japan_2011_front

Mercedes and Audi all have a sub-$30,000 entry in their American model ranges. BMW’s cheapest model is just a few hundred dollars above that price point. Infiniti will likely have their own model in that space. So why not Lexus?

Speaking to Automotive News, Lexus boss Mark Templin said

“We could go down and build a car under $30,000, but it would be decontented, and you’d be cutting corners. It wouldn’t be a Lexus…To be honest with you, you can’t build a Lexus with the quality, the durability, the reliability, the craftsmanship, the content that we put in a Lexus and sell it profitably under $30,000. You just can’t do it.”

Templin’s comments are about as clear a swipe at the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA as one can get. While CLA sales have been big for Benz (as much as 11 percent of the brand’s total, by AN‘s count), reviews have been mixed.

Mercedes-Benz, like other European luxury brands, face an additional dilemma beyond the usual matters of scale, volume and profitability requirements associated with those issues. In many mature markets, their buyers are getting older, while a new generation of buyers is both moving away from cars, and arguably less able to afford a new luxury car. Products like the CLA and A3 offer an affordable entry-point into the brand, while also appealing to the aesthetic, environmental and economic tastes of the Millennial generation. Lexus doesn’t necessarily have this problem in the same way that the Germans do, but they also don’t have much of a presence in Europe either.

What Lexus is doing, as AN pointed out, is attempting to stake out the “high ground” by keeping the price floor above $30,000 (the entry-level CT hybrid starts at about $32,000), which will ostensibly further entrench their “luxury” position. But Lexus, for all its success, has never achieved true global success as a luxury brand, which is something that only the Germans have managed to earn. And as we all know, it’s easier to reach downmarket than try and move up. The A-Class was a hit for Mercedes, but Volkswagen didn’t fare well with the Phaeton. And Audi is just finally turning the corner after a decades long climb to Tier 1.

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Lexus GX Sales Double, Profits Pile Up http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lexus-gx-sales-double-profits-pile-up/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lexus-gx-sales-double-profits-pile-up/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:53:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874489 The Lexus GX seems to truck along in the American marketplace with little fanfare. Aside from a brief rollover scare, the GX’s most notable achievement appears to be as the ride of choice for family members of Lexus dealer principals and Central Asian warlords. But Ward’s Auto reports that a bit of magic by Lexus product […]

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The Lexus GX seems to truck along in the American marketplace with little fanfare. Aside from a brief rollover scare, the GX’s most notable achievement appears to be as the ride of choice for family members of Lexus dealer principals and Central Asian warlords. But Ward’s Auto reports that a bit of magic by Lexus product planners has helped double sales in just over a year.

According to Ward’s

Adding a lower-priced base grade for the GX’s ’14 refresh, by substituting fake leather for real leather and deleting some content, was key to this year’s sales jump, putting the SUV’s starting price on par with 3-row midsize CUVs.

Keep in mind that this is an SUV that starts at a hair under $50,000 – and only 20 percent of buyers are even opting for the base model. Most customers go for the $53,795 GX Premium, which ostensibly offers real leather and other stuff that one would expect on a pricey SUV.

Brian Smith, VP of Marketing for Lexus, told Ward’s that

“I think there’s a need for towing capability, without having to go all the way to a (fullsize) LX…So we’re doing everything we can to continue to keep Toyota focused on the need for GX.”

Sure, there is a need for towing capacity with these vehicles, but there’s another, unspoken reason why Lexus keeps the GX around: profit. The GX is based on the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, a body-on-frame SUV related to the Toyota 4Runner, and sold in world markets as a family vehicle.

Taking an inexpensive vehicle that has had most of its costs amortized already (and is relatively simple to design, engineer and manufacture) and marketing it as a luxury item is a tried-and-true recipe for enormous gross margins that other players like GM, Ford and Nissan have all been exploiting for years now. It even works on unibody designs too (think Honda Pilot/Acura MDX or even Toyota Camry/Lexus RX). The body-on-frame design used by the GX just happens to be very simple technology that doesn’t cost a whole lot. When it’s sold as a silk purse, it becomes a very, very lucrative sow’s ear.

No wonder Smith speaks of his desire to “keep Toyota focused on the need for GX”. The SUV might as well be a printing press for the Lexus division, not just in America, but also in markets like China and Russia, where Lexus can charge whatever they please. And doubling sales of a product like this sure doesn’t hurt either.

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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’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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QOTD: Why There Will Be No “Made In China” Lexus Products http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-why-there-will-be-no-made-in-china-lexus-products/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-why-there-will-be-no-made-in-china-lexus-products/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 14:02:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=815530 Currently, there is only one Lexus plant outside of Japan. A Toyota factory in Cambridge, Ontario makes the Lexus RX crossover, while Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant will come online in 2015. Like other Japanese auto makers, Toyota is moving towards a localization of its production facilities, but one thing they won’t be doing is producing […]

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Currently, there is only one Lexus plant outside of Japan. A Toyota factory in Cambridge, Ontario makes the Lexus RX crossover, while Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant will come online in 2015. Like other Japanese auto makers, Toyota is moving towards a localization of its production facilities, but one thing they won’t be doing is producing Lexus vehicles in China.

Speaking at the Beijing Auto Show, Lexus head Tokuo Fukuichi said

“We are often asked whether we plan to manufacture Lexus cars in China. But the question is whether our brand has earned the trust of customers. If a brand is really trusted, it can sell its products wherever they are manufactured. But Lexus has not yet achieved such a status.” 

Building an automotive luxury brand is a decades long process. Audi is an overnight success nearly 40 years in the making, while Infiniti is now on the slow, long road to lifting themselves up out of the doldrums of Tier 2 luxury. Lexus has arguably been the most successful Japanese effort at a Tier 1 luxury brand, but they still have work to do. In world markets (specifically Western Europe), Lexus does not enjoy the same footing as it does in the United States, and has only been on sale in Japan since 2005.

In Fukuichi’s estimation, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz (not to mention, Cadillac and Infiniti) can all do what Lexus cannot: build cars in China without harming brand perception. This is a big problem for Lexus – it must import its cars from Japan (and the NAFTA zone) and sell them at a higher price thanks to import tariffs and other duties. But it’s also a deliberate calculation on the part of Lexus.

If any of the German brands suffered quality problems from Chinese made cars, their customers would likely forgive them, due to the burning desire to have four rings, a three pointed star or two blue triangles on the hood of their car. But nobody feels the same pull for the stylized “L”.

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Piston Slap: The Straw that broke the Hybrid’s Back? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-the-straw-that-broke-the-hybrids-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-the-straw-that-broke-the-hybrids-back/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=805330 Marc writes: Hi, I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere. I have 2006 Lexus RX400H with 106,000 miles. The vehicle is bulletproof never having a repair, it even has it’s original brakes. I traded in a 2000 RX 300 for it. The 300 also never had a repair. My question pertains to the hybrid batteries. Multiple […]

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Marc writes:

Hi, I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere.

I have 2006 Lexus RX400H with 106,000 miles. The vehicle is bulletproof never having a repair, it even has it’s original brakes. I traded in a 2000 RX 300 for it. The 300 also never had a repair.

My question pertains to the hybrid batteries. Multiple Toyota and Lexus dealers have stated to me, that they have seen few hybrids if any needing replacement batteries yet some Prius’ have been on the road for over 10 years but there doesn’t seem to be much said about the expected life of the battery packs. My battery warranty just expired. Is it time to trade it in to avoid the eventual high battery replacement cost or am I worrying about a problem that could be many years down the road.

Sajeev asks:

Hi there. Where do you live and how many electronic items on the cat do you regularly run? (A/C, stereo, heated seat, etc.)

Marc replies:

I live in Southern California. The AC is almost always on, music always on, NAV always on.

Sajeev concludes:

The series has indeed covered hybrid battery fail, Toyotas in particular.  Your location’s warm climate shall be easy on hybrid batteries, not taxing them with a ton of power robbing heater load. Or, to a lesser extent, the A/C load of hotter parts of the country.  But your battery will fail, and there are companies willing to help.

If you want the help.

Considering the lack of needed repairs (original brakes? Impressive!) on this RX, selling it while the going is good is quite logical. If you want a new vehicle! If not, find a hybrid battery vendor, get a brake job, fluid changes, etc. that will eventually be needed.

All this work could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, yet none of it scares me like a TDI+DSG Volkswagen product that’s out of warranty.  This stuff just needs to happen.  I’d wager it’s worth it, if you like the RX and wouldn’t want to pay for a new vehicle. Which is always gonna be your call, son.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Lexus Reveals Its Most Important Product Since The LS400 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/lexus-nx200/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/lexus-nx200/#comments Sun, 13 Apr 2014 17:56:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=796402 Lexus is launching their long awaited small crossover at this month’s Beijing Auto Show. Dubbed the NX, it will be the first Lexus product with a turbocharged engine. Aside from the 2.0T engine, a naturally aspirated NX200 and an NX300h hybrid (which shares its powertrain with the Lexus ES300h) will also be offered. Exact specs […]

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Lexus is launching their long awaited small crossover at this month’s Beijing Auto Show. Dubbed the NX, it will be the first Lexus product with a turbocharged engine.

Aside from the 2.0T engine, a naturally aspirated NX200 and an NX300h hybrid (which shares its powertrain with the Lexus ES300h) will also be offered. Exact specs haven’t been announced.

For TTAC readers, the NX is a non-event, another boring crossover to add to the ever-growing pile of soulless two-box vehicles that should be wagons. But for Lexus, this is a vitally important product, a competitor in the booming small crossover segment.

In Europe, Lexus has traditionally been an also-ran, fielding a lineup of cars that are considered uncompetitive thanks to thirsty gasoline engines, a dearth of diesel options and a lack of compelling reasons to pick one over a rival luxury brand. The NX is their best hope at changing things.

The small crossover segment could not be hotter, and if the pricing is right, Lexus might be able to make some headway against the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Audi Q3. The lack of a diesel won’t help, but the hybrid version might do well due to low CO2 emissions, even though hybrids traditionally have not done well on The Continent. In markets like China, Russia and Brazil and India, the diesel conundrum is less important. What matters is the “premium” perception that goes along with the Lexus brand and CUVs in general. The NX won’t break new ground in quality and value like the LS did – but it might just kick off a second wind for the brand in the markets that matter most.

 

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Canadian Toyota Plants To Hold Union Vote As Early As Next Week http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/canadian-toyota-plants-to-hold-union-vote-as-early-as-next-week/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/canadian-toyota-plants-to-hold-union-vote-as-early-as-next-week/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 17:22:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785369 Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union (formerly known as the CAW), has filed to unionize Toyota plants in Canada. The Financial Post reports that more than 40 percent of Toyota’s 6,500 workers have signed union cards. According the paper, Unifor president Jerry Dias characterized the move to unionize as an “internal effort”, with employees apparently […]

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Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union (formerly known as the CAW), has filed to unionize Toyota plants in Canada. The Financial Post reports that more than 40 percent of Toyota’s 6,500 workers have signed union cards.

According the paper, Unifor president Jerry Dias characterized the move to unionize as an “internal effort”, with employees apparently creating their own union cards and sending them to Unifor.

The FP notes that

“Employees at the Toyota plants have raised concerns about several recent unilateral changes at the plants, including moving new hires to a defined-contribution pension plan and the hours they work. They also have concerns about the company ability to impose other changes, and other health and safety concerns. In order for the certification vote to pass, 50% plus one of the Toyota workers have to vote in favor of unionization.”

According to Dias, the effort to organize has more to do with workers having a say in the management of the plant, rather than compensation or benefits. Dias noted that Unifor would attempt to negotiate a new collective agreement if the effort was successful.

While it would be tough to speculate on the outcome of the vote, Dias has previously stated that he would delay a union vote until he was comfortable that a victory would occur. Previous efforts by the CAW to organize Honda’s plant in Alliston, Ontario, were unsuccessful, with workers repeatedly failing to organize. One Honda insider suggested that a successful campaign could even lead to a shutdown of a given plant, despite the recent investments made by Toyota and the Canadian government.

According to our source, the Japanese take a dim view of any outside forces trying to meddle in the management of their plant – unions included. Unions do exist in Japanese auto plants, but don’t aim to do this, or any other initiative that would be seen as hostile in the context of Japanese labor relations.

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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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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.

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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.

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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

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Trunk-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Trunk 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-012 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-011 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-007 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-008 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-009 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-010 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-006 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-005 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-004 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-011 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-010 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-009 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-008 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-002 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine-001

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Japanese Brands Dominate Consumer Reports Rankings, Detroit Three Struggling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/japanese-brands-dominate-consumer-reports-rankings-detroit-three-struggling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/japanese-brands-dominate-consumer-reports-rankings-detroit-three-struggling/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754369 Though quality and performance have improved as of late for products made by the Detroit Three, they still have a ways to go to beat the Japanese brands dominating Consumer Reports‘ current rankings. Automotive News reports seven of the top 10 brands rated for overall reliability and road-test performance as conducted by the magazine are […]

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2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004

Though quality and performance have improved as of late for products made by the Detroit Three, they still have a ways to go to beat the Japanese brands dominating Consumer Reports‘ current rankings.

Automotive News reports seven of the top 10 brands rated for overall reliability and road-test performance as conducted by the magazine are Japanese, while the two top Detroit brands — Buick and GMC — tied for 12th; Ford and Jeep tied for last place.

The top-rated brand for the second consecutive year was Lexus, scoring 79 out of 100 for their lineup deemed “quiet, plush, and very reliable” by Consumer Reports. Following the luxury brand were Acura, Audi, Subaru and Toyota (tied for fourth place), Mazda, Honda, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW and Volvo (tied for 10th).

As for where the remaining Detroit Three brands landed, Chrysler took up the 14th position while Chevrolet, Cadillac, Dodge and the aforementioned Ford and Jeep rounding out the bottom of the rankings behind Nissan, the lowest ranked Japanese brand in a tie with Volkswagen for 19th.

Ford and Jeep’s dead-last ranking is the result of technology woes for the former’s MyFord Touch infotainment system, and a “crude and outdated” lineup — including a Grand Cherokee suffering from weakened reliability, and a Cherokee that the magazine says “isn’t that competitive” — for the latter. Ford, in particular, is a “sad story” according to CR director of auto testing Jake Fisher:

The Ford Fusion, not only does it look, but it drives like a good European sports car. It really does. The problem is the reliability, and that’s what’s dragging down that brand.

Meanwhile, Fisher notes that if General Motors had “a whole lineup of Impalas,” considered the best large sedan based on road tests conducted by the magazine, the automaker would be at the top of the rankings. Overall, Fisher believes the Detroit Three as a whole are “going the right way” in terms of reliability and performance.

Regarding individual models, the Ram 1500 was rated the Best Pickup over the Silverado/Sierra twins in part due to the lack of reliability information for the latter two, while Hyundai captured the trophy Best Mid-Size SUV for their Santa Fe, Subaru holding off the Honda CR-V with their Forester for Best Small SUV, and Tesla, whose Model S holds the highest overall score ever given by the magazine: 99 out of 100, takes home the Overall trophy.

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Chicago 1989: Where Are They Now? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-1989-where-are-they-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-1989-where-are-they-now/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 17:10:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=735185 The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of two of God’s most perfect creations: The Mazda Miata and the Acura NSX. Long-time readers will know that I have a strong affinity for both of these cars. The Miata was the first car I ever owned, while the NSX remains a […]

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1989-Acura-NSX-prototype-during-Chicago-Auto-Show-public-days

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of two of God’s most perfect creations: The Mazda Miata and the Acura NSX. Long-time readers will know that I have a strong affinity for both of these cars. The Miata was the first car I ever owned, while the NSX remains a focal point in my relationship with the automobile.

Automobile Magazine takes a look at both of those cars, as well as three others – the Lexus LS400, the Infiniti Q45 and the Nissan 300ZX – in what is considered to be a very strong draft class for the Japanese auto industry. Four of the five cars still exist in one form or another, with the NSX said to be just around the corner – though that’s been the word since it was discontinued roughly a decade ago.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect is that even today, these cars still stand the test of time, whether it’s a pristinely preserved Miata or a tired LS400. Get behind the wheel of any of them, and they still manage to thrill and excite, even if they don’t seem quite so fresh.

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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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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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Vellum Venom Vignette: Ovoid Fixation Edition? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vellum-venom-vignette-ovoid-fixation-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vellum-venom-vignette-ovoid-fixation-edition/#comments Tue, 24 Dec 2013 13:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686786 Ryan writes: OK, so the granddaddy of oval car logos must be the Ford blue oval, but they sure do have a lot of imitators. So, how about a Vellum Venom on Comparative Oval Logos in the Automotive Industry? Or if you don’t like this pitch, maybe put Sanjeev on it. I bet he’d do […]

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Ryan writes:

OK, so the granddaddy of oval car logos must be the Ford blue oval, but they sure do have a lot of imitators. So, how about a Vellum Venom on Comparative Oval Logos in the Automotive Industry? Or if you don’t like this pitch, maybe put Sanjeev on it. I bet he’d do this article.

Here’s the logos I can think of right now, all horizontal ovals:

  • Ford
  • Subaru
  • Kia
  • Hyundai
  • Toyota (the modern tri-oval T logo)
  • Daewoo
  • Infiniti
  • Scion
  • (Don’t forget Lexus and Land Rover – SM)

An oval (technically these logos are all ellipse-shaped, but nobody calls it the “blue ellipse”) is a pretty basic shape, but when I think of other corporate logos, I don’t see a lot of horizontal ovals (round logos? Yes, both in and out of the car industry). Even the proportions of these logos all seem pretty close (though Ford looks like the widest of the bunch).

Sajeev answers:

That Sanjeev jerk didn’t spend a year at The College of Creative Studies honing his immense drawing skills into an…ummm…dammit, he gets no airtime in this series!

Now, you have a very valid point: corporations be rippin’ off the Ford logo like whoa.

But it’s wiser to go Ford Oval instead of something potentially displeasing to the buying public, even though I can’t stand the copycat-ism either. Yet I found myself “under the influence” in CCS’ design studios.  The worst was a front fascia I made similar to a GEN I Prius, with a more exaggerated snout.  It was the first rendering of my second semester at CCS. And the result? Scorn? Shame and ostracization?

Nope.  People were kinda quiet, instead of openly critical.  Others, those I considered friends, said, “Whatever you did over Christmas break, it’s working! You are really getting the hang of it now!” Even my normally harsh teacher mentioned my progress.

It was bittersweet, as this wasn’t my best work. Even if it was…

So what’s the problem?  Design studios are all about concept inbreeding: if GM (Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell) does it, why not do the same as their cross-town rival? Fame and fortune await!  Or maybe we’ll hire their design honcho for ourselves (KIA), reaping even more fortune! As Grandmaster Flash said in the link above:

“Cause it’s all about the Money, ain’t a damn thing Funny.

You got to have a con in this land of Milk and Honey.”

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QOTD: Better Off Mainstream? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/qotd-better-off-mainstream/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/qotd-better-off-mainstream/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 15:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=665738 Speaking at a preview event for the next-generation Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik defended his company’s decision to forgo establishing a seperate luxury channel for cars like the Genesis and Equus. While the rationale put forth usually revolves around the exorbitantly expensive pricetag for launching a new brand and an all-new sales network, Krafcik […]

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Speaking at a preview event for the next-generation Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik defended his company’s decision to forgo establishing a seperate luxury channel for cars like the Genesis and Equus. While the rationale put forth usually revolves around the exorbitantly expensive pricetag for launching a new brand and an all-new sales network, Krafcik put it from another angle.

Speaking to Automotive News, Krafcik remarked

“I do believe that when the three premium Japanese brands were launched, it was during a certain time in the industry when there was a certain optimism about where the industry was headed,” he said.

“I really believe that if those three companies had a chance to really think about their path, they might have taken the path that we chose.”

The epoch that saw the launch of Infiniti, Acura and Lexus was the peak of Japan’s “bubble”, when Japanese automakers seemed to have limitless budgets for new vehicle R&D, marketing (think of those wacky home-market ads with Hollywood star endorsements) and sales channels (whether it was new luxury brands in America or multiple sales channels in Japan).

At the time, the rationale was that a Nissan President or Toyota Aristo was suitable for sale with a more plebian badge in Japan, but American consumers would not be willing to shell out premium car money for a luxury sedan sold alongside a Corolla or a Civic, no matter how good it was.

Nearly three decades on and Acura is largely confined to America and China, while Infiniti seems to be stuck in the mud as far as becoming a global luxury brand. Even Lexus, which has become a household name on par with BMW or Mercedes-Benz, hasn’t made any kind of dent in Europe. Do you agree with Krafcik’s assessment? Let us know in the comments.

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2013 Guangzhou Auto Show: 2014 Lexus CT200h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/2013-guangzhou-auto-show-2014-lexus-ct200h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/2013-guangzhou-auto-show-2014-lexus-ct200h/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=660754 While other automotive sites are patting themselves on the back for their comprehensive blanket coverage of the Los Angeles and Tokyo Auto Show, the TTAC Staff robot has been burning the midnight oil to bring you news from the third major auto show being held this week, Auto Guangzhou, held in China’s third largest city. […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

While other automotive sites are patting themselves on the back for their comprehensive blanket coverage of the Los Angeles and Tokyo Auto Show, the TTAC Staff robot has been burning the midnight oil to bring you news from the third major auto show being held this week, Auto Guangzhou, held in China’s third largest city. While not yet at the rank of LA and Tokyo, the Guangzhou show is major enough that Lexus decided to debut the new Lexus CT200h, the first major update to Toyota’s luxury version of the Prius hybrid since the CT200h was introduced in 2010. It gets cosmetic changes, being the last Lexus model to get the corporate “spindle” grille, as well as better structural rigidity, suspension refinements, better aero and improved NVH levels. Despite the sportier look, the CT200h continues with the same 134 horsepower 1.8 liter version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, driving the car through a continuously variable transmission. Lexus estimates EPA gas mileage of 43/40 mpg city/highway and 42 mpg combined. Lexus is offering the CT200h in red for the first time, and you can also opt for a two-tone finish with a contrasting black roof.

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Inside, Lexus says there are better materials and more features that are standard equipment, a new 4.2″ TFT screen in the instrument panel, as well as improved safety features and nannies. For the first time you’ll be able to deactivate traction control and if that’s not sporting enough for you, Lexus again offers the CT200h in an F Sport package, which comes with unique bumpers, 17 inch 10 spoke aluminum rims and more exterior and interior trim options.

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Tokyo Motor Show 2013: Lexus RC 350 & RC 300h, Performance and Hybrid Coupes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/tokyo-motor-show-2013-lexus-rc-350-rc-300h-performance-and-hybrid-coupes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/tokyo-motor-show-2013-lexus-rc-350-rc-300h-performance-and-hybrid-coupes/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 14:45:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=658650 Toyota has been teasing a Lexus coupe for a couple of years now with the LF-FC concepts. At the Tokyo Auto Show introduced two versions of the new RC coupe, one oriented towards performance, the other with green cred, slated to go on sale some time in 2014. Based on the GS platform, the RC […]

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Toyota has been teasing a Lexus coupe for a couple of years now with the LF-FC concepts. At the Tokyo Auto Show introduced two versions of the new RC coupe, one oriented towards performance, the other with green cred, slated to go on sale some time in 2014. Based on the GS platform, the RC 350 sports a 314 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid RC 300h, has a combined 217 hp, from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine matched with a 105 kw electric motor, driving through a continuously variable transmission. Both RCs use double wishbones up front and a multilink rear suspension.

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