The Truth About Cars » spindle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:51:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » spindle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 15:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480822 While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 F-Sport. It was only a matter of time until the spindle grille and the looks-fast F package appeared on Lexus’s flagship LS. Can a “looks-fast” and “handles-better” package help the LS regain the sales crown? Or does Lexus need to go back to the drawing board for some go-fast love?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

Interior

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

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

 

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

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

Infotainment & Gadgets

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

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

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

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

Drivetrain

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

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

Drive

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hit it

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

Quit it

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

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.215 Seconds

0-60: 5.47 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.09 Seconds @ 100.4 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: xx MPG over 585 Miles

2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Steering wheel in motion, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Joystick Controller, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, LED Headlamp Module, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Engine, 4.6L V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Lexus Enform 12.3-inch LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Lexus Enform 12.3-inch LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Infotainment, Lexus Enform Screen, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Lexus Enform, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Infotainment, Lexus Enform Screen, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front Grille Profile, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Memory Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard Clock, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Button Bank, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Drive Mode Selector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Heated and Cooled Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Lexus Remote Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, F=Sport Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Lexus ES 350 & ES 300h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-lexus-es-350-es-300h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-lexus-es-350-es-300h/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2012 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447618

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

Exterior

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

Interior

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

Drivetrain

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

Infotainment

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

Drive

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

 

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

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

Specifications as tested

2013 ES 350

0-30 MPH: 2.55 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 6.35 Seconds

2013 ES 300h

0-30 MPH: 3.2 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 7.28 Seconds

 

2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front, spindle grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Cargo, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Cargo, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, door panels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Hybrid engine, 2.5L, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Hybrid engine, 2.5L, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Entune infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2013 Lexus GS350 and GS450h, Part Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2013-lexus-gs350-and-gs450h-part-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2013-lexus-gs350-and-gs450h-part-two/#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2011 11:56:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421056

Sometimes I have troubles viewing Lexus with an objective eye. The first car that ever excited me was the 1993 Lexus LS400 my best friend’s dad bought. It wasn’t the driving experience that delivered the “wow” factor; it was the fact that everything inside seemed deliberately perfect from the leather seams, to the wood that wasn’t bubbling and peeling like a 2 year old Jag.  In truth, the LS400, like most Lexus models, was a bit boring, but as this LS example has survived almost 20 years and 300,000 miles with an owner that doesn’t believe in regular maintenance, excitement is not the biggest selling point, but perhaps it should factor in there somewhere. We’ve heard it from Lexus before: wait! We have an exciting car this time! This year’s example: the 2013 GS. You’ve heard my comrade Jack’s take in part one, lets dive into part two.

The previous generation GS was unremarkable looking, so much so that when I was car shopping in late 2006, the dealer had a single all-new (at the time) GS model on the floor getting zero foot traffic while shoppers gravitated towards LS and IS models.

So how about the new mid-size sedan? The new GS may raise some eyebrows with its swoopy profile and hourglass-shaped “spindle” grill, but the design is far from adjectives like: dramatic, exciting, or polarizing. (Admittedly, the E-Class is not very stirring either.) The overall look is sporty, sensible and thoroughly Lexus. Sort of like a sensible sneaker rather than a snazzy pump. Under the hood of the GS beats only one engine choice: the same 306HP 3.5L V6 and 6-speed automatic as in the lighter, more nimble IS350 in regular or hybrid flavors. (Gone is the V8 from previous models due to sagging sales.)

Lexus told us at the press event that less than 5 percent of  mid-size luxury vehicles (including BMW, Mercedes and Audi) were purchased with a V8 last year, I’m thinking that number is a stretch based on the number of E550s I see on the road. True to form however, Lexus indicated that those who desire V8 power will be satisfied with the 338HP hybrid GS450h.

This year’s 450h gets a tweaked 3.5L Lexus V6 with a revised RWD Hybrid Synergy Drive transmission. While 335HP sounds fun, the competition delivers 400+ turbo-charged in their V8 models, I’m not sure the hybrid provides true competition. What it does however is deliver 30+ combined MPGs with its refined CVT and more green-cred than anything in the segment except perhaps the M35h. Lexus tells us that while the GS350′s transmission is mostly caryover, there is a reason: Lexus’ track testers found an 8-speed transmission hunted more than they would like. Haven’t we been saying that all along?

Inside the GS we see more sweeping changes. Gone is the dominating center stack that flowed into the center console, in its place we get a decidedly BMWeque dashboard with a strong horizontal theme dominated by a large 12.3-inch wide-screen LCD and an old-school analogue clock (an interesting choice for an interior trying to be youthful). The interior arrangement is certainly dramatic, the downside is that Lexus has swapped the easy to use touch screen for their awkward joystick device.

If you think iDrive is a pain to use, Lexus’ new Enform system may take you to an all-new level of frustration. Since all the GS sedans at the release event were equipped with the navigation system, we can’t comment on the look sans-nav which I am told uses a smaller screen.

Luxury shoppers love dead tree as much as they love dead cow and the GS delivers on both counts. While full-leather upholstery is still not on the menu, you do get the latest in auto trends: a stitched leather dashboard. The stitched dash, improved seats and available “un-lacquered” wood trim make the interior look almost Scandinavian in design, a great improvement over last year’s interior.

Hybrid buyers are treated to a first in automotive interiors: bamboo. The light wood is far 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, and that’s what luxury is all about anyway. Bamboo is definitely renewable, you need a nuclear device to stop it from growing.

Improvement rather than re-invention seems to be Lexus’ mantra, and this theme repeats itself with the hybrid battery pack. Instead of sporting lithium-ion batteries like the Infiniti G35h, the GS450h still gets by with “ye-olde” NiMH batteries with improved packaging to net more usable trunk space. One body in the trunk is OK, but two are still a squeeze.

Since Lexus has always been “the Japanese Mercedes”, it should come as no surprise that the GS350 comes with some of the most comfortable seating available. Base model GS350s receive 10-way power adjustable seats, F-sport models get 16-way seats with adjustable side bolsters and four-way lumbar support, and should the “luxury package” tickle your fancy, you’ll get 18-way thrones covered in semi-aniline cow. Wondering what the 18-ways are? The high end throne has an articulating back, the same 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.

On the gadget front, the GS is playing catch up with the competition. Of course, most shoppers check only a few option tick-boxes, and that’s what Lexus is counting on. Available goodies include an adaptive suspension system, full-LED headlamps (hybrid only), radar cruise control, night vision, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, smartphone app integration, pre-collision warning, a single-color heads-up-display, and an 835-watt Mark Levinson sound system. Much to my surprise, shoppers won’t find any collision mitigation systems (the ones that auto-brake for you) in the GS, nor will they find a radar cruise control system that will handle stop-and-go traffic, “virtual bumpers” massaging or anti-fatigue seats, snazzy 3-D Google maps, iPod voice control or even automated parking.

In contrast, the Infiniti M has more nannies than a pack of trust fund babies. The nannies will intervene in fairly drastic fashion to keep you from spilling your milk. The GS takes a different approach with the Lane Keep Assist providing only the slightest of nudges when you drift from your lane. The pre-collision warning operates in a similar fashion: it will let you know your bacon is in danger, but won’t do much to save it, that’s up to you. Since we were driving pre-production vehicles that still needed some gizmo-tuning, I’ll save my final word for a full review, but if you are anti-nanny, then Lexus’ gentle reminders of your bad driving habits may be more palatable than the systems from the Europeans.

Out on the open road, the GS continues to deliver the Lexus signature smooth and quiet ride. Keeping in mind we were driving pre-production cars, both Jack and I noticed the GS models seemed to be wanting in the thrust department. A quick run in each car yielded some lackluster 0-60 times of 6.8 seconds in the GS350 F-Sport and 6.4 seconds in the GS450h, more than a full second behind the 5.5 seconds Lexus quoted. While the E350 is no speed daemon, the 535i is notably faster than the GS, in a straight line. If you were about to write off the GS for poor road manners, as Jack said in part one; the GS350 surprisingly provides not only better balance but significantly more front end grip and more road feel than the 535i.

As I have said before, I usually prefer the better handling slower car to the poorer-handling faster car, The GS is no different and scores serious points with me. The decision not to include an Infiniti M35h in the track line-up seemed a strange one to me as it is the GS450h’s main competitor in the minds of everyone I quizzed at the event. In this match up unfortunately the GS450h’s only main selling point is a smoother transmission. Maybe that’s why it was conspicuous by its absence. You can check out our recent review of the Infiniti M35h for more information.

While Lexus has yet to release pricing, a little birdie told me to expect a slight increase in the base price. The whole price range should be similar to the outgoing model. Therefore, I would expect the GS530 to start around $47,000 with the GS450h starting near $59,000. Unless Lexus can pull a rabbit out of their hat, this makes the GS350 only a very slight bargain compared with the E350, 535i or A6 3.0T, but still a significant amount more expensive than the 528i or A6 2.0T, not to mention the Volvo S80 T6 or Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec.

If production models don’t meet the 5.5 second 0-60 time, then despite 306HP, the competition for the GS350 will really be the 528i and A6 2.0T. Interestingly, Mark Templin from Lexus indicated they do not plan on attacking the Germans at every front, instead staying focused on the meat of the Luxury market. For Lexus, this means (for the moment at least) no V8, and no dedicated performance line. Sound like Volvo? In a way, with the GS not competing head on with the big-boys they are making themselves more of a direct competitor for a 2ndtier luxury brand such as Volvo or Hyundai’s Genesis.


Since Lexus only brought along a BMW and Mercedes to play with, I must go off memory on the Genesis and S80 T6. Both the Genesis and S80 T6 provide more performance for the dollar than the Lexus (especially the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec) but the Lexus leads in refinement. The S80′s FWD biased AWD drivetrain makes it a competent highway cruiser and the turbocharged 3.0L engine makes it faster in our testing in a straight line, but the GS is by far the better handling vehicle.

The Genesis presents an incredible value proposition, it does not have the GS’ array of safety technologies, lacks rear seat climate control, a heads-up display and night vision, but it is significantly cheaper. You also get three different engine options to choose from, two of which are more potent than the Lexus offerings and all of which are cheaper than we expect the base GS to be. Still, there are only a small segment of shoppers willing to cross-shop a mainline luxury brand with  Hyundai, but the number is growing. Lexus’ reputation for reliable engineering is of course still a factor, but the competition has also been paying attention. Stay tuned for a full review on the GS350 and 450h in the coming months.

 

Lexus flew Jack Baruth and Alex Dykes to Las Vegas, put us up in a swanky hotel, and gave us a delicious chocolate car. If you want to know more about that chocolate vehicle, you obviously aren’t a fan of us on Facebook. For shame.

 

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