Review: 2015 Lexus LS460

Friday June 12th, 2015 at 5:66 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Lexus LS460

By David Colman

Hypes: Sleeper Sports Sedan, Ultra Luxury Accommodations
Gripes: Ugly Trapezoid Grill

The LS460 is the decathlete of luxury sedans. Feel free to enter it in any competition you choose, from freeway jaunts to back road bashes, and it will come out on top. From the standpoint of sheer luxury, it’s hard to beat the 460′s comprehensive portfolio of burnished features.

Navigation is standard, as is the huge 12.2 inch screen to decipher the map and directions. The LS offers you a gentle welcome ritual. When you lock your Lexus, it folds its exterior mirrors like a sleeping puppy. When you approach the locked Lexus, you needn’t bother to activate the key fob button because the car’s proximity sensor (called Smart Access) already senses your presence and has unfolded the mirrors and unlocked the doors for you. In the course of a busy day of errand running, this kind of time saving luxury feature is worth more than you could ever pay for it.

2015 Lexus LS460

But it’s just one component of a suite of thoughtfulness that includes doors that shut themselves automatically when they sense that is your intent. When you pop the trunk button on your key fob remote, the lid lifts without intercession on your part. When loading is done, just touch the button on the lid’s underside and it closes itself. For this parlor trick you will need to order the $1,650 extra F Sport Comfort Package. In addition to the trick trunk, the package also provides climate controlled front seats, and a power rear sunshade.

2015 Lexus LS460

But luxury is more than the inclusion of useful gimmicks. In the case of the 460, the fit and finish of the interior is so stout that you will never find an errant seam or loose thread. JD Power Initial Quality Surveys repeatedly place Lexus in the very top echelon of automotive makers, and one look at the interior of the 460 confirms why: the seat leather is softer than any gloves you’ve ever owned, the wood that graces the dash and doors is luminously real, the headliner is butter soft to the touch, and the tactile surfaces on the door armrests are loose and impressionable rather than taut and hard. This is the kind of detail attention that distinguishes the flagship 460 not only from lesser Lexus products, but also sets it apart from top drawer competition from Audi, Mercedes and BMW.

2015 Lexus LS460

In the not too distant past, you would never consider a 460 to be a competitor to the German troika as a sports sedan. Although always wonderfully appointed, the LS placed a premium on luxury over performance. But all that has changed with the advent of the F Sport Package for the LS460. This admittedly expensive ($8,350) grouping of assets transforms the previously stodgy Lexus into a genuine fast lane screamer. Start with the tire/wheel combo which increases from 18 to 19 inch diameter in F Sport trim. Gone are the standard, undersized 235/50R18 tires in favor of ultra high performance Bridgestone Turanzas ER33s measuring 245/45R19, mounted on understated 19 x 9 inch alloy rims finished in gun metal pewter. The F Sport gambit also installs Variable Gear-Ratio Steering which works in conjunction with Adaptive Variable Suspension to offer you a wide range of behavior from Comfort to Sport to Sport+. Dial your level of choice into the system via a large knob mounted on the center console. In the Comfort setting, the 460 tends to float over bumps and potholes, and the steering is so light that you find yourself constantly feeding in minor corrections to maintain proper freeway lane position. But if you run the big knob all the way to the Sport+ position, the LS hunkers down like a big cat hunting a gazelle. The steering ratio tightens up instantly, eliminating lane wander. Ride stiffens noticeably, and back road fun beckons. Only the overly aggressive traction control prevents you from exercising the LS with true abandon. If the protection system feels you are about to exceed its authorized limits, it will shut down gas supply and provide braking whether you or not you feel the intercession is necessary. One nice feature added for 2015 is a reduction in turning circle geometry that allows you to complete a U-Turn with ease in a very small area. This unexpected nimbleness comes as a pleasant surprise from this 4,515 lb. sedan.

2015 Lexus LS460

Topping off all the other virtues is a stellar V8 that produces 386hp in F Sport tune. You can harness the 32 valve, 4 cam engine’s 367 lb.-ft. of torque by playing mellifluous exhaust tunes with the help of an 8-speed, paddle-shifted gearbox. Feeling lazy? Just drop the rig into Drive, and the LS will baby you with easy shifts and quiet running. Feeling the need for speed? Slot the gearbox into manual mode, pick a gear and fire away. This sport sedan will explode with a velocity that will knock your knees. Best of all, Lexus has equipped it with suspension, steering and contact patch upgrades that make the most of that screaming engine’s full potential.

2015 Lexus LS460

2015 Lexus LS460

  • Engine: 4.6 liter V8, 4 Cams, 32 Valves, Electrically Controlled Intake Valve Timing
  • Horsepower: 386hp
  • Torque: 367lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 16 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $85,525
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Lexus RX450h

Tuesday June 9th, 2015 at 1:66 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Lexus RX450h

By David Colman

Hypes: Most Solid Build Quality in the Industry, Great Hybrid Grunt
Gripes: Dash Controls Starting to Look Dated

Why is the Lexus RX the best selling luxury SUV in the US? According to the Institute for Highway Safety, only nine vehicles sold here had zero deaths per million registered vehicles. The RX350 was one of those nine. It also sells itself because it does everything you’d expect from such a premium vehicle, and does it all well. This universal approbation applies even more emphatically to the hybrid version we drove. This RX450h is both faster and more economical than the standard RX350, albeit at higher initial cost. The front wheel drive (FWD) RX350 depends on a 270hp V6 for motivation, and retails for a base price close to $41,000. Its fuel economy hovers around 21 MPG in all types of driving. the FWD RX450h of our test produces 295hp thanks to the boost of twin electric motors added to the standard V6. This combo yield an impressive 29 MPG in overall driving, and carries a base price of $48,845.

What’s most impressive about the hybrid drive train is its instant supply of torque. When you lean hard on the accelerator, this beefy, 4,870 lb. hauler jumps forward with cat like agility. You can abet the thrust by judicious use of the continuously variable transmission, which yields simulated gear ranges that boost acceleration dramatically, especially when you select 2nd or 3rd gear simulacrums from the CVT’s floor mounted bump stick. Paddles are not offered for shifts from the steering wheel

2015 Lexus RX450h

Like all Lexus products, the RX is handsomely crafted and pleasurable to operate. In particular, the $3,060 Premium Package which graced our test vehicle included bamboo interior trim and steering wheel. This matte finished wood not only brightens otherwise dark interior surfaces, but also provides the perfect gripping surface for the steering wheel’s upper and lower quadrants. It’s so delightful it’s almost worth the Premium Package price all by itself, but the package also includes leather interior trim, blind spot monitoring, one-touch open/close moon roof, auto folding, heated and self dimming exterior mirrors, 3 memory settings for both driver and front passenger seats, and finally a pair of anodized aluminum roof rails. Any way you cut it, the Premium Package makes financial sense, and adds immeasurably to your comfort and the RX’ ease of operation. In particular, the blind spot monitors are effective tools, with their subliminal suggestive orange lights that blink in the outside rear view mirrors when side traffic impinges.

2015 Lexus RX450h

Due to its weight and tall stance, handling is not the forte of the hybrid RX. Although our sample was fitted with new for 2015 triple-split, five spoke alloy wheels finished in light gray, the all season tires these wheels support (Michelin X 235/55R19) are configured more for comfort than adhesion. Notably, the front end of the RX washes out early in turns due to lots of under steer built into the design of the suspension and chassis platform. While losing traction in the front wheels is always preferable and more controllable than losing grip in the rear wheels, the FWD RX’ tendency to continue on a straight course even after you have cranked the steering wheel for the next turn feels a bit disconcerting.

The RX, with its strong sales lead in the luxury SUV segment, remains mostly unchanged for 2015, In addition to the new 19 inch rims, other minor improvements this year include standard auto-display backup camera, new LED fog lamps, new three flash turn signals, new Lexus Enform Apps, and finally, a revised and improved control knob on the center console for manipulation of the infotainment system. After having spent the previous week aboard the all new Lexus RC350 coupe, the control apparatus in the RX seemed somewhat dated and inferior by comparison. For example, the mouse on the RX’ central tunnel is not nearly as slick as the iPad-like finger slide interface on the RC coupe. Also the RX’ screen seems too small when compared to the Vista Vision unit of the new coupe. You can look for improvements in these areas when Lexus introduces a revamped version of the RX expected to debut in the 2016 model year.

2015 Lexus RX450h

2015 Lexus RX450h

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V6 with VVT plus twin front electric drive motors
  • Horsepower: 295hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 30 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $58,315
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Lexus RC350 2DR Coupe

Tuesday May 19th, 2015 at 11:55 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Lexus RC350 2DR Coupe

By David Colman

Hypes: Arresting Looks, Finely Tuned Chassis
Gripes: Hard Backseat Access, Obnoxious Grill

Short of a tech session at the dealership, there are few better ways to learn the secrets of your vehicle than to wash and dry it yourself. The all new Lexus RC350 provided just such an opportunity for driveway therapy, The complexity of this coupe’s shape defies easy description. Every facet of its voluptuous body is so thoroughly sculpted that there are no flat surfaces anywhere. Running your hands over its sinuous flanks helps you understand what a sleek facade Lexus stylists have devised to cheat the wind. In many ways, this coupe pays homage to the outrageously sleek $400,000 LF-A supercar Lexus produced in very limited numbers several years ago. If your RC350 happens to be painted Molten Pearl (metallic orange), like our test vehicle, you will have such a show stopper on your hands that slower cars will pull over to let you pass, after taking one amazed look in their rear view mirror. Although the RC’s double trapezoid “spindle” grill is overly fussy, the rest of the design brief is stunningly effective.

2015 Lexus RC350 2DR Coupe

The RC tested here is the V6 model, which retails for a base price of just $42,790, and an all inclusive price of $53,140. The extra ten thousand goes for such niceties as an “F Sport Package” ($3,985) a Navigation System ($1,530), a Moonroof ($1,100) and a very pricey Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS, $1,900). You can probably live without VGRS, but the F Sport group is essential to defining the coupe’s character. From a performance standpoint, the F Sport’s most important inclusions are Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), and fat wheels with sticky tires. Up front, you get 8 x 19 inch F Sport rims with 235/40R19 Dunlop SP Sport tires, while rear rims measure 9 x 19 inches and carry 265/35R19 Dunlops. Clearly, Lexus is going after potential BMW and Audi buyers with this F Sport Package, which transforms a good handling coupe into a premium back road weapon. The package also includes heavily side bolstered, extremely supportive front seats that are both heated and ventilated. A multi-function steering wheel, electrically adjustable for height and reach, completes the F group upgrade.

2015 Lexus RC350 2DR Coupe

If there’s a chink in this coupe’s armor, it lies under the hood, where a 3.5 liter V6 makes just 306hp and 277lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled to a sweet, paddle-shifted 8 speed automatic transmission, the V6 provides excellent throttle response in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears, but once you shift into the taller ratios of 4th through 8th, the moderately powerful engine has a tough time matching the vivid acceleration on tap in the lower gears. If you’re after true supercar poke, opt for the 467hp V8 available in the RC F, a BMW M4 eater which retails for a cool 20 grand more than the base price of our RC350. As you would expect in a coupe with the refinement of the F Sport Package, handling is excellent. But in order to coax maximum proficiency out of the car, you must first learn the secret handshake to configure it to your needs. A large, knurled knob on the center console allows you to tailor the Adaptive Variable Suspension to your taste, by rotating the knob through 4 stages ranging from “Eco” to “Sport+” Even when you slot into “Sport+,” however, you will find that Lexus provides an overly assertive nanny that constantly corrects your enthusiasm by killing the engine at inappropriate junctures or applying the brakes when it judges you need them. To avoid these intrusions, you need to disengage “Traction Control” by depressing a button located just aft of the AVS knob. Although the Owner’s Manual states that a notation will appear on the TFT screen reading “Expert,” we never elicited this display. Regardless, once you’ve gone through all these pre-configuration measures, the RC350 is good to go, and go fast. With all systems maximized for instant gratification, this coupe becomes extremely responsive. The expensive VGRS steering option buttons down steering control, immediate throttle response kicks in, and the suspension vectors itself into closer proximity to the pavement. This Kabuki flyer will never be shamed by any German sedan on any back road. The downside is that you have to reconfigure the RC for maximum performance every time you re-start it. The upside is that this exotic looking BMW slayer puts you in the driver’s seat for thousands less than you’ll pay for a similar Bimmer.

2015 Lexus RC350 2DR Coupe

2015 Lexus RC350 2DR Coupe

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V6, 24 Valve DOHC, Direct and Port Injection, Variable Valve Timing
  • Horsepower: 306hp
  • Torque: 277lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 19 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $53,140
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Lexus IS-F 4-DR Sedan

Friday October 17th, 2014 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2014 Lexus IS-F 4-DR Sedan

By David Colman

Hypes: Thumper Motor, Superb Fit and Finish
Gripes: Bi-Xenon Headlights Need to Swivel

Attention BMW M Customers: Be sure to check out this Lexus before you buy Bavarian. The newest version of the Lexus IS-F is without question the most hard edged performance car the company has built since the $400,000 LFA ceased production three years ago. Now that BMW has forsaken V-8 power for the M4 in favor of a turbocharged 6, Lexus maintains a performance advantage over the German benchmark by offering the IS-F with a throbbing 416hp 5 liter V-8 that pulverizes pavement with 371 pound feet of torque.

This is a true muscle car motor, worthy of any drag strip you care to attack. But Lexus conceived of the F as a complete package, with the kind of suspension refinement period muscle cars never came close to achieving. You will appreciate the IS-F’s finely tuned, race bred double wishbone front suspension, which reads pavement changes like a savant. With the added benefit of sophisticated multi-link rear geometry, the IS-F steers and adheres better than any product Lexus or parent company Toyota currently offer.

2014 Lexus IS-F 4-DR Sedan

If you have any doubt about the F’s handling supremacy, just look at those 19 inch forged BBS alloy wheels and super sticky tires Michelin Pilot Sport tires. The 14 spoke wheels, finished in fetching liquid graphite, measure 19 x 8 inches front and 19 x 8.5 inches rear. They are shod with rubber measuring 225/40R19 front and 245/35R19 rear. Recessed behind the alloys are massive 14.2 inch Brembo style 6 piston front disc brakes backed up by 13.6 inch double piston rear discs. With high friction pads, these stoppers will let you spend a day at the track without losing your brakes.

2014 Lexus IS-F 4-DR Sedan

The idea of taking the IS-F to the track is not at all farfetched. With its standard TORSEN limited slip differential, you are assured of intelligent torque distribution through the F’s rear wheel drive. You’ll also never be at a loss for the correct gear ratio since the IS-F’s Sport Direct Shift automatic offers 8 gears controlled by either the stick between the front seats or the oversize paddles attached to the steering wheel. The steering wheel itself is eminently grip worthy thanks to a fat rim covered in perforated leather. The front seats can be configured to encapsulate you like racing buckets, or relaxed to emulate the comfort of your favorite lounge chair. Both seats are heated, and covered entirely in red and black leather, with 10 modes of power adjustment available plus memory settings for both sides. Front seats feature the letter “F” embroidered on the side bolsters and headrests.

2014 Lexus IS-F 4-DR Sedan

Especially effective are the Optitron electroluminescent gauges, which come alive during night driving with a brilliance that will shock you. Right under your nose is a pie plate sized tachometer that reads all the way to 9,000 rpm. Redline is 6,800rpm. Flanking it on the right is a much smaller 210 (!) mph analog speedometer, augmented by a digital speed readout window. The important gear selection indicator could stand to be larger and more prominently displayed, since its current location in the upper right quadrant of the display panel plays hide and seek with the steering wheel. All trim surfaces on the dash and door panels are done in a silver carbon fiber like material that reinforces the F’s image as a race track bred machine. The cockpit is seamlessly constructed, with the kind of panel fit you’ve come to expect from Lexus. Most cars with track aspiration tend to look like boy racers designed them. The IS-F, on the other hand, with its merciful lack of flamboyant flourish, was expressly designed to appeal to the mature adult.

2014 Lexus IS-F 4-DR Sedan

This Lexus shows just how many cannons Lexus has stored in its go-fast arsenal. It’s not often that parent corporation Toyota displays this much technology. But every few years, the world’s leading auto manufacturer takes the wraps off something special. Last time it was the LFA, this time the IS-F. You might think it looks like just another gap-mouthed Lexus family sedan until you notice the bevy of subtle F monikers on its flanks, or the sizeable carbon fiber tail spoiler anchoring its trunk lip. At that point you realize this Lexus is in many ways directly related to the splendid prototype sports cars Toyota fielded at Le Mans in this year’s 24 hour race. No clearer example than the IS-F can be found to prove once again the adage that racing improves the breed.

2014 Lexus IS-F 4-DR Sedan

  • Engine: 5.0 liter V-8, DOHC, 32 Valves, Direct and Port Injection, VVT intake and exhaust
  • Horsepower: 416hp
  • Torque: 371 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 16 MPG City/23 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $67,419
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Lexus LX570 Review

Tuesday April 2nd, 2013 at 8:44 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Land Cruiser Bone Structure, Off Road Diaper Kit
Gripes: Could Use More Ponies, Front Seat Backs Too Flat

If you use your X-Ray eyes to see through the voluptuous body cladding and semi-aniline leather of this Lexus LX570, you will recognize the eternally fine bone structure of Toyota’s iconic Land Cruiser. Nothing brought this point home to me more clearly than when I parked the Lexus next to a nicely restored mid-70s Land Cruiser for an eyeball comparison. I figured there would be substantial size differences between the 2013 Lexus and its 40 year old ancestor. Wrong. In every dimension, from height to width to length, the brand new Lexus is almost identically proportioned to the 70’s Land Cruiser. Even the ride height looks the same, despite the fact that the vintage Toyota rides on 15 inch rims versus the new 20 inch wheels of the LX570.

But one look inside the old Land Cruiser forever disabused me of the notion that the Toyota is too intimately related to the Lexus. In the 70s, off-roaders like the Land Cruiser were designed to be working vehicles, equipped with shiny vinyl bench seats that look like they came from the garden department at Thrifty. That kind of bare bones trim would be unthinkable in the $88,670 Lexus. Inside, you enjoy eye-popping opulence that starts with a swath of leather and real wood covering nearly every visible surface on all 8 passenger seats.

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2013 Lexus RX 350 Review

Monday January 14th, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: All Weather Security, Lovely Interior Finish
Gripes: Premature Intervention of Traction Control

There’s nothing like a week of Pacific storms to make you appreciate the virtues of an SUV like the Lexus RX 350. The RX is surely the prescription to counter inclement weather because it’s full time, active torque control all-wheel-drive never loses traction, no matter how tough the going. Part of the credit for this indefatigable adhesion belongs to the water-clearing tread design Dunlop engineers have perfected on the Grandtrek Touring A/S tires (235/55R19) that grace every corner of the Lexus. The Dunlops are mounted on F Sport 7.5” x 19” dark-graphite finished aluminum alloys that contribute not only to the stability of the RX, but complement its looks as well. F Sport tuned suspension lowers the RX’ ride height, and contributes to its flat cornering stance. This is one SUV that handles more like a sports truck than a semi.

Aside from a slight tendency to pogo over successive bumps, the ride of the RX is impressively comfortable. Wind noise is negligible, rear and side vision is excellent, and the generously sized exterior rear view mirrors do an admirable job of keeping you traffic-informed without resorting to the $500 optional Blind Spot Monitor. In keeping with the high standards of the Lexus marque, the interior of the RX is as welcoming and comforting as a room at the Ritz. If you’re big or tall, you’ll appreciate the fact that the driver’s seat and steering wheel retract to offer additional entry room. If you have no need of this concierge feature, you can easily de-select it from the Customization Menu that covers dozens of similar personal likes and dislikes. A handy mouse on the transmission tunnel suffices for menu navigation. Everything from the auto door lock feature to the duration of courtesy light illumination can be tailored to fit your needs. If you have questions about how to proceed, simply consult the 1,036 (!) page brick of an Owners Manual that occupies more than half of the glovebox.

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2012 Lexus LX570 Review

Tuesday January 1st, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

 

By David Colman

For: All-Terrain Dominance, Lexus Finish, Chilled Center Console Cubby
Against: Paucity of Cockpit Storage, XXXL Proportions

Greenies avert your eyes. Not only will this review not interest you, but it may actually antagonize you. Because the LX570 is like the 300 pound guy who plops down right next to you in the middle seat of a packed Airbus. Just like him, the LX takes up all of its own space, and a good bit of everyone else’s. When you park it in one of those “Compact Only” slots at the mall (aren’t they all marked that way?), you’ll find your running boards obscure the painted pavement stripes on both sides. Though the LX may just fit, getting in and out without dinging your neighbor’s door is a contortionist’s challenge. The ungainly slop-over continues at the gas station, which the LX visits more frequently than an alky hits Happy Hour. The bottom line here is 12 MPG City, 17 MPG Highway, with a combined average of 14 MPG. That equates to a cruising range of just over 320 miles to a tank. On a long trip, your 24.5 gallon gas supply will give out before your bladder will.

So what, then are the virtues of this $88,670 Lexus sports utility? Quite simply, it installs almost all the ultra luxe furnishings of the LS460 sedan into the classic architecture of the go-anywhere Toyota Land Cruiser. If you plan to trek through Nepal in a wheeled royal palace, the LX570 is just the ticket. It’s also about the plushest ride to Squaw Valley you can buy at any price.

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2013 Lexus LS 460 F Sport Review

Monday December 31st, 2012 at 11:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Even Match for Best German Hot Rods
Gripes: F SPORT Should Have Even More HP Than LS; Why Limit Top Speed to 130 MPH?

When Toyota introduced the LS model line in September, 1989, the large sedan was a hit with buyers who were overjoyed to own a Mercedes Benz S Class clone for half the cost of the Benz. Although the styling of that first LS was clearly Benz derivative, the Lexus packed a 4 liter, 250hp V8 wallop under the hood that Mercedes could not ignore. On top of that, Toyota tailored the Lexus division to afford its new clients concierge level treatment, from the buying experience to the service appointment. That level of customer concern has insured that Lexus has remained at or near the top of the JDPower owner survey rankings for the past 23 years. Our recent test drive of the LS 460 F SPORT, latest addition to the LS model line, not only validates the company’s long standing commitment to engineering excellence, but also affords a whole new aspect of LS enjoyment: sport driving.

Over the past 4 generations of LS sedan, the company’s focus has been on developing creature comforts to 5 star levels, while enhancing straight line performance with a 380hp V8 propelling the 2012 LS. But never before has this conservative company paid serious attention to the joys of sport LS operation. Yes, they did offer a 2012 “Sport Authentic Special” version of the 4th generation LS, but the addition of paddle shifts, Brembo brakes and 19 inch wheels were overly cautious moves in a marketplace full of ultra-sporty BMW 7s, AMG Benzes, and Audi S8s. Now that Lexus has finally gotten the memo from the market, its LS F Sport is ready to play bumper tag with the big boys from Germany.

The new F Sport is available in 2 versions, with the rear-wheel-drive model carrying a base price of $81,990 and the all-wheel-drive F SPORT base-priced at $84,885. While we didn’t get a chance to sample the AWD model, we spent several hours behind the wheel of the rear drive version in an 80 mile test loop through the canyon country East of San Diego. What distinguishes this model from the basic LS 460? From the outside, the F stands apart thanks to exclusive front and rear bumpers, LED fog lamps, and 19 inch forged alloys finished in dark gray. The redesigned front bumper incorporates a larger opening for better cooling, while the rear lower valance includes a diffuser for improved underside air flow. Inside the cockpit, the F’s front seats feature added side and thigh bolstering, an exclusive steering wheel covered with dimpled leather, and aluminum trim on the dash and pedals. F SPORT logos adorn the sides of the fenders, as well as the steering wheel and front headrests.

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2013 Lexus GS450h Review

Friday July 27th, 2012 at 8:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Torque Monster, Stylish Cabin, Quality Finish
Against: Poor XM Satellite Reception, Feeble A/C

It’s not often that you’d pay extra money for a hybrid, just to gain a performance advantage over the conventional gas version of the same car. The usual reasons for going the hybrid route are better mileage and less pollution, and the GS improves on the gas-fueled model in both those areas, with a combined EPA mileage rating of 31 MPG, and a “Super Ultra Low Vehicle” rating of Tier 2 Bin 4 from the Feds who grade it “8” on a scale of “10” in terms of “Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Rating.” But here’s a nasty little secret about the GS450h that the Feds don’t rate or rave about: it’s much faster in terms of straight line acceleration than any other GS. The reason is that the hybrid supplements the GS’ basic 3.5 liter V6 (306hp, 277 lb.-ft. of torque) with an electric motor good for 147 kW of output, and more importantly, an added 202 lb.-ft. of torque.

Where the standard GS is a mild-mannered sedan, the hybrid version gives you such a sharp whack up the backside that the 450h is in a different performance league all together. If you accessorize it with the optional $5,205 “Luxury Package, you’ll receive a host of benefits including adaptive front lighting (i.e., swiveling LED headlights), and glove leather soft, semi-aniline interior trim. From a driving standpoint, the Luxury package contributes 18 inch alloy wheels shod with Dunlop 235/45R18 SP Sport 5100 tires, a distinct handling upgrade from the standard issue 17 inch alloys with 225/50R17 rubber.

The interior of the new GS is palatial. The heated and air conditioned front seats, thanks to the Luxury Package upgrade, are 18 way adjustable, with a range from bolt upright to full slouch, and memory settings to retain preferred positions. The heated steering wheel is a particularly impressive work of art, with perforated leather grips at the 9 and 12 o’clock positions, interspersed with segments of matte finished light ash wood that matches similar inserts on the door panels, transmission tunnel and dashboard. The rear window can be covered with an electric sliding sunscreen and both rear doors feature manual privacy shades.

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2012 Lexus LS460 Review

Thursday July 19th, 2012 at 11:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Ultra Luxe and Comfy Dreamboat
Against: Ridiculous VDIM limits

For 2012, Lexus has introduced a special Sports Package for its flagship sedan, the LS460. The $6,185 Sport Package contains such worthy performance items as Brembo brakes, 19 inch forged alloy rims with 245/45R19 Dunlop Sport Maxx 101 tires, and Sports-Tuned Suspension. In addition, sports oriented front seats feature more lateral support than those of any prior LS. The upgrades in this option group extend to the tasteful matte burl ash wood trim which adorns the center console, stick shift and door panels. Special grill and exterior trim, plus a sport steering wheel fitted with paddle shifts, complete the package. While these features do not instantly convert the LS 460 into an AMG Benz or M spec BMW, they do go a long way to making this Lexus much more fun to drive. But to extract the performance this car is capable of providing, you must first learn the secret handshake that will let you open Pandora’s box.

The Owner’s Manual for this car is 836 pages long. About half way through it (page 306), you’ll find out that Lexus prefers that you operate your LS with the full assistance of VDIM, or Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management which “provides integrated control of the ABS, brake assist, TRAC (Traction Control), VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), hill-start assist control, and EPS (Electric Power Steering),” because VDIM “Maintains vehicle stability when swerving on slippery road surfaces by controlling the brakes and engine output, and steering assist.” In fact, what it does is inhibit your control of the LS460 on any road surface, not just slippery ones, by intervening consistently to slow the vehicle from what it judges to be dangerous speeds. On a curvy road, you’ll find yourself in a constant battle with VDIM for control of the LS, with warning beeps supplied to alert you to its intervention. VDIM-induced loss of engine power and unexpected braking are incompatible with brisk back road motoring.

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