2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury Review

Wednesday June 8th, 2016 at 12:66 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury

By David Colman

Hypes: Go Anywhere Brute
Gripes: Touchscreen Complexity

The base price of the GX460 is $61,515. The optioned price of our test GX totaled $67,825, an increase of 10 percent over base list. If you are considering purchase of this fine Lexus work horse, do yourself a financial favor and opt for the basic package. That way you’ll save $1,970 for an unnecessary dual screen rear seat entertainment system. Instead, give the kids a book or a magazine and tell them to turn on the reading lights (provided free by Lexus). Or better yet, open the free, included “Power tilt/slide moonroof” for more reading light.

Secondly, save yourself $4,340 for the “Driver Support Package” which burdens the GX460 with a raft of unneeded “safety” features that seem to have become required today by our nanny state. The first is “Pre-Collision System with Driver Attention Monitor.” If you are so inattentive to road conditions that you need a “Driver Attention Monitor” to keep you focused on the task of driving, maybe you should let someone else handle the wheel, or else stay home. Likewise, this package provides “Lane Departure Alert,” a feat of oversight that once required a glance in the mirror or a turn of the head, but now apparently demands an annoying sequence of flashing lights and buzzers to keep you from bumping into your neighbor in the adjacent lane.

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury

Finally, the package installs “Dynamic Radar Cruise Control” which demands more of your attention to override its proclivity to think for itself than you would have to expend if you modulated speed the old fashioned way via the accelerator pedal. About the only worthwhile contribution of the “Driver Support Package” is the inclusion of a Mark Levinson Audio System” and you can definitely do without its extra amperage to save yourself five grand.

It’s mystifying why new vehicles need to be festooned with such technological overkill. The GX460 can certainly stand on its own four contact patches without resorting to safety gimmicks. It’s a solid product that performs its multiple tasks – long distance driving, stout material haulage, 7 person transport, outback bashing – just fine without resorting to any “Driver Support” upgrades. This mid-range Lexus, based on Toyota’s corporate 4Runner platform, is a beefy bruiser of a cruiser, and a genuine candidate for off-road exploration. It’s full time 4 wheel drive is much more sophisticated than the kind of system you might find in a crossover SUV. This one’s got a Torsen Limited Slip center differential featuring electronic lockup. Anyone who’s challenged rough terrain knows that a locking center differential is essential to maintaining traction in adverse conditions. Lexus makes sure to equip the GX with Mud and Snow rated tires (265/60R18 Michelin Latitude Tour) so you can depend on them for adhesion in inclement weather or off-road dirt.

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury

Along those same lines, the standard GX460 includes automatic self-leveling rear air suspension, so feel free to pack the hold with up to 7 passengers. The two aft most travelers make do with pop-up occasional seats that fold flush into the floor of the storage area when not in use. The cabin here is well designed, airy and elegant, with nice luxury touches you would expect from Lexus like a Mahogany steering wheel rim and shift knob. A particularly unexpected treat is the full tool kit neatly stored inside the cargo rear door.

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury

A centrally dash-mounted 8 inch touchscreen is easy to read, but sometimes annoying to use. For example, in order to regulate fan speed, you need to press the “Climate” button on the dash, then avert your eyes to the touchscreen where you will find a bar graph for fan speed. You then need to regulate the speed of the fan by manipulating the bar graph up or down. This whole sequence is so ridiculously complicated that it perhaps explains why you might need the “Driver Attention Monitor” to keep you from crashing while you fiddle with the touchscreen. I can remember when adjusting fan speed was simply a matter of twirling a dial.

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury

A hefty 4.6 liter V8 powers the GX460 through a fine and precise 6-speed automatic transmission. Even though the GX weighs in at 5,170 pounds, its performance is sprightly enough to meet all fast lane needs while still scoring 17 MPG in combined city and highway driving. While 301hp won’t provide sprinter acceleration, 329lb.-ft. of torque will grant you sufficient grunt to tow a 6,500 pound trailer.

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury

  • Engine: 4.6 liter V8, 32 valves, DOHC, VVT-i
  • Horsepower: 301hp
  • Torque: 329lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 15 MPG City/20 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $68,765
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan Review

Thursday May 26th, 2016 at 12:55 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

By David Colman

Hypes: Precise Apex Cutter, Ultra Luxe Interior Fittings
Gripes: Some Anomalies in Custom Programming

The descriptor that comes to mind regarding the IS350 is silk. The car, especially when finished in Ultra White, looks like a bolt of that foxy material. In operation, its 8 speed transmission and 3.5 liter V6 interact seamlessly. Inside, the cabin furnishings are unobtrusively situated for flawless operation. Comfort on demand is never more than a minor adjustment away. This plush, fast and comparatively affordable sports sedan defines the very essence of silken smoothness.

2016 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

You will never experience the following failings in an IS350: harsh ride, jerky shifts, engine imbalance, passenger discomfort, handling deficiency, lack of power. One look at the IS350 equipped with the F Sport Package ($3,155) might lead you to assume that its ultra low profile Dunlop Sport Max tires (225/45R18 front, 255/35R18 rear) would degrade ride comfort excessively. You would be mistaken in that assumption, because this Lexus negotiates the worst pavement irregularities without disrupting life inside the plush cabin. Yet when it’s time to hit the after burners for a quick trip up a back road, those gunmetal gray, split 5-spoke alloys and Dunlop Summer Tires stand up to the job.

2016 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

The F Sport Package includes more than just wheels and tires. You also receive ultra supportive F Sport front seats which will lock you into position for high lateral g-Force loads. Heating and Ventilation are standard inclusions on the front sport seats. Lexus also provides a perforated leather shift knob to match the open pore grips on the leather steering wheel. Aluminum pedals add a dash of racing insouciance to the mix, and a TFT instrument display brilliantly illuminates rpm and gear number information.

Best of all, the F Sport Package also allows you to tailor the behavior of this sedan to your need of the moment. If you’re just plunking around downtown the “Comfort” setting on the center console knob will do. But if you plan to put those sticky Dunlops to the test, you’ll want to turn the knob far right to recalibrate suspension and steering for sporting work. In the “Sport” mode the steering response stiffens perceptibly, while the Adaptive Variable Suspension tightens shock valving to eliminate slack.

With 306hp on tap, and 8 speeds to harness that power, the IS350 is a fleet sports sedan that is fun to drive near its limit. The torque output of 277lb.-ft. is sufficient to produce 0-60mph times of 4.5 seconds. This performance puts the IS in some very fast company indeed, like BMW’s newest 340i. The beauty of this IS350 is that the suspension and tires are more than worthy of the drive train’s strong output. The IS350′s various parts are well integrated into a harmonic whole.

2016 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

If you opt for the $2,645 Navigation System, you will also receive a one year free subscription to the newest version of the Lexus Enform Destinations service. A complimentary “App” suite is included as well, with recently upgraded selections. Also adding to the Navigation Package fun is a knockout Mark Levinson Audio System with 17 speakers, 5.1 Surround Sound, and 835 watts of output. The only demerit is that we could never figure out how to retain the “Radio” information on the dashboard’s multi-information display screen. This unit always reverted to showing the Navigation Map after the 10 second “radio” display expired. Another annoying trait is the valet system’s insistence on folding the steering wheel up and away every time you shut the IS350′s ignition down. No amount of exploring menu options for alternate settings redressed this behavior.

2016 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

For $75,000 you would be hard pressed to locate and purchase a better long distance cruiser than this IS350. For just $49,205 as fully equipped, this Lexus stands out as one of the brightest stars in the sports sedan firmament. If you’re in the market for a BMW, you owe it to yourself to explore this alluringly silky option from Japan.

2016 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V6, 24 Valves, DOHC, Direct & Port Injection, Variable Valve Timing
  • Horsepower: 306hp
  • Torque: 277lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $49,205
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Lexus ES350 4-DR Sedan Review

Tuesday March 29th, 2016 at 12:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Lexus ES350 4-DR Sedan

By David Colman

Hypes: Matte Bamboo Interior Trim Lovely, Levinson Audio Outstanding
Gripes: Maddening Seat Slide Routine, Needs Rear Wiper

This sedan isn’t outstandingly fast in a straight line. Nor does it corner with sports sedan agility. But if there’s one thing the mildly refreshed 2016 Lexus ES350 does really well, it’s playback music. Lexus equipped our $38,000 test vehicle with the $2,650 optional Navigation System/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package. This entertainment center positions 15 speakers inside the cabin and feeds them with an 835 watt premium surround sound system that made Subterranean Homesick Blues sound like Bob Dylan was sitting on the dash. It was the one unforgettable impression this Lexus made during its very wet week in our driveway .

2016 Lexus ES350 4-DR Sedan

Lexus stylists have updated the appearance of the ES to mirror the wide mouth bass look of the company’s other products. This year, the ES receives the full spindle grill treatment. Gone is the horizontal bar differentiating upper and lower front fascia sections. Both headlights and tail lights now feature subtle “L” motifs in their design. At the rear, an undercar diffuser incorporates new twin chrome plated exhaust finishers. With the exception of the gaping front grill, the evolved styling of the ES pleases the eye.

However, the biggest change takes place in the interior, where the formerly understated ES now takes on more of a lavish personality. This upgrade is especially apparent if you order the optional ($1,670) Luxury Package, which provides perforated leather seats with embossed stitching, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and a mirror-seat memory system for the driver offering three setting choices.

2016 Lexus ES350 4-DR Sedan

The steering wheel in our ES was a real work of art. First, Lexus improved its appearance by making it sportier looking. Secondly, our rim was heated at the handgrip positions, and fitted with matte bamboo on the remainder. The bamboo sections were not heated however, which led to much gripping of the leather sections on cold mornings. Lexus has fitted the heater on the wheel with a timer that automatically turns the feature off with no warning. The 3 position seat heaters (and ventilators) stay on indefinitely, however, including after restarts.

Whenever you trigger the ignition stop button, the driver’s seat shoots rearward while the steering wheel lift itself up and away. This annoying valet routine seems immune from disablement by the owner, since no “car settings” menu mentioned it at all. After you light off the ES’ 268hp V6, the driver’s seat scurries back to its preordained position, and that expensively detailed steering wheel settles into your hands. Although the ES provides adequate grunt for most passing situations, you will never be overwhelmed by an abundance of power here because the ES weighs in at 3,575 pounds. The power-to-weight ratio stands at 13.3 pounds per horsepower.

2016 Lexus ES350 4-DR Sedan

In a sedan world where 225mm-275mm is the normal section width for tire size, the Lexus ES350 is decidedly under-tired. All four Bridgestone EL400 Turanza tires measure just 215/55R17. Their skinny footprint barely fills out the ES350′s fender wells. The message here is that the ES is designed more for straight line work than attacking backroad zig-zags. Lexus does give you the opportunity to dial up a “Sport” setting from the console-mounted “Drive Model Select” but any difference in feedback is so subtle as to be virtually imperceptible.

On the other hand, the feedback from the “Steering Assist” that is part of the $1,015 optional Lexus Safety System will drive you nuts in short order. This gratuitous mechanism shakes the wheel in your hand every time you change lanes without using your turn indicator. It also wobbles the wheel whenever you touch a center line or dive for an apex on a twisty road. Do yourself a big favor and eliminate this annoyance from your build selection sheet.

2016 Lexus ES350 4-DR Sedan

The ES350 has always Lexus’ entry level sedan, a warmed over version of Toyota’s best selling Camry. This year, the Lexus Division has moved its ES350 cover of the Camry to much higher ground, with a pleasing exterior refresh, and an interior redo that make it much harder to discern its humble Toyota origins.

2016 Lexus ES350 4-DR Sedan

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V6, 24 Valves, All Aluminum, Dual VVT-i
  • Horsepower: 268hp
  • Torque: 248lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 21MPG City/31MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $46,679
  • Star Rating: 7.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

Friday October 2nd, 2015 at 11:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

By David Colman

Hypes: Solis, Luxurious Interior
Gripes: Sticky Gearbox, Owner’s Manual Must Be Special Ordered

In its latest evaluation of the 2015 Lexus IS, Consumer Reports’ New Car Buying Guide proclaims that this model “falls short as a sports sedan.” because its “handling is…not engaging enough for a true sports sedan.” After spending a week behind the wheel of this model, I would submit that CR’s conclusion falls far short of a valid review. If you equip the $40,065 IS350 with the $3,740 “F SPORT Package,” you will own one of the finest handling four-doors in the realm. Case in point: a 300 degree, constant radius two-lane off-ramp located somewhere in Contra Costa County. On my tail is the legendary Honda S2000 two seat sports car, equipped with a rear wing tall enough to belong on a World of Outlaws sprint car. As I cranked the IS350 into the well banked turn, I adjusted the F Sport’s Performance Adjustable Variable Suspension (AVS) to “Sport+” and watched the bright yellow Honda get progressively smaller in the rear view mirror. Not only does this Lexus not “fall short” as a sports sedan, but given its comfort and attention to detail, the IS350 F Sport virtually obsoletes everything else you can buy for the same money.

2015 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

In addition to AVS, whose selection feature thankfully operates while you are in motion, the F Sport group also includes some of the stickiest rubber you’re likely to find on a family production sedan: Bridgestone Turanza ER33 front tires (225/40R18) and rears (255/35R18) mounted on F Sport specific split 5-spoke alloy rims. Completing the performance package are aluminum faced pedals surfaced with rubber grip dots, 3 exterior emblems noting F Sport status, and a more aerodynamic front grill and spoiler with a spindle style grill insert. These subtle changes to the base vehicle confer a purposeful stance absent in non-F Sport 350s.

2015 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

F Sport also buys you the best front seats in the business. Not only do these incredibly supportive chairs provide maximum retention on long sweeping off-ramps, they also come with heating coils and air conditioning. Lexus has thoughtfully supplied switches for both functions n the center console so you never have to resort to a menu driven screen to activate seat their climate control. On our “Ultra White” IS350, the blood red leather seats provided a welcome contrast to the simple exterior shade. Their seating surfaces breath so well through a network of tiny perforations that you hardly ever need to activate the ventilation system. Black door panels, steering wheel rim and shift boot feature red stitching to match the seat leather color. Patinated aluminum trim graces the upper glove box as well as the arm rests in the doors. the IS’ interior is a carefully orchestrated symphony of concordant notes designed to assuage apprehension and encourage relaxation. If you pop for the $2,995 Navigation System, you also receive a stellar Mark Levinson Premium Audio guaranteed to jar you out of any lethargy the interior might otherwise provide.

2015 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

Under a handsome and elegant looking engine shroud lies a very effective 3.5 liter V6 tweaked by dual overhead cams, direct and port injection, and variable valve timing to provide 306hp and 277lb.-ft. of torque. Thanks to an 8-speed automatic transmission actuated by paddle shifters on the steering wheel, you will never wont for the proper gear ratio. On lazy days, you can slot the floor mounted stick into its fully automatic gate and let the transmission do the thinking for you about gear selection. Its logic circuitry is adept at interpreting your needs and commands. If you are in the mood to divest yourself of oversight, you may also want to leave the AVS control in the “Normal” position, a setting which affords a plush and pillow-like ride at the expense of the precise micromanagement that the “Sport” and “Sport+” settings provide.

Our test IS350 also included Variable Gear Ratio Steering” (VGRS) for a modest charge of $400. This option not only works to lighten or tighten steering feedback in consort with the AVS setting, it also provides an electric control for steering wheel height and reach. The only problems I experienced with the wheel/instrument layout were inability to see the turn signal blinkers because the wheel obscured them from view in the position I chose. Additionally, a recalcitrant wiper stalk never seemed to comply with my instructions in coping with a heavy mist.

2015 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

Not only does the IS350 F Sport not fall short as a sports sedan, it constitutes your premier affordable choice in the entire category. Though some may quibble with its predatory looking snout, there is no denying its category killing performance.

2015 Lexus IS350 4-DR Sedan

  • Engine: 2.4 Liter I4 MultiAir
  • Horsepower: 184hp
  • Torque: 173lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 23MPG City/36MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,700
  • Star Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars

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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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