Entries in Lexus (8)

Thursday
Nov142013

Reviewed 2013 Lexus LS460 F Sport: Akio's LS 

The Lexus LS series has always been the safe choice for those who want a luxury car, but don't care about cars.  It's always been fantastic at being reliable, and comfortable, if a bit emotionless.
With Akio Toyoda taking control of his families company, he has tried to put emotion and driving dynamics back into the conversation for Lexus and Toyota.  With the LS there is now the F-Sport.  Is this something to challenge the 7 Series BMW or S8 Audi, or, is it the Lexus LS formula taken to finishing school.  That's what we find out on this edition of Rumblestrip.NET and Ten Minute Test Drive.

 

Wednesday
Mar272013

Wednesday's Words: Thoughts on the "New" Lincoln

 

Lincoln is at the beginning of rebooting it’s brand, and with that the opportunity to position itself to stand out among all the other “premium” car brands.


It would appear that Lincoln is positioning itself to compete against brands like Volvo, Lexus, Acura, and Audi.  We think, to quote Don Adams, the original Maxwell Smart, they are missing it by that much.


“Premium Luxury” is the new black, everyone is doing it.  To stand out in that very crowded demographic, you have to do something different, and what Lincoln is bringing to market isn’t different enough.


Rather than compete against such a crowded field, we believe that Lincoln needs to look further up market, to take on former Premier Auto Group members Jaguar and Land Rover, the reasons are several.  


Number one, there is less to compete against. When there are few competitiors to draw your attention away, it’s much easier to be the point of focus.


Number two, pricing separation.  As it sits right now, Lincoln will continue to have the issue it has had for a number of years, and that is, it’s just a gussied up Ford.  Look at the Ford Fusion in Titanium trim, out the door it’s going to sell for between $34,000 and $36,000.  The new Lincoln MKZ starts at $37,000 and can go out the door, similarly equipped to the Fusion for about $42,000.  That’s not much of a premium.  The same goes across the board when you look at Edge vs. MKX, Taurus vs MKS and Flex vs. MKT.


While there is now more of a difference in both interior and exterior design, it doesn’t take much of a discerning eye to tell they share a common platform.


Number three, in moving further up market, you have much more pricing power and hence profitability, with the added benefit of having the ability to bring unique looks to both the exterior and interior of the vehicles.  The ability to use much higher quality materials in a more top shelf brand also would help distinguish it from it’s parent brand.


Lastly, in reaching to a higher demographic, Lincoln would have the opportunity to truly be an aspirational brand, rather than just another “premium luxury” brand.  They could redefine what an “American Luxury Brand” is.  Rather than some cliche’ from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, American Luxury doesn’t have to be “boulevard smooth” nor does it have to be the the latest in consumer electronics, rather than “custom” it should be “bespoke”  Most anyone can have “custom” few can have “bespoke”.


Lincoln should not get carried away with “gimmick” interiors that are all about the latest in technology.  As we are beginning to see, most interiors that but a focus on the latest in consumer electronics of the moment, are (a) 9-24 months behind the curve to begin with, and (b) don’t age well, both from looks and from function.  Classic and timeless should be the focus when it comes to interiors at Lincoln.  Simplicity is it’s own luxury.


If Lincoln is to be successful in it’s reboot, it will have to be something different than it’s competitors.  Pretty advertising is great for getting people in the door, but the product must, not match expectations, but far exceed them.  In rebooting the brand, Lincoln HAS the opportunity to place itself where it wants, as they try to start with a clean sheet, the question is, are they positioning themselves for success, or just to get lost in the crowd once again.


Monday
Mar252013

Reviewed: 2013 Lexus GS Hybrid

We've had the opportiunity to drive a few different versions of the new Lexus GS.  The hybrid version is different, but still very good.  Have a look at our review.

Wednesday
Oct102012

Lexus Refreshes Flagship LS

Over the last 18 months, Lexus has updated most of their entire lineup, with the exception of their flagship car the LS. Now, as we close out 2012, Lexus is ready to reveal the update to their flagship luxury sedan.

While the 2013 LS is a midcycle refresh, over half of the parts involved in building this car are completely new. There is a substantial rework of the exterior, which features Lexus’ signature spindle grill up front along with significant sculpturing throughout the body from nose to tail to greatly reduce aerodynamic drag.

In a market segment that puts a premium on perfection the new LS is positioning itself to once again be the standard by which others are measured. Not only is the exterior refreshed, the interior gets a complete makeover as well. The design concept 1st seen in the interior of the new GS is now brought in to the flagship LS sedan.  One of the features of the interior is the 12.3 inch  center display which can be organized into 3 different columns of information.

Interior materials also get an upgrade including a unique wood trim called Shimamocu. This unique wood trim takes 38 days and 67 different processes to complete. It has a horizontal grain pattern which helps to emphasize the with an interior space of the LS. If you choose to go with the hybrid version of the LS you can choose the bamboo wood option which gives a very nice look and feel to the interior.

Something else that is also unique in the LS is the analog clock in the center of the dash is linked via GPS to automatically update times, even when crossing into different time zones. So, let’s say you’re driving from Detroit to Chicago, where you go from the Eastern time zone to the central time zone, the clock will automatically update to the local time.

There will be several trim levels available in the  LS, including the ultra-lux package which will have 4 different climate zone controls. All cars, 16 way power driver seat,” way adjustable passenger seats. Opt for the 600 L, or 460 L, and you will have rear seat that will recline, as an ottoman, and also massage functionality. It truly is an “Executive” sedan. The driver and passenger seats also have a unique climate control system integrated into them the seats sense body temperature and bring the temperature of the seats to the desired temperature, until the rest of the cabin can reach that temperature.

Depending on which trim level you get, the LS can have a sportier feel, but the emphasis of the LS has been, and always will be, that of late luxury sedan. As such, the emphasis is on a quiet interior and a smooth and comfortable yet very controlled ride. The LS will never be a Canyon Carver, but on tight twisty roads it can hold its own.

Powertrains are a carryover, a 4.6 L V-8 with 386 hp combined with an 8 speed automatic transmission will be standard. Elect for the hybrid version and you have a combined power rating of 438 hp between the gasoline motor and electric motor. The hybrid model also gets a redesign regenerative braking system which aids in recharging the batteries much quicker and more efficiently.

Available for the first time in the LS is the F-Sport trim.  With the F-Sport you will get a deeper drill with other aero treatments, cooling ducts for the brakes, suspension lowered 10mm, Alcantera headliners, larger side bolsters in the seats,, paddle shifters and a Torsen limited slip differential.

You also get 19” BBS wheels that are unique to the F-Sport along with massive six piston Brembo brakes.

Pricing will be announced at the end of October and the LS’s will begin to go on sale in November. 

Monday
Feb132012

Reviewed: 2011 Lexus IS-F, Japan's Stealth Fighter

With the exception of the LF-A when you think Lexus, you think conservative, understated luxury car.  Lexus has always been the "safe" choice when you wanted a luxury car, but didn't want something from Germany.

The IS range from Lexus tends to fly under the radar.  Most people tend to focus on three models in it's lineup.  The top end LS, the mid level ES and the RX crossover.  While there is nothing wrong with those vehicles, they don't come within a solar system of what you might consider engaging drivers cars, but that’s not what they were designed to be either.

The IS is the exception to that rule.  Even in it's standard IS 350 guise, the IS does not feel "blandtastic" it does have strong elements that at times make you scratch your head and wonder how did this one make it through.  That's before we get to the IS-F.

If you like fun and engaging cars to drive, then the Lexus IS-F is for you.  It starts under the hood with a 416 horsepower 5.0 liter V8 which sends power to the rear wheels via an eight speed automatic gear box.  It should be required in owning or driving this car that you either (a) have a radar detector, (b) have an attorney on retainer, or (c) be on good terms with your local police department. 

Why you ask?  Because once you hit about 3500 rpms the exhaust note is so glorious, that you want to keep hearing it!  We hope which ever engineers were responsible for tuning the exhaust note got a large bonus because this is one of THE GREAT V8 exhaust notes of all time!

The suspension also gets an upgrade over the standard IS 350.  The ride is firmer, but it is also not harsh, it is something that is very livable in everyday driving.  The IS-F does corner flatter and is quicker to change directions when called on to do so quickly.

As fantastic as the engine is, the brakes on the IS-F are equally as good.  The pure stopping power can generate enough negative g-forces to make you think your eyeballs will come out of their sockets.  Yet unlike many big brake systems, it doesn't feel light a light switch which is either on or off, there is a nice linear travel, with excellent feedback.  The brake system is sourced from Brembo and have 14.2 inch discs up front with six piston calipers and 13.6 out back with two piston calipers.

Inside the car has all the luxury touches one would expect in a $60,000 car.  The leather is of good quality and the micro-fiber inserts in the seats give it an even more upscale touch.  In hot or cold clients the micro-fiber is much more comfortable than leather, while waiting for the cabin to come up or down to temperature.  It also offers better traction for your backside when you decide to push the car hard.

Looking onto the instrument cluster, a 9000 rpm tachometer is dead center and dominates your view.  While the tach may go to 9,000 shift are handled closer to 7,000.  There are a series of lights that change from yellow to red as you close in on the redline helping you if you are choosing to shift up manually in the gearbox.  

Best be quick with those shifts as the engine revs very quickly!  In first or second gear it is not difficult to bounce the engine off the rev limiter because the engine revs so quickly.  There is a digital readout on the tach to tell you your speed, to go along with a smaller speedometer to the right of the tach.

The IS-F has an optional Mark Levinson audio package that comes with navigation.  If you are familiar with the system in other Lexus models, it's features are similar.  To our ear, it could use a little more base, and a little more "presence" in delivering the audio, and that is true in listening to several different genres of music, from classical, to jazz, rock and trip hop.

Fuel economy is not unreasonable for the IS-F, the EPA rates the car at 16 city/23 highway/18 combined.  Our experience with the car says those numbers are very close, and that is when were were not shy with the right foot!  Take it a little easier on the loud peddle and you will see the number increase.  We saw fuel economy at almost 20 in the city and 24 on the highway driving in a more restrained manner.

The IS-F has to rate as the most fun cars to drive in the Lexus lineup outside the $400,000 LF-A.  The best part of the LF-A is that it doesn't scream performance car, even though there are some very aggressive styling cues.  There will be many a shocked BMW M3 driver when they see the IS-F's taillights disappearing into the distance, and that may be the point, excellence in performance doesn't have to be flashy, just quiet professionalism.