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  • 2018 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

    Performance inspired midsize crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport

    The midsize RX is Lexus’ most popular crossover, filling the squares for active families who crave luxury as much as versatility. The F-Sport package adds a performance dimension, with a Sport + mode for the adaptive suspension and sound-enhanced engine technology. The package also adds unique exterior trim, 20-inch alloy wheels, special upholstery and interior.

    Power comes from a 295-horsepower V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Base price is $48,920 excluding the $995 delivery charge. Additional options on the test car include blind spot monitoring with intuitive park assist, panoramic moonroof, Mark Levinson premium audio system with navigation and roof rails. Final MSRP is $56,030. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota Highlander

    Family-friendly midsize crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota Highlander

    The midsize Highlander is an alternative for growing families who need minivan functionality but don’t like the one-box style. With three rows of seating, an Easy Speak feature that lets parents communicate with the third row via a microphone in the rearview mirror and the newest version of Toyota’s Safety Sense Plus, the Highlander is as comfortable taking the soccer team to Saturday practice as it is on summer road trips.

    Base price for the SE grade tested is $40,090 excluding the $995 destination charge. Standard convenience features include power heated front seats, power folding third-row seats, Toyota Entune infotainment system, second row captain’s chairs, Bluetooth and USB interface, keyless entry and start, power liftgate and power moonroof. A rear seat Blu-Ray entertainment system is available as an option. Other options on the test car include carpeted floor and cargo mats and rear bumper protection, bringing the final MSRP to $43,188. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Lexus IS 300 AWD

    All-season sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus IS 300

    The IS sedan that started as Lexus’ answer to the tuner craze of the late 1990s has evolved into a more diverse, upscale vehicle, with two available powertrains and rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The IS underwent a major redesign for the 2017 model year. For 2018, improvements include a five-horsepower bump, available adaptive front lighting, standard backup monitor and complimentary 10-year subscription to Lexus Enform Safety and Service Connect.

    Power for the IS 300 comes from a twin-scroll turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine that develops 260-horsepower for the all-wheel drive version. For better control on wet roads, drivers can engage a snow mode that starts from a stop in second gear. A six-speed automatic transmission includes paddle shifters for drivers who want additional control when driving for sport.

    Base price for the IS 300 AWD is $40,660 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include 18-inch alloy wheels, navigation and Mark Levinson audio system, intuitive park assist, a comfort package adding driver’s seat memory, power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, blind spot monitoring and rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats, cargo mats and wheel locks. Final MSRP is $47,289. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport

    Personal Sport Coupe

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus RC

    The Lexus RC 350 bridges the gap between sports cars that need to live at the track and sporty coupes that can also serve as daily drivers. With a 311-horsepower V-6 engine and eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the nimble RC sprints from zero-to-sixty in 5.8 seconds. Available all-wheel drive means the RC can live in four-seasons as well.

    Base price for the RC 350 RWD is $43,570, excluding the $995 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a F-Sport package adding special wheels, summer performance tires, blind spot monitoring, thin-film transistor instrument cluster, heated and ventilated front seats, driver’s seat memory, and adaptive variable suspension; fog lamps, triple-beams LED headlamps, Mark Levinson audio system, navigation, premium exterior finish, orange brake calipers, Torsen limited-slip differential, power moonroof, variable gear ratio steering and cargo net. Final MSRP is $57,988. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec

    Driver-focused compact crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Acura RDX A-Spec

    For 2019, Acura introduces an all-new version of its compact crossover, the RDX. As the larger MDX has become more family-focused. The RDX, now in its third iteration, has evolved into a more personal car. The newest model is the first to be designed in North America at the automaker’s Los Angeles design studio, and is built at its East Liberty, Ohio assembly plant.

    The basis for the new design is the 2016 Acura Precision concept: a futuristic-looking sedan that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. While styling for the new RDX is less severe, one can clearly see the Precision’s influence: aero profile, sharp edges and large wheels.

    As part of the new car’s design focus, Acura has included an A-Spec model among its offerings. The appearance package includes 20-inch alloy wheels, unique fascia, grille, exhaust tips and special badging on the outside, and a custom interior with special seating, black headliner and an ELS premium 3-D audio system.

    2019 Acura RDX A-Spec

    Base price is $45,500 excluding the $995 destination charge. The RDX A-Spec comes fully loaded with convenience features including keyless entry and start, 12-way power driver’s and front passenger seats with driver’s seat memory, touchpad center stack display, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear-seat ventilation, AcuraLink communication, panoramic moonroof, power tailgate, LED headlamps and tail lamps, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, HD radio, USB interface and Apple CarPlay. Final MSRP is $46,495. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Lexus RX 450h

    Hybrid luxury for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus RX 450h

    The RX 450h is the gasoline/electric version of Lexus’ best-selling midsize crossover. Changes for the 2018 model year include a new premium option package adding power folding outside mirrors, premium leather upholstery and a rear armrest with storage box. Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect are now included for the first ten years of ownership.

    Power for the RX 450h comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and two electric motors. On the all-wheel drive version, separate motor generators drive each axle. That, combined with the fact that electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, gives the hybrid exceptional zero-to-sixty acceleration: 8.1 seconds according-to the manufacturer.

    Base price is $45,695 excluding destination. Options on the test car include the new premium package, Mark Levinson audio system, heads-up display and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, bringing the final MSRP to $54,515. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid Advance

    All-wheel drive eco-transport for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

    For those who can afford it, the question isn’t why would you buy the Acura MDX, but rather, why wouldn’t you? With an all-new powertrain based on the same technology as Acura’s NSX supercar, the green version of Acura’s three-row midsize crossover is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    A three-liter V-6 gasoline engine and three electric motors develop 321 net horsepower. Since electric motors develop peak power at very low speeds, the MDX also has a monstrous amount of torque. All-wheel drive gives the crossover four-season versatility and the ability to traverse unimproved roads. All this in a package that’s equally adept at holding people and gear of all sizes.

    Average fuel economy is 27 miles-per-gallon according-to EPA estimates. While fuel economy on the highway is similar-to the gasoline model, around town the hybrid powertrain is about eight miles-per-gallon better.

    Base price is $58,150 for the upscale, fully-loaded Advance model. Standard features include perforated leather upholstery with power heated front seats, driver’s seat memory, second-row captain’s chairs, tri-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, surround-view camera, power moonroof and tailgate, 20-inch alloy rims, ELS premium audio system with navigation and more. Final MSRP including the $995 destination charge is $59,145. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Lexus LS 500h

    Flagship hybrid sedan reinvented

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    When the first Lexus LS debuted at the North American International Auto Show in 1989, the automaker’s flagship sedan was really-more of a car to be driven in than a driver’s car. The sedan’s capacious rear seating area with features such as massaging rear seats was clearly intended for owners being chauffeured.

    That formula worked better in Japan than it did in the US, where drivers were looking for full-size luxury but with performance that could compete against the likes of the Audi A8 and BMW 7-Series. The newest LS 500 series that debuts for the 2018 model year is exactly that, with a distinctive road presence evident in both its styling and performance.

    What began life as one of the brand’s most conservatively styled sedans has become one of its boldest, with a large spindle grille up front, coupe-like aerodynamic profile, large wheels and low-profile tires. Buyers can opt between gasoline or gasoline-electric hybrid models.

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    Pricing for the gasoline-electric Lexus 500h starts at $82,730 excluding the $995 destination charge. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and two electric motor-generators, with zero-to-60 acceleration of 5.1 seconds. That’s slightly slower than the gas model with twin turbo V-6, but buyers benefit from a fuel economy advantage of about two miles-per-gallon.

    Options on the test car include an active safety system package adding pre-collision braking, active steering assist, front cross-traffic alert and road sign assist, adaptive air suspension, 20-inch alloy rims, LED adaptive front headlamps, Aniline leather upholstery, reclining rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control, Mark Levinson premium audio system, panoramic view monitor, premium wood interior trim and heated wood and leather steering wheel. Final MSRP is $107,720. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota Sienna SE 3.5L

    Versatile interior is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota Sienna

    The same thing that makes minivans great family cars- large configurable interiors- translates to athletes as well. Buyers who need to haul large gear as well as those who might want an interior large enough to sleep in the night before a stage race can’t do better than a minivan.

    The 2018 Toyota Sienna is basically a carryover from the refreshed 2017 car that featured a new, more powerful V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission to boost fuel efficiency. The upscale SE priced from $38,990 (excluding destination) comes loaded with convenience features including leather seating, second row captain’s chairs, three-zone climate control, power liftgate, Entune infotainment with Scout GPS-link for navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth and Easy Speak: a feature that broadcasts the driver’s voice through the rear speakers.

    Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, push button start, moonroof, premium audio system, iPod compatibility, HD radio, satellite radio, Entune app suite and carpeted floor mats. Final MSRP is $41,150. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Mazda6 Signature

    Flagship sedan is redesigned from the inside out

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Mazda6

    2018 Mazda6

    Mazda’s signature is the sporty character the automaker infuses into all-of its products, from the two-seat MX-5 Miata to the family friendly CX-9 crossover and all-new Mazda6 flagship sedan. Although Mazda is the only major Japanese car company in the US market without a luxury brand, the Mazda6 stands out as a world-class sport sedan that holds its own against considerably more expensive products, in terms of both design and engineering.

    The new Signature trim level includes Sen wood trim, Nappa leather seats, redesigned seat structure that is firmer and more comfortable, automatic dual-zone climate control, a full color heads-up display, reconfigurable thin-film-transistor touchscreen display in the gauge cluster, and ventilated front seats.

    Outside, all 2018 models get a redesigned grille, available 19-inch wheels and available “Soul Red” crystal exterior paint finish. It’s a luscious package.

    Base price for the Signature is $34,750 excluding destination. The upscale trim model comes fully loaded with safety and convenience features, including premium Bose sound system, power driver’s and front passenger seats, LED headlamps, tail lamps and daytime running lamps, full-speed adaptive radar cruise control, rearview camera, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, hill start assist, Bluetooth interface and more.

    Power comes from a new 2.5-liter turbo Skyactiv four-cylinder engine rated at 250-horsepower with 310 pound-feet of torque and six-speed automatic transmission. Final MSRP on the test car including the special exterior finish is $36,465. Read the rest of this entry »