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  • First Drive: 2018 Lexus LS 500 and LS 500h

    High luxury sedan becomes more personal

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus LS 500

    2018 Lexus LS 500

    The original LS sedan launched the Lexus brand in the US in 1989: since then the flagship has set technological and aesthetic standards for the rest of the automaker’s line-up.

    But while other models such as the GS, IS and most recently the new LC became sportier, more emotive cars, the LS remained conservative, appealing to owners who purchased those vehicles as chauffer cars as well as those who drove them. The new LS 500 and LS 500h that roll out later this year are sportier, more personal sedans.

    Taking their cue from Akio Toyoda’s promise to reinstall passion in the brand, engineers focused on two new V-6 engines as part of a new global luxury platform. The twin-turbo V-6 that replaces the naturally-aspirated V-8 on the gasoline powered model develops 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque, while the hybrid shares the same new direct injection V-6 as the new LC 500h.

    2018 Lexus LS 500

    2018 Lexus LS 500

    Engineers moved the front wheels forward and engine back to create a front-mid-ship layout for better front-to-rear weight balance. An all-new ten-speed automatic transmission enhances fuel economy with large overdrive gears for steady-state cruising.

    The sedan body has a slightly longer wheelbase, adding rear hip and legroom, but also sits lower to the ground for better high-speed performance.

    The F-Sport model is available with a performance package that adds bigger brakes and enhanced steering dynamics.

    Although Lexus has yet to announce pricing, it expects the base model to start at about $75,000, with the average transaction price for the LS 500 averaging $80,000 or less. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus ES 300h

    Entry luxury sedan gets new standard safety technology

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    The ES 300 and ES 300h are the entry luxury members of the Lexus sedan family that also includes the sporty GS and high luxury LS series. Because the ES is approximately the same size as the Toyota Camry, some folks assume that the Lexus is a dressed-up version of Toyota’s best-selling passenger car.

    While both vehicles share the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, continuously-variable automatic transmission and similar hybrid componentry, they have very distinct personalities. The Lexus has a two-inch longer wheelbase for more second-row passenger space. Suspension layouts and tire and wheel packages for the two cars are also different.

    For 2017, Lexus adds some important active safety technology as standard equipment to the ES 300h as part of Lexus Safety System +, that was an option for 2016. It includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure assist and intelligent high-beam headlamps.

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    2017 Lexus ES 300h

    Base price for the ES 300h is $41,820 excluding the $975 destination charge. Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, LED headlamps, Mark Levinson premium audio system with navigation and Lexus Enform, power trunk, interior trim package including wood accents, driver and passenger seat memory, heated and ventilated front seats, power rear sunshades, ambient lighting and power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a heated steering wheel.

    Final MSRP is $49,775. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus GS 200t

    Midsize sport sedan gets a turbo boost

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus GS 200t

    2017 Lexus GS 200t

    The midsize Lexus GS has long been a favorite among driving enthusiasts, due to its exceptional front-to-rear balance, abundant power and solid steering response. Following a major redesign for the 2016 model year, the 2017 models add standard Lexus Safety System Plus: a suite of active safety features including pre-collision, lane departure alert and assist and dynamic radar cruise control.

    Buyers can choose between the gasoline-electric GS 400h and two gasoline models: the GS 350 and turbocharged GS 200t. The V-6 model is available with all-wheel drive while the 200t is rear-wheel drive only.

    An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard for both rear-wheel drive models, providing several large overdrive gears for enhanced fuel economy during steady-state cruising.

    2017 Lexus GS 200t

    2017 Lexus GS 200t

    For those who can live without four-season capability, the turbocharged GS offers a couple of advantages: better fuel economy due to its lighter powertrain, and thanks to the smaller engine, even better front-to-rear weight balance.

    Base price for the GS 200t is $46,310 excluding the $975 destination charge. Options on the test car include 18-inch alloy rims, Mark Levinson premium audio system, navigation with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and Lexus Enform and intuitive park assist, bringing the final MSRP to $50,070. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus RX 450h AWD F Sport

    Hybrid SUV gets enhanced active safety features

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus 450h

    2017 Lexus 450h

    The 450h is the hybrid sibling to Lexus’ RX 350 midsize sport-utility vehicle. Although engineers employ electric motors to enhance fuel economy, they also boost power, giving the RX the performance of a V-8.

    A 3.5-liter V-6 engine works in concert with two electric motors- one on each axle- delivering exceptional acceleration off the line as well as 30 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy. The F-Sport edition tested adds a sport-tuned suspension, special exterior trim, 20-inch alloy wheels and unique interior.

    Base price for the RX 450h F Sport AWD is $56,495 excluding the $975 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a panoramic view monitor, touch-free rear door, triple-beam LED headlamps, Mark Levinson audio and navigation system, cargo net and carpeted cargo mat. Final MSRP is $61,804. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport

    Right-size crossover for active urbanites

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus NX

    2017 Lexus NX

    The compact NX is the smallest of Lexus’ crossover vehicles, positioned below the midsize RX. Buyers can choose between the 200t, powered by a two-liter turbocharged engine or 300h gasoline/electric hybrid. A F-Sport package available on the 200t adds a unique grille and exterior badging, 18-inch wheels and unique interior trim. Base price is $37,185.

    Options on the test car include the F-Sport package, heated front seats, LED headlamps, navigation, 10-speaker premium sound system, power liftgate, power sunroof, mudguards and cargo mat, bringing the final MSRP to $45,718. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Lexus CT 200h F Sport

    Hybrid hatchback has power for the open road

    By Nina Russin

    Lexus CT 200h F Sport

    Lexus CT 200h F Sport

    Although Lexus offers six hybrid models, the CT 200h is the only one available solely with a gasoline/electric powertrain. With EPA average 42 mile-per-gallon fuel economy and its versatile hatchback body style, Lexus’ compact sport model gives buyers with active lifestyles a lot to love.

    Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the addition of a F Sport package that adds 17-inch alloy rims, a unique version of the spindle grille, special badging, interior trim and sport-tuned suspension.

    Power for all models comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motors, carrying a 134 net horsepower rating and continuously variable automatic transmission. Base price is $31,250 excluding destination.

    For 2016 buyers can opt to add Lexus Enform Remote that enables users to control certain car functions via smart phone apps. A power moonroof is available on 2016 models.

    The test car comes with Redline exterior self-healing paint, the F Sport package including LED headlamps, navigation with backup camera, Lexus Enform services, intuitive park assist and moonroof. Final MSRP is $41,860. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Lexus GS F

    Performance model raises the bar for mid-size sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Lexus GS F Sport

    2016 Lexus GS F Sport

    Think of the new Lexus GS F as a double rainbow, combining sumptuous styling and potent engineering of the all-new 2016 model with F Sport specific chassis components. What makes the GS F so appealing, aside from the above-listed attributes is its versatility. Although clearly engineered for driving at speed, Lexus’ rear-wheel drive sport sedan is equally at home commuting to and from work or taking the family out for a night on the town.

    Standard equipment includes a 467-horsepower five-liter naturally-aspirated engine and eight speed direct shift transmission, 19-inch forged alloy wheels with staggered tires, Brembo brakes, double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension and torque vectoring differential.

    Base MSRP is $84,440 excluding the $950 destination charge. Options on the test car include a Mark Levinson audio system and carpeted trunk mat, bringing the final MSRP to $86,875. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2016 Lexus RX

    Luxury crossover raises the bar for the midsize segment

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

    2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

    Lexus has never been a company to take risks. When the automaker introduced the midsize RX in 1998, product planners knew their alternative to truck-based sport-utility vehicles would fill a big hole in the market.

    The strategy was so successful, that the crossover maintained its leadership position in a segment quickly populated with competitors. Today RX sales exceed 100,000 units annually, making the crossover the brand’s best selling vehicle.

    Never being a company to rest on its laurels, Lexus raises the bar again with the all-new 2016 RX that includes gasoline and gasoline/electric hybrid models, both available with front or all-wheel drive. For the first time, F Sport performance variants are available as hybrid all-wheel drive cars.

    Lexus models tend to grow in dimension over time and the RX is no exception. The newest

    2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

    2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

    car is 4.7-inches longer, translating to more space in the second row and cargo bay. Designers utilize vortices in key areas around the body to minimize coefficient of drag and boost fuel economy.

    Styling is a radical departure from the outgoing model, with a more aggressive spindle grille, chiseled rear end and coupe-like profile infused with multiple character lines. Inside, designers utilized lush upholstery materials and wood trim. Interior quiet is segment leading in the Lexus tradition.

    Power for gasoline cars comes from a new direct injection 3.5-liter V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Hybrid cars get an Atkinson cycle V-6 with electric motors that yield 308 net horsepower.

    Lexus has yet to announce pricing, but hinted that the base model will start below $45,000. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Lexus RX 450h AWD

    Midsize hybrid crossover gains refinement for 2015

    By Nina Russin

    Lexus RX 450h

    Lexus RX 450h

    Buyers who want the mileage benefits of a hybrid along with the cargo versatility of a gas-powered crossover need look no further than the Lexus RX 450h. The 450h is the gasoline/electric sibling to the RX 350: the automaker’s highest volume crossover that competes in the midsize segment.

    What makes the RX 450h so appealing is the invisibility of hybrid technology to the driver. Aside from some subtle badging and bamboo wood interior trim, it doesn’t look like a hybrid. Performance is equivalent to if not better than the RX 350.

    The passenger cabin and cargo bay are the same size as the gas-powered version, with second-row seats able to fold flat and extend the cargo floor. The nickel metal hydride battery pack is packaged under the floor for this reason.

    Engineers wisely incorporated an electronic air conditioning compressor that works as well with the ignition off as when the gasoline engine is running. In areas with extreme heat such as the desert southwest, the ability to maintain consistently cool interior temperatures is a very big deal.

    Power for the all-wheel drive model comes from a 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle gasoline engine and electric motors on both axles. The rear-axle motor gives the all-wheel drive model better zero-to-sixty acceleration than the front-wheel drive model: 7.4 seconds as opposed to 7.8.

    Pricing for the 2015 car starts at $48,845 excluding the $910 destination charge. Options on the car include ventilated front seats, rain sensing wipers, 19-inch alloy rims, Mark Levinson audio system, navigation, park assist, blind spot monitoring, leather upholstery, bamboo trim, power folding side mirrors and roof rails, bringing the final MSRP to $58,315. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

    Compact crossover with the heart of a sports car

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Lexus NX F Sport

    2015 Lexus NX F Sport

    The newest member of Lexus’ crossover family, the compact NX, is a radical departure from cars such as the RX that preceded it. From its aggressively styled front end to the new turbocharged two-liter block under the hood, the NX is a more youthful, sporty alternative to conservative models it shares its badge with.

    Lexus’ first turbocharged engine develops up to 258 foot-pounds of peak torque as low as 1650 rpm for powerful acceleration off the line. Turbocharging vastly reduces parasitic power loss at altitude, making the NX a good choice for buyers living in mountainous regions of the country. The engine comes mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with large overdrive gears to stretch gas mileage on the highway.

    The F Sport package adds a sport-tuned independent suspension, unique interior trim, a unique steering wheel with Formula-style paddle shifters, 18-inch rims with all-season tires, LED daytime running lamps and fog lamps.

    Base price is $37,980. Options include Qi wireless charging, navigation, power moonroof, blind spot monitoring, part assist, heated front seats and steering wheel, ten-way power driver’s seat and a power tailgate. Final MSRP including the $925 destination charge is $45,313. Read the rest of this entry »