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2016 Lexus RC 350 review

Stiff competition


From Ikea to a road course, this Lexus almost does it all. It’s consistently on the edge of performing well, but never consistently excels.

Lexus wasn’t selling the RC 350 short with its name -- if nothing else, you couldn’t argue against this coupe being radical. And that isn’t necessarily a good thing. The RC might be a little too drastic with its edges. That, combined with the oddly shaped headlights and massive grille, makes the RC 350 an aesthetically polarizing car.

The cabin area is all right as far as luxury sports cars go -- not too racy, not too posh. The seats and the infotainment system are the weakest links on the RC 350’s interior. Lexus has managed to go to digital screens on most of its current production infotainment -- which would almost be impressive, if it wasn’t so hard to work with. In place of a screen you can touch, the RC has a little touchpad on the center console, like one would find on a laptop computer. It wasn’t very easy to get used to.

2016 Lexus GS F first drive


What is it?

It’s the ultimate factory build for the midsize Lexus GS sedan, and the next addition to the ultra-performance F brand from Lexus. The GS F’s job, besides making its owners happy: Build enthusiast cred, put Lexus on equal footing with European competitors like BMW M and Mercedes AMG and drive sales of the lucrative F-Sport option on other Lexi, including the standard GS 350. The GS F’s competitive set spans the Audi S6/RS7, BMW M5, Cadillac CTS-V and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.

Interior volume and exterior dimensions line up closely with those competitive sedans. The GS F starts with what is already Lexus’s stiffest unibody, according to F development engineers, and adds significant structural reinforcement for track duty, including three rectangular underbody braces and new rear suspension mounts.  

2015 Lexus ES 350 review notes

Consistency is a virtue


ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Chalk it up to jet lag-induced delirium, but I felt like I already knew everything I needed to know about the Lexus ES350 waiting for me in the airport parking lot before I even opened the door. The La-Z-Boy softness of its seats, especially the headrests. The well-assembled, if boring, interior. The reassuring “thunk” of the door closing. The silence of the cabin at speed. Even that little “dink” sound the Enform infotainment system makes when you move the strange square cursor thingy around.

It was a really weird out-of-body type situation paired with the sort of revelation that maybe only comes after 24 bleary hours of travel: This is the Big Mac of luxury cars, and I almost certainly mean that as a compliment. After all, it’s not for nothing that McDonald’s has that whole “billions and billions served” thing going for it, right?

2016 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h first drive

What is it?
It’s an overhaul for the original ultimate automotive appliance, luxury brand edition.
The fourth-generation Lexus RX has a bit more room, a bit more power, a bit better mileage and bit more dynamism, without straying far from the formula that made its predecessors great. We’d call the 2016 RX 350 and RX 450h a smashing success.
If your politics encourage you to minimize the Lexus RX’s impact, don’t abide. Back in 1998, the RX was a pioneer of the car/truck convergence that rules the marketplace today. It was Toyota Motor Corp. at its best, starting with its ability to figure out what buyers wanted. The RX combined the flexibility and psychological security of an SUV with driving dynamics familiar to sedan owners, and better gas mileage. It was wrapped in a well-finished unit body with the wood-and-leather trappings of a luxury brand.
2015 Lexus GX460

2015 Lexus GX460 Luxury review notes

Ready for some dirt


EDITOR WES RAYNAL: The GX is the safari-ready Toyota Land Cruiser Prado in the rest of the world, while the truck we call Land Cruiser is the Land Cruiser V8 elsewhere. Got that?

Anyway, the GX is sort of a mix of old and new. The platform is old-school full-frame 4Runner (not Tundra, as I’ve seen reported elsewhere) while the interior is modern(ish), trimmed in wood and soft-touch materials, and is muy comfortable. The seats are nice and soft and wide for my fat butt. It’s also huge in there, easily swallowing coolers full of drinks for 100-something people at a grad party.

The ride is gentle and friendly regardless of suspension setting. Comfort mode is perfect for potholed Detroit. Normal firms things up a bit. The Sport setting (ironically named, in my opinion) firms things up further, but is still just fine in terms of comfort. I locked ’er into sport and left it there.

2015 Lexus GX460 Luxury

2015 Lexus GX460 Luxury

Pikes Peak race reporter review


At the end of June, I drove from Denver to Pikes Peak and covered the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for this publication. Last year, I camped with some friends at Halfway Picnic Ground after climbing up the mountain in a caged Checker Marathon race car. This was fun, but even a race-winning Checker has a lot of drawbacks when it comes to such activities as driving off-road to a campsite, hauling a lot of camping equipment and seating passengers in comfort above lawn-chair-in-boxcar levels.

After having such a good experience taking a Toyota truck to the site of the first atomic bomb explosion, I decided to try a more luxurious Toyota truck: the 2015 Lexus GX.

2015 Lexus LS 460 F Sport with 24 Hours of LeMons Supra

2015 Lexus LS 460 F Sport

Race Organizer Review


The 24 Hours of LeMons race series held two events at Sonoma Raceway aka Sears Point earlier this year, one in January and one in March. As Chief Justice of the LeMons Supreme Court, responsible for punishing cheaters and making examples of miscreant drivers, I like to roll up to these races in proper style. In January, I drove an Alanite Gray 2015 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG sedan to the track, and so it just made sense that I'd bring Toyota's S-Class rival -- the 2015 Lexus LS 460 F Sport sedan -- to the Sears Pointless race two months later.

Still confounding the Germans

2015 Lexus LS460 AWD review notes


EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Sometimes at the end of a work day, you just want to relax and be coddled a bit. This is the perfect car for that. It’s quiet, roomy and smooth and the ride is like buttah. The car goes about its days without drama, serenely taking you where you need or want to go. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not, is up to you.

I’ve always found Lexus rather fascinating. Its first car, the LS, was the proverbial game changer. It made Benz and BMW sit up and take notice. “A luxury car from Japan that competes with our big cars? How dare they!!!”

Then Lexus destroyed its own momentum, introducing the ES, a Camry with leather and chrome. It was the Cadillac Cimarron reborn. I’m sure those same German automakers went back to the club for another pilsner. All was well -- no need to worry.

The turbo engine produces 235 hp at 5,600 rpm with 258 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,650-4,000 rpm.

2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport review notes


EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I’ve been wanting to drive this since I saw it as a concept a couple Tokyo shows ago. I wondered: Can a Toyota RAV4 work as a luxury ute? I figured if any automaker could pull it off, Toyota could.

I have to say, the NX is a supremely quiet car overall; in fact, this is where it excels, as I expected. There’s only the slightest road noise, the ride is comfortable (as I’m sure Lexus buyers demand) and it feels like nearly the perfect size -- not too big, not too small.

The turbo four (Lexus’ first turbo) has good power above 3,000 rpm and no hint of turbo lag as long as I kept the revs up. The steering is decent, while freeway speed stability surprised me -- in a good way. I guess maybe I thought it’d drive a bit more like the compact it is, a little jumpier or something; but no, it’s nice and smooth. Push it a little and it understeers, but I expected that.

The 2015 Lexus GS 350 F Sport entices with a coupe-inspired design, high performance and new luxury.

2015 Lexus GS 350 F Sport review notes


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Wife summed it up best as we cruised down I-75 in the 2015 Lexus GS 350 F Sport: “This car feels old.” Upon further inquiry, she pointed out the ’80s-vintage separate digital clock (and matching temperature readouts for the auto climate control), and the silver-finished knobs and trim as particular examples of dated design. It’s true, too -- though this is only the third model year of the current GS, all the dash real estate below the very high-tech split-screen infotainment system appears inspired by a late-1970s Marantz receiver. I like that look in my living room, but less so in my car.

To some extent, the car’s exterior follows a similar pattern -- conventional to the point of staid from the rear bumper to the leading edge of the hood, then at the front fascia all hell breaks loose with dripping, drooling plastic curves. It’s not ugly, specifically, but that maw is so organic I’d be afraid to walk in front of it in a dark parking lot. 

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