Premium Hybrid Review: 2024 Lexus LC 500h

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Jan 302024

Getting behind the wheel of a six-figure vehicle can be intimidating, especially if it’s not yours. When the Atomic Silver 2024 Lexus LC 500h arrived for a Latino Traffic Report test drive, it made quite an impression with its super car exterior design including hidden door handles and tail lamps that were inspired by the glow of a jet’s afterburners. Officially designated a premium touring coupe, the LC 500h offers a first-class driving experience for the auto enthusiast with deep pockets.

Lexus revealed the gas-powered LC 500 in 2016 and the 500h hybrid followed shortly after. In order to be competitive, premium coupes must check several boxes and the LC 500 ticked off most. Beyond its striking design, it promised a driving experience usually reserved for sports cars.

Less of a performance vehicle than its sibling, the 500h hybrid powertrain includes a 3.5-liter, six-cylinder engine that produces 295 horses and 258.2 1b.–ft. of torque assisted by two electric motors and matched to a multi-stage hybrid automatic transmission. Five drive modes, including Normal, Custom, Comfort, Eco, and Sport Plus, can be used to enhance performance further.

The EPA estimated fuel economy for the hybrid is 26 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The as-tested model achieved an average of 25.1 mpg in mostly city driving. Fuel economy, however, may not be what prospective buyers care most about.

Sleek and low with an aerodynamic lift in the back and sitting on 21-inch forged alloy wheels, the hybrid version shares the same head- turning exterior design of its gas-powered sibling. The interior on the test model also raised the bar for bells and whistles with opulent two-tone (white and dark blue) heated and cooled leather seats with suede accents and piping, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and suede-like Alcantara trimmed door panels. There is a back seat, but it’s nearly impossible to access, even for a diminutive adult, but it could be used for extra cargo room.

Super user friendly, particularly when setting the 20 preset channels, its infotainment touchscreen measured 12.3 inches, now standard throughout the lineup. The center instrument cluster, however, needs to be updated. Other standard premium features include a panoramic view monitor, and Intuitive Parking Assist. The test model included a few options like the Bespoke Build Package ($3,200) that allows customers to select from a mix of performance and styling components exterior/interior trim, and colors, the Mark Levinson audio system ($1,220), and the white and blue interior ($1,900).

Beautiful inside and out, the as-tested price for the 2024 Lexus LC 500h coupe came to $109,705. Pricing starts at  $100,450 including destination fees.

Si: If you’ve got buckets of money, love hybrids, and want a car that turns heads, the LC 500h is worth considering.

No: While it’s as striking as its gas-powered sibling, the hybrid lacks its performance and the fuel economy was just OK, and for the price, there should be a massage function for the front seats.


Premium SUV Review: Lexus NX 350

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Mar 132023

All new in 2022, the Lexus NX 350 enters its second generation with a sharper look on the outside and advanced technology inside. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently test drove the NX, specifically the Luxury trim level. From its Circuit Red leather-trimmed quilted seats to its Lexus Interface multimedia system, the as-tested NX embraced its premium tag.

Covering all its bases, Lexus makes three versions of the NX available including a hybrid, the NX 350h, and a plug-in hybrid electric (a first for Lexus), the NX 450h+. LTR tested the gasoline-powered NX 350 with all-wheel drive (AWD).

Matched to an eight-speed transmission, the turbo-charged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 275 horsepower and 317 lb.–ft. of torque and speeds from 0–60 in 6.8 seconds. It has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. It averaged 22.5 mpg on the weeklong test drive.  Its performance was further enhanced by paddle shifters and the standard Drive Mode Select with Normal, Eco, and Sport options.

Redesigned from the inside out, the NX reflects the Lexus DNA with a “refined” spindle grille. It also adds a new block LEXUS rear badge and full-width tail lamp. The sleek exterior look is complemented by a plush interior. Standard features include a power moonroof, wireless charger, and dual zone climate control. The Luxury trim added the afore perforated leather-trimmed seating, head-up display, 14-inch touchscreen (a 9.8-inch one is standard), real wood accents, and thematic ambient lighting, among other features.

Lexus seems most proud of its new technology featured in the new NX, starting with Lexus Interface Assistant that enables a voice-activated interaction with its multimedia system, from the phone to climate control.  Intelligent Assistant accesses convenience features like weather and points of interest (POI) searches with navigation. Add Wi-Fi Connect and it can access audio streaming.

The Lexus Interface Cloud Navigation system offers 100 percent cloud capability and integrated Google POI data. While this service and other connected services like Safety Connect and Service Connect, are nice, they all require a paid subscription to access them after the trial term ends.

On a more basic level, AppleCarPlay and Android Auto are now standard on all NX models and the radio channel preset function was simple and intuitive though 18 channels seemed to be the  maximum of presets. If there was an ability to expand that number, it wasn’t apparent.

Standard on all-new NX models is the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 that includes nifty features like right and left turn oncoming pedestrian/vehicle detection and braking, dynamic cruise control, and Road Sign Assist, it doesn’t include the blind spot monitor because it’s standard.

Lexus hasn’t left off utility on the NX. With the rear seats folded, the cargo room expands by 14 percent to 46.9 cubic feet.

Pricing for the 2023 NX 350 starts at $44,665. The as-tested price came to $55,225.

Sí: The all-new NX 350 improves on looks and functionality.

No: Much of the new technology requires a subscription.

Midsize Sedan Reviews: Mazda6 and Lexus IS 350

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Jul 312021
Mazda6 Signature
Lexus IS 350 F Sport

Believe it or not, fans of the sedan do still exist and at a time when computer chip shortages have made most sport utility vehicles hard to find, overlooked sedans may lurking on the lot. Packed with standard features and new technology, the modern sedan has gotten sleeker inside and out. Latino Traffic Report recently drove the Mazda6, specifically the top-of-the-line Signature trim as well as the Lexus IS 350 F Sport, two viable sedan options with more in common than expected.


UltraSuede dash.

Mazda’s flagship midsize sedan, the Mazda6, pushes style and refinement but the Signature trim is considered the most aspirational in the lineup.

Regarding its design, the test model Mazda6 set itself apart on the outside with unique features like a gunmetal front grille and on the inside, with Nappa leather seating enhanced by heated and cooled seats, Japanese Sen wood and gilded UltraSuede (right), accents that most carmakers save for their luxury nameplates.

Convenience features on the Mazda6 also hit a high mark with a 360-degree View Monitor (backup camera) with front and rear parking sensors, a seven-inch reconfigurable digital gauge cluster, and Mazda’s navigation system with Traffic Sign Recognition, an essential feature for speed traps. On the test model, a black headliner, frameless rearview mirror, LED ambient lights and unique stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel completed the heightened look and feel. Plus, the rear seat was split 60/40 for added utility and access to the trunk.

For 2021, Mazda enhances the standard safety suite of features by adding radar cruise control with stop-and-go function, pedestrian detection, collision and lane departure warning with Lane-Keep Assist, and a blind spot monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

The test model added a rear spoiler, ambient cabin lighting, and XM Travel and Traffic Link.

While it offers more luxury than most in its segment, the Mazda6 doesn’t ignore performance. A more powerful turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with Mazda’s signature Skyactiv fuel saving technology with 227 horses and 310 lb.–ft. of torque powered the test model. The engine was matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with a Sport mode for a more aggressive performance.

The EPA estimated fuel economy on the Mazda was 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. It averaged 26 mpg on the weeklong test drive.

The starting price for the base model 2021 Mazda6 is $25,270. The as-tested price came to $36,620. For fans of Mazda’s signature Soul Red Crystal Metallic exterior paint color, that’ll cost an extra $595.

Lexus IS 350

The IS represents the entry level Lexus sedan model for car buyers who aspire to move into the luxury segment.

As such, the IS reflects the brand’s distinctive design DNA, namely the spindle grille, while pushing its sportier side.

One would assume luxury nameplates always include a bigger list of standard features but that’s not always true, for instance, leather seating is not offered on the IS, including on the test model, IS 350 F Sport considered near the top-of-the-line IS—replacing rear-wheel drive with all-wheel drive on the test model would have made it top of line. NuLuxe, a man-made leather upholstery, is standard on the IS but also convincing as a leather alternative. Lexus’s dramatic color palate for the seating also helps. The test model came with black seats with gray accents and blue stitching. The shift knob and steering wheel, however, were leather trimmed.

As expected, the Lexus included a healthy list of safety features, like pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and Smart Watch and Alexa Skill integration, among other features. The parking sensor, however, didn’t always engage.

Lexus is one of the few automakers to stick with a six-cylinder engine and that’s what powers the IS, specifically a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 311 hp and 280 lb.­–ft. of torque. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the test model also came with drive modes and paddle shifters on the steering wheel for better performance. It had an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 20/28 mpg and averaged 23.3 mpg on the test drive.

As mentioned, the test model came equipped with the F Sport package ($3,735) that put badging wherever possible and with a sportier look inside, like metal pedals and bolstered front seats, but more importantly, a sport tuned and adaptive variable suspension, limited slip rear differential, and 19-inch alloy wheels. It also added fancy features like a power rear sunshade and illuminated door sills. For 2021, only the IS 350 comes in an F Sport model.

Starting price on the 2021 Lexus IS is $39,050 without destination fees. The as-tested price came to $52,484.

Sí: The Mazda6 may seem pricey but it effectively combines luxury amenities with a sporty performance.

The Lexus IS 350 F Sport offers a sporty performance in a snazzy package.

No: The lack of leather seating on any Lexus seemed odd and the level of road noise was surprising.

The infotainment system on the Mazda6 was a bit clunky and hard to program.

Luxury Sedan Review: 2018 Lexus ES 350

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Dec 122018
Lexus ES 350                                                                                            Photos by Valerie Menard

When Lexus launched in 1989, its lineup included two models, the LS and ES sedans. Over the last 29 years, the ES has evolved to become a favorite of luxury car buyers, taking the number three spot of top-selling luxury cars in 2017, according to the New York Daily News. With the seventh generation coming in 2019, there’s still time to grab the 2018 model. Latino Traffic Report recently tested the 2018 ES 350. Here are some highlights.

Accessibility sets the ES 350 apart in its segment. While certain features are offered in pricey packages, Lexus makes particular features available as stand alone options on the ES, like the blind spot monitor ($500), One Touch Power Trunk (right)  ($400), and Intuitive Parking Assist ($500) that were added to the test model.

Matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 268-horsepower and 248 lb.–ft. of torque powers every ES 350. For added convenience, it can run on regular-grade gas. The standard Drive Mode Select with Normal, Sport, and Eco modes also helps the ES achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. During the test-drive it earned an average of 21.8 mpg.

The standard Lexus Safety System includes semi-autonomous technology like High-speed Dynamic Cruise Control, a Pre-Collision and Pedestrian avoidance system, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, a.k.a. the ghost in the machine, and Intelligent High-Beam headlights that sense automatically when to turn on or off.

The subscription-based onboard emergency and information system, Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect, are free for 2018 for the first ten years. The former provides access to Lexus Enform response centers 24/7/365 with a mobile connection, while the latter alerts the owner to specific factory-recommended maintenance while simultaneously alerting a preferred Lexus dealer.

Standard creature comforts include ten-way adjustable power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, NuLuxe perforated upholstery with Piano Black ornamentation, and a power tilt-and-slide moonroof.

The standard Lexus Display Audio system features an eight-inch screen and includes HD Radio, Bluetooth audio, a CD player, a vehicle information display, and complimentary traffic and weather data provided via HD Radio. The test model also included the Remote Touch Interface, part of the Navigation/Mark Levinson Package ($2,615) that included an intuitive mouse pad function in the center console to engage the infotainment system.

Additional options on the test model included the Ultra Luxury Package ($3,500) with wood interior trim, heated and ventilated front seats, and a panoramic glass roof, among other features.

Pricing for the 2018 ES 350 starts at $39,975. The as-tested price came to $49,255.

 Sí: Richly appointed, the ES 350 leaves little doubt that it belongs in the luxury sedan segment.

No: The redesign is just in time because this model, inside and out, did look a little long in the tooth.

Car Review: Lexus IS 350

 Lexus, Reviews  Comments Off on Car Review: Lexus IS 350
Jan 292018

The Lexus IS 350 in Wimberley, TX.

Launched in 1989, Lexus easily carved out a niche in the premium segment with its reliability and exceptional customer service. But while it was upscale, it wasn’t sexy. Sporting a new design DNA, Lexus has clearly evolved from bland to brilliant. Sitting on Rioja Red leather seats, I recently drove the Lexis IS 350 during a weeklong test for Latino Traffic Report.

For some, the new face of Lexus, led by the signature spindle grille, can be polarizing, but it definitely has fans. According to Lexus, when the second-generation IS took on the new Lexus look in 2013, it became so popular that the restyled 2017 version only involved minor adjustments to its exterior appearance.

The third generation IS originally came in three trim levels but for 2018, that was reduced to two available trim levels, the 300 (200t is now the 300) and 350 that I tested. Horsepower increases by five in 2018 across all powertrains, including the specially tuned 3.5-liter V6 on the 350 that now produces 311 horsepower and 277 lb.–ft. of peak torque and is matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It responded with instant speed, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds. While all-wheel drive is available, I drove the rear-wheel-drive model with the eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission. Additional powertrains include a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder matched to an eight speed multi-mode automatic or the 3.5-liter matched to a six-speed automatic.

A sporty car should hug the road not float above it, especially on curves, plus the steering should be tight and responsive. Lexus achieves this with the Drive Mode Select system, standard on all IS trims. This technology comes with Eco, Normal, Snow, and Sport modes to customize the ride and handling. To save gas, select Eco, but for a sportier experience, select Sport. For an additional $3,155, the test model included the F Sport package, ramping up its sportiness further with Sport S/S+ mode which I engaged for tighter handling on a curvy road on the way to Wimberley, TX.

While the IS 350 should achieve and EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, I averaged 21.9 mpg.

The IS also included safety features, starting with the standard Lexus Safety System+ that included advanced technology like the pre-collision warning system, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. However, I was surprised to find that the blind spot warning system was a stand-alone option for $600. At this price point it should be standard. For 2018, however, the Enform Safety and Service Connect systems are complimentary for the first ten years.

Pricing for the 2018 Lexus IS starts at $38,820. The as-tested price, including the blind spot monitor, came to $49,530.

Sí: The Lexus IS 350 embraces its sportiness, enhanced by exceptional technology plus the red leather seats were gorgeous.

No: While an affordable option, a blind spot monitor should be a standard feature on a premium brand.

Hybrid Review: 2016 Lexus ES 300h

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Dec 082016

What Toyota began with its first hybrid, the Prius, it has taken to a whole new level with Lexus. Considered up-level models for most segments, hybrids would seem to provide a natural incentive for luxury brands to dive into the green pool. Lexus led the way in 2005 when it introduced the RX 400h. I recently drove the 2016 ES 300h, one of a family of six Lexus hybrid models, for Latino Traffic Report. As expected, it saves gas but with added style and grace.

Refreshed for 2016, the ES 300h sports a design makeover that includes a new, bolder spindle grille, built from a one-piece version and framed by a satin chrome trim. Also fully redesigned, the front fascia puts the fog lights at the corners to accentuate the wide stance.

The signature hybrid system combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine with an electric motor to generate 200 total system horsepower. It runs on an electric motor or gas engine alone, or a combination of both, depending on the driving situation. Like most hybrids, it gives the driver a real-time view of its functionality with the Hybrid System Indicator. The display can also encourage fuel-efficient driving habits.

The electronic continuously variable transmission further enhances the hybrid’s performance with a drive mode option that allows the driver to choose among four modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and EV. The hybrid does lack oomph, however, even in Sport mode.

No review of a hybrid can ignore fuel economy. The ES 300h has EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 40 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. I achieved an average fuel economy of 36.9 mpg.

The test model came well-equipped with safety features, but at a price. Most of the them were optional, starting with the Lexus Safety System+ Package ($1,015) that included the Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam, and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

The Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert is a stand alone option and well worth the extra $500. Still, at this price point, it would be nice if more of these features were included as standard equipment. Apparently, Lexus thought so too and for 2017, the Lexus Safety System+ will be standard.

Happily Lexus Enform Safety Connect, is standard on all 2016 Lexus vehicles, with access to Lexus Enform response centers 24/7/365.

Standard creature features included a ten-way adjustable power front seat, automatic dual-zone climate control, NuLuxe perforated upholstery, a power tilt-and-slide moonroof, Smart Access door unlock with push button start, a premium audio system with a CD player, Bluetooth, and Siri Eyes-free Mode. Added options included a heated wood and leather steering wheel ($450), Intuitive Parking Assist ($500), and the nifty one touch power trunk ($400), similar to a power liftgate.

The optional navigation system ($2,650) also added an eight-inch display audio screen as well as the Lexus Enform App Suite that uses voice-enabled apps to search the Internet.

Pricing for the 2017 Lexus ES 300h starts at $42,795. The as-tested price came to 49,410.


Sí: The ES 300h brings Lexus premium appeal to the hybrid driving experience.

No: While offering some safety features as stand alone options makes them a little more accessible, some of them should be standard on a premium vehicle.

SUV Reviews: 2016 Lexus LX570 and Land Rover LR4 HSE LUX

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Jul 252016

2015-11-03 Land-LR462016-05-10 LX570.lic

A premium sedan wows car buyers with a striking design, a plush interior, and exclusive technology. A premium sport utility vehicle (SUV) does the same thing, but with the added potential for rock climbing, should the urge strike. On recent test drives of the 2016 Land Rover LR4 HSE LUX and the 2016 Lexus LX570 for Latino Traffic Report, I fought the urge and stayed on-road, cruising in comfort and style.

While not direct competitors, these SUVs shared some similarities as well as unique attributes to sustain such an exclusive niche.

Tread Lightly

Some may confuse off-roading with rally racing but the two couldn’t be more opposed. A true enthusiast prefers to tread lightly, enjoying an intimacy with nature by driving rather than hiking on the trail.

LR4 center stack

LR4 center stack

To do this effectively requires basics, starting with full-time four-wheel drive (4WD), which they had, but both the LR4 and LX570 added technology that enhanced the ride.

For starters, they included knobs for selecting terrain challenges to fine tune off-roading functions—General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts, and Sand with the LR4’s Terrain Response System. The test model also came with the Heavy Duty Package that added the Rock Crawl mode, a two-speed transfer case,  active locking center and rear differentials, and a full-size spare tire. The LR4 improved on-road performance with the Command Shift transmission that included a choice among Normal, Sport, and Manual modes.

LX570 center console

LX570 Terrain Response System

Land Rover may have set the standard for luxury off-roading but Lexus stepped up with the Multi-Terrain Select system that offered Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, Loose Rock, and Mud and Sand modes. To improve on-road performance, I had a choice among Comfort, ECO, Sport S and Sport S+ modes.

Suspensions also matter for on and off-road driving and both utilized adjustable suspension systems that lowered and raised the vehicle based on driving conditions.

Heart and Soul

Powered by a 5.7-liter V8 engine, the LX received a new eight-speed sequential shift automatic transmission for 2016, replacing the previous six-speed. The powertrain offered 383 horses and 403 lb.–ft. of torque. The LR4 also included an eight-speed transmission, but it was matched to a supercharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 340 horsepower and 332 lb.–ft. of torque.

LR4 seats.

LR4 seats.

As an SUV, towing is a consideration. LR4 owners can tow up to  7,716-lb, while the LX can pull 7,000 lbs. The standard panoramic view camera, new for 2016 on the LX, will help hitch and maneuver a trailer.

While both try to utilize technology to improve fuel economy, SUVs this size and weight make fuel economy a challenge. The average fuel economy is fairly similar for each, 15 miles per gallon (mpg) for the LX and 16 mpg for the LR4. I averaged 15.4 mpg and 16 mpg respectively.

The P in Premium

The experience inside of these vehicles accentuated their membership in the premium SUV segment. There were no cloth options for seating, just leather please, with real wood and aluminum accents. Heated front seats were standard on both, plus the seven-seat LR4 also included heated rear seats. The eight-seat LX test model included a heated second row via the Luxury Package ($1,190) that also added ventilated (cooled) front seats.

LX570 seats.

LX570 seats.

A 12.3-inch center display screen with a mouse in the center console, or Remote Touch Interface, to control the Lexus Enform infotainment system, navigation, and air conditioning distinguished the LX. Lexus Enform also enabled interactivity with smart phones.

The first time I ever noticed accent piping on leather seating was on a Land Rover. The array of knobs and levers for engaging different functions also stood out. The modern LR4 retained the awe factor inside, especially on the test model that included the HSE LUX Package ($10,200) with premium soft Windsor leather with twin-stitch detailing to the top of the dashboard and doors, armrest and grab handles and also around the instrument cluster. Its five-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) driver information LCD screen located within the instrument cluster, however, was a little less striking. The L

LX dash.

LX dash.

R4’s infotainment system, Land Rover InControl, can utilize apps downloaded from either the Apple App Store or Google Play to connect to a Smartphone. Oddly, Sirius/XM Satellite radio was added as an option; one would think it would be included, especially on the HSE LUX package.

Both test vehicles included a cooled storage unit for added convenience and a CD player.

LR4 cooled storage.

LR4 cooled storage.

Safety First

Stepping up to a premium SUV brings expectations for an extensive list of standard features, including safety. This can also be where these SUVs fall short.

Airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control make-up the technology that’s expected. But some innovations like a blind-spot monitor, pre-collision mitigation, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control should also be included. They were on the LX but not on the LR4.

2015-11-03 LR4-rear2016-05-10 LXreare2The as-tested pricing for the 2016  Land Rover LR4 came to $66,570, while as-tested pricing for the 2016 Lexus LX570 came to $97,405.

: Both of these premium SUVs offer what the segment requires, great styling, interior plushness, and off-road capability.

No: While the LR4 fell short on standard safety technology, the LX570 placed quite a premium on including them with pricing that approached six figures.

Reviews: Lexus GS350 vs. Infiniti Q50

 Infiniti, Lexus, Reviews  Comments Off on Reviews: Lexus GS350 vs. Infiniti Q50
Dec 172015

2015-06-09 SBS.q50,

Weekly car loans allow me to review vehicles for my readers, but it’s rare to have two vehicles delivered the same week that happen to be direct competitors. Such was the case when the Lexus GS350 F Sport and Infiniti Q50S arrived in my driveway. In a side-by-side comparison, these midsize luxury performance sedans managed to distinguish themselves. Here’s how they measured up.


A sports car sets itself apart in several ways, ride, handling, and most importantly, powertrain. The GS350 came equipped with the 3.5-liter V6 with direct fuel and port injection, 306 horses and 277 lb.–ft. of torque. The 3.7-liter V6 that powered the Q50 offered more horsepower, 328, but less torque, 269 lb.–ft.

Transmissions included an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters on the GS and a seven-speed automatic, also with paddle shifters, manual shift mode and downhill rev matching on the Q50. They both included a drive mode selector to allow drivers to choose among Normal, Eco, Snow, or Sport modes on the GS and Standard, Eco, Sport, Personal, or Snow modes on the Q to enhance performance.

Q50 grey leather seats with purple accent stitching.

Q50 grey leather seats with purple accent stitching.

ES350 beige leather seats.

GS350 beige leather seats.

The F Sport Package on the GS added Sport S+ mode, a sport tuned adaptive variable suspension, and Variable Gear Ratio Steering, among other features.

While all-wheel-drive is available, the test models were configured as rear-wheel-drive sedans; the GS sat on a front independent double-wishbone and independent multi-link rear suspension and the Q sat on a sport-tuned independent front and rear suspension that gave it the rougher ride expected from a performance sedan. Adding to the Q’s sportier feel was speed sensitive power steering, making the Q50 a bit more fun to drive.

The expected fuel economy for each was practically identical with the Q50 earning 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city, one more than the GS, and both earning 29 mpg on the highway. I averaged 22 mpg with both.


GS350 12,3-inch display.

GS350 12.3-inch display.

Q50 center stack.

Q50 center stack.

As luxury nameplates, these sport sedans should be generously equipped with technology. Standard features on both included review cameras, traction and stability control, and anti-lock brakes, but the GS 350 trumped the Q50 by including Safety Connect with automatic collision notification. That neither included a blind spot monitor as a standard feature was disappointing.

The entertainment systems on both included an AM/FM stereo, CD player, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth with voice recognition, but the Q50 included its infotainment system, InTouch and two USB connections, while the GS 350 added iTunes tagging, traffic, and climate information via HD radio. The optional navigation system on the Lexus brought Enform infotainment and a striking 12.3-inch display screen with three sections. Navigation on both was optional.


Inside and out, both vehicles were easy on the eyes. I’m a big fan of the distinctive spindle grille on the Lexus and Infiniti’s muscular lines. Both came with leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry, dual –zone climate control, and a sunroof. While fancier features like heated seats were optional on the Lexus, they were standard on the Infiniti. The craftsmanship and fit-and-finish on both exuded quality.2015-06-09 SBS.Q50.gs350.lic


With a starting price tag that was $5,000 more than the Infiniti and about $10,000 more in packages and extra features, the GS350 surpassed the Q50 in plushness. The as-tested price for the 2015 GS350 F Sport came to $59,200, while the as-tested price for the 2015 Infiniti Q50S came to $47,755.


Sí: Both vehicles bore striking exteriors and elegant interiors.

No: They both came up short when it came to standard technology.


2014 Lexus GX 460

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Jan 072015


Lexus has redesigned the GX 460 for 2014 and as summer approaches, this new luxury utility vehicle (LUV) could suit the family road trip. For comfort and versatility, nothing beats the minivan, but for travelers who prefer a more posh ride, an LUV may be more apt.

I recently test-drove the all-new Lexus GX 460 around Austin. For starters, Lexus gives the GX a definite advantage—the base model is $4,710 dollars less than last year’s. It also comes with important features like the distinctive spindle grille, a rear back-up camera—an essential for the rear visibility challenged sport utility vehicle segment—plus a tilt/slide moonroof, and roof rails.

2014_Lexus_GX_460_002Adding the Premium Package will not only get you to last year’s price, it’ll get you the following features: a navigation system with backup monitor, perforated leather trimmed interior, heated and ventilated (cooled) front seats, heated outboard rear seats, Intuitive Parking Assist, and three-zone climate control.

For convenience the second row seats are split 40/20/40 or 60/40 to allow access to the back seats, which are also 2014_Lexus_GX_460_003split 50/50 to fold flat. Maximum cargo volume is 64.7 cu. ft. The rear tailgate, however, does not lift up, but rather opens to the right. The key fob includes a power release button that controls the rear window, not the tailgate, so that it pops up for reaching in or loading from the rear.

Road trips also call for onboard entertainment features. The GX 460 comes with an AM/FM/in-dash single CD with Automatic Sound Levelizer and MP3/WMA capability, Bluetooth hands free phone and phonebook download capabilities and music streaming, Dual USB ports with iPod connectivity, an eight-inch touch screen, HD Radio Real-Time Traffic and Weather, and an Integrated SiriusXM Satellite Radio receiver (complimentary 90-day trial subscription included).

For watching movies on the road, however, the Rear Seat Entertainment System is optional, available on the Luxury trim level, and the Lexus navigation and Enform telematics system were a bit tedious.

Powered by one engine, the 4.8-liter V8 with 301 horsepower and 329 lb.–ft. of torque, it has a towing capacity of 6,500-lbs. It’s also equipped with trailer sway control for added safety and stability.2014_Lexus_GX_460_007

Complete with the six-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain achieves a modest EPA estimated fuel economy of 15 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. My average mpg came to 17.2 at the end of the weeklong test drive.

An advanced standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System helps the GX 460 attain the smooth ride for which Lexus is famous. It’s enhanced by the Adaptive Variable Suspension that allows the driver to tailor ride and handling balance by selecting from among Normal, Sport or Comfort modes.

The standard full-time four-wheel drive with an electronically controlled transfer case and a TORSEN torque-sensing limited slip center differential gives owners added on-road security and off-road capability.

Standard safety features include traction control, vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes, and ten standard airbags including knee protection in the front seat and side curtain protection for all three rows.

The test model included the Premium Package as well as an essential safety feature, the blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, well worth the additional $800.2014_Lexus_GX_460_020

Smooth, quiet, luxurious and with seating for seven, the GX will take families to vacation destinations in style.

Available in two trim levels, Base and Luxury, pricing for the GX 460 starts at $49,995 with destination charges. The as-tested price came to $55,815.