Track Day with Lexus F SPORT cars

Lexus is upping its game. The luxury brand has built a reputation over the years for elegant luxury vehicles, reliability and customer service. But now Lexus has made aggressive design and performance a priority and the changes are striking. The new design direction is most noticeable with the new spindle front grille that immediately grabs your attention and gives the vehicles a much sportier look. But buyers looking for even more aggressive design and performance packages will look to the Lexus F Sport lineup which now covers six of its vehicles. Buyers choosing the F SPORT packages will get increased handling along with unique design cues that set the vehicles apart.

I was on hand at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway as Lexus took the opportunity to show off the F SPORT lineup with challenging autocross and track courses. The idea was to push each vehicle in standard drive mode and then run the same route again in sport mode. The cars handled fine in standard mode but then became very impressive in sport mode, gripping the corners as we powered through the turns. With its F SPORT lineup Lexus offers worthy competitors to the top sport sedans on the market, along with designs that will attract the attention of younger buyers (and those who are young at heart).

We had the entire F SPORT lineup on hand at the track, including the IS 250/350 sport sedan, the GS 350 luxury sedan, the LS 460 flagship luxury sedan, the CT 200h premium hybrid compact, the IS 250/350C hardtop convertible and the RX 350 luxury utility vehicle.

We also had the two stand-alone F performance vehicles – the LFA supercar and the IS F performance sedan. These are completely distinct models built for optimal track performance.

The day started for our group on the tight autocross course with four F SPORT models – the CT 200h, the IS 250, the IS 350 AWD, and the GS 350. The course had plenty of quick and tight turns, and with each model we drove it in standard drive mode for one lap and then switched to the Sport or Sport+ mode for the second lap with a very impressive improvement in handling and stability around the corners. We could push the cars even harder as we got accustomed to the course.

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Car Review: 2013 Lexus GX 460 Premium

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This true-to-form, full-size luxury SUV makes quite a first impression! Full-size SUVs are hard to find anymore, and one with all of the appointments of the 2013 Lexus GX 460 Premium are even rarer. Whether on-road or off-road, this beast of a vehicle will take care of business.

EXTERIOR

A goal of the designers was to have the vehicle create the impression of being sculpted from a single block of metal. This is one tough-looking ride, and there aren’t many blocks of metal that want to get in the GX 460’s way. The distinctive grille features three horizontal bars and, upon closer inspection, intricate detail and texture that conveys renowned Lexus attention to detail. The front bumper features standard integrated fog lamps and functional design elements like low-profile roof rails and an acoustic insulation windshield that helps reduce wind noise. The 18-inch, 6-spoke liquid graphite wheels were large enough to look good on the GX 460. Some of the exterior premium features included adaptive front lighting system, high intensity discharge headlamps, headlamp cleaners and illuminated front door sills.

INTERIOR

The luxurious Lexus GX 460 luxury utility vehicle carries over into 2013 with its quiet cabin and a long list of standard features and options that make it a versatile choice for city and off-road driving. Our loaded Premium model came with these and other options:

• Standard features include: ten-way power-adjustable, heated/ventilated front seats; automatic dual-zone climate control; leather trimmed seats and surfaces; steering wheel audio controls; rain-sensing windshield wipers; power moonroof; memory system for the driver’s seat, steering wheel and outside mirror positions; and integrated HomeLink transmitter.

• The versatile passenger-side second row seat slides 4.1 inches fore/aft to maximize passenger and cargo carrying ability.

• The foldable and reclining second row seats also feature a 60/40 walk-in function to access the standard power fold-flat third row seats.

• The rear door window has a flip-up glass panel for added convenience.

• Equipped for family multimedia entertainment, the GX 460 comes standard with a Lexus Premium nine-speaker audio system with iPod/USB connectivity, Bluetooth hands free phone capability and music streaming, and an integrated SirusXM Satellite Radio receiver (complimentary 90-day trial subscription included).

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Car Review: 2013 Lexus ES 350 Sedan

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As Lexus continues to roll out hit after hit, the all-new 2013 ES 350 Sedan keeps folks at Lexus smiling! Just because this new Lexus is better in all aspects, that doesn’t mean the pricing has to increase, and Lexus did a good job of keeping this elegant sedan affordable for those seeking luxury but not willing to break the bank.

EXTERIOR

The new ES features a lower, progressive profile and clean, continuous styling lines from front to rear. All four corners are pulled tightly inward to the wheel arches, creating distinctive proportions. The wheelbase of the new ES has been lengthened by 1.8 inches, while the overall length of the vehicle has grown by just one inch, resulting in a more spacious interior. The new ES unmistakably bears the new face of Lexus with its distinctive, spindle grille. The LED daytime running lights and combination rear lamps reflect the “L” design motif. The ES 350’s rear bumper sports dual exhaust pipes. New exterior colors for the 2013 ES include Fire Agate Pearl and Silver Lining Metallic, which our test model sported.

The most obvious improvement is the front facia, as Lexus really nailed it with a signature front that looks to be something Lexus can brand with its luxury lineup. Our test model also sported 17-inch split spoke wheels with liquid graphite finish and lane departure alert with intelligent high beam headlamps.

INTERIOR

The modern interior of the 2013 ES has been designed to provide both a sense of openness and security. Sightlines and visibility are improved, controls are logically placed, and new cabin materials express a high level of craftsmanship. You get the feeling from the dashboard that you have entered a car that was truly designed with an executive touch. Designed with attention to ergonomics and driver focus, the cockpit features separate display and operation zones to help keep the driver’s eyes on the road. The instrument panel, with its long, layered look, places the main information display directly in the driver’s line of sight. Just below the center display is a self-illuminating LED analog clock. Controls are clustered beneath the information zone, on the steering wheel and on the center console.

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First Drive: 2014 Lexus IS

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We love the opportunity to test drive brand new car models, and we like it even more when the test involves a day at the track. So naturally we were happy to join Lexus at Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina (“The Rock”) to test drive the all-new 2014 Lexus IS. We tested the IS 250 and IS 350, along with the F Sport version of the IS 350.

There’s nothing like accelerating from a banked turn, flooring it once you hit the straightaway, and then slamming on the brakes just as you approach 100 MPH as you prepare to make a 90 degree turn. You definitely get the feeling of what a car can handle on a track like this, and each model of the IS was a blast to drive.

Exterior

Lexus is emphasizing its new “obsession with design” and we can see the results as the company has rolled out its aggressive spindle grille across its model lineup. The new front end gives Lexus a new, bold look that sets the tone for all of the design elements. I always liked the look of Lexus cars, but now I love them.

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Car Review: 2013 Lexus ES 300h Sedan

The all new 2013 Lexus ES 300h Sedan has the chance to lead Lexus into the future with amazing fuel efficiency and new styling. We had the opportunity drive this new offering from Lexus for a week and took away the following impressions.

EXTERIOR

The new ES features a lower, progressive profile and clean, continuous styling lines from front to rear. All four corners are pulled tightly inward to the wheel arches, creating distinctive proportions. The wheelbase of the new ES has been lengthened by 1.8 inches, while the overall length of the vehicle has grown by just one inch, resulting in a more spacious interior. The new ES unmistakably bears the new face of Lexus with its distinctive, spindle grille. The LED daytime running lights and combination rear lamps reflect the “L” design motif. The ES 300h hybrid features a distinctive rear design with hidden exhaust and an integrated spoiler. New exterior colors for the 2013 ES include Fire Agate Pearl and Silver Lining Metallic. Our test model was nebula gray pearl and the paint was as smooth as the sleek exterior. The auto on/off projector bulb headlamps with integrated LED fog lamps and daytime running lights stand out both during the day and in nighttime driving.

INTERIOR

The modern interior of the 2013 ES has been designed to provide a sense of openness and security. Sightlines and visibility are improved, controls are logically placed, and new cabin materials express a high level of craftsmanship. A newly sculptured seat enhances driver comfort. The steering wheel angle has been reduced from 24 degrees to 22 degrees for a more natural control position. Fluid-filled engine mounts, new sound absorbing materials and a tuned engine intake minimize the intrusion of outside noise.

Greater rear seat legroom and knee room are the hallmark of the redesigned, more spacious cabin. Knee room is increased by 2.8 inches and legroom is increased by 4.1 inches. The new design also offers additional foot room below the front seats. I was very impressed with the amount of room for the rear passengers and that is a major improvement over many competitors.

Available comfort and convenience features include manual door window shades, a power rear shade, and a one-touch power trunk closer. Optional ambient lighting, discretely placed under the wood trim, softly illuminates the surfaces of the instrument panel and all four doors. The new ES features enhanced NuLuxe seating surfaces, developed to reduce environmental impact. Genuine leather is also available, as is semi-aniline leather for an even more refined look and feel. Our heated seats and heated steering wheel warmed up in what seemed to be record time in some pretty cold weather. Interiors are available in Black, Light Gray and Parchment. Trim colors and materials include Piano Black, Espresso Bird’s-eye Maple and Bamboo.

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