Car Review: 2015 Lexus ES 350
The Lexus ES dates back to the launch of the Lexus brand as one of the two original models. It stands for “Executive Sedan,” which aptly describes this luxury sedan. In the current Lexus lineup, it’s positioned between the flagship LS sedan and the sportier IS model. The ES is now in its sixth generation and has grown in size over the years.
Lexus has become much more aggressive in its styling cues with the front spindle grille, and you can see that with the ES, which definitely has more interesting design when compared to previous models. Still, these new design features are not as aggressive as what you’ll see on the sportier IS, which makes sense given the broader target audience for this model. The elegant look of the vehicle is certainly worthy of a large, luxury sedan that the executive and professional classes will appreciate.
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Car Review: 2015 Kia K900
Kia is now officially in the luxury car business. With one fell swoop, they have launched the K900, a modern and elegant sedan that signals a new era for Kia and advances the brand to new levels sophistication. We drove the all-new 2015 Kia K900 and had to keep reminding ourselves that this car was a Kia! Things change so fast in the car business, and I’m sure some rivals keep wondering what the folks at Kia will come up with next.
When you first take a look at the 2015 Kia K900, you know that this car is for real, and a serious attempt by Kia to be a player in the luxury car segment. The long 119.9-inch wheelbase and wide 63.8-inch front and 64.1-inch rear track of the V8 translate to considerable road presence. In profile, the swept rake of the greenhouse, subdued cut lines along the doors and high rear deck lid lend a muscular tension to the sheet metal. The K900 V8’s standard 19-inch multi-spoke chrome wheels are shod with 245/45R-19 tires up front and 275/40R-19 tires at the rear.
Kia’s signature grille resides nearly vertically in the smoothly contoured front fascia. A chrome halo surrounds the dark chrome inner elements, which hints at the power and potential behind it. Airflow-smoothing underbody panels mounted beneath the nose, engine bay and cabin help reduce drag and improve efficiency. Standard on the V8 as tested are adaptive LED headlights. With 16 LED bulbs providing powerful, natural light for enhanced luminosity, the beams, which adjust to follow the bends in the road, shimmer beneath crystal clear lenses that pull back deeply into the front fenders. Soft-glow LEDs frame the multi-faceted headlights. Mounted low and at the far corners of the nose are sleek LED daytime running lamps and LED fog lights. Similar use of LED technology can be found at the rear of the K900. The trapezoid taillights offer defused LEDs for the brakes and bright LEDs for the turn signals. A tasteful chrome bezel cuts high across the K900’s standard powered rear deck lid, adding elegance and lending visual width. The standard power and heated rearview mirrors integrate auto dimming, LED turn signal indicators and Blind Spot Detection System (BSD) in a smooth, aerodynamic form that helps reduce wind noise. The rear bumper is accented with fully integrated, dual chrome-tipped exhaust ports that mimic the shape of the taillights.
Open the door to the all-new K900 and the same sense of elegant sophistication can be found within the luxuriously appointed cabin. The three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel is substantial and features controls for audio, cruise control, entertainment and vehicle information. A heated wheel is available on the V6 and standard on the V8. Standard high-grade leather is found throughout the cabin on the V6, which can also be optioned with soft Nappa leather in black or white with contrasting piping. The V8 K900 arrives with standard Nappa leather. Soft-hue LED interior illumination is standard across the K900 line. Genuine walnut (with black Nappa leather) or poplar (with white Nappa leather) wood trim sweeps across the dash and door panels, beautifully complementing the richness of the interior and is available on the V6 and standard on the V8. A 12-way adjustable driver’s seat, including power lumbar support, is standard on both the V6 Premium and V8 Luxury models, and a 16-way power adjusted driver’s seat features power headrests and cushion extender for added thigh support as part of the V6 Technology Package and the V8 VIP Package. The front seats feature standard multi-stage heating and ventilation for individualized comfort in all climates.
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Car Review: 2014 Lexus GS 350 F SPORT
We set out to drive the 2014 Lexus GS 350 Sport Sedan with the formidable F SPORT package and came away with very favorable impressions. Lexus has moved the needle on styling in recent years and continues to challenge all rivals on the performance front. This car was up to that challenge!
Behind its distinctive spindle grille, which creates an unmistakable brand identity, the Lexus GS 350 shines bright with a refined but aggressive body. You first notice the 19-inch alloy wheels that pop along the amazing Riviera red paint. The GS 350 F SPORT is exclusively equipped with 19-inch staggered width wheels paired with 235/40R19 front and 265/35R19 rear summer compound tires for RWD models, while AWD models will have 235/40/19 all-season tires in the front and rear. The F SPORT stands apart with exclusive front bumper and rear lower valence styling, a rear lip spoiler and F SPORT mesh grille inserts. The rear bumper integrates a distinctive exhaust diffuser and centered aero fins to help control underbody airflow.
Even with its sweeping, coupe-like profile, the Lexus GS 350 provides ample headroom for rear-seat passengers. The new-generation GS offers greater rear headroom, knee room, legroom and foot space than the previous GS, yet in a sleeker package. The trunk, too, grew with the redesign and can easily accommodate four golf bags. The sumptuously detailed cabin, trimmed in perforated leather and matte dark brown walnut wood, comes with standard 10-way power front seats. Some competitors charge extra for leather, even in this price range. Rear seat passengers are treated no less regally, with deeply scalloped seats providing excellent support and generous legroom for long trips.
Lexus recognizes that temperature is a personal preference, with passengers often having diverse needs. The GS 350 addresses this situation quite effectively. A first-in-class technology, the energy-saving S-Flow automatic climate control system detects if there is a front passenger and directs airflow only to the occupied front seat or seats.
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Car Review: 2014 Hyundai Equus Signature
Off a refresh for 2014, the Hyundai Equus strikes an elegant look with V8 power under the hood that will impress on her own. The 2014 Equus premium luxury sedan arrives with enhancements to exterior and interior design, vehicle dynamics, material selection, driver technology displays and advanced safety features. The week behind the wheel of the Equus was a real eye opener as to what affordable luxury feels like!
No worries on whether the 2014 Equus Signature can compete with other luxury sedans here, as during our test time with the Equus, this car was even mistaken for a Rolls Royce! The 2014 Equus exterior enhancements convey a premium-sport design message, starting with a new 19-inch turbine-blade alloy wheel design in a polished silver finish that relays motion whether parked or on the open highway. The front grille chrome bars are thinner, with sharper contrast to the blacked-out portions of the grille for a sportier look. The front fascia also has been redesigned, with the former chrome accents removed in favor of a modern premium appearance that includes lower fascia opening strakes. The headlamps offer jeweled design elements and include chrome contrasted with black-out finishes for a distinctive appearance. New LED fog lamps are now standard. Side mirrors have been redesigned for enhanced aerodynamics and tail lamp graphics move to a more horizontal theme.
Until you drive the Equus, you really don’t appreciate the high-end luxury that is incorporated into the cabin space. The 2014 Equus interior perfectly complements the enhancements to its exterior to the satisfaction of the most discerning car buyer. Thus, the themes of premium and performance again greet the driver behind the wheel. The entire instrument panel and center stack have been redesigned with more premium materials and an ergonomically-correct layout, with new button iconography for quicker and easier feature recognition. The center console and shift lever reveal more premium material selection and contemporary premium-luxury design cues. Steering wheel control layout has been improved, with new low-sheen button designs and icons. Similarly, rear passengers will enjoy a new rear console and button layout, with available dual 9.2-inch, high-resolution, adjustable seatback video screens to enjoy movies, audio media, HVAC or seating functions. Rear passengers can even search restaurant locations and provide navigation system directions directly to the driver’s navigation screen. The premium leather seats and microfiber suede headliner really set the tone for a high-quality space. We drove the Equus in zero degree temperature during a frigid midwest winter and the fast heating seats were our favorite comfort feature of the car! Also, the Lexicon 7.1 discrete surround sound audio system with a whopping 17 speakers is one of the best we have heard in an automobile.
The climate control system now offers three distinct cabin temperature zones for driver, passenger and rear passengers. The standard smart cruise control system has been enhanced to include a full 0-mph stop-and-start function for use in stop-and-go traffic. The smart proximity key now includes both key-fob and card-key types of vehicle entry for greater driver convenience.
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First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Genesis
I traveled out to the Hyundai America Technical Center in Michigan to drive the new 2012 Hyundai Genesis. The drive event took place on a beautiful summer day as you can see from the photos and I had the opportunity to drive a couple of different models of the new Genesis, mostly around the scenic country roads around Ann Arbor.
The Genesis has been a big hit for Hyundai, due in large part to its elegant styling and its impressive value proposition. The Genesis has experienced 24 months in a row of year-over-year sales increases. In their presentation to the media, Hyundai executives stressed how the Genesis appeals to affluent buyers who were also practical and frugal. The “millionaire next door” profile fit many buyers of this vehicle. They aren’t the aspiration-type buyers who stretched their budget to show off a BMW or a Mercedes. Rather, they want to show off how many luxury features they could get from a new Hyundai for thousands less than what one would pay for their German competitors.
The 2012 Genesis offers an aerodynamic yet elegant look that fits nicely in the luxury segment. It’s a refresh of the 2011 model, so the exterior styling has been updated without major changes. The new LED headlamp accents add a nice touch, and the front grille and front bumper have been updated to create a powerful and aggressive stance. New 17-inch and 19-inch wheel designs are also available, and I particularly liked the 19-inch wheels. You can see from the photos above why this vehicle is doing so well in the luxury market, particularly when you consider the costs savings versus its competitors.
The interior offered everything you would expect from a luxury sedan. The entire feel of the interior exudes comfort and luxury, and the leather seats were particularly soft. Many luxury features are standard in the 3.8 base model, while a Premium Package and Technology Package are available in the 3.8 and come included in the 4.6 and 5.0 models. The overall feel is a classic design with modern accents that will appeal to professionals and others looking for a luxury experience. I was also struck by how quiet the Genesis was as we cruised around.
With the 2012 model, Hyundai provided the Genesis with some impressive upgrades under the hood, introducing Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) for the 3.8-liter V6 and a new 5.0-liter V8, representing the most powerful Hyundai engine to date. The new Genesis also features a new 8-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic. At 333 HP, the new V6 has 43 more horsepower than the previous V6, with 291 lb-ft of torque and fuel mileage of 19 city/29 highway. The new V8 features 429 HP and 376 lb-ft of torque, with fuel mileage of 16 city/25 highway.
I drove the 3.8 V6 model first, followed by the 5.0 V8. Both offered solid power and a great ride. The V8 certainly offers more of a kick and it makes a great sound when you punch it on a straightway, but I suspect many buyers in the target market will be more than happy with the power and feel of the V6. I was able to test both of them on a wide variety of roads and my impression of the power and handling were consistently positive. The ride was very smooth even on bumpier country roads, while the suspension offered the level of grip you would expect from a luxury sedan.
The MSRP on the base 3.8 Genesis starts at $34,200, going to $39,000 with the Premium Package and $43,000 with the Technology Package. The 5.0 V8 has an MSRP of $46,500. This tells the story of the sales increases for the Genesis as it’s available for thousands less than other vehicles in its class. When you drive the vehicle you get an appreciation for the value proposition. Take it for a text drive and you might end up saving yourself a lot of money while getting all the luxury you need.