Tag Archives: featured

2022 Subaru WRX Premium

WRX better in a rally than on a road, but it rocks …

After we had been driving for two blocks my wife, a devout Subaru owner, asked rather emphatically, “WHO would ever buy this car?”

The car in question was a flashy metallic Solar Orange Subaru WRX Premium, the rally racer style compact sedan with a ride so rough that nine out of 10 dentists recommend it to patients with loose fillings.

It doesn’t help that we live in a 1950s subdivision with asphalt streets featuring cracks and crevices widened and sunk by 60+ years of Wisconsin winters. Even still, on better roads it only takes a manhole cover’s slight indentation or the dreaded expansion joints on cement streets to jolt the family jewels or crack that dozen eggs freshly purchased at the farmer’s market.

All this in spite of, or possibly because, Subaru engineers firmed up the chassis and suspension on this fifth-generation WRX to improve cornering and (supposedly) ride. To that end they mounted the rear anti-roll bar directly to the chassis, upgraded shock dampers and stiffened the torsional rigidity of the chassis by 28%.

That’s all excellent news for rally racers who take their WRX to rutted dirt-road racing contests every weekend, but for city driving, not so much.

There’s at least one other practical point that may not make this a top choice for the average family’s next sedan. That’s noise.

Again, for the boy or girl racer who thrives on the throb and rumble of a boosted boxer 4-cylinder, the Subie’s new 2.4-liter twin-scroll turbo engine is a positive. It creates 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque that feels like a rocket booster is strapped to this compact sedan based on Subaru’s Impreza platform.

For the rest of us the guttural growl, especially while the car is stationary or at modest city speeds, is deafening when the windows are lowered, and radio sound swamping with windows up. Once cruising at highway speeds the blat calms enough to allow radio listening, but still it’s best to crank that baby up.

That said, I told my wife that the WRX is aimed at young folks (mostly) who desire speed, speed and speed, yet at an affordable price.

In that case, the Premium model is a winner, starting at just $32,600, including delivery. For that you get a handsome neck-stretching sedan that easily carries four adults, has a decent-sized trunk for suitcases, boogie boards (fold down the split back seats), and AWD for any off-roading you feel appropriate.

Ride we know is an issue, but handling is fantastic with dual-pinion electric power steering that provides great road feel and more vital, a quicker response. That’s what you need for racing, or just driving fun, preferably on a smooth road.

This version also features a 6-speed manual transmission that adds to its friskiness. Throws are fairly long though, so think about paying $427 extra for an STi short-throw shifter. If you’re lazy, or getting older like me, you may want to opt for the 8-speed automatic that adds about $2,500 to the Premium model’s bottom line, but varies by trim level.

Speaking of which, there are four WRX trims, the base WRX that starts at $30,100 or $31,950 with the automatic, the tested Premium for $32,600 or $34,650 automatic, the Limited at $36,990 or $39,240 automatic, and the new GT, which is AWD and packs a drive mode selector, the automatic tranny, and Recaro seats. It lists at $42,890.

Recaro seats are snug to hold driver and passenger tight.

Recaro seats are wonderful for racing and look great too, so maybe going GT is worth it. But the seats in the Premium model are pretty stout already.

The interior here was black cloth with red stitching for a sporty look. But the seats were so well formed with sterling hip and back support that I wish we had the same in our family’s Outback. These are manually adjusted, but don’t look down your nose at that. Naturally it saves weight by foregoing electrics, but a pump handle easily dials in the optimal seat height and the rest is just fore and aft and seat back angle adjusted via levers. Simple!

Front seats also are heated and the interior is roomy enough for four adults, while the trunk will hold their bags.

The info screen is mammoth!

Subaru goes with a matte black dash while the trim across the dash, around the screen and shift knob, is a satin chrome. Both restrict glare and reflection. Fake carbon fiber trim on the doors looks realistic and I wouldn’t mind seeing that spread across the dash to sexy this up a bit.

Mid-dash from virtually top to bottom is Subaru’s 11.6-inch Starlink tablet-like info touchscreen. It certainly looks impressive, but I have two concerns. First, it’s tough to adjust the radio while driving and second that large screen can reflect big time when the sun gets at it. Sad that Subaru has done so well on all the other dash and interior trim to limit glare, and then there’s this.

Another view of the screen and shifter!

Otherwise I like the interior, with its aluminum alloy clad pedals, plus a racy D-shaped steering wheel. That allows for more knee room when entering and exiting, plus looks sporty. Some pricier makes that tout performance still don’t use this racier-styled wheel. Weird!

A slew of safety devices are available, but most only come standard with the automatic transmission-equipped models. That includes smart cruise, forward collision warning and emergency braking, lane centering and such. Blind-spot is standard starting on Limited models.

So beyond the AWD and great handling the main safety feature is excellent sight lines and visibility. Like all Subarus, there is an open sightline between the A-pillar and side mirrors. The majority of car makes don’t offer this design feature, creating a large blind spot.

Angular styling for the lights add character!

A couple other items notable by their absence, a wireless phone charger (in a car aimed at young people) and no sunroof. Ditto! The leather wrapping on the steering wheel, if it is leather, seems too slick to me. For a performance car I’d expect a wheel with more grip.

Finally, a few notes about the exterior, beyond the eye-catching metallic orange paint job.

First, there are black plastic front and rear diffusers and wheel well trim. The plastic has a bit of a pattern to its surface, so not just glossy or matte black plastic. There also is black cladding along the rocker panels that could be considered ground effects and on the trunk lid a subtle body-colored spoiler.

Many previous WRX models have gone with garishly tall wings on the trunk lid. This tiny lip-like spoiler looks much more presentable to adults. However, there is an optional $540 spoiler that is larger if your ego requires that.

That’s one wide air scoop in the WRX’s hood.

But there IS already a 25-inch wide air scoop on the hood that screams 1970s muscle car. For most of us, that would probably suffice.

All this leads us to the mundane mention of fuel economy. Performance always has its price, but it’s not too steep here. The EPA rates the WRX at 19 mpg city and 26 highway. I got 24.2 mpg in about an even mix. Be forewarned that this Subie prefers premium fuel though.

With just a couple minor options the test car hit $32,894. That’s not much in today’s market for anything with AWD, a hood scoop and thunderous thrust.

Party on!

FAST STATS: 2022 Subaru WRX Premium

Hits: Powerful punch in a compact rally car, excellent handling and traction with standard AWD. Super comfy supportive seats, heated seats, low-profile spoiler, D-shaped steering wheel, hood scoop, big info screen, fake carbon fiber trim.

Misses: Rough, Rough ride, noisy interior, no wireless charging, no sunroof, long-throw shifter, limited standard safety equipment, steering wheel too slick, and big touchscreen both reflects and is not easy to adjust the radio while driving. Prefers premium fuel.

Made in: Japan

Four exhausts create a little ruckus upon acceleration!

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder boxer, 271 hp /258 torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 3,320 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.2 in.

Length: 183.8 in.

Cargo: 12.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 19/26

MPG: 24.2 (tested)

Base Price: $32,600 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $30,712

Major Options:

Floor liners, $132

Side rail plates, $162

Test vehicle: $32,894

Sources: Subaru, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2023 Genesis GV60 Performance

Electric crossover delivers power, luxury and looks …

Each new electric vehicle that hums sweetly into my driveway seems closer to what consumers ultimately will want and demand, some even exceed those desires in clever ways.

The smartly future-forward styled Genesis GV60 Performance, a top-end luxury electric crossover, is a prime exceeder. Two examples being the first-ever facial recognition system on a consumer vehicle, and further setting the pace for gadgetry supremacy is its rotating crystal sphere shifter. More on both in a sec.

But, and not to be a Debbie Downer here, range and price remain the biggest hurdles all electrics must overcome and here the GV60 gets close, but with its lower-cost Advanced model that features more range.

The tested Uyuni White ($575 extra) Performance version features just a 235-mile range, while its Advanced model touts a more substantial 280-mile range. Simple science, performance and power suck up range.

Let’s get at the specifics for the GV60, which I consider one of the best looking EVs to date. Its cousins, the Hyundai Ioniq5 and Kia EV6, are the others, each with a distinct style.

With the Performance moniker you expect rocket-like thrust, ego-stroking horsepower and miniscule 0 to 60 mph times. The GV60 Performance delivers.

Its twin 215-horsepower electric motors, one for the front wheels, one for the back, deliver 429 hp. (Not sure why it’s not 430!) But that is Not enough my friend. No, there’s a Boost button on the steering wheel to compete with Tesla’s Insane setting. The booster rocket button delivers another 54 hp for a total of 483 and a torque rating of 516.

Boost lasts for 10 seconds and trust me (see video) will push the AWD GV60 to 100+ mph in the short distance of an average highway entry ramp. Boost is a literal blast that can make even the most jaded auto writer laugh out loud.

Car and Driver reports a 3.7-second 0 to 60 time and a top speed of 151 mph, in case you’re late for a board meeting.

Watch Mark’s review video: Mark Savage review of the All Electric GV 60 Genesis – YouTube

Watch another on GV60 tech: Genesis GV60 EV tech – YouTube

While there are three drive modes, Eco, Comfort, and Sport, the Boost button overrides and will allow you to thumb your nose at the exotic or muscle car/truck at the stoplight next to you. Eco, by the way, does considerably help extend battery range as it puts more charge back in the pack under coasting and braking action.

Comfort softens the ride and is perfect for city driving as steering is easy and the long wheelbase and electronically controlled suspension here soften pot holes and create a lovely luxury ride. Sport naturally firms up the suspension and steering effort.

Those batteries add heft (GV weighs nearly 4,800 pounds) and lower the vehicle’s center of gravity to make it handle like a sport sedan and eliminate body roll in turns. Whether cruising the highway or rocking along our lunaresque city streets the GV60 feels calm and comforting.

Standard AWD provides strong traction and the 21-inch Michelin tires offer solid footing, including after a rain. Yet I must note that I did spin the tires a couple times after hitting the Boost button.

Getting into the GV60 is easy with a fob in your pocket, or you can use the Genesis smart key app, OR you can use its facial recognition system. Say what?

Yep, the driver’s side B-pillar has a facial recognition system built in. Once programmed you just stand by the car’s side and peer into the spot you can see on the pillar and it will unlock the car in a Jetson-like few seconds. So far, the crossover does not fold up into a briefcase.

Once inside the high-tech hijinks continue once you press the Start button. The fancy crystal sphere on the console that glows a light red will rotate the crystal side down and up pops the dimpled shifter knob to rotate to the appropriate gear setting. Press the button at its center and the GV60 returns to Park. That also happens if you simply turn off the vehicle. .

The crystal sphere rotates into a shifter ball!

The look inside is as clean and futuristic as most of us want, while still offering some familiar buttons.

That starts with the dash’s dual 1-piece screen that houses 12.3 inches of driver digital instrument panel and 12.3 inches of infotainment screen. Easy to see, certainly. Plus easy to use after just a day of driving. Below that is the climate control unit with toggles for temperature selection and buttons for directing the airflow from the wide air ducts just above and along the dash.

A wide dual screen makes viewing gauges and info easy and simple.

The usual cruise and computer control buttons are on the steering wheel hub and there’s a wireless charger in the console, just vertically insert the phone in front of the armrest. Simple, and if you forget the phone a friendly semi-human sounding voice will remind you it’s charging as you open the door to exit.

Seats are wonderful. The test unit featured a navy blue leather interior and dash with yellow stitching to create a sophisticated, yet youthful, look. Both front seats also are powered and the driver gets a four-way power lumbar adjustment along with power side bolsters for more lateral support. Long-legged drivers will appreciate that the lower cushion also will extend to support those daddy long legs.

This Navy Blue leather interior with yellow piping looks ritzy.

The front seats are heated and cooled and the rear seats heated. Genesis also adds a heated steering wheel, a must in our northern clime.

GV60 comes standard with nearly everything else you’d ever want, and some of which you might not care about. There’s a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, giant sunroof and power shade (but the roof, like in a Tesla, does not open), a Head-Up Display, and a fine Bang and Olufsen stereo. One misplaced roller button control, the volume for that stereo is at the center of the console between a couple other buttons. Generally these are on the steering wheel hub, an easier spot to find it while driving.

Need big power for 10 seconds, press this Boost button!

Safety features? Oh my, everything but mind controls for other drivers.

Standard are forward collision avoidance and assist, lane keeping assist and lane follow assist, blind-spot collision avoidance assist (including cameras that show your right- and left-side blind spots when the turn signals are engaged), a surround view monitor, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance and assist, smart cruise, Stop & Go, driver attention warning, high-beam assist, parking distance warning, parking collision avoidance and remote smart parking, if you trust your car to just pushing a button to park. I’m sure I’ve missed something, but you get it, as in you get everything currently known to mankind.

The electric plug-in charging is like all other electrics in that using your garage charger at the standard 120 volts is nearly useless. I plugged in overnight and got a 3% boost. You’ll want to install a 240-volt charger if you purchase an electric vehicle, including this one.

The hatch opens wide to swallow luggage or lumber, just fold down the rear seats.

The good news is that at a fast 800-volt charger the GV60 will go from 10 to 80% power in 18 minutes, says Genesis. It reports a 400-volt charger will take 73 minutes to do the same and with a 240 at your home it’ll go from 10% to fully charged in 7 hours.

Genesis also wants to encourage you to travel in the GV60, so it provides 3 years of free charging at Electrify America chargers spread across the country. Over time, and thanks to the federal infrastructure bill approved by Congress, there will be more chargers in place making longer distance travel easier to plan.

My minor complaint on charging is that the GV60’s plug is on the passenger’s side rear quarter panel. I’d prefer it on the driver’s side so it’s nearer a wall plug in a garage.

For the record, the test GV60 was made in South Korea, but future models are to be built at Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama, plant.

Pricing is the last bugaboo that electric must overcome and the GV60 gets it half right, sort of. Realizing this is a luxury vehicle with a quiet high-end interior loaded with features and a comfy ride befitting its luxury nature, the tested Performance model lists at $68,985, including delivery. Only the paint job was extra, for a suggested price of $69,560, and demand is high enough you’ll probably have to pay at least that.

Going with the Advanced model that includes a few less features and less power at “just” 314 horsepower yet still an amazing 416 pound-feet of torque, saves you $10 grand. It lists at $59,985, still not pocket change, but for a luxury make it’s in the ballpark.

Note that the Kia and Hyundai electrics mentioned earlier and riding on the same platform start at considerably less. Note too that none of these makes currently meet the new U.S. qualifications for a $7,500 tax break, although future models made in the U.S. may. Be sure to know before you buy.

FAST STATS: 2023 Genesis GV60 Performance

Hits: Future forward styling inside and out, good power + Boost button, easy handling, luxury ride and AWD. Clean stylish dash, big dual 1-piece screen, crystal sphere shifter, face recognition entry, heated/cooled and supportive front seats w/power side bolsters, heated rear seats, HUD, multiple drive mode, sunroof w/shade, solid safety systems, B&O stereo, power tilt/telescope and heated wheel. Wireless phone charger w/left behind alert.

Misses: Range limited to 235 miles, sunroof doesn’t open, plug-in is on passenger’s side rear quarter panel, radio volume roller is on console instead of steering wheel hub, costly.

Genesis headlight styling is clean and elegant!

Made in: So. Korea (future builds in Alabama)

Power: 2 160kW electric motors w/77/4 kWh battery, 429-483 hp/516 max. torque

Transmission: 1-speed reduction gear

Weight: 4,769 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Length: 177.8 in.

Cargo: 29-54.7 cu.ft.

MPGe: 97/82

Base Price: $68,985 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $68,985

Major Option: Uyuni White paint, $575

Test vehicle: $69,560

Sources: Genesis, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Lamborghini Diablo SE30

Autoart’s 1:18 scale Diablo worthy of its special edition status …

Lamborghini may be younger than Ferrari, but its slippery looking cars are equally beautiful, daring, and powerful.

So when Lambo’s 30th anniversary rolled around in 1993 it wasn’t shy about introducing a limited edition Diablo SE30, as in Special Edition 30th Anniversary. Like the regular Diablo (Devil) it was a beast meant for racing and just 150 were to be made.

Lucky for us collectors that Autoart has recently released its 1:18 scale version of the SE30 in a variety of colors. Originally the special Diablos were metallic lavender, a spectacular color, but not for everyone’s taste. The review car is a sizzling metallic blue known as Blu Sirena. (Sounds like a sad tennis player!)

The Diablo looks like a flying blue wedge with a dynamic spoiler on its tail.

The History

All the Diablo SE30s were built in 1994 and early 1995 featuring Lamborghini’s naturally aspirated 5.7-liter V12 that made a whopping (for the era) 525 horsepower and top speed of 207 mph. Reports at the time put its acceleration from 0 to 60 mph at 4 seconds even, impressive but now that’s something even souped up SUVs and pickups can do.

Race versions got Lambo’s JOTA engine upgrades but all SE30 models were built as lightweights since it was hoped they would be raced in GT championships around the world. No power seats or air conditioning or radio in these models and the side windows, which were synthetic glass (lighter weight), also weren’t powered. This exotic was all about speed.

Seats were carbon fiber shells and featured a special material that helped hold the driver and passenger in place while the Spartan dash featured white dial faces and below were perforated aluminum pedals.

Outside, the aluminum body had small bits of carbon fiber for side air intakes and a big rear spoiler that curved down toward the body to improve handling while the center portion was adjustable to aid downforce.

Special to the SE30 was a black and gold engine, the headers being gold. Intake manifolds were magnesium and the engine included new cylinder heads, again to cut weight and boost performance.

The Model

               This isn’t Autoart’s first car corral. It continues to deliver pristine and perfectly styled models with fabulous paint jobs. The Diablo continues that cycle of successes.

               Everything opens up here, the frunk, the engine cover, the scissor doors and the roll-away headlights even roll up with a small lever beneath the car’s nose.

The roll-away headlights operate with a lever beneath the nose.

               Those lights look convincing, but for display purposes the Lambo looks much sexier with the lights hidden away. And while it’s cool the frunk lid opens up front there’s not much to see inside, a flocked floor and a couple stickers on the firewall. Still, high marks here for authenticity.

               There are a variety of other lights and amber turn signal lamps up front along with a Lamborghini logo on the nose and a chin spoiler below.

               A single giant black windshield wiper rests at the bottom of the Lambo’s massive sloping windshield and the proper hood air intakes are well shaped with tiny black screens inset while the same can be said for the stylish side scalloped scoops that end before the rear wheels.

               This special edition used a Miura-like louvered engine cover that perfectly blends into the car’s long tail and somewhat reflects the rear spoiler’s shape.

Sharp engine detail with a Lambo logo and gold header covers.

               Flip up the engine cover, which is well supported by two black struts and there’s the big V12 with its gold header covers with Lamborghini embossed atop each. Plus, there’s another Lambo bull logo in gold on the black engine cover, and of course black hoses and a silver radiator with labeling.

               This Lamborghini’s tail is unique too with a split design, the big round taillights on the upper portion along with black screening between them and silver Lambo and 30th Anniversary logos. Then there’s the split and a large rear bumper/body extension with reflectors and backup lights, plus quad aluminum-tipped exhausts. You can almost hear the exhausts rumble!

Wide PZero tires and OZ-Racing wheels add flare.

               Tires are thick and wide aggressively treaded numbers with PZero labeling, but no Pirelli lettering. While the wheels are matte silver five-hole designs with OZ-Racing labels as these were new designs for the special edition. Behind the wheels are giant drilled disc brake rotors too. Oh, and the front wheels are steerable.

               Inside, the two-seat cockpit is black with realistic looking blue four-point belts with photo-etched metal clasps on the bucket seats. Other highlights include the white-faced gauges, a flat-bottom steering wheel and nicely detailed center stack and shifter on the console with a chrome-trimmed shift gate cover. There’s even a red button on that stack which would engage a fire extinguisher in the real car.

Cool blue cloth shoulder harnesses with photo-etch metal clasps add detail.

               One final touch, a 30th Anniversary logo just inside the cockpit’s driver’s side rear window, and of course large side mirrors with real mirrored faces.

               Need more? I don’t think so, unless it was one of the 150 made sitting in your driveway. But instead of spending millions, not to mention insurance payments that even Progressive’s Flo couldn’t touch, this 1:18 beauty can be yours for $250, and in four colors, this sparkling blue, plus black metallic, metallic purple or metallic yellow. Then there are the racier JOTA versions for the same price and in the metallic purple, metallic silver or white pearl.

               There’s not a bad looker in this bull ring, but this blue version or the purple one seem the standouts!

Vital Stats: Lamborghini Diablo SE30

Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: 79156

MSRP: $250

Link: Autoartmodels.com

Car Spot: MGB Roadster

Underrated and affordable

When you think of the perfect summer car there are a lot of options but one thing for sure is that it has to be a convertible. This week’s car spot, this powder blue MGB, is a perfect candidate. This little car is packed full of fun.

Manufactured and marketed from 1962 until 1980 first by the British Motor Corporation (BMC), and later the Austin-Morris division of British Leyland. They sold tons of these and their variants, the MGC and MGB GT V8 totaled 523,836 cars.

Fun, rugged, and stylish, and with enough old-school mechanicals to keep any shade tree mechanic occupied, MGB roadsters and MGB-GTs have been in the bargain basement of the collector car market because they sold so many of them.

Right now, you can pick up one of these in pretty good shape for under ten grand. A great deal for some solid summer fun. I did see the couple who owned this leave the restaurant we were dining at and it’s unlikely the top on this has ever been up because the guy driving was about 6 foot 6.

Check back next Friday for another one of my car spots along with a little bit of history. Have a great weekend.

2022 Tesla Model S Long Range

All the hype is real from a performance standpoint, but …

Finally, I have driven the future, a Tesla.

No, this wasn’t my usual one-week test drive of a manufacturer’s new vehicle. Tesla didn’t provide me the bright Pearl White Model S Long Range, a private owner did.

Tesla, you see, is the Apple of automakers where its own early-adopter cultish clan that by scarcity, word of mouth, and superiority of intellect choose its future customers. Ferrari understands.

But marketing aside, the trendy Tesla was at my disposal for a couple days in stinking hot Las Vegas, where I estimate a good 10% of cars are now Teslas. Makes sense as Teslas are made just over the border in Freemont, California. Plus gas prices have forever been crazy high on the West Coast, and pollution is a big concern there too. So going electric holds much appeal.

It really should, from a performance standpoint at least, to many of us.

If muscle cars or exotics with neck-stretching acceleration are your obsession, well, electrics should be your new best friend. All are fast because electrics deliver instant torque via direct drive electric motors and single-speed fixed gear transmissions. No lag, no waiting for a turbo to kick in. Like your electric razor or hair dryer, the electrons flow instantly. Boom, there it is!

I have driven other electrics, so that part wasn’t new. It was the whole Tesla experience that was different. And, let’s get this out of the way now. Whether you like Elon Musk or not, Tesla is the top-selling electric car maker.

So how’s a Tesla drive? What are its advantages? And …what are the Model S’s drawbacks?

Let’s take a look, and be forewarned this is not exactly like most of my test drives as it was such a short duration.

First, the S is a sport luxury sedan in all the ways you picture one in your mind’s eye.

It’s sleek, including door handles that fold into the body panels’ sides and pop out when it’s time to open a door. Oh, and it’s really a hatchback as the back window and trunk open as one. That surprised me, but I love it.

Power and handling are pure sports sedan. How so?

Well, the dual AC electric motors, one powering the front wheels, one the rear, create (and I’m not making this up) 825 horsepower along with 960 pound-feet of torque. Is that a lot? You bet. Consider that a new rear-engine Chevy Corvette makes 495 horsepower with 470 pound-feet of torque and will do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 184 mph, says Car and Driver. That’s a two-seat sports car, but still.

No engine here! There’s a frunk in front, great for storing charging cables, etc.

The Tesla Model S gets all that power from a 100 kWh lithium ion battery pack, which due to its substantial weight also gives the Tesla a low center of gravity that makes it handle like, well, a sports luxury sedan. The car feels well planted, handles turns with a precision you’d expect and its AWD means that even if you were running it in soggy weather or on slipper streets it’ll perform with gusto and confidence.

Ride, due to that weight (the car weighs more than 4,500 pounds) and a long wheelbase is excellent too. Smooth and silky it’s what I’d call a Buick or Lexus ride, but with a more performance-oriented stiffness to make the car feel connected to the road. I must say though that Las Vegas roads are generally so smooth that it’s not like testing a car in the frost-heave capital, Wisconsin.

Safety is copiously covered. All the usual blind-spot, lane-keeping and parking sensors are here, and ready to beep.

Yours truly at the wheel, er, yoke! I miss that steering wheel top!

Luxury? Well, this Model S starts at roughly $96,000 and most are selling for more like $105,000 and there’s a waiting list that can stretch many months.

So you’d expect luxury, and Tesla delivers. The body on the test car was spotless and seams were straight and equal. So reports of poor build quality didn’t show here.

Inside, the black leather seating was excellent too and the seats well-formed. They also were heated up front, but cooled would make sense for 110-degree Vegas. My advice, don’t wear shorts if you’re driving one in Vegas, Phoenix, the Southwest, etc.

A lot of leather here, plus a giant screen and a yoke for steering.

Of course what everyone talks about in Tesla’s interior is its aircraft-style yoke that replaces the age-old steering wheel, oh, and a gargantuan info screen. It’s overwhelming.

First that yoke. It takes some getting used to, but is easy to master especially for highway driving. Where I noticed it feeling particularly odd was during parking maneuvers or turning a tight corner where one would naturally grab the top of a steering wheel to turn it sharply. Not possible here, so spin that power steering yoke with your hand on one side of the yoke, or a finger under one of the spokes. That maneuver reminds of early 1960s cars with over-boosted power steering that could be spun with a finger.

A close-up of the yoke and digital driver’s screen.

Ironically the steering wheel was heated, totally unneeded in much of the South and Southwest.

Touchscreen? OK, it’s way too much and of course controls virtually every function known to mankind short of rocket launching, but since this is Tesla, that’s likely to come.

The navigation system makes you feel like you’re looking at an entire city map, so a driver will always want to pinch it to visually zoom in on where they were driving.

Can a touchscreen be too big? Yes it can!

Also, you can open garage doors, call up radio stations ad nauseam, use voice command to find apps, ask it for directions, order lunch, etc. Naturally there’s a screen for setting up or observing battery charging (done through the driver’s side taillight). Ironically there is no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay here though.

And get this, you engage the single-speed fixed gear automatic transmission via the screen too. Slide your finger UP along its left edge and the car moves forward. Slide your finger down the screen’s left edge and the car moves backward. Weird, but I suppose one would get used to it. One also supposes this will soon be the norm for electrics.

The soft leather rear seats are roomy and comfortable, with a console for controls.

Of course there’s a 360-degree camera that looks amazing on the screen and the Tesla stereo is a high-quality number that makes you feel you’re in a concert hall. Heck, it’s so quiet in here that it feels like symphony hall.

Overhead is a giant tinted panoramic sunroof, which looks super, but really needs a sun shade. Why? Well, even though tinted and supposedly deflecting the sun’s rays, the roof gets incredibly hot … at least in Vegas. How hot? You do NOT want to touch it. It’s painful to touch.

Other interior bugaboos include an extremely wide console that feels somewhat intrusive and sounds hollow if you tap it, plus shoulder belts that cannot be adjusted for driver height. That seemed particularly odd as nearly all cars, crossovers and SUVs now allow the shoulder harness to be moved up or down a few inches. This one was too high for me, so crossed the left edge of my neck. Not comfy.

It’s possible you didn’t know the Model S was a hatchback, but it is.

In back the hatch’s cargo area is generous and easily accessed. It’s rated at 25 cubic feet and don’t forget there’s a 3.1 cu.ft. frunk (front trunk). Might wanna keep your charging cable there though.

Speaking of electricity, a Tesla supercharger will give the vehicle a 200-miles boost in 15 minutes of charging. But most folks will overnight charge at home and that can take most of the night. For efficiency you’ll want a 240-volt garage charger. That ran $500 in Vegas and installation was another $600 or so, varying by electrician.

But a nearly full charge (Tesla recommends 90% to preserve battery life) will get a Model S roughly 400 miles of range, plenty for a week’s commute to most downtowns and one of Tesla’s key selling points as it leads the industry in charge range.

Fancy wheels, big brake rotors too, and low-pro tires.

Extras are rare. A full self-driving feature (and we’ve all heard the sad tales) costs $10,000 extra, while stylish Arachnid wheels add $4,500. They look cool, but cut your driving range by 9%, according to reports.

Folks needing more power can move up to the Model S Plaid for $131,900. It has three electric motors making a mere 1,006 hp. That may be a bit of overkill even for folks with self-confidence issues. Probably not!

FAST STATS: 2022 Tesla Model S Long Range

Hits: Sleek looks, excellent electric power, precise handling, smooth ride, plus full-time AWD. Big sunroof, 360-degree camera, heated wheel and front seats, big touchscreen, quality stereo, a stylish quiet and comfy interior, plus a full bevy of safety equipment. Roomy cargo area inside rear hatch.

Misses: Touchscreen overwhelmingly large, no shade on sunroof that becomes extremely hot to the touch, extremely wide console, shoulder belts height is not adjustable, no cooled seats, odd steering yoke and odd touch and slide transmission engagement on screen.

Made in: Fremont, Calif.

Engine: Dual AC electric motors w/100 kWh lithium ion battery, 825 hp/960 torque

Transmission: Single-speed fixed gear automatic

Weight: 4,561 lbs.

Wheelbase: 116.5 in.

Length: 196.0 in.

Cargo: 25.0/3.1 cu.ft. (trunk/frunk)

MPGe: 124/115

Base Price: $96,190 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Option: Garage charger, $500

Test vehicle: $96,690

Sources: Tesla, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Car Spot: 1973 Pontiac Catalina

A trunk big enough to sleep five …

Big cars were still in when the Pontiac Catalina left the showroom. It rode on a massage 123-inch wheelbase and had enough room inside to seat a large family.

Spotted in the parking lot of the golf course I work at during the Summer.

At around 38 hundred bucks, the Catalina sedan was the least expensive big Pontiac, but it still came loaded compared to its Chevy counterpart. It came with a two-barrel, 400 cu. in. V8, good for about 255 hp, automatic transmission, variable-ratio power steering and power front disc/rear drum brakes. With mpg in the low double digits, it passes everything, except the gas station but then gas was only 39 cents a gallon. Yup, and check this out, people were freaking out at the possibility of a dollar a gallon.

RELATED Spot: Meet this car’s great grandpa, a 1950 Pontiac.

With a tach this most likely has the big V-8 in it. And yes, that is a new Corvette parked in the background. I want one of those so bad.

Inside, the Catalina had cloth-and-Morrokide (whatever that is) upholstery, while convertibles and station wagons featured more weather- and kid-friendly all-Morrokide seating.

RELATED Spot: Read about Pontiac’s pony car entry, the Firebird.

So what’s something like this worth now? Not a lot. I found a lot of them for sale and the ones in reasonable condition were anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots with a little bit of history behind them. Have a great weekend.

2023 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L

Larger platform, refined styling make HR-V a better family car choice …

Surprises can be pleasing or concerning, something to celebrate or something to require pulling the bedspread up over your noggin.

Honda’s new 2023 HR-V, its small SUV/crossover, is full of the former, yet seeing a starting price of $24,895 I had concerns. I anticipated a homely yet efficient box on wheels, as per the first gen model that debuted as a 2016 model, a real party animal if you’re a family of accountants.

But nooooo, the restyled, redesigned HR-V now rides on Honda’s larger Civic platform, not the former’s Fit chassis. It’s longer, lower and wider, all good things for performance, while remaining svelte at just over 3,200 pounds.

The styling leans toward sleek with a roofline that elegantly sweeps down in back and a new nose and tail that look as modern as any competitor. Additional sound deadening, an active noise cancellation system, and acoustic glass make it quieter inside too.

But the big deal is a multi-link rear suspension to replace the former torsion beam, improving ride quality to the point of HR-V not feeling so small. It corners with confidence and the steering is lively too.

Power also increases from 141 horses to 158 from the new 2.0-liter I4. No turbo here, but that would make it a blast. Still, at this weight and with this crossover’s handling ability the HR-V seems perky and peppy and downright fun to drive, much like Mazda’s CX-30, almost.

The automatic continuously variable transmission is super smooth too, giving the HR-V solid off-the-line performance, almost like a regular variable gear tranny.

Watch Mark’s video: 2023 Honda HR V AWD EX L review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Honda equips the crossover with three drive mode toggles too, Normal, Eco and Snow, the latter being something us northern states folks appreciate. No Sport mode here to pump up the power, but I didn’t miss it, much. Yet Honda does include as standard a hill descent button on the console in case you get off road and need to slowly creep down an incline while retaining good traction.

Make no mistake, this new HR-V has no business going off-roading, but the tested EX-L model included AWD that will help traction in winter slop. AWD costs $1,500 on all three trims.

Honda is also generous with safety equipment with the base LX model featuring forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, smart cruise control and automatic high beams. The tested EX-L adds low-speed braking control, parking sensors, driver attention monitor, and blind-spot warning too.

Slip inside the HR-V (still a less than inspired name) and the interior looks and feels roomy, but also more upscale than one might expect in this price range.

The Nordic Forest Metallic (a snazzy blue-gray that costs $395 extra) sported a black leather interior and black to gunmetal honeycomb dash trim that reflects that of the nose’s grille. This is real metal, if that matters to you, and adds a bit of youthfulness to a car aimed at – you guessed it – young buyers.

Incredibly the door panels, arm rests and any area where an elbow may touch are well padded to create a luxury feel. Remember the cheap hard plastic of previous value models? Not in this Honda.

The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and the EX-L model upgrades the info screen from the standard 7-incher to a 9-inch touchscreen that’s simple to use and see. There also are dual climate control dials below the screen and a wireless phone charger tucked under the center stack.

Honda includes a power driver’s seat here and both front seats are heated and well contoured. Honda redesigned its seats for the HR-V to create more support and that’s obvious for the lower back and hips. Front and rear seats also are roomy so four adults could easily take a trip in this crossover.

Lots of cargo room behind the split folding rear seats too. Gone are the former folding “magic seats”, but these seats fold flat and create a cavernous cargo hold if the rear seats are lowered. One thing you don’t get is a power rear hatch, but then this is a high value model and really, it’s not difficult to close a small crossover’s rear hatch.

I like the traditional console-mounted stick shift too because it’s simple to grasp and does not require you look down at the console as so many of today’s buttons and rotary knobs do.

OMG, a shifter you can actually get ahold of!

Did I mention the small sunroof? No, but you get that standard on the EX-L, along with a 180-watt 8-speaker audio system.

And all this costs just $30,195, including delivery, for the AWD-equipped EX-L. The test car added only the handsome blue-gray paint scheme, so listed at $30,590. As mentioned earlier the base LX starts at $24,895 and a well-equipped Sport model starts at $26,895.

One downside, for now, there is no hybrid model. Yet for a gas-only crossover the HR-V is rated at a solid 25 mpg city and 30 highway. The front-drive models get just a bit better mileage and I managed 30.6 in about 70% highway driving with up to four folks aboard.

Seems hard to beat this feature-packed small crossover considering Honda’s fine reliability record. Other challengers in this market include the sporty Mazda CX-30 and Subaru CrossTrek that feature AWD standard. The Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos also are solid competitors.

Don’t let anyone tell you there are no good cars/crossovers for $30 grand or less!

FAST STATS: 2023 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L

Hits: Confident handling, peppy power, good ride and AWD. Fine MPG, roomy and quiet interior, small sunroof, and wireless phone charger, plus 9-inch info screen, dual climate controls, power driver’s seat, well contoured seats, heated front seats and normal stick shift. Full range of safety features standard along with hill descent control.

Misses: No Sport mode among toggle drive-mode selections, no power hatch.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter I4, 158 horsepower/138 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,219 lbs.

Length: 179.8 in.

Wheelbase: 104.5 in.

Cargo: 24-55.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/30

MPG: 30.6 (tested)

Base Price: $30,195 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Option: Nordic Forest paint, $395

Test vehicle: $30,590

Sources: Honda, kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line

VW’s handsome compact crossover an efficient high-value drive …

Volkswagen was once the automotive love child of my Boomer generation, but time changes things and VW has become one of the back markers in the U.S. auto market, although not worldwide.

Lately it has turned much of its attention to electric vehicles, the ID.4 crossover/SUV tested last December is a prime example. These are well thought out and executed vehicles, yet VW has not abandoned gas-only powered models just yet, in fact it revamped its popular compact crossover, the Tiguan for 2022.

What Tiguan has going for it is efficiency, handsome looks and handling that puts many other crossovers and small SUVs to shame. That, is a key feature that remains from the second gen 2018 Tiguan that I reviewed, and thank goodness.

Some crossovers still make do with lazy steering, but that’s not in VW’s DNA. This tester being the top-level SEL R-Line model with standard AWD (4 Motion VW calls it) was a blast to drive and I ran it around a variety of winding roads where it excelled.

Tires have grown from 18 to 20-inchers, these being Pirellis and they eagerly grip the road and combined with the AWD the light and nimble Tiguan feels downright sporty and stuck to the pavement.

Plenty of power here too with the returning 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 generating 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. There is a slight hesitation when the aluminum-clad accelerator pedal is tromped, but after that little hiccup Tiguan jumps to highway speeds with ease.

Ride is mostly well controlled with an independent suspension at all corners, but it can get a bit choppy on particularly uneven Midwest secondary roads and city streets. Thankfully the cockpit is well insulated so not much road noise is transmitted to the interior, making it feel more refined than a few competitors.

VW also delivers a variety of drive modes to make Tiguan more useful in snow and muck. There are Snow, Off-Road Automatic and Off-Road Custom settings along with the more standard Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom modes all engaged via a dial and button combo on the console. The key to more fun motion is Sport because it pumps up the engine performance and shifts from the 8-speed Tiptronic automatic to give Tiguan a more aggressive launch.

The Off-Road modes can help when winter arrives or if pulling a light boat trailer or camper into a state park camp site or along a dirt road. Tiguan will pull up to 1,500 pounds.

New this year are outward tweaks including LED headlights and taillights along with a more refined nose that makes Tiguan appear tailored and svelte as opposed to the popular Thor-inspired musclebound look many crossovers and SUVs favor.

Inside VW added digital gauges in this refresh and the dash and screens are well laid out and easy to use, even while driving. Not all crossovers can make that claim.

The 10-inch touchscreen for info and radio is just the right size and two inches larger than in lower trim levels. Sadly the infotainment screen takes quite a while to engage when the vehicle is first started.

Below that screen are touchpad type climate controls where a driver slides a finger along the controls to raise or lower temperatures or fan speeds. I’m not a huge fan, but it worked fine, although not sure how great it would work in winter when a driver is wearing gloves.

Miraculously VW also sees fit to equip the SEL R-Line with heated and cooled front seats, a win for budget-minded crossover buyers in the northern climes where both can be needed within a week’s changeable weather.

A flat-bottom wheel is welcome in the new Tiguan.

Other interior pluses include a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, a wireless charger under the center stack and a big sunroof with shade.

Seats? Well, that’s a derriere downside as these are quite hard, front and rear so that after about an hour’s drive your bum will start to ache, unless your tushie is more padded than mine. A younger, and fit, passenger agreed that these were among the hardest seats she had ridden in.

The driver’s seat is powered though, including a power lumbar to help provide lower back comfort and the second row seats are quite roomy, allowing for taller passengers to easily fit. Likewise the storage room behind row two seats is generous and there’s a power hatch in back for easy access. Rear seats fold down nearly flat and while there were manual release levers in the cargo area I could not get them to unlatch the rear seat backs.

Despite that flat-bottom wheel I also found tight knee space under the steering column so exiting the Tiguan required some care to not bang a knee. This is primarily a problem for shorter drivers as they, like me, will have the seat a little further forward for comfortable pedal pushing.

Outside the test crossover was a beautiful Atlantic Blue Metallic, a dark sparkling blue, while the interior was gray perforated leather for the seats, while lower trim levels offer cloth or a fake leather seats. The dash was black on top but the lower 2/3 was gray to match the seating. Same with the doors and trim, but a black and gray stripped insert that sort of looked like wood is used as door and dash trim.

This SEL model also packs a fine 480-watt Fender audio system.

VW includes a good selection of safety equipment including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, lane assist (mild corrections) and smart cruise control among others.

Gas mileage is good for a compact crossover with an EPA rating of 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. I beat that with mostly highway driving that netted 30.8 mpg.

Pricing is a happy surprise too as the base front-drive Tiguan S with the smaller info screen and cloth interior lists at $27,785, including delivery.

There’s also an SE at $31,415, this trim adding the power hatch, dual-zone climate controls, fake leather seats, wireless charging, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping and smart cruise control, making it a preferred choice while still economical.

The SE R-Line Black model jumps up to $34,245 but adds the panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, 15-color ambient lighting and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Adding AWD to any model except the tested SEL costs $1,500.

The tested SEL R-Line lists at $37,790 with delivery and this one added no options. The highest trim level includes a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera, road sign recognition system, automatic high beams and a self-parking system, plus the items mentioned earlier.

Note too that the front-drive models come standard with a third row seat, but experience shows this is quite tight so only useful for small children and for short duration rides. No third row is available in the AWD models such as the tester.

Tiguan is certainly a high-value compact crossover that competes well with the market leaders such as Toyota’s RAV-4 and Honda’s CR-V. For ride and handling the other good choices are Mazda’s CX-5 and Subaru’s Forester, although they offer a bit less cargo room. The new Mazda CX-50, which is 5 inches longer than the CX-5, should be considered if increased interior space is vital.

FAST STATS: 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line

Hits: Handsome styling, nimble handling, good power and AWD. Large easy to use screen, digital climate controls, heated/cooled front seats, various drive modes, big sunroof w/shade, wireless charger, power hatch.

Misses: Hard seats,tight knee space to steering column for short drivers, info screen slow to start, some acceleration hesitation and choppy ride on uneven roads.

Made in: Puebla, Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 184 horsepower/221 torque

Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic w/Sport

Weight: 3,856 lbs.

Length: 186.1 in.

Wheelbase: 109.9 in.

Cargo: 37.6-73.4 cu.ft.

Tow: 1,500 lbs.

MPG: 21/28

MPG:  30.8 (tested)

Base Price: $37,790 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $37,122

Major Options: None

Test vehicle: $37,790

Sources: Volkswagen, kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Car Spot: Back to the Future DeLorean

THE Iconic movie car

Show of hands. How many of you have never seen one of any of the Back to the Future movies? OK, go watch one of the movies and then come back and read this post because you will know exactly what this week’s car spot, a Back to the Future DeLorean I spotted at KidVenture during EAA’s AirVenture held each year in Oshkosh, WI. This year’s event started on Monday, July 25th, and runs through Sunday, July

Back to the Future at EAA’s KidVenture

The DMC-12 was never a big hit in sales but was in the three Back to the Future Movies that Doc Brown and Marty McFly traveled back in time. There were actually three used in the movie, all capable of doing 88 miles an hour and jump in time thanks to the flux capacitor.

“A” car was the star car. This did the bulk of the movie work and was the most detailed. A couple of years ago it sold at auction for just north of half a million bucks.

The “B” car was used mostly for exterior shots and was destroyed by a train at the end of the movie.

The “C” car wasn’t much of a car. Used mostly for interior shots. After the movies ended it sat left to rot on a back lot. A fan bought it and used parts from other DeLoreans to construct a complete car. Its last known location was in Japan in a company’s lobby.

I’ve seen this replica car at EAA AirVenture the last couple of years. It has a super-detailed cockpit with all the dials and instruments Doc Brown and Marty would have used. The heart of the car, the flux capacitor is well detailed too. While I’ve never been able to talk to the owner, I’ve seen it driven and it attracts quite a crowd.

What’s it worth? Anywhere from $40-60,000 depending on the details. That’s about 20 grand less than a car that hasn’t been converted but about 500 thousand less than the real deal.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots with a little bit of the history behind the car. Have a great weekend.

2022 Lexus LX 600 F Sport Handling

A Land Cruiser in fancier duds and an in-your-face grille …

Big comes in all sizes. That may sound counterintuitive, but consider the new Lexus LX 600, which replaces the LX 570 that had grown old in styling and tech.

Not to worry, the LX 600 looks massive with possibly the industry’s biggest, most intimidating grille while featuring a whole host of new tech slathered into its high-end luxury leather interior.

Sadly for the Lexus it followed Lincoln’s Navigator Black Label in my review vehicle rotation. They DO compete, but the biggest Lexus falls short of the Navigator in size and even some features. More on that in a sec.

It’s big, but the F Sport model’s grille isn’t quite as intimidating as other versions!

While no one would ever accuse the LX 600 of being petite at 200.5 inches long with a wheelbase of 112.2 inches and weighing in at 5,665 pounds, it’s smaller than several of its key competitors, including the Navigator and Cadillac Escalade.

For instance, the Lincoln rides on a 10-inch longer wheelbase (softer ride), and is 10 inches longer overall while weighing just 200 lbs. more. Escalade is nearly identical in dimensions.

The power edge goes to Lincoln too with its 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 creating 440 horses and 510 pound-feet of torque. Lexus certainly is no slouch, packing 409 horses and a torque rating of 479. It climbed West Virginia’s mountains with ease, even with five folks and mucho luggage aboard.

It also won the gas mileage war, an important battlefront these days. In mostly highway driving I managed 19.9 mpg with the Lexus, a full 1 mpg more than the Lincoln.

But luggage space was a major concern. While the LX 600 offers seating for 7 with a wide bench seat in row 2 in the tested F Sport Handling edition, there is precious little cargo space behind row 3. With it in place there’s about 8 inches of storage behind the seat, so good for 3, maybe 4, grocery bags, sideways.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Lexus LX 600 – YouTube

I used the power buttons under the one-piece powered hatch (the LX 570’s split tailgate is gone) to lower both third row seats and then had enough cargo room for five suitcases and various boxes, duffels and snack sacks. Note too, the third row seats now fold completely flat.

Not much cargo space at all if the third-row seats are deployed.

Navigator had much more cargo room, 103.3 cubic feet compared with 64 here. Escalade has even more.

The Lincoln also smartly features a 2/3-1/3 split for its row 3 seating, which would benefit the LX 600 immensely given its miniscule storage behind row 3. Its 50/50 split gives a third-row passenger more elbow room, but leaves less cargo space.

That said, the four adults and one teen were comfy on our trip to Huntington, W.Va. for the burial of my wife’s mother. But the teen would have loved his own seat behind the adults. Note that Lexus offers an Ultra Luxury model with seating for just four, including massaging captain’s chairs for row 2 and a big console between the seats. Nice, if four seats will do ya.

How about the ride and drive?

Well, this is the platform that Toyota’s much vaunted Land Cruiser rolled on until being discontinued in the U.S. market for 2022. The LX 600 replaces that and is aimed at pulling Land Cruiser intenders to the Lexus brand for their off-roading fun.

LX 600 has that capability with full-time 4-wheel-drive and crawl control, plus 8 inches of ground clearance along with smallish running boards to avoid packing too much mud and muck on them if slopping about in your luxury truck. Hard to imagine that, but then Lincoln, Land Rover and Jeep Grand Wagoneer buyers may consider the same thing. These all cost north of $100 grand these days.

Power is quite good from the twin-turbo V6 with no turbo lag and smooth shifts provided by a 10-speed automatic tranny. Again, there was plenty of grunt to get up some steep rural mountain roads and Lexus says its SUV will pull 8,000 pounds, just 300 less than the Navigator for instance, or 200 less than the Cadillac.

Ride was mostly smooth, well-controlled and the interior quiet. But as with the Navigator and most trucky SUVs there is considerable bounce or rebound over uneven roads. Abrupt craters and cracks actually are smoothed out quite well, but it’s the rolling pavement that tends to give the Lexus and others the rock and roll that can become annoying when there’s a lot of it in a short span. The Lexus rides on big 22-inch Dunlap tires, same size as the Lincoln.

Handling is easy and well composed, not much body lean in turns, especially when loaded down for a trip. And various drive modes from Eco to Sport+ stiffen the steering feel and adjust shift points and suspension. Comfort mode is best most of the time, but Sport gives the SUV the extra boost it needs when jumping onto a crowded highway.

Know too that this F Sport has stiffer suspension settings to improve handling and provide more road feedback. In that way it’s much sportier feeling than the larger Navigator. But when buying, test an LX without F Sport tuning to see if your tushie prefers firmer or softer damping and if the sportier handling meets your demands.

A lot of leather here, and the red really makes this interior pop!

Inside there’s no denying the Lexus looks and feels high-end. The tested Onyx Black model featured Circuit Red leather seats and otherwise black trim from dash to headliner. Special Hadori-inspired aluminum trim added a lighter, elegant element to the look. It’s featured on the console and door panel inserts.

Hadori is a traditional Japanese polishing technique to create a wavy silver finish on swords.

That’s Hadori polished metal trim on the doors. Plenty of legroom here too.

Seats are well shaped and the leather soft enough to make it pleasant riding for several hours at a time. But the Navigator had more electronic controls to adjust side bolsters and various lumbar settings, plus a massaging feature for both front and rear seats. The LX had none of those in the F Sport trim, including no lower cushion extension that many taller drivers prefer.

I must say that despite more than 1,200 miles in the second row bench, the three passengers never complained of any discomfort or ride fatigue due to the seats, so a strong testament that row 2 was comfy. Front and second row seats also were automatically heated and cooled in response to interior temp conditions, oh, and the steering wheel was heated.

Lexus also upgrades the LX to a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, a much needed improvement compared with the old console-mounted touchpad and knob. The screen worked fine and the test SUV included a snazzy Mark Levinson sound system, costing $2,660 extra. A smaller screen below the info touchscreen handles climate control functions.

Two screens, the big top one is infotainment, the lower one for climate controls.

More tech? There’s also a panoramic view monitor, a HomeLink system, headlamp washers, wireless phone charger, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a HUD, six USB ports and Bluetooth.

Overhead is a small sunroof and shade that only really covers the front seats. Most SUVs and crossovers now feature panoramic sunroofs. The Lexus also features manual side sunshades.

The SUV’s power hatch was rather sensitive too, often beeping while we were loading and unloading the vehicle. I suspect it was sensing our foot movements that normally would open or shut the hatch, and it did try to close once while someone was hauling luggage from the cargo area.

Safety tech equipment is substantial as you’d expect, including a blind-spot monitor, parking assist, auto braking, pre-collision systems, frontal collision warning, smart cruise control, lane departure alert, road-sign assist and smart high beams.

We hit the road in the big Lexus. That’s a bridge over the Ohio River from beautiful Huntington, W. Va., to Ohio.

The lane departure system was OK, but sort of moved the vehicle side to side a lot (as these often do), and required the driver keep hands on the wheel. The Navigator had a semiautonomous system, ActiveGlide, that worked well and allowed the driver to remove hands from the wheel for extended periods. Escalade has a similar system called Super Cruise.

On the upside, Lexus trimmed 441 pounds from the previous model by using aluminum for the doors, hood, fenders, and roof. When driving it’s easy to notice the constant flex in the lighter hood.

The twin-turbo V6 here is much more efficient too. The EPA rates it at 17 mpg city and 22 highway. My 19.9 indicates the estimates are reasonable and better than the old V8 that made roughly 380 hp. How much better? I got just 10 mpg with the Lexus LX 570 in my last test and 13.3 mpg with the Land Cruiser. Big improvement! One would suspect a hybrid system could be coming to help it further.

That’s a LOT of grille!

Then there’s the exterior styling. From the side or back the LX 600 looks much like other large luxury SUVs, but the nose is decidedly distinctive because of its massive trapezoidal grille. Most versions’ grilles feature imposing chrome horizontal bars, but the F Sport fills the grille with black mesh. Either way, it’s an eye catcher that one either finds impressive or oppressive.

Bottom line, this Lexus, like the Lincoln or Land Rovers or big Jeeps, is for high rollers, not average SUV buyers, or those with low six-figure incomes.

The base is $88,245, the Premium lists at $96,245 and the Luxury model is $104,345. This F Sport, which was a pre-production model has a list price of $103,790, including delivery, and its estimated cost was $106,450. The Lincoln was slightly more.

That LX 600 Ultra Luxury model with a reclining captain chair behind the passenger and seating just for four, moves up several more notches to $127,435. The seats also add massage functions.

Some competitors such as those listed earlier are in the same financial neighborhood, while others like the Escalade, GMC Yukon Denali, and Chevrolet Suburban live a few blocks over in the classy, but more cost-efficient hood.

FAST STATS: 2022 Lexus LS 600 F Sport Handling

Hits: Distinctive grille, strong more efficient power, true off-road ability, luxury interior, large touchscreen, automatic heated/cooled front and rear seats, heated wheel, power fold third row seats, multiple drive modes, comfy seats, wireless charger.

Misses: Massive grille, small sunroof, almost no storage if third row in use, bouncy ride, no massaging seats, third-row seats split in half not 2/3-1/3, no bottom seat cushion extender for driver.

Made in: Japan

Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, 409 hp/479 torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 5,665 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Length: 200.5 in.

Cargo: 11, 44, 64 cu.ft.*

MPG: 17/22

MPG: 19.9 (tested, mostly highway)

Base Price: $103,790 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $94.226

Major Options:

Mark Levinson premium audio system, $2,660

Test vehicle: $106,450**

*US News & World Report figures

**estimated, pre-production vehicle

Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage