Lexus RX 350 defines the luxury crossover market …
One reason the Lexus RX 350 continues to be a runaway best seller for Toyota’s upscale brand is its near perfection in defining what has become the luxury crossover market.
Oh, there’s longevity on its side to be sure. The 2020 model is the sixth generation for the mid-size crossover based on Toyota’s Highlander platform. But each year Lexus tweaks it a bit, like a plastic surgeon making nips and tucks on a successful movie star’s nose and chin. Continue reading 2020 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport→
I’ve owned a couple Mazdas through the years. I’ve liked them for their sporty handling and edgy styling that set them apart from many competitors.
The new 2019 Mazda3 Hatchback does nothing to spoil those differentiators, in fact it improves on the looks and upgrades the interior to make it even more attractive. But there’s more, Mazda also adds AWD as an option, putting it in direct competition with the sporty AWD Subaru Impreza, but with a touch more zip. Continue reading 2019 Mazda3 Platinum AWD Hatch→
Jaguar’s image has been polished, tarnished and polished several times, but its history of racing success, generous power and spirited road manners, along with an expectation of gentlemanly comfort, endures.
The restyled XJL does nothing to dispel the legend, with its muscular but trim lines, big chrome grille and vertical tail lamps. But there are some surprises, too.
First, this is a large sedan with mammoth interior that will accommodate five adults with NBA length legs. The XJ’s long-wheelbase model features a limo-like 124.3-inch wheelbase, or somewhere between Chevrolet’s big Tahoe and Suburban SUVs for wheelbase, and they aren’t small. Overall length is sizeable too. In fact, a Tahoe is more than four inches shorter in lengthy. Trust me, this Jag is roomy.
Jaguar’s engine creates 340 horses, which may sound mild for a Jag, but since the car is light for its size, just 4,153 lbs., the car feels relatively nimble. The surprise to long-time Jag devotees may be that there’s no V8 in this model, but the 3.0-liter V6 is supercharged. That gives you quick power when you need it, but doesn’t tax your gas mileage too much in normal stop and go driving.
The XJL, and this one had all-wheel drive (another surprise), is rated at 16 mpg city and 24 highway. I ran it about 60% highway miles and got 20.1 mpg. That’s good for the size and power of the vehicle, plus it being all-wheel drive.
Acceleration is smooth and strong with the Jag’s 8-speed automatic transmission delivering seamless shifts. My only concern with the drivetrain is the gas-saving “intelligent stop-start” feature. Like a hybrid, the Jaguar’s gas engine shuts off at stoplights or nearly anytime you’re stopped in traffic, or at a drive-up window, etc. When you take your foot off the brake, the engine automatically refires. Both on the shutdown and the startup there is a noticeable shudder that seemed less refined than I’ve felt in various hybrids. Several riders commented on it, saying they would be disappointed in that shake after paying roughly $85 grand for such a luxury yacht.
That’s right, the XJL starts at $83,700 and with only a delivery charge, no options, hit $84,595. This, apparently, is the price for merging luxury and notable styling.
But while there was that hiccup when the engine shuts off to save fuel, the powertrain and the interior are incredibly quiet. This may be the quietest car I’ve driven in several years. With the car stationary and running I got 64 decibels on an iPhone app that my friend loaned me. That jumped to only 67 when a friend’s daughter played her French horn just outside the car in a sound test we did for my You Tube video review. Outside, by the horn, the decibels hit a peak of 118.
Who makes the best compact sport sedan? Well, BMW has owned that segment for years, but it would be hard to argue against Lexus now making the best looking sport sedan with its new IS series.
Lexus created the IS to be a BMW 3 Series (now renamed the 4 Series) fighter, but Lexus is better at creating a luxury feel than BMW. The difference is BMW always leans toward total performance and Lexus leans more toward luxury in any of its makes.
Ah, but the tested bright metallic red (Matador Red) IS350 AWD has plenty of power to go with its outward styling pizzazz. Lexus pops a 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing under its well sculpted hood and that throbbing engine pumps out 306 horsepower. Boom! It’ll kick you in the seat of the pants and with paddle shifters on the steering wheel you can control your own seat kicking!
There’s a seamless shifting 6-speed automatic that you can control manually with those paddle shifters, but a key here is the svelte nature of the IS350. The sport sedan weighs 3,737 lbs., but rides on a 110.2-inch wheelbase. So while it feels nimble, it’s long enough to provide a mostly fine, yet sporty ride.
Sure, take it on our crumbling cement streets or over railroad tracks and that stiff sport suspension will give you a little shake. But that’s the nature of the beast. Lexus puts a double wishbone front suspension on the IS and a multi-link system in back.
Handling? Precise, is the key word, along with fluid. The car steers easily and smoothly, but you can snap off corners or apexes of turns crisply and the car stays completely flat as you power through a sharp turn. A BWM gives you that same handlingl, but usually with heavier steering feedback. Whichever you like is certainly a matter of personal preference. Continue reading 2014 Lexus IS350 AWD→