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2017 Lexus LX570 – How Much SUV Do You Get For $100K?

2017 Lexus LX570 – How Much SUV Do You Get For $100K?

What is white on the outside, red on the inside, and almost inconceivably large? If you guessed Moby Dick, you guessed wrong (but kudos on your literacy). It’s the 2017 Lexus LX 570! And there is only one reason to buy it. Status.

Does driving this SUV, so large, so exclusive, and so white affirm to owners and onlookers that “yes, I am monied.”?  Perhaps, but don’t think for a moment I’m going to harp on and on about western decadence comrades. You’re here for a review, and that’s what you’re going to get.

EXTERIOR

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The exterior of the LX is hosed down with Lexus corporate styling. It looks like the other Lexus SUVs there’s just more of it. The body is large enough to make 20″ rims look reasonable

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INTERIOR

Our press car was trimmed out in red upholstery. The LX’s interior is its strongest feature. Passengers are swaddled in sumptuous leather and the tree carcass details are lovely. Front and center in the dash is a massive screen positioned above the requisite Lexus analog clock, because luxury car drivers want to be pampered with archaic technology.

The Dirt On Cars on Instagram_ “Me attempting to sell an article. Editor politely passing #toyota #highlander #writing #journalism #fail #cars #comedy”

The front and second row seats will spoil passengers.  Passengers in the second row have their own monitors to watch whatever wealthy children watch (probably stocks) and the fold down arm rest has a bevy of buttons. Lexus boasts seating for eight in its biggest SUV. But eight of what exactly? The power folding third row is viable in a pinch, but it’s not really big enough for grown ups

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It’s as quiet as a tomb on the highway, that is, unless you crank the stereo. The bass this 19-speaker system emits will arouse the envy of any pimply adolescent male within a four block radius. And so will the variable ride height. That’s right, this thing is on bags. I’ll admit to taking a sordid pleasure in airing out the suspension every time I parked. The console has built in beverage cooler. It also has Lexus’ mind-numbing infotainment interface.

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DRIVE

Under the expansive hood, there’s a great big V8 that makes a heap of power, 383 if you’re dying to know, and a load of torque. It’s not particularly clever, but it will haul the LX’s leviathanic bulk to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. That’s backed up by an eight-speed transmission that sends power to all four wheels all the time.

The gas mileage numbers on this vehicle are enough to make you blush, and too horrific to mention here (kids might read this). But if you’re in the tax bracket that can afford to sink 100 grand into the family hauler, you’re either an oil sheik, or you’re buddies with Rex Tillerson and I bet you get a discount on gas.

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The ride was noticeably rougher when comfort mode was not selected. The steering is numb, the brakes do their job, and handling is what you would expect in a three ton luxo-barge. It’s a very comfortable vehicle to ride in, but perhaps not the most rewarding to drive.

The LX is based on Toyota’s Land Cruiser, a time-tested rough and ready off-roader and perhaps it is capable off road, but how many will ever see any sort of rugged terrain?  I’d wager next to none. It’s too pretty to get bushwhacked and too heavy to be any in the mud. No, it’s far more likely to be used by bluebloods to get from one Aspen chalet to another without shaking their monocles loose.

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THE DIRT

Maybe I don’t understand because I’m an unwashed bumpkin. Perhaps my lowbrow, proletariat sensibilities are too coarse to appreciate such refinement. But if I was going to buy something with a base price of $91,000, I’d want to feel like I was driving the future. While there is a lot to behold in the LX, it feels dated.

All dolled up, the press car cost $100k. It’s an outrageous amount. And when you compare it to other cars in this category, it’s slower to accelerate, slower to stop, and hauls less. I have had a lot of fun at expense of the poor LX, but the truth of it is there are better ways to spend this kind of dough. Like on a Tesla AND a Toyota Highlander, or a pair of suburbans, or anything else really.


Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” – – H. Melville


Huge thanks goes out to AMFM Productions for putting together this video!

2018 Toyota Camry XSE – Toyota Redefines The Camry

2018 Toyota Camry XSE – Toyota Redefines The Camry

I will admit that when I heard I’d be driving a Toyota Camry for a week, I didn’t exactly jump for joy. Not that I had anything against the car, but I had preconceptions about the Camry. Visions of beige boxes from the 90’s danced through my head. As did terms like dependable, practical, and reliable. Those are all good things, but exciting and fun? Not really. I was expecting to get plain vanilla ice cream. However, what I got was bananas flambe.

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INTERIOR

Inside, the fun starts with a heads-up display projects information onto the windshield. It’s a feature that’s totally unnecessary but it’s a small pleasure drivers will look forward each time they hop in.  In the center of the asymmetrical dash, there’s an 8″ touch screen to control the 8-speaker JBL stereo/nav system. Below that, there’s a QI wireless charging pad integrated into the console. Just flop your phone down and it charges while you drive. No plugs, no wires or fuss. We are living in the future folks.

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This press car was outfitted with the Toyota’s navigation package. It’s a $940 option that gets you Toyota’s Entune 3.0 System powered by Linux. This is significant because it’s an open source operating system that allows any app developer to create applications to work with the infotainment system. This is interesting, but it makes one wonder how popular it will be. Time will tell.

It also featured their driver assist package that offers a bird’s-eye view of the car wen backing up. Even if you opt out of these, the Camry comes standard with a ton of safety features, steering assist, lane departure alert, radar cruise control and automatic braking to name a few.

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There’s plenty of legroom up front and room for those with long legs in the rear seats. Car seats should fit with no problem too. The headroom is good too even with the sunroof option. Leather upholstery and dual-zone climate controls keep driver and passengers comfortable.

EXTERIOR

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The car’s grill is vaguely reminiscent of the Lexus spindle shape. It’s got LED headlights tucked in above false intake vents that look like they were inspired by and F-18 fighter jet. The press car wore a two-toned black on blue color-scheme. It’s a $500 option that doesn’t add much to the car in my opinion. But beauty is subjective, at least one person I showed the car to loved it.

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I like the hard shoulder-line and the blend of supple and hard edges. It’s a measured, almost safe approach, but the results are easy on the eyes. Out back, the deck lid is rounded out with a subtle spoiler above a tastefully designed rear facia. The split dual exhaust outlets lend a satisfying sense of balance to the back end.

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DRIVE

Acceleration is strong thanks to the 301 horsepower 2.5L V6 nestled under the hood. The eight-speed automatic transmission feels smooth and well-sorted. This thing scoots too. All that horsepower translates to a sub-six second 0 – 60 time, which it not bad for a big roomy family sedan. The steering feels direct but not twitchy, and the car, although large, doesn’t feel big and wallowy. Interstate travel is a comfortable reasonably quiet affair. The window sticker says drivers can expect to get 32 mpg on the highway and 22 around town. Granted, these aren’t hybrid numbers, but most hybrids don’t feel this good when you put your right foot down.

THE DIRT

It sounds like a marketing cliche, but ’18 Camry is bound to change the way people perceive the car. I did not expect to find the levels of comfort and power I experienced. Heck, I even had fun. This Camry is a pleasant surprise. If you’re in the market for a comfortable, dependable, good-looking family hauler, that happens to be able to roll smoke off the front tires, put a Toyota Camry at the top of your shopping list.

 

2017 Lexus NX300h – Entry Level Luxury Aimed at the Ladies

2017 Lexus NX300h – Entry Level Luxury Aimed at the Ladies

 

Lexus calls the color on this press car Autumn Shimmer. It sounds a lot like a shade of lipstick to me, and stands out as one of the most absurd color names in a category of intentionally absurd names created by marketing folk. (i.e. Cadillac’s Amberlite Firemist).

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EXTERIOR

The exterior looks deliberately inoffensive and stays true to the current Lexus trend of hard geometric design. I think the horizontal bars in the spindle grill are easier on the eyes than the “honeycomb” grill featured on the car’s big sister, the RX. Lexus must have agreed, because the 2018 version of the RX features a similar grill insert.

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INTERIOR

Thanks to an unnecessarily wide console, the front seats offer limited lateral leg room. The outside of my knees constantly rubbed the door panel and console. However, fancy ladies sit with their ankles crossed and knees together, so I guess it won’t be an issue. There’s lots of room in the console for loads of Avon samples. In a shamelessly sexist marketing ploy, Lexus included a compact mirror in the console. Just in case the rearview mirror, your cellphone, and the vanity mirrors built into the sun-visors just don’t represent enough shiny surfaces in which to fix your face.

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The infotainment features smartphone connectivity so you can easily call the cops on those smart aleck tweens for riding their wheelie boards on the sidewalk again. Unfortunately, Lexus didn’t spare owners of their smallest SUV from their trademark onerous stereo/navigation interface. Rather than a silly joystick however, the NX is fitted with a silly mousepad device. The window sill is too high to comfortably rest one’s elbow while driving, but that doesn’t matter because it will only be lowered at Starbucks and Chick-fil-A drive-thrus.

DRIVE

I wish I could say this car’s blatant, gender-specific marketing is redeemed by a saucy driving experience, but that’s not the case. In fact, it feels like an extension of the plan to appeal to 50-plus retirees. The steering has just enough resistance to reassure drivers, but not tucker them out and the ride is about as remarkable as a bowl of cold oatmeal. Put your foot in it and the area forward of the dash emits a buzzy, monotonous groan like a preteen asked to take out the trash. The revs go up and hold at a given mark while electric motors provide the rest of the passing power. The experience is underwhelming.

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THE DIRT

It might not be a Mary Kay Cadillac, but it certainly won’t embarrass you in front of the gals. Because it shares blood with a Toyota it’s likely to be long-lived (but why would you ever do that to yourself?), and thanks to the italicized on the grill the resale should be pretty good. But who wants the least fancy Lexus SUV? Even if all the options are ticked off it’s still not an RX. Why not get the top spec Toyota RAV-4, which offers more interior space and a less absurd infotainment interface? It just happens to be the same price as a base model NX.

 

2017 Lexus IS 200t F Sport – A Beautiful, Boosted Bummer

2017 Lexus IS 200t F Sport – A Beautiful, Boosted Bummer

This year Lexus didn’t change up the recipe too much for their IS series. Subtle updates include large fighter jet style scoops on either side of the grille and a 10.25 inch screen in the dash. But the real appeal lies under the hood. The IS200t gets its giddy-up from a clever 241 horsepower 2.0L turbo-charged four cylinder introduced last year.

The turbo is a twin scroll design. Exhaust gases are separated and directed toward two different points on the turbine rather than dumping exhaust from all cylinders into one common manifold. This divide and conquer system is designed to allow the turbo to spool up faster thus preventing lag and improving performance. This, along with a boatload of other tech, makes the 2.0 liter from Lexus a pretty smart cookie.

The power is transmitted  through an eight-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Would you rather stir your own gears? Sorry, the auto-box is the only option available. However, radar cruise control comes standard, and you can spring for the cross-traffic monitoring that alerts you if a cars is coming as you back out of a parking spot.

EXTERIOR

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Our press car wore Lexus’ Ultrasonic Blue paint on its low-slung body work. The sleek body work blends geometric creases with organic curves seamlessly. Strong shoulder-lines and a nose-down stance work together to lend a sporty aesthetic to this sedan. The windshield rakes back into an arched roofline that makes a velvety transition to the deck-lid, giving the IS a slippery profile.

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Up front, the obligatory, and divisive, spindle grille is nestled between a new pair of scoops and beady, determined-looking LED headlamps. 18″ aluminum wheels are finished in a gunmetal hue that looks great. Oddly it’s about the same color as brake dust. The posterior of this ride is simple and clean. Dual chrome exhaust tips add interest to the lower valance.

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INTERIOR

Inside, the driver is treated to a 10 way adjustable power seat. Both front seats are heated and ventilated. The seat upholstery is above average in both finish and comfort. You pay for the slinky good looks outside with limited space inside. It seemed like my right knee was alway touching the console. The rear seat space it tight, but serviceable. The F Sport package comes with some perks like the leather wrapped wheel and shifter for your hands and some aluminum pedals for the feet.

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Lexus chooses to use a thin vinyl-like material rather than leather as an accent material. Synthetics like this have their advantages. They’re long-wearing and no cows get peeled to make them. Some of them are almost indistinguishable from their natural counterparts. However, the stuff Lexus is using is a let down. It looks fine, but it doesn’t feel good.

There’s a mushy, thin feel to it like the skin on the back of an old lady’s hand. And it’s everywhere in the cabin. Beyond the wonky vinyl, the shift knob was loose after only 2,750 miles. This isn’t a huge deal, but if I shelled out almost 50k for a car I couldn’t abide it.

Front and center in the dash there’s a 10.25 inch wide display for the infotainment system. Said system pumps your jams through 15 speakers stuffed into the cabin. The console is home to a knob that toggles between Eco, Normal, and Sport modes.

And then there’s the infotainment interface which Car and Driver called “irksome.” That’s a nice way of saying complicated to the point of being unusable. It’s downright unsafe to use while driving. Lexus sought to remedy this by adding another button, but to little avail.

It just demands too much attention. I guess that’s what the radar cruise control is for. And if that fails to prevent an accident while you’re fiddling with the absurd mouse-selector-joystick thing, there are 10 airbags tucked away that will keep distracted drivers safe.

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DRIVE

For commuting, the car is pleasant enough. It’s quiet, comfortable and refined. But if you’re expecting a rowdy, scaled down version of the excellent Lexus GSF, you’ll be disappointed. Driving it is a little bit of a let down, like a tepid soda that’s lost some of its fizz. It can be goaded into misbehaving with the traction control turned of and Sport mode engaged. But it’s missing knife edge excitement that you get in the big Lexus.

For day to day it’s not bad though. The car can get from zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds. The steering feels good and the chassis is certainly up to snuff. It’s tough to get a feel for when the power comes on. The eight speed trans seems to suffer from a lack of focus. Put your foot down and the transmission has a “wait, you wanna do what?” moment before kicking down and allowing the car to pull. At 3,500 pounds, this car is heavier than most of it’s competition and the turbo-four-banger doesn’t cope well with the heft.

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THE DIRT

This car looks the part, but the grunt and guts and excitement are a little lacking. When I see interesting technology like the 2.0 liter in this car I want it to work. I don’t think the engine is a let down, but this chassis and transmission combo might not be the best way to showcase it.

I’d love to see Lexus mate this engine to six-speed manual and drop it in their CT200t hatch. But Lexus is not in the business of making hot-hatch fantasy cars for would-be boy racers. So, if it has to be an IS, maybe drop the extra dough for IS 350F.

The real question is why, given the option, wouldn’t one buy the comparable Bavarian competitor? Just like the IS200t it has an eight-speed auto, a 2.0 liter turbo-four, and four swinging doors, but manages to do the zero to 60 dance and full second faster. And for the same price.

2017 Honda Civic Si HPT – Possibly The Best Civic Yet

2017 Honda Civic Si HPT – Possibly The Best Civic Yet

The latest iteration Honda’s venerable Civic might be the best yet. To the chagrin of fanboys everywhere, this Si marks a departure from the much-loved VTEC valve train. Honda opted instead to turbo-charge the four banger in their hot Civic. How does the new Si stack up?

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EXTERIOR

Pretty darn well. This is the latest in a long line of compact Hondas ranging way back to 1972. In all that time, I’m not sure the Civic has looked this good. The body lines are simple with an angular appeal. The roofline peaks at the top of the windshield and slopes back all the way to the rear edge of the deck-lid. The roofline reminds me of the Audi R8.

Up front, projector headlights wear the outer extremities of the grille like heavy eyeliner. Below the grille the pouting bumper cover houses fog lamps set in black plastic trim. The quarter panels bulge outward over the tires. Out back, things are wrapped up nicely with angular taillights like parenthesis around the trunk. The spoiler looks a bit much, but relative to the Type R, it’s downright sedate. There’s more black plastic surrounding the single outlet exhaust which looks better than the type R’s triple trumpet affair.

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INTERIOR

The high-bolsters on the Si embroidered seats give a reassuring hug to let you know you’ll be supported while cornering at speed. Between the seats there’s a clever console featuring siding cup holders and change tray. You can easily arrange it to accommodate all sizes of cups.

The shift knob is made from quality cast or billet aluminum wrapped in black leather. The console around the shifter feels a little flimsy, but shouldn’t be an issue. Red accent stitching serves to break up the black interior.

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Passengers in the front are treated to seat heaters and space for long legs. Rear seat passengers aren’t so lucky. Limited head and legroom in the back make for tight quarters, and it’s probably best suited for kiddos.

The infotainment and a/c controls leave a lot to be desired. To adjust the climate controls, you must first push a climate button. Then select from some touchscreen options. This doesn’t sound like much but it does force drivers to look away from the road. Adjusting the volume is a similar ordeal only it’s a touch sensitive slider (thankfully there are volume controls on the steering wheel). In both instances Honda complicated what should be very easy operations. Bring back the knobs Honda.

Below the stereo and climate controls there’s a clever cubby for your electronic devices. Power outlets built into the console along with wire organizers keep your chargers tidy and at hand.

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The new heart of the Civic Si is a 205 hp turbocharged 1.5 liter. This is almost a full liter smaller than the previous Si, but exactly the same horsepower.  Those ponies make their way to the wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip differential.

The EPA estimates this setup will get you 38 mpg on the interstate and 28 around town and a combined 32 mpg. The HPT designation tacked on the end of the Civic Si moniker stands for High Performance Tires. That means the 18″ alloy wheels are wrapped in sticky Goodyears. It also means you’ll be buying tires sooner than normal, as they are bound to wear faster than normal treads.

DRIVE

This little Honda feels eager, especially for a sub two-liter. The shifter fits perfectly in the palm and is the first contact point with the slick shifting six-speed. It makes stirring gears a pleasure. The car is comfortable cruising on the highway. Road and wind noise levels are nominal. Shift into top gear, set the cruise and relax.

Often times electrically assisted steering feels too light. Honda struck a nice balance here the steering is tight and responsive. It doesn’t completely insulate drivers from the road. It’s just what you want in the sporty two door.

Punch the Sport mode button and the suspension transforms from comfortable to stiff and the accent lights in the instrument cluster all turn red. The light above the tachometer acts as a shift light, flashing at the redline. Said redline is lower due to the absence of VTEC but the surge of power when boost builds will make you forget about those last couple hundred RPMs. In fact, the new Si gets from 0 to 60 a hair faster than its VTEC predecessor.

At around 4000 RPM the exhaust really begins talking. Put your foot in it from a stand still and you’ll definitely encounter some torque steer, but it’s completely manageable. In fact, it’s fun. Second gear scratches are par for the course as the Civic claws the asphalt for traction. Cornering in this car is a treat. It feels balanced and inspires confidence.

THE DIRT

This car feels special. It’s comfortable and surprisingly practical, which is not something that can be said about all sporty two-doors. If I were in the market for a fun, two-door commuter with plenty of passing power the Civic Si would definitely be on my shortlist. At around $24k it’s feels like a good value, it’s good-looking, and it’s a pleasure to drive. Is it the best Civic ever? I don’t know for sure, but I can assert with confidence that it’s the best one I’ve ever driven.