2012 Lexus GS350 AWD Sedan

2012 Lexus GS350

Lexus, Toyota Motor Corporation’s luxury car division, has been producing GS series automobiles since 1993.  The GS lies in the middle of the Lexus sedan lineup, between IS at the bottom and the LS series at the top.  It is in the 4th generation configuration, having been introduced in February of this year.  Three GS Lexus models are offered, or will be, including the GS350 that I drove this week.  The other models are the GS350F and the forthcoming GS450h, a performance hybrid (later this year).

The GS350 that I tested had an all-aluminum V6 (3.5 liter) with 306 horsepower and 277 lb. ft. of torque.  It is mated to a six-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission that includes paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.  It is an all-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan with wheelbase/length/weight numbers of 112.2”, 190.7”, and 3,795 lbs., respectively.  Zero to sixty acceleration is reportedly 5.6 seconds with a top speed of 144 mph.  Fuel economy ratings are 19/city and 26/highway with a 17.4 gallon tank.  Classified as a mid-luxury class performance sedan, the car is really attractive, particularly from the front and the rear.  Each side of the car could use a little more chrome (my favorite finish), as most everything there is painted silver.  But it is nonetheless a stunner, and I noticed it getting a lot of looks around town.

My Lexus came in Liquid Platinum silver metallic paint and the leather interior was black.  The rear armrest was as extensive as I have ever seen, with seat heat and air conditioning controls in the armrest as well as radio buttons, rear window shade control, and of course, the cup holders.  Oh, and don’t forget some storage, as well.  The front buckets are sumptuous, with 18-way power (Eighteen!) capability.  And while on the topic of numbers, how about that split-screen 12.3” multimedia display in the center of the dashboard?  Rear backup camera, navigation, 835-watt stereo, console mouse – all on hand.  I enjoyed the mouse for controlling, well, just about everything electronic.

The GS rides on 18”, split-nine spoke silver alloy wheels fitted with 235/45R18 Dunlop Sport S100’s.  High-toned stainless exhaust finishers extend out from under the rear fascia and on the front of the car are Bi-Xenon Hi-Intensity Discharge headlamps, plus fog lights.  The M.S.R.P. of the Lexus was $61,212.00, and that included the blind spot monitor ($500), Luxury package ($6,350), stereo upgrade ($1,380), navigation package ($1,735), intuitive park assist ($500), floor mats, and freight.

Driving the brand new Lexus was certainly a pleasure, as I headed out to I-25 for a ride to Ft. Collins.  The ride is adjustable with a knob on the console – actually four settings – normal, ECO, Sport S, and Sport S+.  With the two sport settings the driver gets suspension, steering, shifting, and throttle modifications – plus the gauge cluster gets a red lighting surround effect.  All this makes the console quite busy, but nicely thought out.  Both it, the dashboard, the door panels, and the rear armrest are sprinkled with controls.  But all the gadgets added to, rather than subtracted from, the overall GS350 experience, making it a “recommended” vehicle on my list.

2012 Toyota Prius Hybrid

2012 PriusThe Toyota Prius was introduced in our country in 1997, and is America’s top-selling hybrid car.  The Prius accounts for almost 51% of the 270,000 or so hybrids sold in America each year, and globally the U.S. accounts for half of Prius production.  The name on the car, “Prius”, is Latin for “before”.  This is the second “Prii” that I have driven this year, with the first one designated as a “V”, for versatile.  This 2012 that I am reporting on now was a Winter Gray metallic, 3rd generation Prius in the Five Model configuration.  A Five Model is the top-of-the-line Prius with SofTex leather-like interior and 17” alloy five spoke wheels, among other things.  And by third generation, I mean the car that has been on the market since 2009, with its full re-design.  It is the best-looking Prius that has ever been produced.

During the week, Ruth and I travelled to Denver twice in the little gray Prius and obtained over 40 miles per gallon of regular gasoline.  We were so excited about the national championship game at the Pepsi Center, I must admit that we failed to nail down the exact mileage of the car.  Everyone knows these Prii do good on gas, and the economy ratings are 50/city and 48/highway.  The reason that city ratings are superior is because of the availability of electric power to cruise around town.  The Prius has a 98 horsepower (1.8 liter) gasoline engine and two electric motor/generators on board.  In the “EV” mode, a person can drive to the neighbors or perhaps to Loaf ‘n Jug without the gas engine even operating.  For highway driving, you need internal combustion engine power, but the car runs pretty quietly and ride/handling are fine.  The Prius is pretty roomy (it seats five) and comfortable, with fetching two-tone seats and plenty of cup holders and compartments.  This Prius was base-priced at $29,805.00, and freight and technology package brought the total to $34,885.00.  That last item provided hard-disk nav, JBL sound system with MP3 connection, Entune (a Toyota exclusive), HD/satellite radio, Bluetooth, hands-free phone setup, back-up camera, radar cruise control, lane keep assist, and head-up speedometer display in the windshield. Approaching the car with a key fob in your pocket, you can just reach for the door handle and get in.  Upon getting situated, you just push the button and the car is ready to drive (even though you may not hear anything).  The navigation screen was 6.1” touch-type, and provided oodles of information for interested parties.

Outside, the car had blue-accent car badges, rear spoiler, LED headlamps, power mirrors, and front fog lamps.  Tires that were fitted on the 17” alloys were P215/45R17 all-season radials.  I recommend the Prius to anyone looking for a solid investment and a method for saving money on gas.  A person could wait for the plug-in Prius, due out soon, but would have to spend a little more money, and, well, plug it in.  Either way a person wants to go, the pump prices we are seeing make the purchase pretty sensible.

“Paint It, Black” 2012 Toyota Camry SE

2012 Camry SE

Admit it; you thought the name of Mick Jagger’s old smash hit song was “Painted Black.”  Well, at least I did.  And, in fact, the song lyrics include the phrase, “painted black” on seven different occasions.  Jagger and Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones) wrote the song and gave it the title “Paint It Black,” and reportedly Decca, the record label, added the comma.  It reached number 1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. in May of 1966, and currently it stands at number 73 on the list of the Greatest Hits of the 60’s.

I love hits of the 60’s, and also love automobiles of the 10’s.  The Toyota Camry SE that I drove around last week was painted black – Attitude Black.  I get a positive vibe looking at these Toyota paint chips; as you recall, the Toyota Yaris I recently drove was painted Absolutely Red.  This Camry, of course, is quite a bit more car, and in fact is America’s number 1 seller, having been so for ten straight years.  They whip out over 300,000 units in this country, year after year, and have topped 400,000 units on several occasions.

For 2012, the Toyota Camry was totally redesigned, inside and out.  I’ll admit I was perfectly satisfied with the styling of the 2006/2011 Camry, but for 2012 the company has given the car a sleeker, chiseled body style and the fuel mileage has been improved.  The SE in my possession had the 3.5 liter, 268 horsepower V6 and was rated at 21 city/30 highway mpg.  I observed 21.9 mpg in mostly town mode.  Behind the V6 was a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.  This is a front-wheel drive automobile with electric power steering to enhance that fuel mileage.  It rides (rather firmly) on 18”, dark gray, five spoke alloy wheels fitted with P225/45R18 Michelin “green” Primacy radials.  The mid-size sedan is 189.2” long and seats five, weighing in at 3,420 pounds. The trunk contains 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space.

The interior of the SE features leather-trimmed Ultrasuede sport buckets up front and matching two-toned (black/ash) fold-down rear bench with armrest and cupholders.  All the sound system and Bluetooth connectivity items are present, as well as hard-disk drive nav/backup camera with touch-screen (6.1”).  The JBL stereo has ten speakers in eight locations, and the Toyota cruise control is behind the steering wheel at 4 o’clock.  Riding around in the peppy Camry is like wearing a nice old pair of shoes that don’t pinch your toes or bother the arches.  It just kind of gets the job done without distress.

Base M.S.R.P. for the SE was $26,640.00, and that included the $895.00 convenience package as well as the leather seating.  Moonroof, special mats, wheel locks, and freight brought the total to $31,202.00.  That total is actually a couple of thousand dollars less than what Toyota charged for such a model in 2011, making the new Camry a pretty good deal that is “painted black.”