2013 Lexus RX350 AWD 5-Door Luxury SUV

2013 Lexus RX350

    Lexus, the luxury line of Toyota automobiles, made headlines this past week with the announcement that they would begin manufacturing some of their product in the United States.  They selected a plant in Georgetown, Kentucky for the production of the ES line of sedans, and the start date was announced as 2015.  The company wants to produce the cars in the country where they experience strong sales, and, additionally, they want to mitigate the strong yen and its exchange rate with the dollar.

The production announcement was made by Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Company, Lexus’ parent firm.  The company was named after his ancestors, but the “d” was changed to a “t” in 1936.  In Japanese, writing the name required two less brush strokes and besides, company officials at that time thought the new name sounded less rural.

Several Lexus vehicles have been delivered to me for testing, and the latest was the RX350 luxury crossover SUV.  It came in Starfire Pearl white metallic, and inside it featured the parchment leather interior with black trim and carpet.  M.S.R.P. for this car was $52,974, and it included a comfort package ($1,340), heads-up display ($1,200), luxury package ($4,520), Mark Levinson premium stereo ($995), navigation package ($2,775), and intuitive parking assist ($500).  The packages added such things as a moon roof, Xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 19” alloy wheels, heated mirrors/seats/steering wheel, roof rails, backup camera, Lexus Enform multimedia display, satellite radio and illuminated scuff plates.  Standard Lexus equipment included electric tilt/telescope, power windows and locks, cruise, privacy glass, power tailgate, 10-way power buckets, and power mirrors.  Seating was for five and luggage space behind the second row of seats was 40 cubic feet.  That number doubles when the back seats are folded down.

During a cold week I found that the heated steering wheel delivers its comfort at 9 and 3 o’clock only, so by golly, that’s the way it was driven.  Comfort abounds inside the Lexus, and the two-toned upholstery was attractive.  Ride, too, was suitable and I liked the handling and guidance.

Styling of the RX is a hallmark and has remained basically unchanged for several years.  No chrome tailpipes were present at the rear, but a nice chrome strip adorns the lower body panels.  Up front the car features Lexus’ new “spindle”, pinched-in, somewhat massive, grill design.  I mentioned the roof rails, and they, along with the fog lights, dolled up the Lexus.

Power for this car is provided by a 3.5 liter, 270 horsepower (248 lb. ft. torque) V-6 with an EPA rating of 18-city and 24-highway miles per gallon.  I observed 19 mpg during my week driving around in the RX.  Zero to 60 acceleration is reportedly 7.8 seconds.  Behind the power plant is a six speed automatic with manual shifting and snow mode.  It, of course, is an all-wheel drive configuration, and the wheels are fifteen-spoke alloys fitted with P235/55R19 Michelin all-season radials.

It’s not a surprise that the Lexus RX is the top-selling luxury SUV, and in fact the hybrid RX is the marquee’s best selling model with a hybrid drive train.  I can recommend the RX; it was an enjoyable week with it in my possession.

2013 Infiniti M35h RWD Hybrid Sedan

M35h

Infiniti began selling cars in America two dozen years ago with a pair of initial offerings, the Q45 and the M30.  As the luxury division of Nissan of Japan, they brought out the Infiniti line pretty much in response to Honda and Toyota’s introduction of their Acura and Lexus nameplates.  Infiniti chose to use a handcrafted approach to their manufacturing process, as opposed to Acura and Lexus, both of which chose more automation.

Thirty or forty years ago, the term “Japanese luxury car” was considered an oxymoron; their products having gained a foothold in this country as a result of the fuel crises (1973 and 1977).  But when the Detroit Auto Show went to a global affair in 1989, Infiniti exploded on the scene, along with Lexus, with new luxury offerings to join Acura; thus, it was “on”.  Today these manufacturers and their models are part of the American auto lexicon and they have muscled in on the territory of Cadillac, Lincoln, and the German luxury cars.

I have tested several Infinitis, and this past week another was brought by for evaluation – the M35h hybrid sedan.  The M’s are the top of the line sedans for this company, and this car is in its second year of production.  Its M.S.R.P. was $66,245, including freight.  That price included several options – technology package ($3,050), deluxe touring package ($3,900), and premium package ($4,200).  Thus, the car had adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure warning, and adaptive lighting up front.  The interior was sumptuous, and included a suede headliner, semi-aniline leather trim, Japanese white ash wood trim, Bose 16-speaker surround sound stereo with satellite radio, electric tilt/telescope, navigation system, backup camera, moon roof, power rear sunshade, and air conditioned seats/steering wheel.  The stone (off-white) interior was striking with “Infiniti” stitching in the front buckets and soft double-stitched speedometer/tach hood.

The M35h is a high performance hybrid, with 369 total horsepower – at the heart of the power train is a 3.5 liter V-6 with 258 lb. ft. of torque.  It’s rear-wheel drive, the preferred architecture for a luxury performance car in this category.  The transmission is a seven-speed automatic (like Infiniti’s V-8 has) with manual shift mode.  The driver selects from four driving modes with a console-mounted button – sport, standard, eco (omy), and snow.  The eco mode maximizes fuel economy, and this car’s ratings are an impressive 27 city and 32 highway.  I observed 27 mpg during the time spent with the M35h.  Reportedly the Infiniti can operate up to 50% of the time in electric mode (battery charge permitting).  The trunk, of course, suffers a little with the battery on board, providing 11 cubic feet of luggage space.  It is covered with an electric cinch-down lid.

The M35h styling features chrome door handles, exhaust tips, and double-arched massive grill.  The paint was “Moonlight” white metallic, and actually looked best in sunlight.  The 18” alloy ten-spoke bright wheels were surrounded with 245/50R18 all-season radials.

Despite all of the aforementioned driving-assist options on the Infiniti, I actually had to do some driving myself, and it indeed was a pleasure.  This reviewer would love to own such a vehicle, and it comes with my recommendation.

“Just Ducky” 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD Sedan

2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Perf. Coll.

    Years ago I owned a 1995 Cadillac (leased, actually) and always admired the six ducks in the logo on the hood and trunk.  I have found through research that those birds were merlettes, present on the family crest of Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, the founder of the city of Detroit.  That happened in 1701, and Henry Leland named his car after Cadillac when he started his auto manufacturer in 1902.  He added the crest in 1905 and the merlettes were arranged in threes to represent the holy trinity.

My latest test car was a Cadillac; an ATS all-wheel drive sedan with the Performance Collection of assets – aluminum pedals, bolstered buckets, paddle transmission shifters, high intensity swivel headlamps, and Bose surround sound stereo.  Also present were machined-finish 18” alloy wheels ($800), cold weather package ($600), navigation package with backup camera ($795), thunder gray chromaflair metallic paint ($995), and advanced security package ($395).  Those items brought the total M.S.R.P. with freight to $48,375.

Along with those options, the ATS came with Morello red and black leather seating for 5, an 8” full color display, Bluetooth, heated steering wheel/front seats, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton starter, lighted door handles with puddle lights, remote starting, and power mirrors/windows/locks.  No moon roof was present, but the buckets were adjustable with 12-way power (10-way for passenger).  The Cadillac interior featured carbon-fiber trim on the dashboard as well as the door panels, and it stood out.

The engine in the ATS is a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder with direct injection and 272 horsepower (260 lb. ft. of torque).  It’s mated to a six-speed automatic with tap-shift control and the aforementioned paddles.  The turbo is a twin-scroll design that can provide 20 lbs. of boost with no turbo lag.  Zero to sixty acceleration is reportedly 5.7 seconds and fuel economy is rated at 20-city and 30-highway.  It burns premium, holds 16 gallons of gas, and I observed a 23 mpg reading for a week of driving.  I drove a V-6 powered, slightly more expensive ATS last year, and my vote goes to this turbocharged 2.0 liter model.

The ride is firm on the ATS and the handling is way above average, and in fact the car feels lighter than its weight of 3,373 lbs.  It  features magnetic ride control, which reacts to road conditions ten times faster than the blink of an eye.  Wheelbase is 109.3”, and overall length is 182.3”.

Styling on the new ATS is excellent, as is the tradition for Cadillacs since the turn of the century.  Twin exhausts are mounted below the rear fascia, and the high intensity headlamp/park lamp assemblies have a distinctive look.  Wheels are a bright finish ten-spoke design fitted with Michelin 225/40R18 Primacy all-season run-flat radials.

In model year 2000, Cadillac removed the little ducks, er, merlettes from the crest on front and rear of all their models.  But I still think the ATS is “just ducky”.