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BMW 228i xDrive | Reviewed

Everything you need, nothing you don’t.

[gallery ids="542158,542159,542160,542161"] Story By: Will Sabel Courtney *European model shown.* Press cars normally show up laden down with as many froo-froo features as your average cruise ship. Which, admittedly, makes sense—auto makers like to show off their new cars at their best, so they give journalists the chance to monkey around with all the cool new features setting their car apart. And we journalists certainly aren’t going to complain—not if it means we get to play with bazillion-watt Burmeister stereos, ventilate our butts with cooled seats, and see how well adaptive suspensions handle speed bumps at 35 miles an hour. But most people don’t buy cars with every option on the checklist. They pick out the options they need, weed out the stuff they don’t, and pick a car thusly equipped. (Okay, most people actually go to the dealership and say, “I like that one that’s $400 a month, do you have it in blue?” But let’s pretend.) Which means the cars journalists drive can become…well, less than representative of the versions most people are driving home. So kudos to BMW for sliding this minimally-optioned 2 Series into the fleet. Assuming, as BMW does, you count the xDrive AWD system as a trim level, my 228i showed up with four options: Valencia Orange paint ($500), heated seats ($500), brushed aluminum trim (also $500), and the Track Handling Package ($2,200), which teams up M Sport brakes, sport steering and the adaptive M suspension. Add in $950 for destination, and this little Bimmer scoots out the door at $38,600. And I wouldn’t spend a penny more. You could, mind you. Check every box, you could jack this little BMW’s sticker up to $52,000 or more. But all the inherent goodness, all that makes the 2 Series special, it’s all right there at $38K. I didn’t miss the xenon headlamps, the navigation system (the car still comes with a screen, you just can’t pull up a map on it), the rearview camera, or the satellite radio. I didn’t even miss having real leather; the SensaTec (not to be confused with SansaTec, which is what the eldest Stark daughter uses to check her Facebook page) feels as soft as the leather in most entry-level cars, and it’ll wear better over the years. I didn’t even miss having a bigger engine. Granted, the M235i is one hell of a Bavarian star fighter, but it seems almost laughable to cram 320 horses and 330 lb-ft of straight-six into a car whose size and shape remind me of nothing so much as the Honda Civic coupe I had in high school. The 228i’s turbocharged four may have a bit of a direct injection clatter at idle, but punch the gas, and the littlest 2 Series takes off like it forgot it was supposed to be the wimpy one in the family. One thing I did miss, though? A stick shift. I’ve gotten used to cars coming sans manual in this day and age, but little sports coupes just feel incomplete without a good old-fashioned stick. (BMW offers one on the 228i, but opting for that means going rear-wheel-drive.) Still, the eight-speed automatic is about as good as torque converter autos get—quiet and economical in normal operation, but smart and fast-acting in sport mode. And if you wanna shift for yourself, the paddles behind the wheel work just fine. Other than that, though, it’s hard to think of a more well-rounded sports coupe at this price point. It runs from 0-60 in the fives and gets 35 miles to the gallon on the highway. It has a comfortable, well-made interior—something increasingly rare in sub-$40K sports cars. It’s got all-wheel-drive traction—no substitute for snow tires in true winter weather, but always a plus for grip—but still has that old-school BMW fun-to-drive flavor that’s occasionally lacking in modern-day Bimmers. And it drives like the car you always wanted when you were beginning to love to drive: sopping up bumps but constantly telling you about the road below; holding the line predictably through turns; fast enough to be fun, but not so fast as to overwhelm. Simply put—it’s a blast. The back seat’s small, but that makes sense—it’s a small car, small cars have small interiors, QED. The rear’s still big enough to fit a pair of people in a pinch—or a ton of luggage for the two people in front. The front seats have no such problem, though; let them eat up all the rear legroom, and they’ll accommodate even the lankiest bodies with ease. The plus size of its small size, though? The 2 Series is damn easy to park. Like I said, I didn’t miss the rearview camera; the car’s small enough to slide into just about any space on the street. And going small doesn’t mean sacrificing style, either. If anything, the 2 Series’s taut, tiny proportions harken back to some of the most iconic BMWs in history—the 2002, the E30 3 Series, and so forth. Don’t let that soccer mom in the X5 make you insecure; you’re the one in the real Bimmer. At the end of the day, the 228i is all about balance, baby. Not just in the corners (though it has that in spades), but in life. It’s got the grip of an SUV with the zip of a sports coupe. It’s got the looks of a luxury car and the price of a regular car. It’s the kind of car you buy if you’re unmarried, love to drive, and love a good brand, but need something that can handle long trips and any weather. Hey, that’s me. Price as Tested: $38,600 0-60: 5.2 secs (est) Power: 240 hp, 255 lb-ft Fuel Economy: 23 city, 35 hwy Miles Driven: 250
May 06, 2015 at 10:00 AM

2015 Ford Mustang GT | Reviewed

Automatic for the (pony) people.

[gallery ids="542151,542150,542153,542152,542154,542149"] Story and Exterior Photography by: Will Sabel Courtney To borrow a phrase from the Vine community, America’s muscle car game has been on fleek the last few years. Power outputs are higher than ever—see: Hellcat, Challenger; GT500, Shelby; ZL1, Camaro. Handling has reached honest-to-God sports car levels. Refinement, quality and fit & finish have become something muscle cars owners can be proud of, instead of having to make excuses for. The best part, though? Because of all this competition, each new muscle car rockets to the head of the class. It has to. Their rabid fans would lose respect if their new Whatever wasn’t better than the old OtherBrand’s muscle car. And that’d mean millions of dollars down the drain. Not just car sales; every one of these cars is a brand all its own—a brand that can be slapped on hats, jackets, ties, shirts, keychains, temporary tattoos, retainer cases, condoms, etc. Car companies can’t afford to make new muscle cars anything less than the best they can be. That means more than just slapping a V8 into an inexpensive car and calling it a day; it means building performance cars that stick like Elmer’s in the turns, haul ass in a straight line, and are still docile enough to drive down to Trader Joe’s— all at a reasonable price. So it’s not really surprising that the 2015 Ford Mustang GT is so damn good. Yeah, it looks amazing—but in a way unlike any Mustang since the Don Draper days. Whereas every Mustang since 1973 has either been a little too boxy (second-gen), waaaay too boxy (third-gen), instantly dated (fourth-gen) or a little too retro (fifth-gen), the 2015 Mustang has a timeless appeal. The front fascia is an angry maw, one that’s obviously modern and obviously Mustang. The long, sweeping profile brings to mind V12 Ferraris—the 250, the 456, the 550 Maranello. And the rear three-quarter is the sort of view that leads to long, lingering glances…that in turn lead to distractedly tripping over a curb. It’s hard edged and trim, not swole and exaggerated—an MMA fighter to the Camaro’s WWE wrestler or the Challenger’s body builder. It looks more expensive than it is—especially considering you can buy this car for $25,000. This Mustang is, as they say, a looker. The only downside is the tall nose (due to pedestrian impact standards in Europe, presumably) that’s basically as high as the base of the windshield, so it doesn’t seem to taper up to the driver—and you wind up with a view rather like a supertanker’s captain. Other than that, though, it’d hard to see any way to improve on this ‘Stang’s looks. The interior’s a solid step above the previous-generation car’s guts—which were admittedly Hertz-spec, even in the priciest models. The curse of hard-touch plastic still hangs on, but at least on the 2015 car, it’s mostly relegated to places you’re not going to touch very often. Instead, Ford used hefty dose of metal—both real aluminum trim and plastic stuff that does a fair imitation,.The metal and metal-ish bits—the row of toggle-like switches tucked below the HVAC, the radio knobs (yay for real knobs!) [That’s what she said -Ed.] the temperature controls—all look spectacular. And the seats…well, to say they’re an upgrade over previous Mustang thrones is like saying a Herman Miller chair is a step up from a milk crate. Used to be, you the Mustang’s Recaros were a required option unless you wanted to wind up putting your chiropractor’s kid through Yale. Nowadays? The stock seats are so good, I’d say stick with them unless your ‘Stang’s gonna spend a good chunk of its life on the track. (But don't plan on putting anyone larger than a Munchkin in the back seats—like a Porsche 911's rear chairs, they're best used for luggage and small pets.) Now, odds are good anyone speccing their Mustang the way mine came—stock suspension, all-season tires and an automatic transmission—isn’t planning on logging a lot of track time. But even equipped as such, the 2015 Mustang turned out to be a solid performer. It’s well-planted and balanced, taking turns gracefully and with minimal body roll but without sacrificing ride quality. Some of the credit goes to the Mustang’s new independent rear suspension, which smooths things out considerably—especially compared to the previous-generation car, whose live rear axle gave it a tendency to pogo-stick around on bumpy pavement. (Which was kind of fun, IMHO, but I digress.) The 5.0 liter Coyote V8 is largely a carryover from the last Mustang, but don’t hold that against it—it’s still plenty potent. Five liters (actually 4.951 liters, but rounding is Ford’s friend) is small for a naturally-aspirated V8, especially in this class—the Challenger uses 5.7, 6.1 and 6.4 liter Hemis, while the Camaro SS’s V8 displaces 6.2—but the Coyote makes up for its small size by revving higher and more willingly than its crosstown competitors. The engine feels more sports car than muscle car, but it’s willing and able. Instead of giving your ass a brutal low-end torque shove, it builds speed progressively—a refreshing change in this day and age, when the big displacement engines, turbos, diesels and electrics make it seem like torque is king. And the six-speed automatic is actually really, really good. Sport and Track modes hold gears and downshift snappily and willingly, even matching revs on downshifts. The paddles are on the small side, but work just fine. In manual mode, the transmission won’t kick down when you floor it, and it’ll bounce off the limiter instead of upshifting—in other words, Manual Mode is an honest-to-god manual mode. Audi could learn a thing or two from Ford’s shift logic. In fact, any car company trying to sell a reasonably-priced fun car could probably learn something from the 2015 Mustang, because the new Mustang is one of the best sub-$50K performance cars on sale—full stop. The Camaro SS 1LE performs a wee bit better, but it’s held back by its Sherman tank visibility and lower-rent interior (two things the new Camaro coming this fall will hopefully correct). The all-new Mustang, in fact, is more than a muscle car–it’s an honest-to-God sports car. And the car world is a helluva lot better for it. Price As Tested: $43,385 0-60: 4.5 secs Power: 435 hp, 400 lb-ft Gas Cash: 16 city, 25 why Miles Driven: 300
May 04, 2015 at 01:48 PM

2015 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe | Reviewed

Screw those vegetable juice-drinking morons.

[gallery ids="542145,542143,542144,542146"] Story by: Will Sabel Courtney Back in the 1970s, some mad men came up with the idea of guilting people into drinking virgin Bloody Marys from a can using the tagline, “I coulda had a V8!” Not surprisingly, the automotive community latched onto this tagline like a harpoon onto a right whale. If you had a nickel for every time car writers alone used that phrase in the last 40 years, you’d probably be able to buy a big-block crate motor. Here to disprove that slogan-turned-joke-turned-cliche: The Jaguar F-Type S. Jaguar will very, very happily sell you an F-Type with a V8 engine. It displaces five liters, comes with a supercharger on top, and cranks out 550 horsepower—this in a car roughly the size of my wallet. It sounds like God gargling. It sends an F-Type coupe from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, and will smoke-cure the car’s rump with vaporized rubber at the whim of your right ankle. (At least until the 2016 model year, when all V8 F-Types sold here in the States switch to all-wheel-drive.) But you shouldn’t buy it. If you want an F-Type, you should buy the V6 S model. Coupe or roadster, buyer’s choice. Doesn’t matter to me—they’re both excellent. See, the S is the Goldlocks model in Jaguar’s F-Type model. The base car? Too cold. The R? Too hot. But the S…you get the picture. Now, I’m usually not the guy to pass on more power—I was once caught saying in complete seriousness that “every car should have at least 500 horsepower”—but when it comes to the F-Type, opting for the mid-level S over the top-dog R means choosing a much more balanced car in more ways than one. A smaller engine in the nose makes the S a bit better in the twisties than the R—there’s less of a sense of fighting the mass inside that Dirk Diggler-esque hood. Granted, being down 170 horsepower makes the S a wee bit slower, but at everyday speeds, the traction control limits the V8’s power so much, S and R are about equal most of the time. Of course, that changes this year, when the F-Type R gets that AWD system. But as that happens, though, the F-Type S will pick up a new six-speed manual transmission—and while AWD adds a few grand to the price of every F-Type R, the stick will actually save you money compared to the automatic S. Which brings up the other big advantage of the F-Type S over its eight-cylinder brother: price, price, baby. A 2015 F-Type R Coupe will set you back a minimum of $99,925. The F-Type S Coupe starts at $77,925. Granted, the R comes with a few standard go-fast bits and luxury accouterments that are options on the S, but even if you option an S to parity with its big brother, you’re still looking at more than ten grand in savings. You don’t lose anything in visual bombast, either; the S and R coupes are more or less identical, apart from a few very, very minor differences…like badging. (Which you could probably correct with five minutes on eBay, a screwdriver and some KrazyGlue, if you’re that insecure.) No matter what spec you pick, the F-Type Coupe sucks in gazes with that rare power reserved solely for beautiful women and sultry sports cars. During my drive back from Vermont, I found myself playing traffic tag with an Acura MDX carrying a family of Massachusetts ski bunnies; the two boys in the back seat were hanging out of the side window like golden labs trying to get a better look at the Jag every time I passed. The final time, they held up a hastily-scribbled sign: I WILL TRADE MY HOUSE FOR YOUR CAR. I declined, though I was surprised to learn they held the deed instead of their parents. And yeah, I drove the F-Type to Vermont in the middle of winter. I’d say read my lips if you actually could see them right now: You do not need all-wheel-drive to deal with winter. A nice set of snow tires, like the F-Type wore, is all it takes to deal with the blustery months—even in Vermont. The F-Type R’s de rigeur AWD system will be an option on the F-Type S (but only if you opt for the automatic tranny, because reasons). Do not choose it. Take the $7,500 you’ll save, drop a grand on high-quality winter rubber, and spend the rest on lift tickets, hot cocoa and whiskey. Okay, take a little of it and buy a ski rack for the Jag, because you sure as hell ain’t fitting them inside. The F-Type’s interior is the closest thing it has to an Achilles’ Heel. Cramped is a nice way of describing it; spend four straight hours behind the wheel, and you’ll start coming up with far less polite words. I like to think Jaguar’s engineers built the car that way on purpose, to encourage drivers to stop every so often and stretch because they’re super-concerned about deep vein thrombosis. Either that, or everyone who worked on the car is less than six feet tall. But if you can deal with the size constraints, the Jaguar F-Type S makes one hell of a case for itself. Save extreme AWD thrust for GT-R fanatics; 380 horsepower, a balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis, and dead-sexy looks make for a pretty ideal sports car in my book. Plus, if you get desperate, I hear you can trade it for a house in Massachusetts. Price: $83,000 0-60: 4.5 secs. Power: 380 hp, 339 lb-ft Fuel Economy: 19 city, 27 why Miles Driven: 850
April 28, 2015 at 01:32 PM

Gratuitous 1995 Porsche 911 Pictures

A little something to help get you over that mid-week hump.

[gallery ids="542133,542134,542135,542136,542137,542138,542139,542140"] Photos courtesy of MC Customs.
April 22, 2015 at 04:02 PM

Mercedes-Benz Releases GLC Coupe Concept Images

The GLC Coupe Concept is nearing production and it can't come quick enough.

[gallery ids="542124,542122,542123,542125,542126,542127,542128,542129,542130"] Via Mercedes-Benz: April 19, 2015 - Stuttgart / Shanghai In a flowing transition, Mercedes-Benz lands the next coup: the Concept GLC Coupé is a near-production-standard study that carries the successful GLE Coupé formula over into a more compact segment. The dynamically expressive show car combines typical stylistic features of a coupé with the sensually pure design idiom of coming SUV generations. This emotively appealing fusion is further enriched with details that are strong in character. A twin-blade radiator grille, powerdomes on the hood and a four-pipe exhaust system form an aesthetic contrast to the harmonious, almost organic main body section. On the other hand, elements from the rugged off-road world, such as enormous 21-inch tires, front and rear underbody protection, increased ground clearance and side running boards, are indicative of the off-road performance potential of the Concept GLC Coupé. Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Daimler AG, puts it in a nutshell: "With its modern and sensual design idiom, the Concept GLC Coupé gives a foretaste of future SUV models from Mercedes-Benz. At the same time, it embraces the typical values of tradition-steeped Mercedes-Benz coupés". The same successful blend of the multifunctional SUV and the emotively appealing coupé world of Mercedes-Benz that was so enthusiastically welcomed with the GLE Coupé is now repeated with the Concept GLC Coupé. However, the near-production-standard show car inhabits a more compact segment, as demonstrated by the external length of 186.2 inches (4.73 meters) and the 111.4 inch (2.83-meter) wheelbase. These two dimensions, together with the striking and muscular main body section, elongated greenhouse and large 21-inch wheels, provide an ideal basis for the typical, almost dramatic proportions of the sportily youthful coupé generation with the characteristic off-road touch. Distinctive front end, sculptural headlamp design At the front, a short, crisp overhang with upright radiator grille and twin-blade louvre so characteristic of sporty Mercedes-Benz models give a first indication of the sporty philosophy behind the Concept GLC Coupé. The credo "Born to race on every ground" is confirmed by the powerdomes on the hood, the sweeping lines of the A-wing below the radiator grille, the large side air intakes and the visually dominant underbody protection. Like all the trim elements on the concept vehicle, this typical SUV feature radiates in silver shadow to form an attractive counterpoint to the solar-beam paintwork and the all-round claddings in matte gun metal magno paintwork. Reminiscent of light sculptures, striking LED headlamps decisively shape the expressive face of the Concept GLC Coupé. All functions are united in one housing: for illumination, the daytime running lamps and turn indicators use the upper strip inserts, dubbed "eyebrows" by the designers. Below them are three rotating lenses, which appear to positively float in the deep, three-dimensional space and which adapt to the situation to optimally illuminate the road or terrain. Of course, the headlamps are non-dazzling for oncoming traffic in lower beam, upper beam, cornering light or active light mode. This is achieved by blanking out the light cone in the area of oncoming vehicles. Side profile with low-slung coupé greenhouse and large SUV wheels The perfection with which the intrinsically contrary design worlds of the coupé and the SUV have been brought into harmony with each other is revealed in particular by a side view of the just under 63 inch high (1.60-metre) Concept GLC Coupé with the typical, elongated roof line of a sports coupé. Like the integrated roof rails and fully recessed door handles, the squat greenhouse with its frameless side windows blends perfectly into the vehicle's flanks to additionally underscore the coupé-like character. The interplay with the high beltline, wide shoulders and accentuated wheel lips gives rise to extreme proportions that lend the Concept GLC Coupé a thrilling dynamism. This highly charged interaction is given extra emphasis by the drawn-in waist between the dropping line and the lower, rearwards ascending light-catching contour. A clear indication of the more prominent SUV genes is given by sill extensions reminiscent of the side running boards on a classic SUV. Flush with the outside edge of the body, wide 21-inch wheels with large, heavily profiled tires combine with the relatively high ground clearance to endorse the sportily dynamic off-road ambitions of the Concept GLC Coupé. Rear end with distinct coupé heritage The rear view of the precisely 78.7 inch (two-metre) wide Concept GLC Coupé in particular reveals the wide, muscular shoulders with harmoniously modelled wheel arches that house 21-inch (53.3 cm) wheels with 285/45 R 21 wide-base tires. The four polished stainless-steel tailpipes of the exhaust system provide a visual highlight. Mounted in pairs above an A-wing similar to the one at the front and featuring characteristic underbody protection, the tailpipes underscore the sporty look of the coupé. Overall, it is the styling of the rear end that most clearly accentuates the coupé genes of the concept vehicle. Narrow, split tail lights, centrally positioned brand star and a sharp spoiler lip emphasize a design line that made its debut with the S‑Class Coupé and which all Mercedes-Benz coupé models have since followed. Relocated to the lower section of the bumper, the number plate as well as the typical form of the rear window with its rounded upper area are among the further stylistic features. The night design of the LED tail lights sets a new tone. Adapted from the headlamps, the strips at the top are home to the turn indicators, which use chasing lights to signal a change of direction. A circular rear light encloses a central lens that adaptively augments the brake lamp for even better visibility. Technical details provide a stimulating contrast Hard technical details give an additional emotive appeal to the Concept GLC Coupé with its almost organic form of the main body section. For example, excitingly designed components such as two-part, open light-alloy wheels, wing-look exterior mirrors and the already mentioned four exhaust tailpipes set a deliberate stylistic contrast intended to underscore the technological claim of the show car. The same goes for the underbody protection with front and rear cooling ducts and the headlamps and tail lights, which resemble light sculptures. Power aplenty: all-wheel-drive powertrain producing 367 hp The drive technology aboard the Concept GLC Coupé matches the vehicle's looks. A V6 powerplant delivering 367 hp (270 kW) and 384 lb-ft (520 Nm) makes for a highly sporty level of performance. Familiar from AMG sports models, the direct-injection biturbo engine is teamed with a 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive to provide the show car with emphatic acceleration while at the same time giving an acoustically audible note to the impressive performance. Depending on the transmission mode setting, the tailpipes give off either a commandingly subdued rumble or the passionate sound of a high-powered sports car. Extension to the SUV world of Mercedes-Benz The SUV world of Mercedes-Benz has room for further models, such as a production version of the Concept GLC Coupé. The wide range of models allows customers the flexibility to order a tailor-made vehicle to suit their personal preferences. At the same time, the show car would enrich the trendsetting coupé world of Mercedes-Benz with a new all-rounder while providing a logical addition to models such as the four-door coupés. In addition to spawning entirely new classes of vehicle, these models have also exerted a considerable impact on the model policies of all manufacturers. They have also proved an outstanding success on the sales front.
April 21, 2015 at 05:41 PM

2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport AWD - 0-60 Review

A great little sport sedan…with a dealbreaker.

[gallery ids="542113,542111,542116,542115,542114,542117,542112"] Story by: Will Sabel Courtney Everybody has flaws. It’s human nature. Sometimes they’re glaring, sometimes they’re subtle, but at the end of the day they fall into two categories: deal breakers or not. They’re intensely personal choices; the hearty chuckle your girlfriend makes that you find so endearing might be a deal-breaking irritant to somebody else. That’s not to say he’s wrong or you are; it’s a personal choice. We each draw the lines in different places, and those differences are part of what make people so fascinating. Why am I strolling you down this tangent? Well, because the Lexus IS has one deal breaker in my book. Just one, but that’s all it takes. You might not find it a problem, but I’m writing this review, and I gotta be straight about how I feel. Let’s cover the good stuff first, though. Lexus has made epic strides in the last few years to make their cars fun to drive, and the IS has benefited from it like whoa. The chassis is rock-solid, the body well-balanced, the suspension taut and dynamic without costing much in the way of ride comfort. Most sporty sedans wish they could achieve this level of poise. Honestly, it’s hard to believe this car’s from the same people who make the ES or the CT 200h. It handles like they outsourced the chassis development to Porsche. The styling, though, is unmistakably Lexus—which is a plus these days. Not long ago, Lexus’s cars ran the gamut from boring to bizarre, but the brand’s finally found a look that works for them: aggressive, sharp-edged, and unabashedly Japanese (it’s downright manga-esque from some angles—call it “kaiju cool”). Every brand these days, it seems, is trying to find a front fascia they can share across their models; Lexus manages to accomplish it without falling into the trap of making every car look the same. The IS may be the best-looking of the Lexus bunch, with a crisp, muscular face sure to do a damn fine job scaring left-lane-hogging Prius drivers out of the way. (Bonus points to Lexus for the LED eye black beneath the headlights, one of the cooler running light strips on a car today.) Move inside, and at first glance, the car’s interior lives up to the skin’s sporty promise. The instrument panel is a digital marvel, with an icy-cool digital tach/speedo that looks peeled off Mr. Sulu’s LCARS display on J.J. Abrams’s Enterprise. The steering wheel and paddle shifters are chunky and reassuring, and fall right where your hands want it. The seats are thickly bolstered, but not constraining—ideal for a couple hours of backroad hustling. Spend a little longer in there, though, and you start to realize that the IS really isn’t as big inside as its slab-sided flanks and squinty head-and-taillights make it seem. The rear seat is barely larger than that of the Audi A3 which is a class smaller and $10,000 cheaper. The trunk is adequate—if you don’t plan on filling all five seats with occupants packing more than a rucksack each. But the biggest flaw inside is…no, not yet. We’ll get there. Hit the open road, and, as I said, the chassis delights; the engine, however, comes across as merely acceptable. 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft would have been up to the standards of the class five years ago, but nowadays, that’s not enough power to cash the checks the chassis is writing. The V6 lacks the low-end turbo torque that’s become a staple of cars in this class, but neither does it bring the high-revving playfulness that’s become the main reason sporty cars stick with natural aspiration. It may be quiet at cruising speeds, but under heavy throttle, it’s coarse and hoarse. Lexus badge on the hood or not, the engine’s still Toyota’s corporate 3.5 liter V6—the same engine that sits under the hood of the Avalon. Granted, the IS makes 38 more ponies and 29 more lb-ft…but the Avalon also goes five more highway miles for every gallon of gas. 19/26 city/highway is downright sad in this day and age for the IS’s class. BMW’s 335i gets 32 mpg on the open road—while making more power and torque. But poor gas mileage and an unsexy exhaust note aren’t deal breakers. The infotainment system is. As wonderful as the primary controls—steering, braking, throttle—are, the secondary controls are, well, I have to say it…bad. Lexus’s infotainment control system uses a free-floating mouse and trackpad-style control setup, and it boggles my mind that anyone would think this is a good idea for a car. There’s minimal tactile feedback—no real sense of resistance from the cursor when it finds a button to press, which makes it almost impossible to use the system without taking your eyes off the road. And you wind up looking away for twice as long as in most other cars, because the cursor’s so sensitive, you often overshoot your target and have to circle back. And apparently the same people who designed the infotainment also designed the climate controls, because the temperature controls are equally challenging. A millimeter-wide, inch-and-a-half tall touch-sensitive metallic strip controls the temperature: drag up for warm, drag down for cool. Not a bad idea in principle—Cadillac’s CUE uses the same basic idea. But where Cadillac gives you several inches of range to drag and takes deliberate effort to use, Lexus’s version is so compact and sensitive, the slightest touch sends the temperature rocketing up or down a dozen degrees. (It’s also not illuminated or backlit, so good luck trying to use it after dark.) Every other car maker in the world has found a simple way to adjust cabin temperature. Why does Lexus insist on overcomplicating such a basic task? Admittedly, as an auto journalist, I don’t have as much time to get used to a car’s eccentricities as its owners will. The average IS owner will spend two, three, four years behind the wheel; I spent four days. But that also means I get to see how almost every car company is managing these same issues, and on the infotainment/climate control side, pretty much everybody else has a better solution. It’s tough to write this, because the fundamentals are so good, I really want it to be a great car overall. I want it to succeed. If the IS were crap to drive, I could write the whole car off with a series of pithy jibes and chalk it up as another chapter in the long history of automotive flops. But it’s not a failure. It’s a really, really good car. It just happens to be saddled with secondary controls that are, tragically, a deal breaker in my book. But as my man LeVar Burton used to say… you don’t have to take my word for it. Price as Tested: $50,525 0-60: 5.7 secs Power: 306 hp, 277 lb-ft Gas Cash: 19 city, 26 why Miles Driven: 100
March 01, 2015 at 01:48 PM

Ford Mustang 5.0 With 20-inch BD-4 Wheels

Got a new Mustang coming your way? Take your wheel cues from this 'Stang on Blaque Diamond wheels.

[gallery ids="542104,542101,542102,542103,542105,542106"]
February 17, 2015 at 07:01 PM

2015 Nissan NV200 Cargo SV | Reviewed

Sends your mobile installers out in Nissan's newest cargo hauler.

[gallery ids="542098,542097,542096,542095"] Photos: David Yates Words: Evan ‘Evo’ Yates Ten years ago, I paid the bills by installing mobile electronics on the road so I have a special appreciation for work vans and their place in society. The fact that my former work van was a 1980’s Ford Aerostar with a cracked windshield and a bungee cord holding the sliding door together makes me appreciate new vans like the 2015 Nissan NV200 even more. The stereotypical ‘work van’ seen on the roads the past decade typically has been a 2500 series Ford that gets crappy gas mileage or the more expensive Sprinter that seems to the do job but could also be overkill. However, the work van segment has changed a bit in the last couple years with the birth of the ‘compact cargo-van’ segment with Ford’s Transit Connect leading the pack. Upon first impression, the 2015 Nissan NV200 is actually quite attractive for what it is. Of course, my test vehicle was not white with cheap, black plastic accents. My NV200 was Cayenne Red with the optional appearance package, which includes body-colored bumpers, mirrors and a chrome grille. At a measly $190.00, a business owner would be crazy not to check this box as it really enhances the appearance of this compact cargo van and even adds a certain level of prestige. The cockpit is pretty basic but that’s to be expected. Typical black and grey plastic consumes the cabin but the 5.8” NissanConnect Nav screen with voice recognition and steering wheel controls certainly made it feel updated. The angle of the back-up camera was a bit limited as it seemed to need an adjustment so backing up was actually a bit of a chore at times because of its odd shape. Of course, the technology package is an additional $1050.00 – good luck on getting not the boss to spring for that one. The cloth seats are comfortable enough with out being too stiff. I could definitely see myself spending hours at a time in them without too many backaches. Thankfully, the NV200 comes with power locks and windows standard which any technician that has to drive a work van on a daily basis will tell you, is an appreciated luxury. The performance is a bit on the weak side, but I really didn’t expect much from the 131 horsepower 2.0 liter four-banger. It can get out of its own way but sometimes it takes a second or two. Having driven a fully loaded van with product and tools before, I did wonder how the NV200 would do once it was loaded up. I assume my little red van would struggle a bit and the 25-MPG would drop considerably but I could be wrong. All things considered, the NV200 is a great option in the compact cargo-van segment and if I were starting a mobile business tomorrow it would certainly be my the choice for my fleet.
February 12, 2015 at 07:20 PM
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