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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.

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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

Dubai Police Put On A Show Of Force

You never want to see flashing lights in the rearview, but you REALLY don't want to see them on these supercars.

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February 10, 2015 at 04:14 PM

Jaguar And Land Rover Tease New Bond Cars

The Jaguar C-X75 will join the already confirmed Aston Martin DB-10 in what's bound to be an amazing chase scene.

[gallery ids="542088"] Via JLR: Jaguar Land Rover has announced its line-up of vehicles set to feature in SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond adventure, from Albert R. Broccoli's EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment. These will include; Jaguar C-X75s, Range Rover Sport SVRs and Defender Big Foots which have been provided by Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations. The Jaguar C-X75 will feature in a spectacular car chase sequence through Rome alongside the Aston Martin DB10. The C-X75 vehicles have been built in collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering facility in Oxfordshire, England. Scenes including the heavily modified Land Rover Defenders & Range Rover Sport SVR have already been filmed in Austria. The Range Rover Sport SVR is the fastest and the most powerful Land Rover ever. The highly capable Big Foots were constructed by the Special Operations division with huge 37-inch diameter off-road tyres to tackle the extreme terrain. They also feature bespoke suspension and enhanced body protection. Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations, John Edwards, said: "This is an exciting partnership for Jaguar Land Rover and an opportunity to demonstrate the fantastic capabilities of the Special Operations team.'' Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles have been involved in a succession of Bond films. Most recently, in 2012, the rugged Defender 110 Double Cab Pick Up was driven by field agent Eve Moneypenny in the opening sequence to SKYFALL
February 09, 2015 at 03:05 PM

Buick Avenir: French for Future, English for Cool

Buick may be hiding their future in plain sight.

[gallery ids="542081,542079,542080,542082,542083"] Story By: Will Sabel Courtney When Buick dropped the Avenir concept car on the crowd at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, journalists and other car makers were blown away like the guy in the Maxell ads. Out of nowhere, Buick had revealed a concept for a full-size luxury sedan—exactly the kind of car a company needs to be taken seriously as a luxury automaker in this day and age. (It’s also the kind of car Cadillac’s been craving for decades, but that’ll be taken care of by the upcoming CT6 scheduled to drop at the New York Auto Show in the spring.) Unusually for a concept car, the Avenir’s a runner—motivation comes from a direct-injected V6 sending its power through a nine-speed automatic on the way to all four 21-inch wheels, and that power train’s actually sitting under the skin. But the real story of the Avenir isn’t what sends it down the road; it’s the sultry styling, inside and out, that sets a precedent for the future of Buick design. “You won’t see a lot of tall, pragmatic sedans coming out of Buick,” says Holt Ware, North American Buick exterior director. The Avenir concept is his baby; he’s been hands-on with the project from the beginning, directing his forty-plus strong team of exterior designers and sculptors. The car’s overall shape is almost Bentley-esque—there’s a hint of Mulsanne to what Ware calls the “two-ish box” profile—but a closer look reveals a lot of touches that are distinctly Buick—both Buick past and Buick future. The vents in front of the doors recall the portholes on Buicks of old, but the luxury aircraft-inspired wined elements in the headlamps and tail lights point to the brand’s future direction. ““When you go back and forth in time [with design], you create these amazing symmetries,” Ware says. The timeless synergy of past and future continues inside; wax-finished wood trim combines with deco-inspired polymer trim, white leather and a plethora of screens to create a subtle, stylish place to while away the miles. Buick color and trim manager Rebecca Waldmeir describes the Avenir’s interior as a “rolling spa.” But much like the powertrain, the interior isn’t pie-in-the-sky fantastic; many parts are production-feasible, including the etched deco polymer (which happens to be Waldmeir’s favorite part of the car’s interior). “When you manipulate a piece of material…it’s like art,” she says. And while the Avenir is art, there’s nothing to say it’s destined to stay the non-functional kind forever. Buick’s team played coy when pressed on production potential, but with the brand pushing to keep gaining ground as the timeless, old-school counterpart to Cadillac’s sporty, futuristic brand of luxury, a big sedan at the top of the range would do wonders to boost its standing—and potentially, its bottom line. “Avenir would be the pinnacle Buick four-door vehicle,” Ware says. “It’s like the perfect canvas for a painting.” Oh, and the name “Avenir?” It’s French—for “future.” Just sayin’.
February 06, 2015 at 03:10 PM

Ferrari 488 GTB Unleashed [w/ Video]

Packing 660-HP twin-turbo V-8 the 488 GTB is bound to take Ferrari to the front.

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February 05, 2015 at 06:54 PM

All-New Ford Focus RS

Third times a charm as the Focus RS will be available for the first time in the United States.

[gallery ids="542065,542063,542064,542066,542067"] Via Ford: Ford today revealed the all-new Focus RS, a high-performance road car that debuts Ford Performance All-Wheel Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control, which contributes to performance never before seen in a Focus RS. The all-new Focus RS is equipped with a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost® engine producing well in excess of 315 horsepower. Focus RS is the latest unveiling in a new era of Ford performance that will bring more than 12 performance vehicles to global customers by 2020. In addition to pleasing enthusiasts, these vehicles help deliver the company’s One Ford plan for profitable growth, product excellence and innovation in every part of its business. “The all-new Focus RS is a serious machine with high-performance technology and innovative engineering that sets a new benchmark for driving exhilaration on the road and track,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company. “The RS line has a proud history of technical breakthroughs that have migrated to mainstream Ford vehicles to benefit all of our customers, and the new Focus RS is no exception. It’s a great example of our passion for innovation through performance, and creating vehicles that make people’s hearts pound.” Developed by a small team of global Ford Performance engineers, the new Focus RS is the third generation in the line, following models launched in 2002 and 2009. It will be the 30th car to wear the legendary RS badge, following such technology trendsetters as the 1970 Escort RS1600 with 16 valves, 1985 Sierra RS Cosworth with turbocharging and radical aerodynamics and 1992 Escort RS Cosworth with four-wheel drive. Sporting a dramatic exterior design that delivers enhanced aerodynamics and cooling, the new Focus RS offers technologies new to the RS line including Ford SYNC® connectivity system. The all-new Focus RS is the first-ever RS model that will be sold around the world, including the United States, and produced for all markets at Ford’s Saarlouis, Germany, manufacturing plant beginning late this year. “We are acutely aware of the benchmarks we have set ourselves with RS performance models through the years, and rest assured this new car raises the game to a new level,” said Jim Farley, president, Ford of Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Just as important is the fact that with technologies such as EcoBoost, we are able to demonstrate how an innovation that powers almost every car in our range can also be the heartbeat of our finest performance cars,” added Farley. Gymkhana and World Rallycross star Ken Block was brought on as a consultant on the all-new Focus RS, and joined the Ford Performance team at the preview event in Cologne, Germany –where the RS legend was born with the Ford 15M RS in 1968. Innovative Ford Performance All-Wheel Drive offers a new level of handling The all-new Focus RS exploits innovative new Ford Performance All-Wheel Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring to deliver a new level of handling capability and driver enjoyment, combining outstanding traction and grip with exciting agility and cornering speed. The Ford Performance All-Wheel-Drive system is based on twin electronically controlled clutch packs on each side of the rear drive unit. These manage the car’s front/rear torque split, and can control the side-to-side torque distribution on the rear axle – delivering the “torque vectoring” capability that has a dramatic impact on handling and cornering stability. The control unit in the rear drive unit continuously varies the front/rear and side-to-side torque distribution to suit the current driving situation, monitoring inputs from multiple vehicle sensors 100 times per second. A maximum of 70 percent of the drive torque can be diverted to the rear axle. Up to 100 percent of available torque at the rear axle can be sent to each rear wheel. During cornering, the rear drive unit pre-emptively diverts torque to the outer rear wheel immediately based on inputs such as steering wheel angle, lateral acceleration, yaw and speed. This torque transfer has the effect of “driving” the car into the bend, achieving improved turn-in and stability, and virtually eliminating understeer. The AWD system has been tuned to deliver exceptional grip – with lateral acceleration exceeding 1 g – and great cornering speed and acceleration out of a bend. With neutral and adjustable limit handling, and the ability to achieve controlled oversteer drifts at the track, Focus RS delivers an exceptional fun-to-drive experience. To deliver optimum driving dynamics, the Ford Performance All-Wheel-Drive system was calibrated alongside the car’s advanced Electronic Stability Control, in particular the brake-based Torque Vectoring Control system that works in parallel with the torque-vectoring AWD. Other exclusive chassis features include sports suspension with spring rates, bushings and antiroll bars – all of which are stiffer than those found in Focus ST, and two-mode switchable dampers, which offer a firmer setting for track driving. A carefully tuned electric power-assisted steering system working in combination with a more rigid front suspension knuckle design and shorter-link arms delivers connected and responsive steering with outstanding feel. “The Focus ST and Fiesta ST showed that we can achieve sporty steering feel with an electric power-assisted steering system, and the RS raises the bar,” said Dave Pericak, director, Global Ford Performance. “We set out to provide drivers with steering that is very direct, precise and well balanced – and the RS delivers.” Ford engineers worked closely with Michelin to develop a choice of high-performance 235/35 R19 tires to complement the driving dynamics of the Focus RS: a standard Pilot Super Sport tire for every-day use, and – for the first time on an RS – an optional Pilot Sport Cup 2 tire for enhanced vehicle dynamics on the track. The vehicle’s exterior design has also been developed to support the dynamic objectives. Careful aerodynamic optimization of the front splitter, rear spoiler and underbody features eliminates lift forces, and the final design delivers balanced performance with zero lift front and rear for optimum high-speed handling and stability. Unique powertrain for increased output Ford’s EcoBoost technology powers Focus RS and nearly every new Ford vehicle. The specially engineered 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine has levels of power and torque that translate into impressive acceleration when combined with the exceptional all-wheel-drive traction. Projected to produce well in excess of 315 horsepower, the custom unit shares its fundamental structure with the all-aluminum 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine in the all-new Mustang, but has been significantly upgraded through a comprehensive package of design changes. Increased output is generated by a new low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger with larger compressor that delivers significantly greater airflow, along with a much bigger intercooler to maximize charge density. Engine breathing is enhanced through a less restrictive intake design, and a large-bore high-performance exhaust system with an electronically controlled valve in the tailpipe that helps optimize the balance of back pressure and noise output. The cylinder head is produced from an upgraded alloy material capable of withstanding higher temperatures, and is mounted on a more robust head gasket with improved thermal capability. The cylinder block employs stronger high-tensile cast iron liners. Engine cooling also has been given the highest priority, with engineers creating additional space within the front of the vehicle to house a significantly larger radiator pack that provides the level of cooling demanded for hard circuit use. Meticulous calibration work ensures that the power unit delivers excellent low-end responsiveness with a powerful mid-range pull, climbing to a free-revving top end up to a maximum rev limit of 6,800 rpm. The six-speed manual transmission has been optimized for the enthusiast driver with a shorter gear lever to deliver faster and more accurate shifts. Both the transmission and the clutch have been upgraded with stronger components to cope with the engine’s increased torque output. With its high-efficiency EcoBoost design featuring direct fuel injection, twin independent variable camshaft timing, advanced turbocharging and Auto Start-Stop as standard, the engine also delivers significantly improved fuel consumption. High-performance design for stunning looks with optimum function Focus RS exterior design is both dramatic and functional, with a more powerful and muscular character. Designers worked closely with Ford Performance to ensure that the necessary functional attributes were achieved, focusing on the aerodynamic downforce and balance delivered by the design, as well as the cooling demands of the powertrain and brakes. RS features a powerful new front end appearance with a bold upper trapezoidal grille above the deep splitter, incorporating the largest possible apertures for engine cooling. A wide, muscular stance is emphasized by the lower wings and large outboard openings on each side of the car, which feed the brake cooling ducts and house vertically mounted lamps. At the rear, the fascia panel is dominated by the exceptionally large diffuser, which optimizes airflow from under the vehicle and contains the twin round high-performance exhaust outlets. Focus RS for Europe and Asia markets will also get a clear central fog lamp. The distinctive rear roof spoiler is carefully integrated with the car’s silhouette through body-colored side panels featuring a subtle embossed RS logo. The dynamic side profile is emphasized by sculptured rocker panels, and the bold wheel lips that house a choice of multi-spoke 19-inch RS alloy wheels – including a high-performance lightweight forged design finished in low-gloss black, which offers enhanced strength and impact resistance. The high-performance character of Focus RS is reflected inside the car, where heavily bolstered partial-leather Recaro sports seats serve as the centerpiece of the cockpit. The interior features the reworked Focus control layout with its simpler, more intuitive design. SYNC connectivity provides access to audio, navigation, climate control and mobile phones via voice control, and via a high-definition, 8-inch color touch screen. SYNC can be specified with rear view camera with park distance control, as well as a Sony premium sound system with 10-speakers including a subwoofer. The RS driving experience is reinforced by a new flat-bottomed steering wheel with a soft-feel leather-covered rim, alloy pedals and unique instrument graphics within the main cluster. An additional bank of gauges above the center console displays turbocharger boost pressure, oil temperature and oil pressure. Four striking exterior colors include Nitrous Blue, a vibrant four-coat metallic finish exclusive to RS, as well as Stealth Gray, Absolute Black and Frozen White. The car revealed in Cologne features the same special Liquid Blue color scheme first seen on the all-new Ford GT revealed last month at the North American International Auto Show. Rich heritage of innovation and performance Since the first Ford RS models took to the road, the line has been an essential element of Ford’s DNA, delivering technical innovation and performance on road and track. Dating back to the early days of Ford’s success in Rallye Sport, the first RS models established a reputation for advanced technology and driving exhilaration that continues to this day.
February 03, 2015 at 02:40 PM
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