Auto blogFri, 05 Sep 2014 11:57:00 EST
I didn't get a chance to drive the Lexus IS F until 2009, two years after the car had gone on sale, but I still vividly remember the day it happened. Having piloted almost every other vehicle in the Lexus lineup at that point, I was stoked to finally get some wheel time in the V8-powered, flared-fender muscle sedan, but fully expected the car to offer a quick, sanitized and ultimately un-driverly experience. Lexus built well-screwed-together, comfortable, quiet, reliable luxury cars for the timid, right?
As it turned out, I was 100-percent incorrect. When the premium brand's lauded "skunkworks team" crammed that massive V8 into the innocent IS, and then tuned the thing for competent hot laps at Fuji Speedway (F = Fuji, if you haven't heard), they seemingly forgot every brand value that Lexus had curated over the previous 20 years. It was raw and loud, had fast-twitch reflexes and a penchant for power slides, and it went unyieldingly across the road surface like a racecar cut loose from the paddock.
As far as Ur- models and origin stories go, the IS F and Lexus F has a pretty compelling, if new, set. A backdrop against which the sequel, this 2015 RC F, must inevitably be viewed. Sure, the otherworldly LFA may have intervened as the second F model, but the RC carries forward an evolution of the 5.0-liter V8 thumper, some shared body and chassis constructions, similar in-your-face design and a ticket price that's squarely in the mix for premium buyers with a hankering to smoke tires.
It's been a topsy-turvy summer for foreign businesses in China ever since that country's National Development and Reform Commission and State Administration for Industry & Commerce launched a horde of investigations into anti-monopoly practices. When the law outlining monopolistic behavior was passed in 2008 foreign companies appreciated it, expecting it to illuminate some of the more opaque corners of Chinese government enforcement. That hasn't exactly been the case, and now as more than 1,000 auto-sector firms get investigated and pay huge fines to settle the nebulous charge of having prices that are too high, that hoped-for clarity is all but gone.
A recent news report said Audi, Chrysler and Daimler "would be punished for unspecified violations" concerning the prices of spare parts. Earlier this month Toyota said that Lexus China was being looked at, and before there's been any public notification of punishment Lexus has decided to lower the price of its replacement parts. From next month, customers will save an average of 26 percent on roughly 15,000 parts. It's unknown whether the move will appease authorities enough to end the investigation, which outside analysts have said targets foreign firms in China over domestic industry.
Lexus entered new territory this past April when it revealed the new NX compact luxury crossover at the Beijing Motor Show, but it wasn't until now that the Toyota luxury division actually started building them. The first production examples started rolling off the assembly line last week at the Miyata plant in Japan, with the accompanying turbo engines built at the adjacent Kanda plant.
The arrival of the NX marks both the first time that Lexus has produced a compact crossover - an increasingly important segment for luxury automakers - and the first time Lexus has offered a turbocharged engine, one of two options alongside the hybrid version. The NX builds on two previous competences exhibited by Toyota: one is the RAV4, which pioneered the compact crossover segment back in 1994, the other being the Lexus RX that was among the first luxury crossovers when it arrived in '97.
Lexus reports that it has already taken some 6,500 pre-orders in Japan alone, with many more coming in from markets around the world - including ours, where it is sure to be a key player for the Japanese automaker alongside the hot-selling RX. Watch the videos below to see the NX starting its production run in Japan.
Did you just miss out on purchasing one of the 500 Lexus LFA supercars built between 2010 and 2012? "No big deal," you're probably thinking, "I'll just wait until the next time Lexus builds a supercar." Well, we're afraid that you'll be waiting quite a long time. And by long time, we mean about 30 years.
That's according to a report from Bloomberg, which indicates that yes, Lexus is looking at a follow-up to the V10-powered, carbon-fiber-bodied LFA.
"Akio [Toyoda] believes that every generation deserves to have a car like an LFA, so we're building an LFA for the generation we have today," Lexus Executive Vice President Mark Templin told Bloomberg. "At some point, there may be another special car for another generation."
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 17:30:00 EST
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is a treasure trove for auto enthusiasts, especially those who double as conspiracy theorists.
Why has Toyota applied to trademark "Supra," the name of one of its legendary sports cars, even though it hasn't sold one in the United States in 16 years? Why would General Motors continue to register "Chevelle" long after one of the most famous American muscle cars hit the end of the road? And what could Chrysler possibly do with the rights to "313," the area code for Detroit?
Over the course of the past 25 years, Lexus has done one heck of a job winding its way into the luxury automobile market previously dominated by the Germans. And now it aims to take another step into the luxury arena with The Crafted Line by Lexus.
Set to debut at Pebble Beach later this month, the Crafted line offers the Storm Trooper treatment with high-contrast white paint and black trim. The interiors are done up in two-tone black and red, and Tumi has done up a special set of luggage to match.
The special edition will be available on the ES350 as well as the F Sport versions of the LS460, GS350, IS250 (in both rear- and all-wheel drive) and RX350 AWD. Each will be limited to around 1,000 examples (give or take, depending on the model), with pricing set to start at around $42,000 for the ES pictured above. Scope out the full details in the press release below.
We knew this day would come, but it's nonetheless a bit of a sad one for Lexus enthusiasts as the very last example of the IS F has rolled off the assembly line in Tahara, Japan. Decked out in its trademark bright blue, the final IS F is destined for a customer right here in the United States.
Far from just another now-defunct model in an endless succession, the IS F marked the first time that Lexus did a proper performance model, debuting in production guise at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show alongside the LFA concept long before the latter entered production and took the idea of the high-performance Lexus even further. The IS F may not have sold in huge numbers, but it definitely marked a milestone for Toyota's luxury division.
Don't cry too much, however, as the new RC F that effectively takes its place packs an even mightier punch. While both are powered by essentially the same 5.0-liter V8 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic driving the rear wheels, the outgoing sedan's 416 horsepower and 371 pound-feet of torque is easily outgunned by the new coupe's 450 hp and 383 lb-ft.
Take a good look at the image above. That's the US-market Lexus NX 300h, and it looks, well... distinctive. Although the entire NX crossover sports styling that could certainly be described as controversial, it's the front end of the 'ute that seems to draw most of the ire, befitted as it is with Lexus' so-called spindle grill.
Now, take a look at the pair of images just below. The one on the left is from the States (the same model seen above), while the one on the right comes from Europe. Notice a difference? The lower front fascia of the European Lexus NX dips down much lower than the one from the US, and it looks much more refined because of it.
Why the disparity between the two designs? According to Top Gear Philippines, the reason why the US gets the more pointy proboscis is because of its classification as a light truck. It seems trucks are required to have some sort of concession to the car's approach angle - in other words, a truck should be able to clear an obstacle that a car might hit. Why does Lexus care if the NX is a car or truck? Well, that has to do with how fuel economy is reported, as trucks are given less-stringent requirements for Corporate Average Fuel Economy purposes.
Lexus has been keeping development of the production version of its LF-LC concept tightly under wraps. Last we heard, that halo GT car had received the green light for production, but that was over a year ago. Since then, things have been pretty silent. Finally though, fresh rumors about the luxury coupe are starting to leak out, pointing toward the model's powertrain lineup.
According to unnamed sources speaking to Motor Trend, the production LF-LC will eventually sport three very intriguing engine options. The base model will reportedly use a naturally aspirated V8 providing around 450 horsepower - very similar specs to the upcoming RC F. The next step up will allegedly be the upcoming hybrid powertrain shared between BMW and Toyota pumping things up to around 500 hp. Finally, a top-of-the-heap F version will use a twin-turbocharged version of the RC F's 5.0-liter V8 to bring output to 600 hp. The insiders even claim that the hybrid and the twin-turbo V8 could find their way into other Lexus products like the LS and possibly even a more beastly RC.
None of this speculation sounds too outlandish. Lexus could get more capacity out of the RC F's tuned V8 by shoving it into other models, and rumors are flying about performance cars spawned from BMW and Toyota's partnership. Given Lexus' recent embrace of turbocharging, even the twin-turbo V8 doesn't seem too dubious. That said, with no hard facts to back up the rumormill, we'll have to keep waiting to see what the LF-LC shows up with.
There are some things in this industry that we're perplexed by, like the infotainment system on our long-term Subaru WRX or why the Mitsubishi Mirage is allowed to exist, among other things. Let's add one more to that group, with the Lexus GX. It's not a particularly bad vehicle for a big, body-on-frame brute, remaining one of the only true SUVs in the mid-size luxury class, alongside the equally old fashioned Land Rover LR4.
Considering these things, then, what we're about to tell you makes very little sense - sales are up 135 percent through last month. The Japanese luxury marque has moved over 5,300 during the first six months of 2014, owing in no small part to a significant price drop over the 2013 model. Today, a GX starts at $49,085, while a year ago, it was $53,445.
Don't mistake this price decrease for charity, though. Lexus specifically built a lower-cost GX to lure in customers. According to WardsAuto, faux leather covers the cabin rather than the real stuff, while the overall package is decontented relative to what you might find in a typical Lexus.