Auto blogFri, 25 Jul 2014 16:30:00 EST
Let's say you just got a big promotion at work or the kids are moving out of the house, and you finally have some extra money. You decide to blow it all at once and treat yourself by upgrading your ride. Naturally, you look to a luxury automaker. What do you choose?
Models like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class may be tailor-made to introduce buyers to the premium segment, but a new study finds that they don't garner the highest rates of non-luxury customer conquests. It turns out that a Volvo leads among folks moving up to a premium brand, and it isn't even one that's made anymore, at that.
A recent study by Polk and IHS Automotive looked at what models had the highest rates of buyers upgrading from a non-luxury segment. The information comes from its new vehicle registration data through April 2014. All ten top models boasted conquest rates of over 50 percent, but the Volvo C70 led the field with 68.01 percent of its customers coming from non-premium brands.
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 11:57:00 EST
The Gas Guzzler schedule, with mpg ratings and charges that haven't changed since 1991, lays out which fuel-swillers owe what to Uncle Sam.
I started thinking about the "Gas Guzzler Tax" - considerably less well known as The Energy Tax Act of 1978 - when I was driving Dodge's new Challenger SRT Hellcat last week. Unsurprisingly for a car that can burn 1.5 gallons of gas per minute at max tilt, theoretically able to empty a full tank of premium in about 13 minutes, the Hellcat will be subject to the Gas Guzzler Tax schedule when it goes on sale.
With so much hullabaloo being made over the first gasoline turbocharged engine produced by Lexus, it's easy to forget that there's another option for those who'd rather (barely) hear the whirring of electric motors than the high-pitched whizzing of turbos. That's too bad, because we think the NX 300h is one of the more interesting hybrids on the market, due in large part to its innovative all-wheel-drive system and relatively sporty driving dynamics. We spent several hours with the brand-new hybrid crossover from Lexus, and we came away with plenty to talk about.
Of course, the big thing that differentiates the 300h from the 200t is its drivetrain. In place of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder sits a 2.5-liter gasoline engine that runs exclusively on the Atkinson cycle to save fuel, augmented by a pair of electric motors and mated to an electronic continuously variable transmission. Lexus is no stranger to hybrids, buoyed by parent company Toyota's expertise, and the basic setup used by the NX 300h is a well-known quantity shared with the ES 300h.
Australian consumers appear poised to get another diesel-burning luxury SUV in the near future, and word is it's coming from Lexus, of all automakers. Sean Hanley, chief executive of the company's branch in Oz, recently told Aussie website Drive that he's "pretty confident" that the new engine for the LX is getting the green light.
Like in the US, the LX in Australia is currently only offered with a 5.7-liter, gasoline-burning V8. However, sales of the big SUV are presently minuscule Down Under, with Drive reporting just 153 LX570s sold in all of Oz last year. Hanley is negotiating with Japan to get the new diesel in hopes of boosting flagging sales. If his efforts are successful, it would be the first diesel engine offered in a Lexus there. Hanley didn't specify exactly which mill the SUV would get. However, given the LX's close relationship with Toyota Land Cruiser, the diesel 4.5-liter twin-turbo V8 already available in the Toyota in markets outside of North America seems like a natural choice.
Don't expect the variant to be hopping across the Pacific, though. Lexus spokesperson Allison Takahashi tells Autoblog she has heard "nothing" about an oil-burning LX coming to the US. That's not a huge surprise, though, because neither Toyota nor Lexus offer any diesels in their lineups today. Also, Lexus has only sold 1,981 LX570s through June, which only placed it ahead of the LFA supercar in the brand's sales. It's probably just not worth certifying the engine for such a low-volume model.
Fri, 04 Jul 2014 08:59:00 EST
If Lexus is going to stay competitive, it needs to turbocharge sooner rather than later.
If there's anything that Lexus is experienced with, thanks in large part to its corporate parents at Toyota, it's hybrid powertrains. The automaker has hybridized tiny little four-cylinder engines, massive honkin' V8s and everything in between. So synonymous are hybrids and Lexus that it would be a shock to see a brand-new model released without an accompanying version with blue badging and a little "h" appendage to its name.
The Lexus LS is old. Sure, it received a refresh for model year 2013, but it hasn't had a clean-sheet redesign since George W. Bush was in office. It's the oldest vehicle in its segment, debuting in 2007, a full year before the current-gen BMW 7 Series, two years before the Hyundai Equus and Jaguar XJ and three years before the Audi A8.
This is particularly troubling as buyers flock to the heavily redesigned Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which debuted late last year, and the all-electric Tesla Model S. Despite this move, though, Lexus is (worryingly in our minds) not at all concerned.
"We don't feel it's a problem with the car," Brian Smith, VP of marketing for Lexus, told Wards Auto. "Many of the buyers in that segment want what's new and they're trying it."
After just a year on the road, Lexus is bringing some modest tech and style upgrades to the 2015 IS. There are no mechanical changes to speak of, but the refinements should spruce things up a little bit.
The only exterior change for the 2015 IS models is the addition of LED foglights, but as they say, it's what's on the inside that counts. All models get an improved radio with Siri Eyes Free voice command for iPhone 4S and 5 users, and the standard backup camera now includes dynamic grid lines. There is also new piano black trim around the instrument panel and window switches, and a Stratus Gray interior color replaces the previous Light Gray. Buyers get a one-year subscription to the Lexus Enform Remote, which allows drivers to use their smartphones to control some aspects of the car, like remotely locking the doors.
Vehicles ordered with the F Sport package get heated and ventilated front seats, and all-wheel-drive F Sport models get a heated steering wheel, as well. The warmed wheel is also optional on non-F all-wheel-drive models. It should keep drivers nice and toasty in the winter.
One has to wonder why it took so long for Lexus to enter the hotly contested compact premium crossover market. The brand itself projects some 36,000 sales for its brand-new NX, which is set to go on sale in the US in November. Add that potential to the 100,000-plus RX crossovers it sells annually in the States and Lexus looks poised to put some hurt on German rivals like Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
The vast majority of Lexus NX models imported to the States will be powered by a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque to either the front or all four wheels. Just 10 percent or so of NX models will get the 194-horsepower hybrid powertrain wrapped in NX 300h trim. Though not yet rated by the EPA, Lexus projects mileage ratings of 22 city, 28 highway and 24 combined for the turbo and 35/31/33 for front-wheel-drive hybrids (expect a one-mpg combined hit for AWD models with either engine).
In terms of sizing, the Lexus NX is dimensionally very similar to the Audi Q5, which starts at $37,300. Lexus hasn't yet released pricing information for its NX, but promises to be in the same range as its competitors. We note with interest that the larger Lexus RX starts at $40,795 - a little over $3,000 more than the Audi its NX will compete against - and wonder out loud if the Japanese automaker can undercut its German competitors in pricing with the NX. Expect official pricing info from Lexus closer to its on-sale date later this year.
The recall of faulty airbag inflators supplied by Takata has exploded today to grow to seven automakers. In most cases, only models in certain high-humidity regions were affected because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in its investigation that moisture played a roll in determining whether there would be a problem. However, some companies opted for national campaigns. The exact number of affected models for these campaigns isn't yet known at this time.
BMW is recalling an undisclosed number of 325i, 325Xi, 330i and 330Xi models from the 2001 through 2005 model years and the 2001-2006 model year versions of the 325Ci and 330Ci for the driver side and passenger side inflators. Only vehicles currently registered in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands are covered under this recall.
Neither Chrysler's filing with NHTSA nor its press release list the specific models affected, but a company spokesperson told Autoblog that at this time it only covers the driver and passenger side inflators for the 2006 Dodge Charger in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands
What's in a name? When it comes to model nameplates, quite a lot, and automakers go to considerable lengths to find just the right one. Same goes for the names of the colors in the catalog (save for maybe the Rape Yellow in the extensive Bugatti palette), but every once in a while, an automaker will open it up for suggestions from the public.
SRT did that when it introduced a new shade of blue for its Viper, as did Chevy for the pale green on the Volt. And last month, Lexus followed a similar path when it asked fans on Facebook to come up with a name for the new shade of orange for the RC F.
Fans suggested names like Tangerine Flame, Outrageous Orange and Fiery Orange, but ultimately the winning submission that Lexus selected was Solar Flare. The name was suggested by five individuals and will now enter the catalog of colors for the new luxury muscle coupe with its 450-horsepower 5.0-liter V8.