Auto blogFri, 28 Feb 2014 14:16:00 EST
In case you needed more proof that the Lexus RC F is a statement car intended to scream "This is not your father's brand" (yes, we're paraphrasing the tagline of another automaker), here it is: the Lexus RC F GT3 Racing Concept. Lexus introduced a GT500-spec version of the RC F at the Tokyo Auto Salon last month, but this GT3-spec entrant and its Reading Rainbow paint job will get to show off at the Geneva Motor Show to whet the appetites of European racing outfits.
Although referred to as a concept, it will shake that name off when it completes a season of testing this year. Next year, Lexus will make it available to paying customers, and says the car will be cleared to race in the Occident and in Japan's Super GT series alongside its GT500 cousin.
Rumbling into the slot between the Lexus RC 350 Sport Coupe and the RC F is this, the RC 350 F Sport. Debuting at the Geneva Motor Show next week, the intergalactic malevolence of that spindle grille is given further aggression with a mesh treatment and 19-inch F Sport mesh wheels in dark metallic. Traditionally, F Sport models have also brandished unique fascias, but the standard RC is so visually aggressive to begin with, it still ought to throw quite a scare into rivals like the BMW 4 Series M Sport.
Bigger identifiers come in the cabin and under the skin, foremost being the redrum-reminiscent Rioja Red leather treatment and Silver Performance trim, perforated leather wrapped 'round the steering wheel and a moving center ring in the dash cluster inspired by the LFA. When the coupe is put into Sport+ mode, the included adaptive damping will kick in, and buyers can optionally order the four-wheel steering system when the car goes on sale in the US this fall.
There's a press release with info and specs below, a high-res gallery above and a bright lights, big city introduction on March 4 in Geneva.
Consumer Reports has announced its annual list of worst vehicles, a cringe-inducing contrast to its list of top vehicles. Ignominiously leading the way in 2014 is Chrysler, which has a staggering seven models listed.
Jeep nearly sweeps the small SUV segment by itself, with its Compass, Patriot and 2.4-liter version of the new Cherokee, while the only midsize sedans listed by CR were the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger. The new Dodge Dart and the Dodge Journey round out CR's condemnation of Chrysler.
Ford is taking heat as well, with the Taurus, Edge and their counterparts from Lincoln all listed as the worst vehicles in their respective segments. Toyota doesn't fare much better, with its Lexus IS, Scion iQ and tC also making the list.
Having driven its RC F into the party at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Lexus is making the most of the exposure. We recently saw the blue coupe showing off its L-Finesse curves with a curvaceous Lisalla Montenegro. And a new video shows how the magazine ad will also work without a bikinied sidekick, showing off the Lexus' own body and sounds in a 3D app for iOS and Android.
After downloading the app and the 3D image for your tablet or phone, the 450-horsepower RC F will be yours to play with - or, as Lexus suggests, yours to "create the 3D experience in your own hands." You didn't have any other plans for your hands while checking out the new issue, did you? The video below will show you how it's done.
A reshuffle in the uppermost ranks of Lexus could see the Japanese luxury brand further energize its recent focus on design. Tokuo Fukuichi, Toyota's global design boss, is the new head of Lexus International.
Fukuichi will retain his role as the overall head of design for Toyota, Lexus and Scion, and will assume his new position at the head of Lexus and on its board on April 1 (no fooling). This is going to be an interesting move for fans of design to watch, as Fukuichi has repeatedly been mentioned as a designer that enjoys pushing the edge of the envelope and experimenting. He is, after all, the man responsible for designing the most awesomely odd minivan of the 1990s, the mid-engined, rear-drive Toyota Previa, and more recently, he signed off on the controversial Lexus LF-NX concept, which is said to presage a new production small crossover.
"Regarding changes in design, no one has 100 percent confidence," Fukuichi told Forbes back in January 2013. "No one can really say with pure certainty that, 'In two years, this will sell well.'" As Akio Toyoda continues to demand more assertive, edgier designs, it's that point of view that should make Fukuichi a valuable addition to Lexus, as it continues to challenge the competition from Germany.
Consumer Reports has released its 2014 Car Brand Report Cards, with Lexus again reigning at the top and doing so with the same industry-topping score of 79 that it registered in last year's Report Cards. This year, the institute credited its lineup for being "usually quiet, comfortable, and fuel-efficient," noting it's the only brand on the list "to achieve an excellent average overall reliability score." The Car Brand Report Cars list is meant to rank the best all-around vehicles based on CR testing and reliability results tallied by subscribers it surveyed. Each brand included must have sufficient test and reliability data for at least three models, a standard which left out 11 marques including Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche.
This 2014 Brand Report Cars edition is the first of a new format in which sub-brands have been broken out from their parent brands, with Acura using this year to move up the leaderboard into second place with a score of 75 for its "reliable, well-finished and somewhat sporty models." The top three was rounded out by Audi, climbing from eighth to third by scoring a 74 for "well-crafted interiors, nice handling and good gas mileage." Audi scored highest in the road-test portion, its improved reliability aiding its rise. The top nine was completed by Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz.
Ford and Jeep weighed in at the other end of the rankings, Jeep taking the lowest overall score in the road tests and hampered by "a mix of spotty reliability." Ford was sunk by reliability issues with its MyFord Touch infotainment system which consumers found troublesome enough to negate its cars earning "solid test scores" for being "very nice to drive." Perhaps the rumored switch from Microsoft to Blackberry's QNX for the next generation SYNC will help them out. Cadillac's score also took a hit for infotainment reasons after it was the leading US brand last year, the CUE system in the XTS dragging Cadillac to the bottom of all General Motors brands.
Lexus has been desperate to break out of its decidedly boring image for years. There is no doubt that it has made quality cars, but many of them have lacked for excitement. But with the new RC in 2014, especially the M4-fighting RC F version, it might finally turn some heads.
If the car doesn't turn heads, Lexus can at least be sure that Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Lisalla Montenegro will, in its latest video. Of course, phrases like, "Hair by over 383 pound-feet of torque," and, "Goosebumps by an aggressively tuned exhaust note," don't really mean anything, but most of the people watching the video aren't going to be reading the copy, anyway. Instead, they will either be focused on the attractive woman or the cool car. Maybe both. Scroll down to check out the video.
For the first time since 1998, J.D. Power and Associates says its data shows that the average number of problems per 100 cars has increased. The finding is the result of the firm's much-touted annual Vehicle Dependability Study, which charts incidents of problems in new vehicle purchases over three years from 41,000 respondents.
Looking at first-owner cars from the 2011 model year, the study found an average of 133 problems per 100 cars (PP100, for short), up 6 percent from 126 PP100 in last year's study, which covered 2010 model-year vehicles. Disturbingly, the bulk of the increase is being attributed to engine and transmission problems, with a 6 PP100 boost.
Interestingly, JDP notes that "the decline in quality is particularly acute for vehicles with four-cylinder engines, where problem levels increase by nearly 10 PP100." Its findings also noticed that large diesel engines also tended to be more problematic than most five- and six-cylinder engines.
We focus a lot on what new cars are like to drive, but it's difficult on a one-week loan to really get a sense of what a car is like to live with. Sure, we try to recreate that sense with our long-term vehicles, but even after a year, it's impossible to know fully learn about a car, particularly in terms of reliability and cost of repairs. For 2014 model year vehicles, Kelley Blue Book has put together a list of the most affordable vehicles over a five-year period.
At the tippy top of the list are Mazda and Lexus, with the Zoom-Zoom automaker winning the award for best non-luxury brand. Lexus, meanwhile, was the most affordable luxury marque over a five-year period. It's interesting to note, though, that not a single Mazda won its segment in this year's awards.
General Motors did quite well, taking eight segments, including both the subcompact and plug-in segments, with the gas-powered Chevrolet Spark and Spark EV. The Chevy Camaro SS and ZL1 took the high-performance car award. Toyota was well represented, with five winners split between the main brand (Corolla, Prius C and Tacoma) and Lexus (LS and RX).
Long regarded as one of the best driver's cars of all time, the BMW 3 Series has always been targeted by luxury automakers trying to create their own exciting, bang-for-the-buck sport sedan. For years, BMW has managed to ward off would-be rivals to its iconic 3 Series, but the combination of a softened F30 and solid, hard-hitting competitors could soon relieve the car of its crown. While the all-new Cadillac ATS has received the most publicity in this segment since its introduction, the 2014 Lexus IS has come on strong in its third generation to put plenty of heat on the 3 Series as the current-best luxury sport sedan.
The IS might be Lexus' most important launch in some time, as a new, strong attempt to draw younger buyers into showrooms. Rather than taking the same conservative path as the preceding IS, Lexus attacked the new car's design with enthusiasm. Exaggerated exterior styling, while certainly polarizing, definitely gets this car noticed.
We've certainly noticed the 2014 IS, with a couple of first drives (for the IS 250 prototype and the IS 350 F Sport) and a Quick Spin so far. This time around we had a chance to get a little more intimate with a staple of the new IS lineup: the non-F Sport, rear-wheel-drive IS 350.