Porsche Taycan 4S Cross Turismo 2021 review

With a lower price tag and more boot space, the all-electric Porsche Taycan 4S Cross Turismo is the perfect all rounder 

Verdict

There are very few chinks in the armour of this more affordable Porsche Taycan 4S Cross Turismo. It’s still more than fast enough, handles beautifully, balances this with plenty of comfort and refinement, and offers plenty of tech. It’s still a pricey machine in isolation, but the quality of the driving experience, the interior and the technology live up to expectations – and in a more practical estate body style with even more comfort, the Taycan has never been so appealing.

We’ve sampled Porsche’s more practical, slightly more rugged Taycan Cross Turismo electric car in high-performance (and pricey) Turbo form, but as is the way with the German brand, more affordable models always follow close behind – and so it is that we’re driving this less powerful ‘4S’ version of the Taycan Cross Turismo.

More affordable is a relative term given it costs from £88,270, and with the test car we tried coming in at £102,961 with options. But nonetheless, at £117,960 for the Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo, and £140,360 for the Turbo S, this 4S certainly lowers the barrier to Taycan CT ownership.

For that price you still get the 93.4kWh Performance Battery Plus, which offers a maximum claimed range of 277 miles. With up to 270kW DC charging capability, if you can find a point fast enough, a five to 80 per cent charge will take less than 23 minutes thanks to the Taycan’s 800v electric architecture. You can also opt for a 22kW AC on-board charger for an extra £1,179, but given an 11kW charger is standard, we wouldn’t bother.

The mid-speed punch is still incredibly rapid and is controlled by a chassis that is sublime. It proves electric cars needn’t all be the same to drive; the Taycan in all its forms reinforces that EVs can have character and be enjoyable, and in the Cross Turismo it’s even better. This stems from the slightly raised ride height, by 20mm compared with the standard Taycan saloon, or 30mm on our test car that was equipped with the £1,161 Off-road Design Package.

This extra suspension travel for the adaptive air system means that, even on 20-inch alloy wheels, the Porsche rides beautifully over torn country roads and at low to medium speed in built up areas, where the near-silent powertrain also means refinement is excellent. In fact, even on the motorway the Taycan is superbly quiet – doubly impressive given the Cross Turismo has a big hatchback compared with the standard saloon. 

Sometimes at higher speed over sharp crests in the road the suspension’s fluidity breaks down, causing a noticeable thump, but this is rare – and even when it does the Cross Turismo controls its weight relatively well. You’re always aware of its mass, but the chassis contains it and delivers reassuring handling; only when you really start to push does the car struggle to cope. And the Cross Turismo does invite you to push, because the steering is the best of any electric car. All Taycans offer a wonderful weight, beautifully direct response and even a hint of feedback.

 There is one drawback to its dynamic ability though. While the power delivery is mostly smooth, if you ask for maximum acceleration coming out of a slow corner you can feel the rear-mounted two-speed transmission drop down into its lower ratio before the Cross Turismo thrusts forward. It’s far from frustrating, but in a machine whose engineering is otherwise incredibly highly polished, it’s an odd anomaly.

This feeling of polish extends to the cabin, as like the Taycan saloon, the three-screen set-up is crisp, quick to respond and looks great. It marries this easy-on-the-eye appearance with strong functionality, too.

Unlike the Taycan saloon the Cross Turismo is more of a shooting brake estate, with a hatchback that reveals a 446-litre boot, making it a more practical option. There’s an 84-litre storage compartment in the front for charging cables, too. Space in the rear is great despite the low roofline; there’s a chunky sill to climb over, but once you’re sitting back there, head and legroom are fine.

Combined with efficiency of more than four miles/kWh over a mixed test route that explored the Taycan’s performance frequently, it’s even efficient, so at least the running costs should be easy to bear – and you can’t say that about many £90,000 estate cars with this level of performance.

Model: Porsche Taycan 4S Cross Turismo
Price:  £88,270
Battery/motor:  93.4kWh, 2x electric motors
Power/torque:  563bhp/650Nm
Transmission:  Two-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:  4.1 seconds
Top speed:  149mph
Range/charging:  277miles/270kW DC (5-80% 23mins)
On sale:  Now

(autoexpress.co.uk)

Range Rover Sport PHEV SUV review

“The Range Rover Sport PHEV could prove to be far cheaper to run than other models in the range, and it’s more luxurious, too”

Pros

  • 31-mile electric range
  • Low CO2 emissions
  • Good to drive

Cons

  • Reduced practicality
  • Thirsty once batteries run out
  • Less suited to high-mileage drivers

The Range Rover Sport P400e plug-in hybrid arrived as part of a range update, and brought with it an option in the luxury SUV’s range that will be of great interest to company car drivers. Tax rates and running costs will be significantly lower than for other versions of this big, heavy car, yet it offers an impressive level of comfort and luxury.

There are plenty of alternatives, including the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine, Audi Q7 e-tron, BMW X5 xDrive40e and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid. The Range Rover Sport has only around 26 miles of all-electric range, so it falls behind some of these rivals when it comes to commuting on battery power alone.

The Sport features a 297bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a 114bhp electric motor, so it can go from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds. It’s not just about the power, though, because the electric motor means low-speed driving is as quiet as it gets. Of course, this being a Range Rover the electric motor’s instant torque means it’s a superb off-roader as well – although most owners never go near so much as a muddy field.

The interior is as luxurious as you would expect given the brand’s credentials. Materials are high quality and there’s plenty of tech, including a dual-screen infotainment system with all the modern features you need. One area the PHEV model does lose out is with boot space, because of the space taken up by the hybrid batteries. There’s no seven-seat option here, either, and the plug-in model’s maximum towing weight is lower than for other versions.

From the outside, you might not think you are even looking at an electrified car. The only clues lie in the charging port on the front – and even this is hidden away most of the time – and the badges.

The Range Rover plug-in makes the most sense for those who don’t tend to do a lot of long trips but can’t quite make the jump to a fully electric car just yet. Yet the Range Rover Sport P400e is possibly the most luxurious model in the range to drive, because of the near-silent low-speed running when the engine is off. We’d still stick with a diesel model if you do a lot of motorway trips, though.

MPG, running costs & CO2

 If you regularly cover short distances, the Range Rover Sport P400e makes a lot of sense

The Range Rover Sport P400e might have a relatively thirsty 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, but combining this with an electric motor and battery pack means running costs can be significantly reduced. As with all plug-in hybrids, this benefit diminishes the further you drive – and if you don’t have access to a charging point – so the P400e is best suited to motorists with a fairly short commute who can top up the batteries frequently.

Thanks to the 13.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Range Rover Sport can travel for up to 26 miles on electricity alone, boosting its official fuel economy figure to 88mpg – a huge improvement over the 27.4mpg of the equivalent petrol-only model. While this figure will obviously depend on how you drive the P400e, its 72g/km CO2 emissions figure is fixed, which means this is by far the cheapest Range Rover Sport for company car drivers. Its 18 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band compares with 37 per cent for the standard Si4 petrol.

 Compared with its closest rivals, the P400e betters the 25-mile range and 75g/km CO2 emissions of the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, while the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine manages just 59g/km of CO2 and 134.5mpg, and has a slightly lower, 25-mile range on battery power.

Road tax for the P400e costs the discounted VED (road tax) rate each year. However, there’s also the additional surcharge in years two to six owing to the fact the hybrid costs more than £40,000 to buy.

Charging the P400e at home takes around 7.5 hours using the standard 10-amp cable, but this can be sped up to under three hours using rapid charging with a dedicated wall box and 32-amp cable. The charging port is located in the front grille, making it easier to park facing public charging posts.

Engines, drive & performance

 The P400e is no slouch, but it’s less fun to drive when the batteries are depleted

The Range Rover Sport’s P400e badge signifies its power level, because its turbocharged 297bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor combined produce up to 399bhp. This PHEV certainly isn’t short of power, then, sprinting from 0-62mph in just 6.3 seconds, before hitting a maximum speed of 137mph. This is only four-tenths faster than the petrol model, but the P400e feels very different to drive, especially in town. Here, electric power allows the Sport to accelerate briskly from a standstill with little fuss or noise – attributes that suit its character. It's just a shame the P400e can hesitate when asked to accelerate from a rolling start at a junction or roundabout – a frustrating sensation.

 
Back on the road, it’s when the battery pack is depleted that the Sport P400e makes least sense. With a small engine and more weight to lug around, it needs working fairly hard and emits a vocal whine that’s at odds with the Range Rover’s luxurious character.

Tackle a winding road and the P400e does a better job of disguising its weight, serving up impressive agility and grip for a big SUV. It’s sharper than the XC90 that majors on comfort, while being slightly less driver focused than the Cayenne.

Interior & comfort

 The Sport is just as luxurious as ever, but now has more up-to-date technology

Inside, the Range Rover Sport is just as luxurious as ever, with swathes of leather covering virtually every surface and metal trim that’s cool to the touch. The PHEV features the brand’s Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, with two 10-inch displays stacked on top of each other. These are crystal clear and look great, with the top display taking care of sat-nav and media, while the bottom screen is used for vehicle settings. It largely works well, but smartphone integration still lags behind rivals such as the Audi Q7 – and it's a bit of a fingerprint magnet.

There are plenty of places to charge your smart devices, with up to 12 power points dotted around the interior, as well as two traditional power sockets to charge laptops and other devices that need more juice than a USB port can provide. You can essentially turn the Sport into an office away from home – or family entertainment centre – at the drop of a hat. The introduction of the Activity Key from the Jaguar F-Pace means you can also take a waterproof wristband on your outdoor adventures instead of the key and use it to unlock the car when you get back.

Practicality & boot space

 The battery pack reduces load space and towing ability slightly, but they’re still beyond what most families will need

It has a lower roofline and sleeker shape than the standard Range Rover, or a Volvo XC90 for that matter, but the Range Rover Sport is still a large SUV. It can carry five adults in comfort, with well shaped leather seats providing plenty of support.

 
However, there have been some compromises in practicality in order to fit the battery pack and electric motor. In the standard Sport, there’s up to 780 litre of luggage space, but this is reduced by up to 79 litres in the P400e, while the boot floor is also raised up by 46mm. Perhaps more significantly for families, there’s also no longer the option of the 5+2 seating layout that makes the Sport an occasional seven-seater, because there’s no room to stow the third row in the boot.
 
Towing has been made simpler, thanks to Advanced Tow Assist, a driving aid that allows you to guide a trailer into place using the reversing camera and turning the rotary controller to steer its path. The on-board computer then automatically works out the correct steering inputs required. It’s worth noting that the P400e can tow between 500-1,000kg less than other Sports, but its maximum trailer weight of 2,500kg is still more than enough to pull a large caravan.

Reliability & safety

 Land Rover doesn’t have the best reliability record, but the Sport is loaded with safety equipment

Land Rover doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability, and in our 2021 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey it finished in 22nd place – although that’s actually an improvement over previous years.

While the Range Rover Sport hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, safety should be less of a worry. Both the fully fledged Range Rover and the Range Rover Velar managed a five-star result, so there’s little reason to think the Sport would do worse. It shares most of those models’ safety kit after all, including features such as autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and electronics designed to help prevent rollover accidents.

Price, value for money & options

 For the right type of driver, the Sport PHEV could bring real cost benefits

Depending on its specification, the 400bhp plug-in hybrid P400e costs around £4,000 more than a Range Rover Sport fitted with a 300bhp V6 diesel engine. Some will consider this a bargain, especially company car drivers considering the potential tax savings – although we’re talking about a car costing well over £70,000 here, so it’s all relative.

However, the savings only really make sense if you plan on driving on electric power a large proportion of the time. If you often drive more than 30 miles a day, or on long trips, a diesel will probably make more sense.

(https://www.carbuyer.co.uk/)

The Lamborghini Countach returns but as a hybrid

In a shocking announcement, Lamborghini announced that their new supercar will be given the legendary name Countach. Whether it is just because of the image, or the new model of the Italian company will again be the best choice for a poster on the wall, remains to be seen.

It is a supercar that will debut this year, and the drive will be largely similar to that of the Xian model. It is a hybrid system that combines a 6.5-liter V12 engine with a supercapacitor. The Countach is expected to have similar power output as the Xian, at around 800 hp.

The supercar, which in addition to the name will get design lines that should be associated with the original Countach, should accelerate from 0 to 100 km / h in less than 3 seconds, and a maximum speed of 350 km / h is expected.

Lamborghini did not reveal too many details, but it is known that the new Countach will be the last model of this company that uses a supercapacitor, because that technology is not enough to reduce the emission of harmful gases. And while the Italian company is hiding details, meanwhile, the first photos of the new model have been leaked:

According to the announcements of the Italian company, the new Countach will be available in a limited number of copies, such as the Xian and Ultimae models. However, in two years, the premiere of the successor to the Aventador is expected, which will keep the V12 engine, but in a plug-in hybrid edition, because the company is accelerating its transition to electrification.

Aston Martin Valkyrie Spider

Aston Martin announced last week that it would soon introduce the Spider version of the Valkyrie supercar (with the roof panel removable), which has now happened.


The general public can see this model at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance event in California, with which Aston Martin also marks the 70th anniversary of sales in America.


The first Aston Martin in America was the DB2 model offered in 1951, and since then about 25 percent of all produced Aston Martins have been sold in North America.

The Valkyrie Spider has a 6.5-liter V12 hybrid drivetrain with a total of 845 kW / 1150hp, and without a roof it reaches a maximum of 330 km / h (with a mounted roof 350 km / h).


Aston Martin plans to produce only 85 copies of the Valkyrie Spider model, whose first deliveries are announced for the second half of 2022.

The price has not been announced yet, but it will certainly be higher than the 2,310,000 pounds that the Valkyrie Coupe costs.

Someone paid $ 201,000 for a 1995 Toyota Supra Turbo

To convince someone that a Toyota sports car from the mid-1990s is worth $ 200,000 requires skill. Namely, last Friday someone paid as much as $ 201,000 for a 1995 Toyota Supra Turbo.

The Japanese legend is described on the Bring A Trailer auction platform as a preserved specimen that, after being sold in Michigan in 1995, spent 26 years with the first owner. During that period, the Supra covered only about 10,000 kilometers, which turns out to be less than 260 kilometers a year. It still ‘carries’ its original tires, and the attached CarFax document states that it has been serviced only three times.

Anyway, this sale in the US indicates how much reputation the Japanese athlete ‘enjoys’.

Audi offers entry into the world of motorsport for half a million euros

Back in March 2015, Audi's motorsport department introduced the LMS GT3 specification of the second generation of the R8 model before switching to a racing car with a V10 engine, which debuted in October 2018. Now Audi Sport has introduced the evo II specification of its mid-engined supercar, which sits between the GT2 and GT4 versions in a range of models designed exclusively for the racetrack.

Improved for the 2022 season, the new R8 LMS GT3 evo II comes with numerous improvements, the car's aerodynamics, chassis, traction control, engine characteristics and air conditioning have been changed.

While its predecessor under the car was crucial in providing greater thrust and thus greater cornering stability, the new configuration of this model relies primarily on a new rear spoiler that provides greater aerodynamic thrust and increases traction. For the first time, the suspension of the R8 LMS GT3 has shock absorbers that are adjustable in 4 different levels, and the slip control adjustment also has more options than before.

Audi Sport engineers have developed a new air supply system that allows better torque delivery from a medium-mounted 5.2-liter unit that develops up to 585 hp, depending on competition rules.

Photos of the interior are not shown but we know that the racing R8 got an improved air conditioning for greater driving comfort. These changes will be applied to new cars, but will also be available as part of a retrofit package for existing vehicles whose owners want new upgrades by Audi Sport.

Entering the somewhat serious motorsport competition is more expensive from year to year, which can be noticed at the price of the racing Audi R8. The version that was presented five years ago had a price of 359 thousand euros, while the model presented in 2018 cost 398 thousand. The newly presented R8 LMS GT3 evo II has a price of 429 thousand euros, but when taxes are added, that number goes above half a million. Add to that the costs of mechanics, equipment and transport, and it is quite clear that it is modern

2022 Lexus IS500 Brings Back the V-8

The newest F Sport Performance version of the IS takes us back to the golden era of compact sports sedans with naturally aspirated V-8 engines.

About a decade ago, compact sports sedans offered naturally aspirated V-8s that absolutely ripped. Before everyone went turbo, the E90 BMW M3, the B7 Audi RS4, and the W204 Mercedes C63 AMG crammed in sweet-sounding V-8s to create experiences that we still remember fondly today. Now that we're feeling sufficiently nostalgic for those four-door screamers, we'll get to the point that Lexus apparently shares our passion for those cars, because the new 2022 IS500 is essentially a return of Lexus's V-8 compact sedan, the IS F.

There are no turbos under the IS500's hood. What is under there is closely related to the IS F's 5.0-liter V-8 from a decade ago. The engine—shared with the RC F—now produces 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque, or 56 more horsepower and 24 more pound-feet than its spiritual predecessor. In a turbocharged world, the V-8's horsepower and especially its torque numbers aren't at the level of the M or AMG models', so Lexus is setting expectations by positioning the IS500 as an F Sport Performance model rather than a full-blown IS F.

What does that mean for the IS500's driving experience? We can't quite say yet, but we did recently get the chance to ride in the passenger's seat of the IS500 prototype at an event at Eagles Canyon Raceway in Texas, near Toyota's headquarters in Plano. Professional race-car driver Townsend Bell was behind the wheel.

Keep in mind that the IS500 prototype we rode in wasn't exactly the same car that you'll be able to buy at Lexus dealerships later this year. Wrapped in an obnoxious neon-yellow and black livery, this car was specially prepped for the IS500's debut at Sebring International Raceway earlier this year. It wore an aftermarket exhaust, 20-inch wheels, and grippier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires compared to the stock car, which will have 19-inch wheels and the same Bridgestone Potenza S001L summer tires as the IS350 F Sport with the handling package.

This means that our impression of the IS500's handling isn't exactly representative, but we weren't behind the wheel anyway. We can tell you that the 5.0-liter V-8 engine is a lovely addition to the latest IS and brings back a lot of those tingly V-8 memories. We're familiar with the glorious sound of this Lexus V-8 by now, and it makes itself known in the IS500. Although the prototype's aftermarket exhaust surely enhanced the auditory experience, we'd still rather listen to this characterful engine run up to its 7300-rpm redline than a BMW M3's twin-turbo inline-six.

Unlike the V-6-powered IS350 F Sport we drove that day on the test track, the V-8 has the grunt to shove you into the back of your seat, and the eight-speed automatic transmission upshifts and downshifts quickly. Lexus claims that the IS500 is 143 pounds heavier than a rear-wheel-drive IS350, and we assume that most of that weight is in the nose. Like the IS F that came before it, a noticeable hood bulge is the clearest sign that this is packing something special under there.

Thanks to the ability to completely deactivate stability control, the IS500 will play as much as you like—as Bell demonstrated by easily swinging the tail out wide for a satisfying drift. It also features the same torque-vectoring rear differential that's optional on the IS350 F Sport. But this car is not meant to be a track monster, and we felt plenty of compliance in the suspension tuning, with more body roll than you'd find in an M3 Competition or a C63, for instance.

We're enticed by the overall package that the IS500 promises to deliver, and we hope that the price is attractive enough to further increase its enthusiast appeal. Lexus has strongly hinted that it will be positioned closer to the M340i and AMG C43s of the world, meaning it could bring back a V-8 to the low-$60,000 range. If so, this could become the hidden gem of the sports-sedan world. Now all that's left is for Lexus to let us in the driver's seat.

(caranddriver.com)

Lexus UX200 F Sport First Test: Experience or Appliance?

This compact luxury crossover isn’t the user experience we were hoping for.

Your phone, laptop, smartwatch, heck, even your smart speakers are all a massive pain in the neck. Not for you, but for the people who made them. User experience and interface designers agonize over products for months or even years to deliver an intuitive user experience, and you always notice when they haven't. It's the same story for cars like the 2021 Lexus UX200 F Sport.

Engineers spend countless hours working through endless permutations of designs so they can get the little things like the detent on that volume knob just right. It's all part of an endless quest to satisfy the user. So when we see the letters "U" and "X" arrive emblazoned on the rump of a small subcompact luxury Lexus SUV, the expectation is a satisfying user experience. The only problem is that isn't quite what the Lexus UX200 delivers.

This miniaturized SUV belies both the quality and the satisfaction a Lexus badge normally promises, and the problems start with the UX's pee-wee powertrain. Its 2.0-liter I-4 makes 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, which makes the Lexus one of the slowest vehicles we tested in 2020. At 8.9 seconds to 60 mph, it's slower than much less expensive compact SUVs such as the Mazda CX-30, the base Kia Seltos, and even the Hyundai Venue SEL (which makes 48 hp less).

Sometimes a car feels quicker in the real world than its test numbers would leave you to believe. Sadly, that's not the case here. The UX feels just as breathless on the road as it is on the dragstrip. Merging onto freeways or passing on open roads demands you bury your right foot into the carpet. At that point, the little four-banger shoots to its 6,600-rpm redline and stays there in a perpetual shriek that's about as enjoyable as using a sandpaper Q-tip.

There are no two ways about it: This is a slow car, and despite the F Sport badge, there's little redemption when the going gets twisty. The UX's all-season tires give up grip quickly, and its 27.9-second figure-eight time at a 0.60 g average rank it near the bottom of all the vehicles we tested last year. The Mazda CX-9, a proper three-row SUV that weighs three-quarters of a ton more than the UX, logged a faster lap and a higher average g than the Lexus managed.

As for the UX, road test editor Chris Walton found the steering reasonably precise at the limit but bemoaned the UX's "10-speed" CVT, saying it was "slow to respond and kick down to a proper ratio." The transmission doesn't have "gears," as such, but it emulates a number of simulated ratios, and for most of my driving the CVT was in too low of a "gear," even in Normal mode. I resorted to putting the car in Eco mode for the majority of my driving just to keep the revs down and the engine-sound out of the cabin.

We noted issues with the throttle map on the previous UX we tested, but some software changes to the 2021 model have, thankfully, made the throttle response more linear and easier to modulate. Dynamically, though, that's the solitary bright spot for the UX, and it's not a particularly praiseworthy one.

Thankfully, the ride provides some relief from the lackluster powertrain of the Lexus. Over small lumps and fissures in the road, the UX can be crashy, but all in all, it rides well over most any surface and is more comfortable than rivals such as the Mercedes GLB and Jaguar E-Pace. A big part of that comfort is down to the excellent F Sport seats. They're supportive, heated, cooled, and trimmed in a luscious leather that makes spending time in them the best part of the whole car.

The rest of the interior, on the other hand, is largely where the user experience falls flat. One example: Just beneath the crisp, bright infotainment display is a well-organized row of HVAC buttons, but the option to turn the A/C on and off is buried under three menus. Plus, Lexus' finicky touchpad makes getting there difficult. Even after Lexus spent years refining and iterating on the system, it still isn't as intuitive or as accurate as the control knob offered by much of the German competition.

The volume knob is located on a funky, flat spar that juts out from the center console. It's supposed to be easy to use if your hand is resting on the lid of the console itself, and it's not necessarily a problem on its own. But once you have a passenger and their elbow takes up the exact position your arm needs to be in to use the volume knob properly, the illusion that this is somehow more intuitive or more interesting than a typical volume knob falls apart. That and the rest of the physical controls located on that spar become unusable.

The steering wheel is much too large for a car of this size, and even though the column is electrically powered, it doesn't telescope out far enough. The bit of plastic at the top of the instrument cluster creaked incessantly in our test car, and the screen resolution in the cluster itself doesn't hold a candle to the likes of Mercedes' MBUX and Audi's Virtual Cockpit. And then there's the excessive wind buffeting—even with both driver-side windows down, there's a literal tornado whipping around in the back of the cabin. You can mitigate it by lowering the rear passenger's side window, but at that point, you might as well be driving a convertible.

The rear cargo area only has 17 cubic feet of free space available (that's less than a Hyundai Veloster), and there's a middling amount of legroom and headroom available to second-row passengers. Now, I know what you're thinking. Here comes Johnny Auto Journalist, picking apart yet another SUV because we are taught to hate them. But you'd be wrong. There are plenty of SUVs, compact or otherwise, that we genuinely love.

On its face, the UX200 should be an appliance, a generalist automobile that takes you from A to B without hassle. Like your smartphone, it should be pleasant to use when you need it to be and out of your way when you don't. Lexus' quest to make it an "experience" with its, erm, eye-catching exterior looks and fussy interior design has only packed it full of compromise.

The user experience that I talked about earlier, the one that designers and engineers fret over, the one that separates good products from bad ones, simply doesn't excel here. The UX is inconvenient at its best and downright irritating at its worst, and for $41,655 there is no way to justify it.

Source: motortrend.com

Lexus IS 350 Review: Refocused but Not Rejuvenated

The verdict

A few mild updates keep Lexus’ sporty IS sedan alive and kicking, aimed squarely to capture the few remaining sports sedan buyers left on the market.

Versus the competition

The updates don’t go deep enough to make the IS 350 fully competitive against newer, fresher, faster rivals like the BMW M340i, Genesis G70 or Acura’s new TLX.

The beautiful thing about so many people starting to abandon entry-level luxury sedans for entry-level luxury SUVs and crossovers is that for the few remaining players in this class, a change is taking place. This is becoming especially obvious at the Japanese luxury brands, where instead of abandoning compact sports sedans, they’re changing their focus. No longer are they just entry-level models; the latest ones are being realigned specifically to be appealing sports sedans. The thinking goes that anyone still looking at a sedan over an SUV is really in it for the style and fun-to-drive factors, so why not make them the main focus of the car?

Acura did it with the new 2021 TLX, and now Lexus has done it with the 2021 IS 300 and IS 350. But has the redo and realignment of the IS gone far enough to keep it competitive against newer, fresher, faster rivals?

Looks a Bit Fresher

There are two models to choose from in the new IS lineup: the entry-level IS 300 with a 241-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, or the IS 350 you see here with its naturally aspirated 311-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Either model can be had with rear- or all-wheel drive, but if you go for an IS 300 AWD, it actually comes with a less powerful, 260-hp version of the V-6 that also has less torque than the turbo four-cylinder. All RWD cars come with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, while AWD cars come with a six-speed automatic.

Here’s where we start to see the new focus on making the IS a sporty sedan: The IS 300 F Sport is no longer a thing. You can’t get the F Sport handling and appearance package on that version — but all IS 350 models automatically come with the F Sport trim, meaning you can get an IS 350 only in F Sport guise. If you opt for the IS 350 (which you probably should given its significant power advantage over the IS 300), you’ll be getting this — a compact sports sedan with a 311-hp nonturbo V-6 carried over from the past model year with standard rear-wheel drive, an eight-speed automatic, a sport suspension, standard 19-inch wheels and more aggressive styling.

Lexus has updated the look of the IS for 2021, and I have to say that it’s a subtle but definite improvement. Those weird Nike swoosh signature LED lights up front have now been well integrated into the larger headlight assembly and look much, much better. The Lexus signature spindle grille is still here, but it’s either simply grown on us or just doesn’t look as offensive as it used to; either way, I think we’re finally used to it. The fenders are a tad wider to accommodate the bigger wheels and tires on the IS 350 F Sport, and a new trunk and rear bumper with a full-width LED taillight makes for more muscular-looking haunches. The Dynamic Handling Package available on the F Sport brings a couple of styling changes, too, including the addition of lovely matte-black 19-inch BBS wheels and a rather unnecessary carbon-fiber trunk spoiler. The overall changes have cleaned up the IS 350 considerably, giving it a lower, wider, more menacing appearance that’s less funky but more attractive.

Doesn’t Drive Any Differently

Out on the street, the new IS 350 really doesn’t feel that different from the last one. More than 300 horsepower might sound like a lot on paper, but 280 pounds-feet of torque isn’t all that impressive anymore, and it shows up in the IS 350’s rather underwhelming straight-line acceleration. Many of its competitors, such as the Acura TLX, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Genesis G70 and BMW 330, all employ turbocharged engines with torque that’s available low in the rev range, making for punchier acceleration than the IS 350 delivers. The IS certainly isn’t slow, but neither does it have the immediacy you’d expect when you floor the accelerator as you enter a highway on-ramp or pull out in front of traffic. Lexus’ given 0-60-mph time of 5.6 seconds isn’t exactly class-leading anymore. The eight-speed automatic transmission is well executed and does a decent job of providing smooth shifts, but it doesn’t seem quick or eager to kick down when you plant your foot, only adding to the more relaxed, slightly underpowered feeling the IS 350 delivers. Simply put, the IS 350 feels like it could use a more up-to-date engine and transmission combo, something that would boost its acceleration to match the more powerful and similarly priced offerings like the BMW M340i or Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400.

There’s not much to fault with the IS 350’s handling, however. The suspension provides an excellent balance of comfort and responsiveness that really does impress with its sophisticated feel. For a bit more money, you can specify the Dynamic Handling Package for your IS 350 F Sport that includes an electronic adaptive suspension, adjusting the ride firmness and response via a mode selector on the center console. I honestly didn’t find that it affected the ride quality or steering effort noticeably if I switched from Normal mode to Sport S or Sport S Plus modes, but it did seem to wake up the powertrain with a more responsive throttle and allow more revs to build before shifting. Keeping it in Sport modes isn’t really conducive to serene driving, however, so you’re likely going to just keep it in Normal where the IS 350 proves to be a pleasantly quiet touring car that allows for faster cruising speeds than you might otherwise expect.

Time to Rethink the Interior

Inside, there have been a few changes to the IS 350 for 2021, but again the car is showing how much it could use a rethink to its whole platform. The interior mixes decent fake leather and nice ash wood accents on the F Sport with unremarkable plastic surfaces. One notable option is the Circuit Red interior, which truly looks stunning — sadly, my test car came outfitted with a more somber, less interesting black interior. You have a highly welcome new touchscreen front and center, which finally allows you to skip using Lexus’ remote control for the multimedia system. An 8-inch screen (measured diagonally) is standard, and the 10.3-inch screen in my test car is optional on vehicles equipped with navigation. It’s almost 6 inches closer to the driver than the previous screen, so it’s easier to see and reach. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is Amazon Alexa integration.

Lexus’ maddening remote joystick control has been replaced by a new touchpad, which is a bit better, but there’s no substitute for being able to touch the screen directly to do what you want to do. Thankfully, Lexus has finally realized that.

There isn’t much continuity to button design, with some buttons feeling large and well labeled, while others are tiny and hard to find, and still others are almost completely obscured from the driver’s view and difficult to use at all. The digital gauge cluster features an unusual sliding round master gauge that first appeared in F Sport versions of the IS and other Lexuses many years ago, inspired by the LFA supercar, but it honestly just seems needlessly gimmicky. And the fact that a bright green “Eco” light illuminates in the gauge cluster whenever the engine enters its fuel-saving mode is really annoying. In short, the IS 350’s interior layout and control strategy needs a modern redo.

But that’s not really the biggest issue with the interior. The IS 350 is cramped inside, with a narrow cabin and fairly tight seats. It features an unusually high driving position that feels as if the seat could stand to be an inch or two lower; more adjustability to the bottom cushion’s angle would be nice, too. The rear seats are also tight, with adequate room for two on short trips and decidedly more legroom than, say, an Alfa Romeo Giulia, but overall room in back feels about average for this category of sedan. There’s plenty of room in the trunk, and the rear seats do fold to allow for larger items. Yes, this is a compact sports sedan, and nobody’s expecting it to be a limousine. But its overall design aesthetic, packaging and control layout all seem to be in need of a more comprehensive update.

A Better Value Only on Base Models

The basic Lexus IS 300 RWD starts at $40,025 (all prices include destination), and my IS 350 F Sport RWD test car starts at a still reasonable $43,925, which rings in several thousand dollars less than the 2020 IS 350 F Sport thanks to Lexus’ new trim strategy. Add the moonroof, Dynamic Handling Package, navigation with premium Mark Levinson audio and a few other odds and ends, and you come to my car’s as-tested price of $55,220. That’s a little harder to swallow, frankly, given the other competitors you have at this price like a BMW M340i or Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, both of which outgun the IS 350 in the powertrain department. Or even opt for the new 2021 Cadillac CT5-V or Genesis G70 3.3T, both of which also feature more powerful engines for less money, accompanied by more modern interiors.

Lexus’ entry-level sports sedan is meant to be a good starting point for fans looking to get into the brand, and its refocused energy on capturing the few remaining sports sedan buyers with a more value-oriented F Sport model is commendable. But its updates for 2021 didn’t quite go far enough to make it a more competitive offering versus the considerably newer, fresher and more powerful competitors. Still, it has its looks and refinement going for it, along with Lexus’ reputation for reliability. If those factors weigh more heavily for you, then the new 2021 Lexus IS might be worth putting on your shopping list.

Source: cars.com

Tested: Lexus IS350 F Sport Deserves a Better Engine

Lexus's updated IS350 F Sport has the looks to kill but it doesn't deliver sufficient thrills.

Sedans are dead, at least that's the conventional wisdom. The trend toward crossovers has seemingly placed four-door cars on death row, but while they're down, they're not out of appeals. New sports sedans are still being introduced. Lexus's updated 2021 IS350 F Sport is just such a sedan, but is it good enough to find enough buyers to save itself from the gallows?

First introduced for the 2014 model year, the third-generation Lexus IS has been reformed by a second mid-cycle refresh in an attempt to keep up with newer offerings like the BMW 3-series, Cadillac CT4-V, Genesis G70, and the still lovely Mercedes-Benz C-class. Designers went to work on the sheetmetal with a smoothed-out profile, squinty headlights, and following the trend, an even larger grille. It's a killer-looking sedan, especially when dressed in the IS350's standard F Sport garb and blacked-out trim.

HIGHS: Stunning curb appeal, tasteful interior, comfortable seats.

While the IS's looks will please your optic nerve, the segment is one that emphasizes performance. Beneath the hood of the rear-wheel-drive IS350 F Sport is Lexus's familiar 3.5-liter V-6 producing a naturally aspirated 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Against turbocharged fours and sixes, the V-6 seems a step behind the times. The engine lacks the low-rpm shove that comes from most turbocharged mills, and the eight-speed automatic delivers lackadaisical shifts. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 5.6 seconds, and the quarter-mile is gone in 14.2 seconds at 100 mph. While those numbers would have been good a decade ago, today the IS350 F Sport finds itself competitive with the base turbocharged inline-fours offered in its class. For a sedan with such seductive looks, it deserves an updated V-6 with more power.

In an effort to improve handling, Lexus has also retuned the chassis. There are additional welds in the unibody to strengthen the structure, aluminum control arms replace steel ones, springs and anti-roll bars have been lightened, and a switch to lug bolts instead of nuts saves two pounds. Our test car arrived with the $4200 Dynamic Handling package that includes lightweight 19-inch BBS wheels that shave a claimed 16 pounds, adaptive dampers, and a Torsen limited-slip rear differential.

LOWS: A naturally aspirated V-6 in a world gone turbo, chassis shows promise but is held back by an overly vigilant stability control system.

All of the changes sound great on paper, but on the street there's still some structural flimsiness and the steering isn't as precise as the CT4-V's or the G70's. Lexus fits Bridgestone Potenza S001L summer rubber that seems tuned more for comfort than all-out grip. There's also the matter of a stability-control system that reactivates itself above 30 mph. This car's 0.89 g of stick on the skidpad is far from noteworthy. A Camry TRD outgrips the IS350 on the skidpad. Standing on the left pedal at 70 mph stops the IS350 in a competitive 155 feet, but the force of the stop seemed to trigger a low-oil pressure alert. This isn't something we've experienced with this engine before, so it may be a pre-production bug.

We found few problems with the tastefully appointed cabin. Supple leather and wood trim dress up the revised dashboard. The seating position and comfort of the bucket seats is spot on, but our enthusiasm wanes when we start using the infotainment system's touchpad. Though Lexus remains dedicated to fitting the haptic pad to operate the infotainment system, it's easily avoided by using the standard 8.0-inch or optional 10.3-inch touchscreen. Mounted nearly six inches closer than before, they're an easy tap away. Technophiles will find solace now that Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay compatibility are standard.

The good news for IS350 buyers, is that its $43,925 starting price is $2475 less than last year's IS350 F Sport. A looker inside and out, the low-stress V-6 could definitely use more muscle and the handling could be more engaging and fun. Add in our car's as-tested $55,200 price, and we were in a less forgiving mood. A new engine would go a long way toward helping the IS sedan stay off death row.

Source: caranddriver.com

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