2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

When Lexus arrived in the U.S. market at the end of 1989 with the 1990 model LS 400, it was clear that they were taking aim at the luxury car market. The car was roomy, luxurious, quiet and almost tranquil. For the next twenty years or so, the name, Lexus, would be synonymous with luxury.

During this twenty year span, many of their competitors took aim at the sporty, performance driven U.S. market with more aggressive versions of the luxury sedans and SUV’s that they had come to be known for. If you look around the streets and parking lots these days, you’ll see everything from 20’+ rims, low profile tires, huge air-intakes in the grille’s, deep note exhausts systems to matte paint, on what had traditionlly been considered “luxury” cars.

Not to be left out and always in “the pursuit of perfection”, Lexus has thrown its hat into the performance ring. Lexus’ performance vehicles are more inconspicuous with subtle “F Sport” badge and capable underpinnigs to accompany! 006

When the 2014 Lexus 350 F Sport was delivered to my office, aside from the Claret Mica (Burgundy) color, I was impressed and excited. Having participated in the inaugural ride and drive for the IS 350 F Sport last year, I couldn’t wait to explore Lexus’ interpretation of performance in an SUV. It had all the great looks of the F Sport line with the new trademark spindle grille, 19’dark graphite aluminum alloy wheels and of course, the F Sport badge on the front fenders. It certainly looked the part.

Aside from the obvious visual cues (exclusive leather interior trim, aluminum pedals, leather steering wheel) to distinguish between the F Sport and its luxury bretheren, are the 8-speed transmission and the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. All of the other RX variations carry the 6-speed transmission from previous models. Not sure if the F Sport with the 8-speed transmission (only available in AWD) makes it any sportier (we have not yet driven the 6 speed version) but, according to Lexus, the 0-60 times improved by .01 second and the 1/4 mile times improved dramatically by .04 seconds. Highway cruising fuel economy improved by 2 mpg and overall by 1 mpg. With a 19.2 gal. fuel tank, that should get you about 30-40 extra miles per tank.

For my daily commute from Atlanta’s suburbia into the city, as well as, chaufering the six year old around on her busy social schedule, the RX F Sport made me feel more “hip” and less “middle aged”. This was impart thanks to the “nob” on the center console that allows the driver to switch from ECO to Normal modes and where this RX remained for my 7 days, Sport Mode! The suspension was stiffer and felt more confident as I occassionaly “pushed the limits” of the 19′ tires and the, F Sport specific, adjustable suspension.

For those that have come to expect luxury and refinement from the Lexus brand, rest assured that none of the convenience and comfort appoitments have been compromised. The press car that we drove came equiped with Mark Levision premium sound system with SiriusXM Satelite Radio, USB, iPod/MP3 Control, dual zone climate control, 10 way power heated/ventilated front seats, homelink garage door opener, navigation w/voice command, backup camera and so many other conveniences that I wouldn’t dare try to list here for the lack of space and time. Fully equipped, Lexus is proud of its work and it shows with the MSRP Sticker of $53,375.00. If you’re in the market for an economy SUV, this is not the vehicle for you. As stated earlier, Lexus is synonymous with luxury and by definition, luxury is a refinement of living rather than a necessity. Hence, this is an SUV for those looking to reward themselves for hard work, good fortune or both. Who are we to judge.

So guys, if you’re looking to convince your wife to drive an SUV that you can look cool driving, the RX 350 F Sport should certainly make your short list. And ladies, if you’re like my wife and consider yourself too young and stylish to drive a “mommy mobile”, share this review and you just may be the envy of the “car rider” line in the fall.

For more automotive questions and needs, tune in to The AutoNsider on News and Talk 1380 WAOK every Saturday from 10 am – Noon EST.

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When I was told that I would be receiving a 2014 Toyota Tundra SR5 4×2 long bed to drive for a week, I was ecstatic! My wife has been “encouraging” me to clean out the garage, attic and junk closet for months; my spring cleaning to-do-list was growing and this truck couldn’t be coming at a better time.

Like anyone else with such an “encouraging” better half, the to-do-list seems to get longer and more dreaded the longer its put off. My attic was bulging at the seams, the junk closet door barely closes and I know that I’ve pulled car in the garage far enough when my six year old’s bike bumps into her battery powered jeep. This will certainly be an all day job and multiple trips.

Having owned a full size pickup truck before, this wasn’t going to be my first rodeo; I know a little something about loading a truck bed and arranging my cargo to maximize space. Even with my past experiences I was sure that my spring cleaning would consist of a few round trips.
toyota tundra
Little did I know, this list would be accomplished in one trip. The Toyota Tundra is available with an 8′ bed;toyota truck bed long enough to carry a panel of sheet-rock with the lift gate closed. The average pick-up truck owner won’t typically walk into their local Toyota dealer and ask for an 8′ bed, but its nice to know one is available; especially if you happen to be in construction.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen sheet-rock debris along the highways in Atlanta that were once projectiles from the back of an open truck bed. Come to think of it, maybe the Toyota Tundra SR 5 Long Bed should be a required tool in the construction trade. Who do I talk to about that?

If there’s someone reading this and considering my recommendation, take note, if you’re like me and don’t like parking outside, you’ll have to build bigger garages, because this one won’t fit in a standard issue one.

Come back weekly for more chronicles of my weekly commutes…I’m sure to be driving your next vehicle one of these weeks.

Also tune in to title=”WAOK 1380″>http://cbsloc.al/ListenWAOK every Saturday from 10 am to 12 noon EST for all of your automotive interests and needs.

2014 Toyota Camry SE

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While driving this “sports” sedan around Atlanta’s highways and byways, Toyota was at the New York International Auto show preparing to unveil its replacement.

Before taking delivery of this local fleet car, the news that it was being redesigned came as no surprise to me. Camry’s reputation hasn’t necessarily been built on its good looks, but rather on its reliability,  dependability, competence and ability to deliver on its promises…like a best friend. You would never pick a best friend based on their looks; would you?

Well, I will never pass judgement on another car before spending time in the driver’s seat. The 2014 Toyota Camry SE is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. From the first press of the accelerator, I knew that I would never look at a Camry the same again. My first thought was “who knew?” The responsiveness and exhaust note were reminiscent of some of those German sports cars from my past. Unfortunately, we were not able to take the vehicle to a test track for official performance numbers, but if a Camry SE owner wants to merge onto one of Atlanta’s busy interstates, they don’t need permission to do so.

After experiencing the (more than capable) straight line acceleration, my curiosity got the best of me; how capable would it be on our windy, mountainous back roads around suburban Atlanta? Surprisingly, the suspension, seats, steering and well-appointed, leather wrapped steering wheel, were more than up to the task. In fact, the Camry seemed more than capable of handling anything that we could possibly ask of it on a public road. My only complaint, because no car is perfect and there has to be a complaint, would be that the steering required more than moderate effort in tight parking lot situations. The Camry could benefit from the speed sensitive steering from some of the other Japanese brands of the past.

So, you probably wondered why I would refer to the Camry as a sports sedan in my opening statement (as did I), but when I sat down to decide what impact the Camry had on me, the performance was top of mind. This is not to detract from its primary responsibilities as a roomy, comfortable, mid-sized, family sedan. The things that the Toyota Camry has come to be known for were all present and accounted for. A young family man, not quite ready to give up his sports car for a mini van, could compromise and opt for the conservative and roomy Camry SE instead. Just don’t mention the part about the performance. (Shhh!)

If the next generation Camry SE is an improvement over the 2014, I’m raising my hand now for track day!

 

Tune in to News and Talk Radio, WAOK 1380 every Saturday morning from 10am until noon for all of your automotive news. You can also listen online at waok.com/listen live.

Is Preowned The Way To Go?

Used car prices have been at an all time high for the last few years and in many cases it has been more attractive to buy new cars rather than preowned. With the “cash for clunkers” a few years ago and the economy forcing most of us to drive our cars longer than usual, the supply for used cars did not meet the demand.

Now that the economy seems to be on the rebound, more consumers have found their way back into the new car showrooms and some manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for new cars. Like most commodities, when supply is low and demand is high, the auto dealers and manufacturers are less likely to discount their inventory. Ford, for example, is having a hard time keeping up with the demand for the Ford Fusion, hence no real rebates or incentives are being passed on the buyer.

With all the new car sales that we’ve seen this year, there has been an over abundance of vehicles being traded in at the dealers and the dealer’s have to get rid of them. What we have here is overstock and prices will begin to fall to move the excess inventory.

If you don’t have to have a car right now, waiting until the Q4 (Oct. – Dec.) may be the best time to get that 2-3 year old certified preowned vehicle with the fairly comprehensive warranty coverage.

Tune in to WAOK 1380, waok.com or V103HD3 every Saturday morning from 10am to 12noon for everything automotive.