It’s reassuring to see Japanese automakers taking a renewed interest in driving dynamics for mainstream models, and nowhere is that more evident than in the latest Lexus IS. The company’s original IS300 was a moonshot at the near-luxury segment behemoth, the BMW 3-series, and what the Lexus lacked in credentials it made up for with polished driving dynamics, edgy looks and peerless build quality. Compact, lithe, and powered by a lusty, naturally-aspirated straight-six driving the rear wheels, it pulled all of its most important moves directly from the BMW playbook. It also helped establish Lexus as a builder of something other than discounted, more reliable Mercedes-Benzes – it finally became a builder of sports sedans.
Category - Reviews and Road Tests
Use this as a level one category for car reviews and add each car maker as a sub-category
It’s rare, in my experience, for the stars to align and grant a journalist like myself with two similarly-equipped cars that compete in the same segment on subsequent weeks, but that’s just what happened recently when a Bright Yellow bundle of joy landed on my doorstep just a week after I handed back the keys to an EcoBoost Mustang. Happenstance, or divined by the manufacturer fleet gods? The Mustang-versus-Camaro battle has waged on for decades, but it seems especially prescient these days: both pony cars are better and more competitive than they’ve ever been, and at the same time to boot. Either way, a comparison was in order.
BMW’s first-generation X1, introduced to the world in 2009 and shipped to our shores for the 2013 model year, was a bit of an odd duck. Underpinned by the E90 generation 3-series Touring, it was a low-slung, long-hooded, basically-a-station-wagon version of a station wagon that already existed. In fact, it actually boasted less interior room than the equivalent 3-series wagon, largely as a result of being dimensionally shorter and narrower (and only slightly taller). And therein lies the rub: the X1 was too small for Americans.
Introduced in 2008 and last updated for the 2013 model year, the 370Z is certainly a known quantity around these (and pretty much all) parts. I’ve driven no less than four of them – and it’s possible that a few more skirted by without a write-up – not only in the roadster form featured here, but also two variations of the sportier NISMO coupe in 2014 and 2015. Though the market for open-top two seaters has dwindled significantly in recent years, there are still more modern automotive options to help you soak up some rays…so does the 370 still offer enough of the classic Z formula to make a compelling case against some newer rivals?
While rear-wheel drive isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for automotive respect, it certainly doesn’t hurt. This could be the reason I get along so well with Chrysler’s LX platform cars. Comfortable, powerful, roomy and good value, they represent the finer points of what used to be the mainstream large American car. That is, without the drawbacks of dismal fuel economy, ponderous handling and dubious build quality. And sure, the Hellcat is fun – but the Charger R/T I drove recently might actually be the sweet spot of the lineup.
Lexus’s comfort-oriented, near-luxury cruiser – the ES – has passed through my hands on more than one occasion. In fact, I’ve sampled its every iteration – although to be fair, there are really only two: the ES350 and its hybridized sister, the ES300h. Refreshed for 2016 with a sharpened maw and more equipment, the ES350 nevertheless remains true to its principles of low-key, fuss-free transportation.