All New 2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab makes a good truck better.

By Bob Long

Toyota has pretty much dominated  the midsize truck market in recent years. As a matter of fact half of the midsize trucks sold in the U.S. are Tacoma’s. It’s no wonder why. The Tacoma has a solid reputation based on excellent capability, reliability and an inherent tough demeanor. Yet new rivals have been introduced in this once-stagnant segment, and now the Tacoma faces tough competition from the refined Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, as well as the Nissan Frontier. For 2016, Toyota has built upon what Tacoma fans like about the truck, while improving key features like fuel efficiency, noise levels in the cab, and overall refinement. It all comes to market wrapped in bold, attractive new styling.

The Toyota Tacoma is highly versatile, with proven off-road capability and the best payload capacity in its class. Buyers can choose from two engines, two cabs, two bed lengths and 2- or 4-wheel drive, plus the new Tacoma is much easier to park in a garage than a full-size truck. For 2016 Toyota’s midsize truck is essentially all new, with new styling, a new V6 engine and transmission, a more refined and quieter interior, more capability, and new features.

I recently drove a 2016 Toyota Tacoma V6 Double Cab, backed by the all-new 6-speed automatic transmission. The new drivetrain offers more power while also improving fuel economy. Acceleration is strong and steady, although far from fast. Acceleration from 0-60 seconds will take you in the high 7 second range.   Overall it is a clear improvement in power over the 2015 model.

Changes to the suspension plus tweaks to the frame make the 2016 Tacoma feel more planted and more stable on-road. Handling feels better, and the ride is comfortable and compliant. The brakes, still discs in front and drums in the rear, feel confident and strong.. The cabin is much quieter, and has a fresh new look. However, whether you opt for the SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road or Limited, you will not be getting power seats as they are unavailable. Off-road, the new Tacoma is tough and highly capable, and the optional Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select make trail adventures a breeze.

With optional Crawl Control, with the truck in low range, you set the system’s speed, and it manages acceleration and braking. All you need to focus on is steering. Multi-Terrain Select automatically matches the type of ground you want to cover (snow, ruts, etc.) to the proper transmission, throttle and brake settings.

There are hidden spots underneath the back seats that serve as good places to stow small items you’d rather keep out of view. If you want a flat cargo area in the cabin, fold down the rear seats. The seatbacks are flat and covered in plastic, creating a home for not so clean gear.

The Toyota Tacoma is highly versatile, with proven off-road capability and the best payload capacity in its class. Buyers can choose from two engines, two cabs, two bed lengths and 2- or 4-wheel drive, plus the new Tacoma is much easier to park in a garage than a full-size truck.  The Tacoma is not the most fuel-efficient truck in its class, nor does it offer the best towing capacity.

Recently I drove a 2016 Toyota Tacoma V6 Double Cab, backed by the all-new 6-speed automatic transmission for a whole week.. The new drivetrain offers more power while also improving fuel economy.

The Tacoma gets an all-new modern refined interior for 2016, with new, high-quality materials, new seats (and a new seating position) and a bevy of cool available features. Items like push-button start and a moonroof option are segment firsts. There’s also a handy multi-information display, where you can look at fuel economy, outside temperature, and even off-road info, such as the trail mode the Tacoma is in and the angle the Tacoma is at when on a steep hill. The new Tacoma also comes with a new version of Entune, the connectivity and entertainment control center, and Qi wireless charging.

Exterior styling wise you can tell this is still a Tacoma, new styling cues like LED daytime running lights and an exterior design inspired by Toyota’s off-road race history set it apart from past trucks. There are five trim levels – SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited –each of which gets different front-end styling. The bed is still composite-lined and contains two useful storage bins, but is now deeper so it can carry more cargo. The tailgate is damped for easier opening and locks for added security. My test truck had the excellent  optional 3-piece hard tonneau cover..  This a first time offering straight rom the factory. My test truck also had the optional towing package.

Sticker price with options was $40,020.  Standard equipment includes a rearview camera, a basic version of Entune connectivity, an automatic limited-slip differential, eight airbags, a lockable tailgate, adjustable tie-down cleats in the bed, 16-inch wheels, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. One exclusive on all 2016 Tacoma trucks, however, is a mount for a GoPro camera and I though a journalist had left behind from another test drive..

My test truck ah such creature comforts including push-button start with Smart Key, leather seats, Entune with a full App suite, a JBL sound system, and heated seats.

Under the Hood was a 3.5 liter V 6 putting out 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque.It is not the smoothest V-6 in the marketplace but gets the job done.  EPA numbers for my test vehicle came in at 28 city a 23 Mpg highway.

Toyota has taken a good truck and made it better If like Tacoma’s you are going to love the all new 2016 model.

 

Front Engine-4 X 4

Highlights

JBL audio system

Factory Tonneau cover

New Creature comforts

Lowlights

No available power seats

Engine Refinement Could be Better

Fuel Economy also could be better

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 6

Interior styling and quality 6

Handling 5

Braking 5

Fuel Economy 6

Audio System 8

Navigation System 8

Performance 7

 

2017 Best Drives— MercedesAMG C63 S Coupe

By Bob Long

I remember the first time back in Boston around 2009 when I got a week test drive in C63 AMG Sedan.  The massive V-8 power plant stuffed into this compact car combined with an exhaust note right out heaven,  I still remember it so fondly.  The exhaust  sounded like a German World War II howitzer cannon and I loved it.

Fast forward to recently when I was blown away by one best drives of the past year.  First off styling wise it is absolutely breathtaking in full zoot S trim.  This is one beautiful machine from every angle.  The 2017 Mercedes AMG C63S Coupe is simply stunning.

For those not familiar with AMG.  The former separate tuner company beat its path to high-performance credibility with a hammer. The German speed shop’s first street car, the 355-hp 1987 ( assembled by Porsche) Mercedes-Benz AMG Hammer sedan, set the record for the world’s fastest production four-door at 178 mph, then set the pace for the subsequent 30-year parade of raucous, tire-shredding AMG brutes.

The speed shop is now part of Mercedes and has in rent years produced the incredible SLS AMG Gull wing and the current AMG GT Coupe.  As of late, more civilized cars and the use of all-wheel drive suggest that today’s AMG swings its hammer a little more softly in exchange for greater chassis control and improved traction. That is upsetting period.  Loud and brash machines like the  C63 S AMG coupe are increasingly rare and that is a shame.

The new 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S coupe doesn’t come off as a brute at first glance. Twin turbochargers muffle the small-displacement 4.0-liter V-8, and the exhaust terminates in a quartet of pea shooter tailpipes hidden behind the jumbo trapezoid openings in the rear bumper.

Yet pin the throttle and this more efficient engine is almost as wild as the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 that it replaces. The high-output C63 S model packs a 503-hp sledge of an engine that pummels the concrete, while a seven-speed automatic bangs through ratios and a bawdy, unmistakably eight-cylinder thunder blares. In true traction-be-damned AMG fashion, it sends all 516 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.

Among its peers, the C63 remains the biggest bruiser. The C63 S holds a 78-hp advantage over the BMW M4 and a 39-hp edge on the Cadillac ATS-V. Non-S C63 models make 469 horsepower and 479 lb-fts till at the front of the pack, but you should pass on the upgraded S only if the extra eight to ten grand would bankrupt you. Beyond the extra power, the S version adds the option of carbon-ceramic brake discs on the front axle and replaces the mechanical limited-slip differential with an electronically controlled unit. It also augments the mode selector with a Race setting to relax the stability control, stiffen the dampers, and sharpen the shifts beyond Sport+.

AMG eagerly points out that the C63 coupe is not just a C63 sedan with two fewer doors. Engineers in  gifted the coupe with a shorter final-drive ratio 3.06:1 in the two-door versus 2.85:1 in the sedan for quicker acceleration. Helped by a 100-pound weight advantage, the C63 S coupe should tear down a straight one tick ahead of the four-door, clearing 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds.  Starting price for the pretty loaded machine is $75,925.  No longer does 6.3 V8 or to be correct a 6.2 liter V8 resides under the hood.  Todays C63 s uses
4.0-liter turbocharged 8-cylinder engine producing 503 hp and 516 lb-ft through a; 7-speed automatic transmission.  Mileage is rated at 17 city and 23 highway but really who cares?

The coupe also receives a unique rear suspension; it isn’t shared with either the C63 sedan or the less powerful C-class coupes. In pursuit of a more rigid assembly, AMG rearranged the upper links, replaced several bushings with ball joints, and widened the rear track by 1.7 inches compared with the AMG sedan. The wider rear stance should make the coupe more susceptible to understeer than the sedan, although we can’t say that’s definitively the case without driving the two back-to-back.

Even with the extra rear-end grip, the C63 S coupe does a nice job getting its front tires to bite and lead the car around a road course on fresh rubber. The steering is hefty and accurate, though largely unfeeling. But as the Michelin Pilot Super Sports heat up, the car becomes a 3800-pound pendulum, scrubbing the front tires in one corner and then swinging the back wide in the next. If you’re a track rat logging your lap times, the BMW and Cadillac are better choices. True to its predecessor, though, the C63 makes drifting as easy as tapping your big toe.

The interior is equally exquisite as the exterior design the Burmester audio system is fantastic.  The aero pieces are killer and compliment the sexy lines so well.

This is  a car that feels most at home on the road, where it’s an effortless and luxurious means to driving wickedly fast well within the car’s limits. It offers thrust at any rpm and comfort in any task. Public streets also are where the differences between the new and old car are most evident. On the road, the 2017 C63 feels more refined and its cornering abilities go deeper than that of its predecessor.

The pricing can escalade into six figures with all options checked but like my other favorite coupe the Jaguar F Type now available in SVR trim for 2017 is worth every penny.   I love coupes and I love this car.  Hand down it is one best drives of the year.

For those  lucky folks with means fall in love with the AMG C63S Coupe and you will be in automotive nirvana.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-RWD

Highlights

Performance

The Engine

SEX on Wheels styling

Comfort

Lowlights

No AWD option for some who want all power to the ground

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 10

Interior styling and quality 9

Handling 8

Braking 8

Fuel Economy 6

Audio System 9

Performance 10

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 76

 

2017 Honda V-6 Touring Coupe Quality with a little added fun.

By Bob Long

It’s been a long time since I have been behind the wheel of Honda Accord Coupe. Recently I had the opportunity to sample a Touring V-6 coupe and came away from the experience with a smile on my face.

I still like the Accord Coupe’s exterior lines, and there’s more space in the back seat than you might expect. The dash layout is typical Honda good, and the company seems to have made some changes to its dual-screen stereo/nav/bluetooth setup that make it significantly easier to master.   However the with no volume knob it can frustrating operating the entertainment system.

Driving around greater Orlando FL the coupe drew its share of admirers.  People exclaimed “nice car!” and “that’s cool, what is it?” during my time behind this Accord’s wheel. I’d say Honda’s styling department did something right. This is probably the best-looking Accord to date, or at least the most aggressively styled.  This also a vehicle that quite a few modern designs looks better in person than in pictures.

The most interesting thing about this Accord, which may or may not be surprising, is that it’s actually fast. It does things you don’t expect a standard Honda to do including torque steer, and squealing tires, real performance fun. The automatic mated to the 3.5-liter V6 did a fine job at managing the 278 hp and the 252 lb-ft of torques.

During my time on the highway, the Accord proved docile and comfortable the cabin was virtually free of wind and road noise, the seat was supportive and the infotainment system was very good.  While the power delivery might surprise, the rest of the car feels perfectly Honda. The brakes work well, but don’t send you much feedback. The steering feels is light and numb, but still does a decent job.

If you’re looking for something more subdued than an outright performance car, the Accord will still scratch your itching desire for speed.

The 3.5-L V6 and is emission certified at the LEV3-ULEV125-rating. What’s that all about?  Well, the engine and the Accord overall has really low emissions. This pays off by not only being green, but if you happen to work in a LEED certified building you may get a closer-in parking space that’s required to be reserved to encourage clean-vehicles as part of the LEED rating.

I enjoyed my drive time with the Accord Touring V6. Acceleration is quite impressive and the fuel gauge never seemed to move. And when pushed, the engine isn’t overly noisy. Zero to 60 mph is in the low-6 second range. Overall ride and handling are very confident and composed . Interstate on-ramps are taken with ease and there isn’t much body roll.

The Accord Coupe rides on 40-series tires on 19-inch wheels, making it a little rough riding at times especially for those buyers not used to sport or sporty cars like the Accord

The interior is quite roomy with good seat comfort and an overall high-quality feel. The push button start is easy to locate with its bright red coloring. There’s a 7-inch touch screen for audio control but no physical knobs for tuning or volume. There’s a volume control on the steering wheel that works quite well, but that doesn’t help the front passenger.

I love Honda’s Lane Watch feature that displays an image in the center screen of the right lane next to the car when the right turn signal is on. It’s great for checking for bicyclists.

There’s also heated front and rear seats, front and rear parking sensors and a rear view camera.

The full suite of Honda Sensing safety technology is standard on the Accord Touring V6. It includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning with automatic braking, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation.

The forward collision alert is a bit sensitive flashing its “Brake!” visual flash alarm.  The 2017 Accord Sedan has received the highest available crash safety rating, a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from the NHTSA.

This new safety technology that has become available on more and more new vehicles really is proving beneficial to help reduce even minor collisions. If I had a young new driver in my family I would want them driving a car with this safety equipment.

The 2017 Honda Accord pulls off quite a feat when it comes to style: It looks handsome, contemporary, yet timeless. This is a well-proportioned vehicle whose design will likely hold up well as the years pass. The Accord coupe looks elegant, sporty and more expensive than it is. The 3.5-liter V6 delivers decent power and is rated at 21 city and 32 MPG highway. A top-line Accord Touring model sits above $35,000 in coupe form like my test model

For those a little more style in their Accord and some performance fun the V6 Accord delivers a great driving experience and is good entry into the world of performance coupes.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-FWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Safety features

The ability to light up the tires in an Honda Accord

 

Lowlights

Pesky Touch screen

No volume nob just a sliding digital scale on the entertainment system face

No AWD option

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 7

Handling 6

Braking 6

Fuel Economy 8

Audio System 6

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 6

 

2016 Ford Explorer Platinum = Great Luxury SUV

By Bob Long

Recently I had the opportunity to sample the reworked Explorer for 2016 and in particular had extra drive time in the all new Flagship model the Platinum edition.

I love Range Rover’s think of this as an American Blue Oval alternative  with a much lower price tag. With a base price starting at $53,000, the Explorer Platinum aims for customers who simply “want everything” in a simple  prepackaged model.  The folks at Ford say there are quite a few of those buyers out there in the marketplace.

Platinum is also meant to lure customers away from imports that may not have as much interior room or capability for the money, and also encourage folks who might be looking at a Yukon Denali despite not needing the traditional truck like body on frame construction with all negatives that comes from that setup including rough ride and poor handling.

If love loaded SUV’s the Explorer Platinum gets pretty much every option from a 3.5-liter Ecoboost twin-turbo V6 under the hood to quilted-leather door panels, massaging front seats and heated second-row seats.

Ford has also joined the growing number of automakers offering birds-eye camera systems on their large size machines. The Explorer goes a step further with a front side-view camera that “peeks” around corners at blind intersections and the like, plus washer-fluid sprayers for the front and rear cameras. Those of you in southern states may find that silly, but if you contend with snow and salt six months of the year, the camera washers are a face-palm innovation you’ll be thrilled to have.

Otherwise, the story here is coddling accoutrements and loads of tech: Aluminum and ash trim on the instrument panel and doors, a wood-and-leather-covered heated steering wheel, Smart USB ports for faster charging, park assist (parallel and perpendicular), lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and a panoramic moon roof. Ford also made noise about its new 500-watt Sony audio system.  Although megawatt multi speaker stereos are nothing new. After spending time with a wide variety of music on the Sony system as the resident audiophile at North America Driver, I can attest to its consistently stunning soundstage.

The 3.5-liter Ecoboost engine doesn’t make this hefty beast fast; rather, it delivers on Ford’s marketing refrain about delivering V8 power in a V6 package. A healthy 365-hp output and 350 lb feet of torque, and it simply moves the Explorer along with ease in any situation. There is no turbo lag its seamless across the power band.Ford claims 5,000 pounds of towing capability for the EcoBoost V6; its use for years now in the F-150 should allay any durability concerns.

I love the a terrain-management AWD system that adjusts parameters based on conditions, chosen using a console-mounted knob with normal, snow, sand and mud settings. None offer this much sheer bang, though: There’s little doubt the Explorer Platinum gives buyers just about everything they could dream up in terms of equipment; the fact it still slots in tens of thousands of dollars below an equivalent Mercedes-Benz (or GMC Yukon Denali, for that matter.

The 2016 Explorer brings new looks, new technology, and new thinking to Ford’s ubiquitous midsize SUV. The refreshed exterior borrows from Land Rover’s styling, and the new interior brings more refinements and ease of use, especially for shorter buyers, or those put off by Ford’s touch-sensitive control interfaces and earlier versions of MyFord Touch.  I love that Ford has replaced or some of the touch screens with real buttons and knobs.  In other cases there are redundant buttons to compliment the touch screen

The Ford Explorer seats up to seven in its three rows, and thanks to its overall size even the third row offers room for adults. The second row comes as either a 3-person bench, or it can be had with two bucket seats. Fold both seating rows and you have generous cargo space.

The exterior styling updates to the new Ford Explorer don’t alter the basic silhouette of the SUV, but the details are quite nice. The new standard LED low-beam headlights, grille, and bumper in front give this mainstream SUV a first-glance resemblance to a Land Rover Range Rover. Changes to the rear are more subtle, and mostly consist of new tail lights.

The new Platinum model comes with premium  high-end leather, leather-covered dash, and other luxury items. It is a great place to spend time. The Platinum model comes loaded at base price of $53,000 its Eco-Boost V-6 delivers 16 mpg city and 22 highway This is least expensive luxury SUV on the market. The Explorer Platinum gives buyers just about everything they could dream up in terms of equipment; the fact it still slots in tens of thousands of dollars below an equivalent Mercedes-Benz or GMC Yukon Denali.

Its time to take a second look at the Explorer as the 2016 model is much improved and if you are thinking luxury SUV put the Platinum model on your shopping list.  You may just save yourself thousands of dollars over other comparative models.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Engine

Interior design and materials

Terrain Management System

Sony Sound System

Buttons and Knobs insread of 100% touchscreen

Lowlights

Not as off road capable as Jeep Cherokee

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 7

Interior styling and quality 9

Handling 6

Braking 7

Fuel Economy 6

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

 

 

Zoom Zoom 2016 Maxda CX-9 Signature AWD Shines On Road.

 

By Bob Long

Over the 25 plus years that I been lucky to have a weekly press test vehicle to evaluate there are certain brands that have special place in my heart.  The Mazda brand has taken one of those spots as not only does the brand have a great lineup of vehicles all with sporting edge, but the folks at top of corporate ladder are true car people.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing folks like Mazda president Jim O”Sullivan dozens of times or VP Robert Davis also dozens of times. These are true car guys that live, sleep and eat Mazda.

I got extra drive time in the CX-9 Signature as the week I had the vehicle was the week Hurricane Mathew was moving into FL  With horrible forecasts predicting that this would be the ” Hurricane Andrew” for central Florida my wife and 6-year-old daughter fled to Pensacola FL to escape the storm and visit with fellow syndicated automotive  radio host Bobby Likis.

Our escape vehicle was the 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD that comes standard with just about everything you need and more.  Heated mirrors, a power liftgate with adjustable height stops, keyless ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alerts, and heated front seats are all standard. We were also were with treated with Nappa leather upholstery and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support (front passenger’s seat is four-way power). There is an 8-inch infotainment display and two USB ports in the second-row center armrest.

The CX-9 Signature trim also includes 20-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, LED foglights, automatic wipers, roof rails, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors, frontal collision mitigation warnings, a heads-up display, driver seat memory functions, retractable sunshades for the middle row seats, aluminum interior trim, additional interior lighting, a navigation system, a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system, and satellite radio. If that’s not enough, LED accent lighting and rosewood interior trim finish out the range-topping Signature CX-9.

Stepping inside the CX-9 Signature reveals a cabin that is befitting of an entry-level luxury model. . The second-row seats are comfortable and offer lots of legroom for taller passengers. Passengers appreciated the pull down shades and the climate control vents for extra comfort.

The third row can seat two, but adults will feel tight, especially on longer trips. It’s well suited for the younger kids in the family, however. There’s 14.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. With the rear seats folded, capacity expands to 38.2 cubic feet. With both seats stowed, it opens up to 71.2 cubic feet.

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 puts the “zoom” into practical vehicles . If you want a mainstream 3-row SUV that is an adept family vehicle for school drop-offs and a rewarding personal vehicle for a spirited trip to the office or couples weekend getaway, this is it.
Like most Mazda vehicles, the CX-9 has long been the most athletic, fun-to-drive SUV in its class. That remains the case with the all-new version. The biggest difference is how Mazda’s 3-row SUV gets its motivation. Where the former version used a strong V6, this new model is powered by a small,hearty turbocharged 4-cylinder. Horsepower is down some, but torque is up translating into great off-the-line acceleration. Moreover, it’s more fuel efficient. The all-new Mazda CX-9 feels lighter, nimbler and even more athletic than its predecessor, while also boasting a quieter ride.

Thankfully, the new CX-9’s dynamic ways don’t come at the cost of a stiff suspension. T. Credit should also be given to the CX-9’s automatic transmission, a 6-speed that’s well-matched to this engine. Like other Mazda’s, this one has a Sport mode that optimizes the engine and transmission for zippier performance.

The front seats are roomy, and the area feels commanding thanks to a wide console. Nestled in that console is a rotary dial and auxiliary buttons controlling the CX-9’s standard dash-mounted infotainment display. I addition to receiving the SkyActiv treatment like the rest of Mazda’s lineup, the CX-9 now also gets Mazda’s “Soul of Motion” design philosophy emphasizing sweeping forms, organic shapes, and the idea of movement even at rest. The new CX-9 is striking from an exterior deign perspective.

That big grille up front adds to the premium cred, yet doesn’t seem overboard. The tapering roof and forward stance make this SUV appear smaller than it is, and even its rear is pretty thanks to a horizontal treatment of the taillights and rear lip beneath the window. A pair of integrated exhaust outlets further emphasize this SUV’s sporty nature.

The engine is impressive using a new SkyActiv 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that replaces the former 3.7-liter V6. This new engine has fewer horsepower than the outgoing one, but greater torque. Horsepower, you’ll see two figures: 250 HP running on premium 93 octane. Most drivers will opt for regular unleaded, on which the engine makes 227 horsepower.  Torque is the big story here the little powerplant churning out an amazing 310 lb-ft of torque.   EPA fuel economy is rated at 21 city and 27 for my AWD  test vehicle.  Price for the top line model comes in at  $44,915

The CX-9 was easy to drive, I especially liked the heads-up display that you can see even with your sun glasses on, unlike some more expensive European models. The infotainment system was very intuitive  with its rotary dial on the console.

The all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature is a greatfamily transporter with a luxury feel and a little Mazda Zoom Zoom for the driver as well.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Engine

On Road performance

Nappa Leather

Bose Sound System

Lowlights

Heated but not cooled seats

No CD player for CD fans

 

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 8

Braking 7

Fuel Economy 9

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

Navigation 9

The original Crossover Vehicle is still the Best…. Lexus RX-450H All New for 2016

By Bob Long

The Lexus RX is the crossover that started a whole new category of vehicle when first introduced in 1998.   The first generation RX 300 laid the ground work for one of hottest segments in the car buying world today the luxury crossover vehicle.

For the 2016 model year The Lexus RX is all-new.. Now in its 4th generation, this mid size luxury crossover features a bold new exterior design, revamped interior, and a bump in power over its predecessor. The vehicle has grown slightly and offers a lot of cool features.

Over the years the RX has become the Lexus brands best-selling vehicle and a benchmark for rivals such as the MDX from Acura, Mercedes GLE, Cadillac SRX  and the MKX from Lincoln.  My test vehicle of the week is a beautiful front wheel drive RX 450 H which combines a powerful  V-6 gasoline engine with electric hybrid drive for great fuel economy.

Styling wise Lexus calls the new  2016 RX as a “dramatic re-imagining”of the benchmark crossover.  In fact it is both bold and aggressive from many angles.  Keeping in step with the rest of Lexus lineup the RX wears the brands signature spindle” grille up front, fluid headlight housings with LED lights, a high belt line, and the 2016 RX’s most divisive element: a flowing, blacked-out C-pillar behind the rear windows. This element makes the Lexus’ roof appear to float. You’ll like it or you won’t. Personally I like the look of the new RX but admit some will find the RX face a bit polarizing.

There are many different favors of the RX but was great to sample the hybrid model for a week.  On the road the RX 450h hybrid model is super smooth and almost imperceptibly switches between gasoline and electric power.  The 450h hybrid pairs a 3.5-liter V6 with a battery-electric powertrain. Like a standard Prius, no plugging in is required, but premium unleaded gasoline is recommended. The 2016 RX 450h has total output of 308 horsepower and delivers great mpg numbers. The  gasoline engine alone cranks out 267 lb-ft of torque.  EPA  city mileage is rated at an impressive 31 MPG with a highway rating of 30 MPG.  Sticker price of my loaded RX450H model came to $60.359.00

Inside the all new RX-450H is great place to spend time.  Beautiful craftsmanship combined with is own unique style. One of the biggest changes for the new 2016 model is gear selector placement, which abandons its long-held position in the center dash to a more traditional spot in the console below. This opens space in the dash for easy-to-access climate and audio controls. The mouse controller just south of the gear selector is easier to operate. The seats are great, and there is plenty of legroom in back.  Cargo space is very impressive, with over 18 cubic feet behind the rear seats. That number expands to over 56 cubic feet with rear seats folded.

The Lexus RX has always been well-equipped, and the latest model is no different. My loaded 450H had the very cool huge 12.3-inch infotainment display, a heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, the touch-free tailgate, navigation, a treat for audiophiles like myself in the exquisite upgraded Mark Levinson audio system.  My vehicle also had a full color heads up display and the world first  Touch-Free Back Door option makes it go presto by merely placing a hand near the Lexus badge.

Driving the RX 450H is a real pleasure even if you are not hybrid fan. This is one of the best systems out there in the automotive world.  The RX-450H is smooth operator at all speeds much as they have been in previous generations.  The vehicle is: comfortable, quiet and confident. This is an SUV for those who long for a soft ride and serenity, vs. drivers who prefer blasts down twisty roads accompanied by a roaring exhaust note.  Lexus does offer an F Sport model for a more sporty flavor and sheer performance.

Bottom line if you are in the market for a five passenger high fuel economy luxury crossover SUV the all new 2018 Lexus RH-45oH is a grand slam home run.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-FWD 

 

Highlights

Styling

Luxury Features

Comfort

Fuel economy

 

Lowlights

60K may seem like a lot but is not in 2016

Bold Like it or not front grille

 

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 9

Handling 7

Braking 6

Fuel Economy 10

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

Navigation   8