Monthly Archives: April 2020

2020 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid

Susan Frissell, Editor/Publisher

The 2020 Lexus ES 300 now enters its seventh generation. Without a lot of obvious changes, the ES remains a classy sedan that offers comfort, looks and reliability, and demands it’s worth.  After all, not all vehicles purchased today can demand their worth. Not true with a Lexus product. And even those who aren’t car aficionados know this fact.

There were some 81,000 Lexus-badged non-truck vehicles sold in the U.S last year (2019), and 51.336 of them were ES models. The Lexus LS is obviously the brand’s flagship sedan, however, the ES is holding its own in the all-around sedan category.

In an effort to broaden its appeal, the ES has upped its game, particularly in the interior. Although one can argue there are snappier sedans out there, the ES remains a sedan with a more staid, but coveted look, and not all car buyers are looking for stand-out style.

This iteration of the ES 300 hybrid has more of a family resemblance; a modern family, that is. For 2020,the ES has adopted the jury-is-still-out-front grille. Due to this year’s recurved shape, the ES incorporates the grille better than other models. We kind of like it-surprise! Perhaps the blades on the hybrid model NX are a better partner for the grille.  

The 2020 ES 300h has the same engine as do the Toyota Camry and the RAV4. An electric motor is packaged with a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine, also borrowed. With 215 horsepower, down from last year’s model (302 hp., V6), which is a tad noticeable. However, it remains adequate, with enough punch to satisfy most drivers.  Miles-per-gallon are rated at 44 mpg-we didn’t test the accuracy.

As with all Lexus products, one can travel the worst of streets and never feel a bump. Added to that is the ES’ quiet interior-the inner sanctum. Wind noise is barely detectible, with the help of acoustic side glass (Luxury Package).

In 2020, the ES 300 is available in four choices: ES 350 Ultra Luxury ($43,750), ES 300h ($41, 810), ES 350 Luxury ($42,755), and ES350 F Sport ($44,635). For those who have never owned a hybrid vehicle, Lexus has managed to craft a hybrid that feels very much like a gasoline-powered vehicle. Active Glide Control when on ECO mode leaves out the traditional EV regenerative braking, as it coasts along.

The interior is top notch, with the best in materials/leather, 14-way power adjustable seats for driver and passenger. In winter, driver and passengers can opt for the heated seats, and when it’s 90-degrees outside, for the air-conditioned seat feature. The leather hide on the doors and center console is textured, and very classy.

For passengers of all sizes, there is plenty of room in the rear seating area. Leg and head room are generous. The backseat area is well lit with a good size center armrest/cupholder. The moonroof is large, covering much of the rear seating area which also provides light. The ES 300h’s trunk at 16.7 cu. Ft. is generous, offering plenty of extra storage space. With the hybrid model, however, rear seats cannot fold down.

Our Matador Red Mica ES 300h was stunning-and in fact, was our 4th red-toned vehicle this month. It’s clear to see this color denotes pizazz and class, and remains a favorite for that classy ride. We had lots of looks. The interior was also first-rate in Flaxen Semi-Analine Leather, with matte Bamboo trim.

Fourteen-way front seats, heated steering wheel, wiper de-icer, and 12.3-inch large infotainment screen are appreciated. We would opt for the noise-reducing 18-inch wheels and tires, part of a package. Our test vehicle also came equipped with the 10.2 heads-up display ($500), upgraded LED headlamps ($1,515), Mark Levinson sound system, with 17 speakers ($1,080), and wireless charger ($75). We suspect many owners continue to find Lexus’ infotainment touch pad a pain to operate. Never feel comfortable with it. Of course, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both available.

The full Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 suite is present in the ES. This includes emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane trace assist, automatic high-beams and adaptive cruise control. We found the cruise control very consistent, and it works especially well in concert with lane trace assist. With both active the car will target the middle of the lane by reading road markings, or center itself based on the car ahead.

As with most Lexus products, the ES 300h is a luxury sedan that provides all one could want, and then some. Reading this writer’s reviews, it’s not difficult to sense a biased slant. It’s not hard to be impressed with the Lexus 300h sedan, even though this writer remains a holdout for hybrids. One need not compare the Lexus sedans with the likes of German sedans. Two entirely different animals; one buyer may not necessarily be buying one over the other.

As the hybrid’s share of Lexus sedans grow, nearly one in five buyers in the U.S., there is no question the ES 300h is hitting the mark for many buyers.

SPECS

Price as tested: $55,005; starting price $42,835, delivery $1.025
Engine: 2.5L I4 w/ electric motor, Hybrid, inline, 215 hp. Output: 215
hp, 163 lb-ft
Transmission: Electronic CVT, FWD, automatic
Weight: 4,740 lbs.
Length: 195.9
Height: 56.9 in.
Width: 73.4 in.
Wheelbase: 113.0 in.
Interior: Flaxen semi-anilne leather, bamboo trim
Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gal.
Wheels: 18-inch alloy lock, split with spoke machined finish (standard 17-inch wheel tire)
Tires: 215/55R18 all-season
Capacity: 5-seat, hybrid luxury sedan
US Fuel Economy (mpg, city/highway/combined): 43/44/44
Warranty: 4 yr/50,000-mile, Basic.

2020 Lexus NX 300 F Sport

Susan Frissell, Editor/Publisher

Although a luxurious and sporty SUV, the 2020 Lexus NX 300 lags somewhat behind its competitors; to name a few the Infiniti QX50 and BMW X3. As with all the Lexus products, many reviews mention their dislike for the Lexus infotainment system. Just not user-friendly.

In the middle of luxury compact SUV’s, the NX 300 started life in 2015 as the NX 200t, and in 2018, changed its name to the NX 300. The NX saw a few changes in 2019, nothing major. Available in five trim levels, the 2020 NX 300 offers the 300 FWD ($36,870), 300 AWD ($38,270), 300 F Sport FWD ($39,110), 300 Sport AWD $40,510), and the 300 Luxury FWD ($43,960). A Hybrid is also available.

Our press NX was the 300 F Sport, FWD in a stunning Cadmium Orange exterior with white perforated leather seating. MSRP at $40,360, our NX 300 F Sport quickly climbed in price by adding several options, including Adaptive Variable Suspension ($770), Panoramic View Back Up Monitor ($800), Electrochromic Auto-Dimming Inside Rear View Mirror w/Lexus Homelink Garage Door Opener ($125), Triple Beam LED Headlamps with AFS ($1,515), Navigation/Mark Levinson 14-speaker 835-watt Premium Surround Sound Audio System with 10.3-inch multimedia display, Lexus Dynamic Navigation (3-yr. trial subscription included), Lexus Enform Destination Assist (1-yr. trial subscription included), $2,920), Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking ($535), Premium Paint ($595), Power Rear Door ($400), Premium F-Sport Package ($2,865), Heated and Ventilated Front Seats, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic alert, Lexus Memory, System Power Moonroof, and Courtesy Delivery Sticker.

The pros of our 2020 Lexus NX 300 F-Sport SUV include driving dynamics, the option of AWD and a beautiful interior, although a tad tight on space. Our Cadmium Orange NX 300 had a stunning Arctic White perforated leather interior with Rioja Red brown accents on the doors and dash.

The NX 300 styling looks up-to-date and modern, and as with all Lexus products, has an excellent reliability rating (Consumer Reports). While many refer to its grille as “massive,” we kind of like it-guess it’s a matter of getting used to.  Lexus manages to add subtle, yet attractive interior touches, such as the analog clock on the dash (think Infiniti), ambient lighting, moonroof.

Remote-less start is a nice convenience, and the 10.3-inch multi-media display is right-sized. The F-Sport upgrades include stylish interior upgrades, 18-inch wheels; a sport-tuned suspension; heated sport steering wheel; fog lights; LED daytime running lights; heated outside mirrors; and aluminum pedals.

Our NX 300 press vehicle also included the Mark Levinson premium sound system, with 14 speakers, navigation, and LED headlamps. Who wouldn’t enjoy this?

New for 2020 are some driver safety features that include bicycle detection, lane-centering assist, and low-light pedestrian detection. More safety features to learn about and get accustomed to. Added standard safety equipment (Lexus Safety System +2.0) is also new for 2020.

The 2020 Lexus NX 300 does provide luxury in a compact package, and when adding the F Sport package, performance. The sport-tuned suspension will make the NX 300 feel like a performance vehicle, but don’t’ expect that rumble you hear from a Corvette pipe. Rather, what you get is the sound of a 4-cylinder turbo.

If you prefer all-wheel-drive, the NX 300 offers it. FWD is standard and performs good under most normal driving conditions.

Two complaints: As with all Lexus products, the Remote Touch infotainment controller is the worst function on the NX 300. Hard to use and frustrating, especially while driving.

All in all, this is a pleasant SUV, but not a stand-out in this category. This writer prefers the F-Sport option in all the Lexus products; just makes the vehicle feel more performance-oriented, although the Lexus brand is often thought of in luxury terms.

The panoramic view backup monitor ($600) although helpful, takes some adjusting to. We are still accustomed to checking a rear-view mirror. The backup monitor offers several views and if studied judiciously, can help avoid any backup hazards. A good thing. As with most new features, it takes a little practice. which we would recommend. It allows you to see a much wider angle when backing in limited sight areas. The power rear hatch with a kick sensor is another feature you will want when carrying shopping bags and both hands are full.    

The 2020 Lexus NX 300 F Sport brings extra driver engagement with improved driving dynamics over the standard model. The exterior styling may be a bit edgy, but once you step inside, the cabin will win you over. There’s extra attention to detail, luxury treatments, and the quality is there. This NX 300 also offers the latest safety equipment to keep the family safe in the event of an accident.

Overall, the NX 300 is a perfect everyday commuter that places few demands on the driver and provides a calm, comfortable cabin.

There exist a plethora of SUV’s these days; each manufacturer offering more than what is needed, perhaps. The UX 200 from Lexus may be a more practical SUV/sport wagon than the NX 300 and offers better fuel economy. As a colleague noted, the NX 300’s 2.0-L 1-4 Turbo doesn’t get much better economy than the naturally aspirated V6 engine in the RX, especially with the 8-speed transmission.

SPECS

Pricing: MSRP $40,360; total price $51,910; delivery $1,025.

Engine: 2.0-liter in line 4, turbo with 235 hp.

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 104.7 in.

Width: 73.6 in.

Length: 182.3 in.

Height: 64.8 in.

Weight: 4,050 lbs.

Fuel Tank Capacity: 15.9 gal

MPG: 22/28

Tires: Front/Rear all-season, 225/60R18 (F Sport package)

Wheels: aluminum

Towing capacity: 2,000 lbs.

Warranty: 4-yr./50,000 miles basic; 8 yr./70,000-mile powertrain; 72 mth/unlimited mile corrosion, perforation; 48 mth/unlimited distance roadside; 12 mth/10,000-miles maintenance

2020 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T Sport

Susan Frissell, Editor/Publisher

Rising almost out of nowhere, the Genesis ‘brand,’ a product of Hyundai has made a name for itself in just a short period of time. Driving the new 2020 G70, I found it hard to be invisible. Heads turned on every block and even engendered questions when at a stop. I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t done my ‘homework’ before getting into the new G70 so I could answer intelligently. I also didn’t get the feeling-at first-I thought I would when climbing into the supportive driver’s seat.

I had all but decided G70 would be my next vehicle, hoping at some point to negotiate a decent price. Which is why there are second chances in life. First impressions-no matter what you’ve heard-aren’t always the correct impression. As the week progressed, I grew  fond of the G70 and its knock-out styling.

Our test G70 was the AWD version Sport, equipped with the 3.3L Twin-Turbo V6, 365 horsepower. A member of the Luxury Support Sedan market, the G70 was launched early in 2019. Hard to compare it to the big players in this market (Audi, BMW, $60,000), but one does not need to as it stands alone, both in styling (especially in Havana Red), interior charm and value.

Our G70 test vehicle is fast enough for most and challenging in looks. Our G70 came equipped with three separate packages: Elite (including Low Beam Assist, Rain-sensing wipers, parking distance warning, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, Wireless charging pod); Prestige (Heads-up Display, Surround View Monitor, Napa Leather seating Surfaces with Luxury Quilting, Heated Rear Seats, Power Trunk, Microfiber Suede Headliner); and Sport (including Electronically Controlled Suspension, 12-inch Sport Alloy Wheels w/Summer Tires (RWD) or All-Season Tires, AWD, Copper Headlight Bezel Accents, Dark Tint Taillight Covers, Dark Chrome Grille and Window Trim, Black Napa Leather Seating Surfaces with Sport Quilting).

These packages add to the car’s pricing, of course, and some of us can do without such opulence. Nice to have, but perhaps not always necessary, especially if you’re trying to get into the new G70 for a decent price. MSRP at $46,650 is doable for some, and this may be a vehicle drivers will elect to lease.

Pricing of today’s automobiles is on the high side; and seems so to most people. But with Hyundai (and cousin Kia), buyers get a lot for the price. For instance, one can have a specially painted color without extra cost.  These new versions of red in today’s color choices are smashing. Just In one month of driving vehicles in the fleet, we had four versions of ‘red,’ all stunning.

The G70’s grille is reminiscent of Lexus’ most recent grille which has caused mixed emotions among many. We like it on the G70. It has a commanding presence. This luxury sedan has no trouble taking off with the help of 365 horsepower, and drivers can choose from one of five drive modes. Genesis brags numbers of 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. While some long for the days of the V8 (oh, how I mourned it), today’s turbo engines strive to make up for that experience, and in a much more efficient way. We preferred Sport mode but found Comfort mode a good option for daily drives.

Genesis also offers a Smart mode which believe it or not, learns the driver’s style adjusting shift points to match the driver’s normal way of driving. Of course it does, you say. Aren’t all vehicles “Smart” cars today? Custom and ECO mode are also available. I often find myself driving on ECO mode, assuming MPG will be better.

What took a little getting used to for this writer was the driver’s seat and its position. It felt either too close or not close enough to the pedals, and too high most of the time. I spent time looking for the perfect fit, and finally after a few days in the G70, I found it. The seats are plush and very sporty.

This is a substantial sedan at close to 4,000 lbs. and feels so when navigating the roads. Although the feel isn’t just like a performance vehicle, still it feels sporty, if not a tad stiff on worse roads. The 8-speed automatic transmission is smooth and shifts effortlessly. One can opt for a rear-drive G70 as well, and a 2.0T entry level engine.

Available models include the 2.0T Standard ($35,450), 2.0T Standard AWD ($37,450), 2.0T Sport ($38,500), 3.3T Standard $44,650), and 3.3T Standard AWD ($46,650).

The interior on the Genesis G70 meets luxury specs and is comfortable. Seats are large yet rear seating room can be a tad tight. The trunk isn’t as generous as we expected, and the trunk mat a little cheesy. We admired the perforated leather seating with a quilted pattern. Matching door panels just added to the ambiance. These seats are available on the Sport and Prestige packages. Team that up with the Lexicon 15-speaker audio with Quantum Logic surround and Clari-F sound and you’ve got it made.

We would have preferred the steering wheel (black leather) be the D-shaped version, as it denotes sportiness and class. The red stitching is a nice touch, along with the satin chrome trim on doors, dashboard and console. Of course, front seats are heated and cooled; the steering wheel also heated (option). The dash is easy to figure out and with just a touch, one can operate all these conveniences. The steering wheel also is a power tilt/telescope one, and if you need to adjust mirrors, locate the button on the door. When leaving the vehicle and locking it, the mirrors automatically fold inward. Nice touch.

In all, the 2020 Genesis G70 is a beautiful, fun-to-drive sedan. While sporty it also manages to give off a lot of class. We can assume its maintenance record will also be good.

SPECS

Pricing: $53,245; MSRP: $46,650; handling $995; $35,450-$46,650

Engine: 3.3L Twin-Turbo V6; 365 hp., 376 lb.ft.torque

Transmission: 8-speed Automatic Transmission with Paddle-Shifters and Rev-Match, Shift by wire, AWD

Class: Luxury Sedan, 5 seats

Wheels: 19-inch Alloy

Tires: 19-inch Michelin All-Season, front: P225/40R19; Rear: P255/35R19

Length: 184.4 in.

Width: 72.8 in.

Height: 55.1 in.

Wheelbase: 111.6 in.

Weight: 3.887

Fuel Tank Capacity: 15.9 gal.

MPG: 22/30 mpg.

Cargo: 10.5 cu. Ft.

Added Features: Elite Package ($1,450); Prestige Package ($2,850); Sport Package ($1,300)

Warranty: 3 yr/36,000 Complimentary Maintenance; 3 yr/36,000 Complimentary Service Valet; 3 yr/Complimentary Genesis Connected Services; 3 yr/Complimentary Map Care