Tag Archives: Lexus

Review – 2011 Kia Sorento EX: The Power To Surprise

Kia’s tagline is “The Power To Surprise,” and as of late they have truly been surprising. Revamping an entire vehicle line-upand adding new models all within a very short period of time is no small feat. First there was the new Soul followed by the new Forte, and now they have completely revamped the Sorento.

If you do not remember the last generation Sorento, no one will fault you. It was nothing special, just another body on frame SUV that got lost in the crowd selling on price, not features. Some compared its looks to the first generation Lexus RX300, which some would view as a compliment.

The front of the Sorento features Kia’s new signature grille, flanked by swept-back headlights. In some ways the headlights almost look related to the Acura TL. The honeycomb grille is matched by honeycomb surrounds for the fog lights, which which are placed in the bumper. The way light from the fog lights hits the ground makes them almost act more like driving lights then actual fog lights.

The sides of the Sorento have two sculpting points – one runs the length of the window sills until it flows into the C-pillar. The second sculpting point is low near the bottom of the doors. This brings in the sides to give the Sorento a less slab sided appearance.

The wheels on this particular Sorento were 18-inch alloys which fit nicely within the wheel wells. The side mirrors had LED repeaters while the tail lights continued with the honeycomb look from the front grille. While the front has more design character then the rear, I would say overall the exterior is a huge win.

Like the exterior, the interior is mostly a win. The new corporate steering wheel has buttons for most major functions, and they are strategically placed so your hands do not leave the wheel as often. The dashboard is made of hard plastic, but it looks decent. The interior lighting is ret and the gauges are white and red, which make them very easy on the eyes while driving at night.

The seats were all day comfortable, though the side bolsters on the front seat backs were a bit hard. The rear seat can easily accommodate three people, with a nearly a flat floor for your feet. The rear seats do fold down 60/40, but not completely flat due to the design of the rear seat bottoms.

If I had one major gripe about the interior, it would be the navigation system. The system itself works terrific and the street names are very legible with no jagged fonts. However, the system warning each and every time you turn on the car takes forever to allow you to hit accept and move past the warning screen. I am talking a ridiculously long time. There is standard iPod integration, along with Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the front seat heaters – they worked quite well, although they aren’t the fastest to heat up. Once on, they performed on par with what a Minnesotan would expect.

The only interior trim piece I could really find an issue with was the main center piece of plastic covering the front of the steering wheel. The top cut line was uneven and somewhat jagged. While disappointing, overall I was impressed with the build quality inside the cabin. While hard plastics are used in many places, all touch points such as arm rests and other areas were covered in a leatherette-like material. The interior is, without question, very class competitive.

The Sorento I was in had the base 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine putting out 175 horsepower and 169 pound feet to the front wheels. A V-6 and all-wheel drive is optional. The power is put down through a one-choice six-speed automatic with a manual shifting gate to the left. Off the line the Sorento has adequate power, but once up to speed you will need to plan your passes carefully. Highway passing is not a point and shoot decision. I also noticed that the transmission often got confused as to what it should do. When slowing to a stop from about 30 MPH the transmission would sometimes not know when to shift and suddenly make a large clunk as it shifted into a lower gear. It felt like a programming issue, though it could be an issue with this particular Sorento.

I wonder if Kia plans to put the four-cylinder from the new Optima, which puts out 200 hp and 186 lb-ft , into the Sorento as the base engine in the future. The slight bump in power would possibly help the situation with passing power on the highway. The new 2.0-liter turbo that is coming in the Optima would also be a good engine option, since it has more horsepower and torque then the optional V6.

Driving the Sorento was enjoyable for the most part. I averaged 18.8 mpg in the city and 25.2 mpg on the highway. A bit lower then the 21/29 EPA rating. The suspension is a little firm though that didn’t bother me. With that firm suspension came quite a bit of noise over rough surfaces. On the highway more road noise made its way into the cabin then expected, though it was acceptable, just not class leading.

The Sorento I was in was a EX with both the limited package and premium package 1. With a total of $3,750 in options the sticker price on this Sorento EX was $29,340 after destination. That puts it right in the heart of the CUV segment.

With competitors like the new Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Rav4, Ford Edge and many others, the Sorento can’t be just good enough, it has to be great. There is no question that Kia has good design direction both inside and out. The four-cylinder powertrain is adequate, but I’d probably opt for the V-6. The bottom line, if you are in the market for a CUV to haul the family around, you would be making a large mistake if you didn’t have the Sorento on your list. Turns out Kia’s marketing slogan does work – with its new styling language, the new Sorento really does have the power to surprise.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia

Cars & Café – August 7, 2010

Aston Martin DB7 Vantage

Another month, another gathering of man and machine.  Of course I speak of Cars & Café, out at the AutoMotorPlex in Chanhassen.  This month promised, as usual, to be eventful.  I woke up a little early (4:40 am), as I did poor planning.  I had not washed the 300ZX (note to self: next month wash the 300ZX before the morning of Cars & Café). So, I washed the 300ZX and popped off the T-Tops.

As I was cruising out West to meet up with my buddy in his S2000, I saw black sky in front of me – then lightning  – and then I saw a car come over the hill with windshield wipers on (this was not going well).  I hit the gas and made it to his garage with the 300ZX still clean and dry.  We ended up taking his daily driver and leaving the 300ZX and his S2000 there, as it started pouring down rain right after I pulled into the garage.

Upon arriving, it was clear the rain, which was at this point a nice steady rain coming down, had affecte turn out.  Nooooooooo I cried to the car gods.  Luckily some of the cooler rides still managed to show up.  As I was admiring a nice Ford F150 Lightning, I heard something loud pulling into the complex.

I turn to see a true hard core car guy (you would have to be) driving a Cobra in (remember no top) through the rain.  Two Dodge GLH Turbos sat next to each other, both in ridiculously good condition.  I also counted not one but two Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbos (I drooled a little).  Quite a few Acura NSX’s showed up, along with a Lexus IS-F.

Two BMW’s caught my eyes this month.  One was a early 90’s 540i manual white on black with only 28k on the odometer.  The kicker?  It is for sale and they are asking only $25k!

Someone buy that car or buy me that car!  There was also a mid 80’s M6 in fantastic condition that caught my eye., along with an early 2000’s black Audi S8 that is a regular at Cars & Café.  I just love that car!

So good story,  I am walking by the club house and hear tires squealing like a burn out.  I look around and am quite confused.  Suddenly I realize that the sound is coming from behind this building in the VIP section.  I go running through the crowd, and as I turn the corner I almost fall over.

This Lamborghini Miura owner clearly had put the car in reverse instead of first gear (as best I can tell from the situation).  The car had gone backwards off the cement and onto the pebbles directly below.  Part of  the car definitely was resting on the cement.  The tires were squealing and these two guys were pushing the back of the Miura trying to get it back onto the cement.  Finally after a few minutes they accomplished this task, but not before you could smell the clutch and tires.  It was quite a scene.

Also filed in the – ahem – interesting category, was the Toyota Camry Solara parked in the American muscle section.  Hey at least it was on dubs!  Sitting next to that was a Chrysler 300C.  Not just any Chrysler 300C, but one riding on 24’s – and wait – it gets better.

The person had welded extensions (eyebrows?) onto the leading edge of the hood.  You can still see where the person welded and sanded them.  They were not painted yet (I am assuming they are going to paint them….at least I hope so).  Let’s not forget the white Toyota Yaris hatch with lime green wheels.

Jensen

On the list of awesome cars I would include the RUF 911, Aston Martin DB7 Vantage, and a Jensen that showed up.  The red GMC Typhoon that was for sale earlier this year was on hand, along with two Ford GT’s (they are Cars and Cafe regulars).  A new Lotus Evora made the trip, along with a Ford Mustang Shelby Super Snake.

One of the cleaner Oldsmobile 442’s I’ve seen was on site as well.  Obviously I have already mentioned the two Dodge GLH Turbo’s but I want to just mentioned them again in this section of awesome.  Last but not least was the regular BMW 200ti. It is a work in progress, but hot all the same.

One cool thing was this garage that had a Corvette Z06 in it.  Ok that car was nice but you know those bag chairs you take to soccer games and such?  Well they had one of those. and then they had a ginormous one that was literally super sized.  To get a idea of just how big it was they let me sit in it and I got a picture!

Overall the rain really put a damper on the attendance, or at least it felt that way.  With most of the people clearing out before 10 AM, it had to be one of the shortest Cars & Cafés I have attended yet.  Thankfully, the doughnut holes provided by Imola Motorsports stayed dry in the clubhouse.

Yes they were tasty,and yes I ate some.  Just for the record, doughnut holes always seems to taste better when they are delivered in a BMW M5.  I can not prove that, but that seems to be my experience.  Here’s hoping for a dry Cars & Café next month!

Highway Road Test – 2010 Buick LaCrosse

I acknowledge the fact that I have already posted a review of the Buick LaCrosse.  Recently, I found myself with another LaCrosse in my driveway – only this time I was about to drive a ton of miles and have a quite a bit of seat time in the car.  The vehicle was painted in a red jewel tintcoat with a cocoa/light cashmere leather interior.  This was a CXS model with the optional navigation system and upgraded audio system.  Riding on the optional 19″ 9-spoke painted alloy wheels the car is a looker. Without question, people told me the car was good looking.

Getting to that road trip I mentioned earlier –  I drove the car from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Kenosha, Wisconsin and then onto Elkhart Lake, WI for the spring MAMA rally.  Then, I went back to Minneapolis, only to turn around and head up north to my cabin.  Needless to say, this all equated to over 1,200 miles in a short period of time.  That is quite a bit of seat time in a car, and one gets to know things about that car spending that much time in it.

The first thing I noted was how quiet the LaCrosse was at speed.  With the cruise set  to over 70 mph, the interior was library quiet.  The ventilated seats were very easy to adjust and find a comfortable seating position.  I did find them to be a little flat after an entire day on the road, but regardless they were comfortable.  The two cup holders in the center console are the right size.  The second cup holder gets covered by the sliding arm rest, which is quite annoying because I had the arm rest slid out covering it.  The side mirrors are rather large and this makes it easy to see cars in your blind spot (when the mirrors are adjusted accordingly).  The A-pillars are literally ginormous.  You could (and I did) lose a biker at an intersection in those pillars, and it is a real safety hazard.  This is a huge oversight and I am not quite sure how someone in development did not say something.  I found that even though the belt line is rather high (the new trend) I was able to rest my arm on the window sill – but if I set it wrong it was quickly uncomfortable.  The short hood is very noticeable when driving on the highway and it did not bother me, but I took note of it.  I would also like to comment that I think that at least on the CXL (mid trim level) and CXS (highest trim level) model, projector headlights should be standard equipment.

The infotainment system worked terrifically, but I noted a few things.  The navigation system will not let you enter a destination while moving.  This is annoying – because what if you have a passenger that can do it safely while you are driving?  I hate this little safety feature.  Also, the navigation system would not let me enter certain addresses, so I had to resort to using my Google Maps on my iPhone.  I loved the Harman Kardon branded sound system – it sounded absolutely fantastic.  This is the upgraded system and it’s really worth it.  The touchscreen worked well and there are a ton of buttons if you would rather operate the system using them.

On the way up north to the cabin, both my mother and girlfriend noted that the LaCrosse rode nicer than another family members 2006 Lexus LS430.  After questioning them to find out more details, they noted the seats (specifically the rear seats) were more comfortable.

This LaCrosse was equipped with the 3.6 liter V-6, pushing the power to the front wheels.  The transmission was a six-speed automatic with manual shift capabilities and a sport mode.  While the car is rated at 17/27 mpg, I was able to average 28.9 mpg on the highway with the cruise set to 65 mph in Wisconsin.  Once pushed to 77 mph back in Minnesota, the mileage dropped down to a 27.2 mpg average.

After all the miles and discussion about the car with people, my conclusion is quite similar to my original review.  The car is a winner.  With a sticker price of $36,135 out the door, this is a real value for the money.  That said, it is not perfect and has a few flaws that need addressing.  However, no one can say the car is not competitive.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Naked 2011 Refreshed Hyundai Genesis

Yup, that’s right, you are viewing the completely undisguised 2011 Hyundai Genesis.  Most changes are slight but still notable.  The front end has a new front bumper (see the lower air intakes) with updated headlights (reportedly LED’s), new front/rear/side skirts and rear bumper with Lexus LS460 looking exhaust outlets integrated nicely.  That new rumored eight speed transmission is obviously on board with the new BMW looking “shift knob.”  That eight speed transmission is probably hooked to the rumored 5.0 liter Tau V8 which is an update to the current 4.6 liter Tau V8.  Most likely the output will break the 400 hp barrier.  This engine will also probably be in the upcoming Equus.  Check out more spy shots at The Car Blogger.

Breaking – Toyota’s Chief Test Driver and Godfather of the LFA Dies

You read correctly, the chief test driver and essentially the godfather of the LFA died behind the wheel of a special edition LFA today.  Colliding head on with two other test drivers who were in a BMW.  The two BMW drivers are in critical condition while Hiromu Naruse (67), the driver of the LFA died behind the wheel.  The LFA is the upcoming LFA Nurburgring Edition which was recently spotted on the Nurburgring for testing.  A moment of silence please.

Video of the scene is after the jump.

Source- AutoBlog

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The Evolution of The Pursuit of Perfection – Lexus LS Generational Photos

What you are looking at is the evolution of the Lexus LS series.  Lexus’s tagline is the pursuit of perfection.  These images illustrate the evolution of that pursuit.

Source- The Lexus Enthusiast

The First Time I Met The 2011 Fisker Karma – Thoughts And Impressions

I have read all the brochures and online materials, I have seen all the pictures – and the reality is none of that does the Fisker Karma justice.  I could sit here and list all of its specifications, but I won’t.  Mainly because that is not what this post is about.  Many of you have not had the opportunity (yet) to see the Fisker Karma in person.  When you do, you will remember it.  The lines and curves on this car are just gorgeous.

Lets back up a minute.  What the heck is a Fisker and what is the Karma?  Funny you should ask.  Fisker Automotive is a new car brand founded by Henrik Fisker, who is also the current CEO (funny how that works).  He was previously known for being the design director for Aston Martin and the president and CEO of BMW’s Designworks USA.  Maybe that does not mean much to you, but it equates to this: he is responsible for cars such as the BMW Z8 (one hot piece of metal), Aston Martin DB9 and the V8 Vantage (also both hot pieces of metal).  Needless to say, he has a sense of style when it comes to designing a car.

The Karma is the first car from Fisker Automotive.  With demo cars arriving at the end of the year, production should (if it stays on track) start in the very beginning of next year.  The car will be built overseas in Finland initially.  In fact, it will be built in the same factory as some Porsche’s and other vehicles.  In 2012 production will move to the Wilmington Assembly plant in Wilmington, Delaware.  This plant was recently purchased by Fisker from General Motors.  With the plant already up to date with tooling and a local trainable workforce, it is an ideal location.  The plant was previously producing the Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice and Opel GT.

One last thing before we get to the actual Karma –  If you have not seen pictures I will tell you that this the car is a saloon.  It will fit two sets of golf clubs in the trunk, but getting in and out of the rear seat isn’t exactly graceful.  Another car is coming in 2012 from Fisker, and it will be a more mainstream, higher volume vehicle.  Currently the project is code named Nina and it will be a midsize sedan.  I was informed it will be about the size of the BMW 5 Series, but with much more usable interior space (read really practical).  The Nina should come in somewhere around $45-48k.  Also coming sometime between the 2012 Nina and 2011 Karma is the Karma Sunset.  The Karma Sunset is essentially a convertible version of the Karma, featuring a retractable hard top.

Upon seeing the Karma in person, I really was stunned.  Yes, from the front it looks somewhat like the Joker from Batman.  It still looks great though.  Some of the design cues from the front translate to the rear and interior.  This gives the car an overall cohesive design.  Each rear fender has a “fuel” door.  On the passenger side is the gasoline, while on the driver side is the plug-in for the rechargeable lithium ion battery pack.  The front headlights feature LED running lights, while the rear tail lights are also LED.  The roof features a full length solar panel to help charge the car and provide cooling for the interior cabin while the car is parked.  I remember the early 2000’s Audi A8s had this as an option on their sunroof.  The wheels are 22 inches (!) and are made from a  lightweight alloy.  The brakes are the same Brembo setup used in the Cadillac CTS-V.  The door handles have a electronic push pad under each handle that you merely push and the door opens.  This is similar in concept to the Chevrolet Corvette and new Cadillac CTS Coupe.  As you can see in pictures, the exterior is just gorgeous.  Some might say breathtaking.  I do suppose some could say it is controversial but I am in the “it is definitely gorgeous camp.”

Ok, I can understand how someone might be mixed on the exterior of this car, but the interior is simply stunning.  This is a whole new take on luxury.  This interior feels so different from all the other luxury sedans out there.  When I think of high end luxury cars (we are not talking small volume cars like the Rolls Royce Phantom), I think of cars like the Audi A8, Lexus LS 460 and many others.  This car is completely different inside.  To be honest, when I got inside of the Karma I felt like I had just stepped inside one of the older Chris Craft boats.  With rich thick leather and real wood, the interior just felt so natural and polished, yet elegant.  Keep in mind this was a pre pre-production car.  The 10.2″ center touch screen, which controls most of the cars functions (A/C, Radio, etc) was stuck in a black loading screen (I’m guessing the software was not ready) and the car could not turn on, though the gauges were lit up and the windshield wipers worked (I checked).  Oh something to note, the engine in the Karma is being sourced from GM – though that is not the only thing.  I noticed both the turn signal/cruise control stalk and the windshield wiper control stalk were both parts bin GM.  In fact, I am 99% sure they are the very same stalks in the Cadillac STS.  Whether these are the exact stalks found in the production sedan is yet to be seen.  Also, the rear view mirror is GM sourced too.  The gear shift level (if you could call it that) has a button on the left that I assume starts the car due to it’s power symbol and the lack of any other power button on the console or near the steering wheel.  The right hand part of the gear shift level is actually a switch that gets flipped into different positions to select your gear (PRND).  Down the center of the interior is the battery pack, but it is packaged beautifully behind glass and leather.  The front seats are downright sporty, comfy and are terrific.  The rear is awkward to get in and out of, but once in the car, the seats are comfortable.  Leg room is acceptable but not amazing.  The roof line does cut into rear headroom.  Overall, the interior is stunning.

The power will come from a battery pack with a 50 mile range.  Beyond that 50 mile range, the 2.0 liter turbo range extender engine kicks in and produces 260 horsepower.  This motor is sourced from GM and is the same engine used in the Saturn Sky Redline and the Pontiac Solstice GXP.  The total range between the battery and the gasoline engine is 300 miles.  You can forget range anxiety –  this is a series hybrid just like the upcoming Chevrolet Volt.  That means the gas engine is in no way driving the wheels. Rather, the engine is connected to the battery which powers the two electric motors connected to the rear wheels.  We will get into all the technical stuff in another post some other time.

The cars sticker price before tax rebates is $89,000 and change.  I know there is a government tax rebate and certain states (I think Minnesota does) also has tax rebates on qualifying vehicles.  The dealership here, which is the one and only one for the state of Minnesota has pre-sold and took deposits for 3 Karmas.  I was told varying numbers for how many total cars the dealership has pre-sold, but the most common number I heard was 17.  Not bad at all.

So what are my final initial impressions?  Well, I can not wait to get my hands on a production model.  Considering I did not get to drive or start this one, and the infotainment system did not work, I cannot give a full impression post.  I can say it does not feel “kit car” in anyway.  The interior is just ridiculous (in an amazingly good way).  The exterior I love, but some will not.  This is for sure a legitimate automobile with a company that I frankly hope succeeds in many ways.  As for the Karma, I’ll see you soon!

Video – Behind The Scenes: Making The Lexus LFA “Pitch” Commercial

Are You The Refreshed 2011 Lexus IS?

What you are looking at might quite possibly be a slightly refreshed 2011 Lexus IS sedan.  Tweeks apparent in from pictures include-

  • LED daytime running lights at the bottom of the headlights
  • Adaptive cruise control option
  • Update steering wheel
  • New wheel pattern
  • New fog light design
  • New tail lights

The IS was last retouched in 2009 which would mean that a these minor tweeks would carry the current generation over until 2012 when a full refresh will probably take place.

For more pictures and information check out the Lexus Enthusiast.

Want Your Cell Phone To Sound Like The Lexus LFA?

Everyone has a cell phone and each has a ringtone.  The question is what is your ringtone?  If you are into cars Lexus wants to offer you a few select ringtones for free.  These are not just any ringtones rather they are sounds from the LFA engine.

You can choose from-

  • LFA Accelerating
  • LFA Downshifting
  • LFA Engine Starting
  • LFA Full Flight

Regardless of how you feel about the LFA it is worth the free download to listen and decide for yourself what you think.  They are providing both .mp4 for iPhones and .mp3 for all other phones.  Quite nice of them.  I just doubled clicked on the .mp4’s once onto my computer and they instantly showed up in iTunes under the Ringtones tab.  Upon syncing to my iPhone3Gs I had and instant LFA soundtrack for my ringtone should I choose to keep it.

Head over here and click on digital premium.

Source- Lexus