JUNE 2013
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Motoring

BASE LEXUS RX 350 WILL DO, MINUS F SPORT TRIM!

Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE, motoringtampabay@gmail.com

Sometimes it’s best to leave out a marque in an exemplary SUV. Such as sticking the F Sport label to the 2013 RX 350. Listen up, Lexus. The midsize luxury crossover is just fine without this sporty version, which means a retuned suspension with firmer shocks and springs, all-wheel drive, bigger 19-inch wheels and an exorbitant price tag.

However, the power train for all RX models is the 3.5-liter V-6 engine streaming 270 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 257 pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm. As though that isn’t enough to smoke out the competition, the F Sport version is equipped with an 8-speed auto transmission. And, of course, 0 to 60 mph is reached in just 7.8 seconds. A standard electric power steering nixes the need for hoses that go with a hydraulic pump system. Towing capacity is a reasonable 3,500 pounds. We averaged about 19 mpg in city and 26 on highway (EPA figures are 18 and 26).

Regardless, Lexus has updated its RX spindle grille, placed a new bumper and headlight design, and LED daytime running lights and unique fog lamp bezels. Otherwise, most of the cabin amenities have been retained, including the tech-savvy mouse-like Remote Touch to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls. Also noteworthy are 10-way power heated/ventilated front seats, three-spoke power tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel, push-button start, automatic dual-zone climate control, Ebony Birds Eye maple trim on doors and around shifter knob, center and console plates, chrome door handles, metallic accents around the center of instrument panel, 40/20/40-split recline/slide fold rear seat and Lexus Premium audio (in-dash 6-CD changer with nine speakers).

Ten airbags, Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, Active Torque Control for the AWD, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, active head rests for front seats, free-limiting seatbelt pretensioners for front seats, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

The RX 350 is a wise choice for any potential five-passenger SUV buyer seeking a stylish, brisk and nimble ride with awesome handling/balance and a functional interior. Sans the F Sport trim, of course!

RX350 F SPORT

Wheelbase: 107.9 inches

Length: 187.8 inches

Weight: 4,510 pounds

Fuel capacity: 19.2 gallons

Base price: $47,000

Web site: www.lexus.com


ENCORE – THIS BUICK BABY IS FOR REAL!

The new Buick baby has arrived. No kidding! Known traditionally for its bulky and full-size vehicles, the GM luxury brand has undergone a renaissance to “small”, first with the compact Verano sedan, and now with the Encore.

Under the hood of one of the smallest SUVs resides a sole 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 cylinder that develops 138 horsepower @ 4900 rpm and 148 pounds-feet of torque @ 1850 rpm. That’s adequate for a crossover weighing around 3,000 pounds. Power is routed through a quiet and smooth 6-speed auto transmission. Available as a front-wheel or all-wheel drive and in base, convenience, leather and premium trims, suspension is driven by an able MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear.

Chrome appears to be the “in” thing with automakers. Same with the Encore, which has chrome written all over, on its massive waterfall grille, window surround, hood portholes and door handles. And the blue accents on the halogen headlights do stand out! This being a Buick (though downsized), you are assured of a luxurious and generous cabin. Ice-blue ambient lights highlighting the rounded instrument cluster, color display atop dashboard for navigation, audio, rearview camera and phone, immediately draw attention. With the 60/40 rear seat folded, there is 48.4 cubic feet of space. And who can forget Buick’s legendary QuietTuning, which insulates occupants from road and wind noise?

Standard safety features on the Premium model include 10 airbags, StabiliTrak system with traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, rearview camera, forward-collision alert, front-rear park assist, lane departure warning, remote keyless entry and tire pressure monitoring system.

Except for a crammed rear seat, the reasonably-based $24,200 Encore is a fun-to-drive, attractive, practical and fuel-sipper (we eked 29 city/36 highway) that should entice Buick’s target buyer of late – young families. Take it for a spin and we can vouch your granddaddy’s big, ole Buick will be a distant memory!

ENCORE PREMIUM (FWD)

Tires: P215/55R18

Wheelbase: 100.6 inches

Length: 168.5 inches

Steering: electric power

Fuel capacity: 14 gallons

City: 25 mpg

Highway: 33 mpg

Base price: $28,190

Web site: www.buick.com


HEAD-TURNER GENESIS COUPE IS GREAT VALUE FOR THE MONEY

Infiniti M In the looks department, this Hyundai hot-seller is a bigger knockout than its predecessor. With a mid-cycle refresh for 2013, the pumped-up front fascia, hood, grille and LED tail lamps, and new 18- and 19-inch wheel designs, further boost the sleek styling.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Genesis coupe’s dynamics, which result in a stiff ride. Two engine choices are offered: a 2.0-liter intercooled/turbocharged inline-4 cylinder engine cranks out 274 horsepower (up 64) @ 6000 rpm and 275 pounds-feet of torque @ 2000 rpm. The 3.8-liter V-6 engine pumps out 348 horsepower (up 42) @ 6400 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque (up 29) @ 5100 rpm. Our 6-speed manual wasn’t among the best of sticks to shift. The new 8-speed auto transmission might be a viable alternative. Hyundai claims the rear-wheel-drive car can propel from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 5 seconds. We believe that!

Step into the well-lit cabin and see all red in and on the solidly bolstered leather seats with cloth inserts. The redesigned center stack hosting controls for audio, temperature, navigation and phone is attractive and expensive-looking. A neat feature is the multi-gauge cluster with readings for turbo boost pressure, oil temp and fuel economy. Electroluminescent analog gauges for odometer, tachometer, fuel level and coolant temperature are clear, large and easy to read. Other niceties include metal-grain accents, 170-watt stereo system, keyless entry, auto headlights, tilt/telescopic steering column, and power windows, door locks and mirrors,

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability and traction control system, active front-head restraints, front/rear crumple zones, energy absorbing steering column, anti-skid system, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Despite slight turbo lag and tight rear-seat area, this attention-grabber touts ample accelerative power, sufficient passing ability and remarkable braking. You get all these and more at a price that won’t break the bank.

GENESIS 2.0 (R-Spec)

Tires: 225/45R19 front, 245/40R19 rear

Wheelbase: 111 inches

Length: 182.3 inches

Suspension: MacPherson strut front; 5-link rear

Steering: hydraulic rack and pinion

Weight: 3,362 pounds

Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons

City: 21 mpg, highway: 30 mpg

Base price: $26,500

Web site: www.hyundaiusa.com

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