The Lexus ES, the brand’s popular entry-level luxury sedan since its introduction nearly 23 years ago, is all-new for the 2013 model year, following the introduction of the latest Toyota Camry last year. Equally as important for the sixth-generation ES is the introduction of a hybrid option for the first time: the ES 300h. For Lexus, the brand that made the hybrid luxury vehicle a green commodity, some of its recent efforts (see: the recent fate of the HS250h) did not bear copious fruit. Is the market clamoring for an ES hybrid? Lexus recently invited Autosavant to sample both models at a regional event in northern New Jersey.
By Roger Boylan
The world is divided into two kinds of drivers: real drivers—let’s call them “real drivers”–and the rest. Usually, I’m the first kind, a “real driver,” who, even on the way to the supermarket, or on a boring commute, is aware of what he’s driving, how it looks, and what it’s capable of. Occasionally, however, when I’m fed up, hungover or ill, I’m one of the rest. I care as little as possible about the shell around me and the mechanics underfoot and just want the sight of home and bed. Most drivers fall into the latter category all the time; they’re the ones driving the old Buicks with masking tape on their windows and the oxidized Honda Civics with Obamanos bumper stickers: the “just get me from A to B” types.
By Kevin Miller
In addition to my myriad responsibilities here at Autosavant, I’m also a corporate worker bee–flying off to America’s heartland, renting a car, and driving out to a large factory somewhere to contribute to my customers’ (and my employer’s) success. That gives me the opportunity to sample countless forgettable transportation appliances, usually assembled without many options and without much care, which have been sold to rental fleet operators at big discounts, which get the cars off of the manufacturers’ respective books.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I landed in the heart of California’s conservative Orange County and was handed the keys to a Toyota Camry Hybrid in exchange for my weeklong Category C reservation. Equipped with keyless entry/drive and Toyota’s famed Hybrid Synergy Drive, this was my first chance to experience a hybrid out in the real world.
Before I go any further, you need to know that I hate the Camry. Mainly, my strong feelings toward the car come from the fact that people in American society today who buy Camrys are generally terrible drivers. They wander between lanes without signaling, they don’t use their mirrors, they drive 20 percent below the speed limit. And most Camrys I see on the road, even newer ones, have scrapes, dents, and dings in them, proving that the drivers are so unskilled that they can’t manage to keep their cars unblemished. If you see a car being driven really badly, chances are it’s a Camry. Or a Corolla, but I digress.
By Chris Haak
I’ve been trying to get my hands on an LS600hL to test for a while. I’ve spent extensive seat time in nearly every vehicle in Toyota’s lineup, from the Corolla S to the IS350; from the Scion xD to the Sequoia and Tundra. However, those vehicles are “just cars.” I mean, the IS350 was a really fun car to drive, but it was just a big engine in a small car that happened to enjoy being thrown around on back roads. I wanted an LS600hL so that I could see what Toyota’s state-of-the-art was. I had extremely high expectations for the LS600hL; it not only represents the flagship of Toyota’s automotive empire, but basically represents the best that Toyota can do when building a luxury car on par with the S-class Mercedes and BMW 7-series. Also, the car had better be pretty great considering its $115,000-plus price tag.
The Lexus LS is a large car even in its standard form; the long wheelbase (which manifests itself mostly in the cavernous back seat) available in the conventionally-powered LS460 (called the LS460L) makes a big car even bigger. The car appears perhaps longer and wider than it is because it sits fairly low to the ground. I find the LS to be arguably the most attractive Lexus – in fact, the most attractive Toyota product – because it has some attractive lines and actually has a fairly original shape. It shares Lexus’ so-called “L-Finesse” design language with the brand’s other cars, but seems to feel the most comfortable in its clothes. I attribute the LS’s relative styling success to its size (it doesn’t look squashed or angry like the IS does thanks to its length) as well as the fact that L-Finesse has had a chance to evolve to the point that the LS is the newest sedan in the Lexus range. Unlike the first-generation LS, which was unashamedly conservative, and unlike the last-generation BMW 7-series, which was unashamedly unconservative, I find that the LS strikes an appropriate balance between the conservatism expected in an expensive car’s style with a desire to make the car’s design as modern and appealing as possible. The LS succeeds from a styling standpoint because the only part of the car’s styling that is an obvious knockoff is the Bangle-like trunklid bulge; otherwise, the only unfortunate thing about the styling is that Lexus made its front wheel drive ES350 look a little too similar to the LS for my comfort. The LS600hL has fairly subtle hybrid badging to let the world know that you’re driving the most expensive of Lexus models.
By Kevin Miller
Improved taxicab fuel economy and emissions are among the goals of New York City’s PlaNYC 2030, mayor Michael Bloomberg’s roadmap to improve housing, transportation, energy infrastructure and air quality in NYC. The plan’s new rules for taxicabs, which were to be in effect beginning October 1, 2008, require new taxicabs to have a minimum 25 MPG city rating, and 30 MPG for new taxis beginning in 2009. As it turns out, most taxi-sized vehicles with a city rating of 25 MPG or better are hybrid vehicles.
Earlier this week, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a taxi industry group, filed a Federal lawsuit seeking to block the city’s 25 MPG requirement for new taxicabs. The lawsuit contends that the city’s fuel economy rule violates Federal laws, which state that only the Federal government can set rules on fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions. The suit also claims that fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles were not built to withstand the heavy use that city cabs endure. Finally, the suit states that hybrid taxis are unsafe because they are smaller and lighter than the taxi-standard Ford Crown Victoria, thereby subjecting drivers and passengers to a greater risk of injury in an accident. The court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case next month.
The city’s fuel economy rule, and all other regulations governing operation of taxis in NYC, are overseen by New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). The TLC is represented by the NYC legal department, which declined to comment on the lawsuit. The Taxi and Limousine Commission has previously stated it is confident that hybrid cabs are safe.