Monday, August 14, 2017

IN THE DRIVEWAY: 2017 Lexus RX350 F Sport

This week I am in the best-selling vehicle from Lexus - the RX350 luxury SUV. Since it's introduction in 1998, the Lexus RX has been a top seller for the premium Toyota division. Good ride, excellent build quality, decent price – year after year Americans seem to fall for the RX like a fish to water. Now in the middle if it's fourth generation, the 2017 RX350 receives only minor changes, as Lexus keeps with the traditional “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it” logic.

It's hard to trace the styling of the current RX350 back to its original model as today's RX350 has gained some muscle in an attempt to attract more male buyers. The current RX incorporates the Lexus "spindle" grille" as well as a floating roof design, both of which keep the design of the RX fresh and in line with the Lexus L-Finesse theme.

For 2017, more RXs will be equipped with the F Sport package as Lexus is now offering it with front-wheel drive models, instead of being available only on all-wheel drive models. Going with the F Sport package adds 20-inch wheels, a stiffer suspension, enhanced engine sound, paddle shifters, unique gauges, heated and ventilated sport seats, leather upholstery and unique interior trim. The F Sport package is still offered on all-wheel drive RXs.

Just as it has been since day one, the RX continues to be a five-passenger mid size luxury crossover vehicle. Those insisting on a third-row still need to look elsewhere. But if you demand fine luxury in an SUV, this is it - with acres of leather and fine trim placed throughout the cabin. If you do want to put the RX350 to work, there is about 18.4 cubic feet of cargo room behind the back seat. Fold the 40/20/40 split folding seatback down (or as down as it will go - it doesn't go completely flat) cargo space expands to about 56 cubic feet. That's on the small side in this class - seems there is a price to pay for the RX's floating roof styling.

As the name implies, the RX350 is powered by a 3.5 liter V6. Making 295 hp this engine is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive being an option. While other markets get a turbo four-cylinder option (with the RX being called the RX200t), that option is not available here.

When it comes to safety, the RX350 is hard to be beat. It comes standard with 10 airbags as well as the Lexus Safety System which includes a Pre-Collision with pedestrian detection. Also included in this system is a radar cruise control and a lane departure system.

On the road it should come as no surprise that the RX delivers a serene driving experience. The ride is a little stiffer with the F Sport package, but for the most part, it still delivers a very smooth and quiet drive – in that typical Lexus tradition.

For 20 years now, the Lexus RX has been a best-seller. And it’s easy to see why. Good  looks, safe, and equipped with a luxurious cabin along with the Lexus reputation of dependability and quality makes it hard to look past the RX350.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Texas Auto Writers Association Names the 2016 Car of Texas and Family Car of Texas

2016 Ford Shelby GT350R
 FORT WORTH, TX -- May 03, 2016 - The Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) gathered once again for the annual Texas Auto Roundup to drive and evaluate 53 vehicles, within 17 different categories, over a two-day period. Fifty-eight journalists descended on Texas Motor Speedway and have chosen the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R as Car of Texas, and the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica as the Family Car of Texas.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Journalists came from 11 different states across the country, and from around the globe including the Netherlands. Despite early threats for a repeat of the deluge of 2015, the weather finally cleared up enough to allow journalists to take full advantage of the Texas Motor Speedway facilities including the infield racetrack.

Winning the Compact Car category was the 2016 Honda Civic Touring, with the 2016 Mazda3 5-door Grand Touring runner-up.

In the Mid-Size Car category, the 2016 Kia Optima SXL was named the winner with the 2016 Nissan Altima SL runner-up. In the Mid-Size Luxury Car category, the 2016 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 was the winner with the 2016 Lexus ES 350 runner-up.

In the full-size category, the 2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack was the winner with the 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum runner-up. For the full-size luxury car, the 2016 Cadillac CT6 was the winner, with the 2016 Chrysler 300 Platinum runner-up.

Performance Compact winner was the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club, with the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R runner-up. Performance Coupe was the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R with the 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat runner-up. Performance Sedan was the 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, with the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V Sedan runner-up.

The Minivan category was won by the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited, with the 2016 Toyota Sienna Limited runner-up. Activity Vehicle was the 2016 Nissan Murano Platinum, with the 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Drive-E runner-up.

Performance Utility was won by the 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD R-Design with the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT runner-up. The Green Vehicle was the 2016 Lexus RX 450h, with the 2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier Hatchback runner-up.

The Super Car of Texas was the 2016 Dodge Viper GTC.

2016 Dodge Viper

"This year's Texas Auto Roundup was our biggest yet with a record number of journalists and a highly competitive field of vehicles to evaluate."

"All our manufacturers brought outstanding vehicles for us to assess, however, there were some standouts that caught the attention of our journalist members when considering their performance, value, and versatility." "This event represents a tremendous amount of work and consideration and I'd like to thank our diverse group of journalist members, the Board of Directors and especially our automotive manufacturers for their continued dedication to our recognition of their best of the best." --  Nic Phillips, President, TAWA 

TAWA is one of the most reputable automotive press organizations in the industry, with a mission to promote quality and accuracy in automotive journalism and disseminate information about the industry through news related print, online and broadcast media. TAWA produces two driving events each year -- the Texas Auto Roundup in the spring and the Texas Truck Rodeo in the fall. Media members enjoy driving and evaluating new vehicles competing for the coveted Car of Texas or Truck of Texas trophies. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Texas Auto Writers Name the New Nissan Titan XD Truck of Texas for 2015


Dallas, TX, October, 2015. The Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) named the 2016 Nissan Titan XD the Truck of Texas, marking the first time for a Nissan truck to win the prestigious title. The Nissan Cummins® 5.0L V8 Turbo Diesel and Aisin powering the new Titan also received Best Powertrain Award, while the Titan XD Pro-4X won best off-road pickup; the Titan XD Platinum Reserve won luxury pickup truck; and Nissan’s Murano Platinum won mid-size CUV award.

The 2016 Ford Explorer was named SUV of Texas and the 2016 Volvo XC90 was named CUV of Texas.

The 25th TAWA Truck Rodeo, sponsored by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), with lunch sponsors BFGoodrich and Michelin Tires, was held at the historic Knibbe Ranch near San Antonio Oct. 7-9.  The event was especially competitive this year with 88 vehicles available for 69 TAWA media members to test both on and off road. TAWA members evaluated the off-road vehicles while climbing rocks and crossing creeks, while the smoother drives on the road might include pulling trailers.

Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing and Operations, U.S.A., Nissan North America, said, “Of the hundreds of thousands of miles driven during the development of the all-new 2016 TITAN XD, the miles driven by the truck experts of the Texas Auto Writers Association were the most critical miles driven to date as we prepare to launch our new truck. This prestigious Truck of Texas award gives us tremendous validation heading into the TITAN XD launch in December. We are humbly honored to accept this award.”

TAWA members evaluated pickups, SUVs and crossover utility vehicles whose combined sticker prices totaled almost $4 million. Several TAWA members commented on how helpful it was to have engineers from the competing companies available to answer questions.  It also aided the evaluation process to have side by side comparisons for on/off road driving and towing capabilities.

"The members of the Texas Auto Writers Association always enjoy the Texas Truck Rodeo,” said Michael Marrs, TAWA president. "It’s a unique chance to compare vehicles back-to-back in a timely manner on the same course and provide honest, real-time feedback to our industry partners. The Nissan Titan with the Cummins Diesel engine really impressed TAWA members at this year's event; there's no doubt that innovative powertrains, impressive designs and new technologies paid off for the Titan.”

The 2015 award categories and winning vehicles were:

• Truck of Texas: Nissan Titan XD (Cummins Diesel)
• SUV of Texas: 2016 Ford Explorer
• CUV of Texas: 2016 Volvo
• Truck line of Texas: Ford
• Heavy duty pickup truck: 2016 Ram 2500
• Best commercial vehicle: 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo and Passenger van
• Luxury pickup truck: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve
• Off-road pickup: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X
• Full-size pickup: 2016 Ram 1500 Rebel
• Midsize pickup: 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road & TRD Sport & Limited
• Best technology: Ford Pro-Trailer Backup Assist
• Best connectivity: Volvo Sensus
• Best powertrain: Nissan Cummins 5.0L V8 Diesel & Aisin
• Off-road utility vehicle: 2016 Jeep Wrangler
• Full-size luxury SUV: 2016 Lexus LX 570
• Mid-size luxury SUV: 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4
• Compact luxury SUV: 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE LUX
• Full-size SUV: 2015 Dodge Durango RT AWD and Citadel AWD
• Mid-size SUV: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Diesel
• Compact SUV: 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and Limited
• Full-size CUV: 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD
• Mid-size CUV: 2015 Nissan Murano Platinum
• Compact CUV: 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
• Luxury CUV: 2016 Volvo XC90 T6

The Texas Auto Writers Association, Inc. was founded in 1985 by automotive journalists who wanted to provide an avenue of professional growth, development and networking. These professionals sought to create an automotive event that was unique to Texas, and the result was the TAWA Truck Rodeo. Since 1992, Truck Rodeos have been held in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Granbury and Spring Branch.

In 2003, TAWA created an event for sedans, sports cars, and other vehicles not eligible for the Truck Rodeo. The Texas Auto Roundup, as the event is called today, is held at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.  For more information, visit