Lexus Performance Driving Academy

Lexus Performance Driving Academy

Last month, it was announced that the annual Taste of Lexus traveling test drive tour would be discontinued and replaced with smaller, more targeted events. The reasoning was that too many current owners were taking part, even making up 75% of the audience in some locations.

Regardless of how much sense it makes to close down the traditional ToL tour, the first replacement event, dubbed the Lexus Performance Driving Academy, has been announced, and will be visiting four racetracks across the US:

  • May 9 – 11, 2008 Autobahn Circuit in Joliet, Illinois
  • May 30 – June 1, 2008 Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California
  • June 27 – 29, 2008 Summit Point Motorsports Park in Summit Point, West Virginia
  • July 11 – 13, 2008 Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia

The tour dates will be broken into two distinct events:

The events are invite only, though there is a waiting list should there be any cancellations. You must be 21 and have a US drivers license.

A Weekend Away

The Passionate Pursuit: Lexus News Blog

Just a quick note, I’ll be away from a computer for the next couple days and will resume posting on Monday.

(Hopefully the GS-F isn’t announced this weekend!)

Hybrids (Still) Central to Lexus Strategy in Europe

Lexus Hybrid Drive

For whatever reason, Business Week has become particularly concerned with how Lexus is doing in other parts of the world. First there was an article a couple weeks ago about the company’s sales in Japan (which I partially refuted), and now a new story has sprung up about how hybrid technology may be the key to Lexus improving their status in Europe:

Lexus sold only about 39,000 cars in Western and Eastern Europe in 2007, compared to 730,000 for the Mercedes brand and 700,000 for BMW.

Already sales of Lexus’ three hybrid models—the GS 450h and LS 600h sedans, and the RX 400h sport-utility vehicle—accounted for 31% of total Lexus sales in Europe in 2007, up from 26% in 2006. Among Lexus SUVs it’s 85%. “Hybrid has been our breakthrough,” says Schlicht.

The gasoline-electric powertrain helps address one of Lexus’ main problems in Europe. Because of the brand’s focus on the gasoline-oriented U.S. market, it has a much narrower range of diesel-powered models than do BMW and Mercedes. “We don’t want to copy the Germans. They’re good at what they do,” says Schlicht. “We want to find our own way.”

For anyone following Lexus in any way, this is old news, it’s quite clear that hybrids are going to make or break Lexus in Europe. At first, I was slightly confused why Business Week would even bother covering it…until I realized it’s a general business publication, tasked with giving broad overviews. Under that perspective, it makes total sense.

Drawings of the Lexus Dedicated Hybrid (and the 1-Series Competitor?)

No idea just how close it will be to the real deal, but Club Lexus member GFerg has posted up a drawing of what the dedicated hybrid from Lexus might look like, taken from the Japanese magazine Mag-X:

Lexus Prius Drawing

All in all, it doesn’t look all that bad, but I’m still scratching my head at how necessary this car really is. Bringing a rebadged Prius into the Lexus lineup is ill-fitting, to say the least, and I hope Lexus avoids it at all costs. If they’re dead set on releasing a small hybrid, in my mind it makes more sense to offer it as an variant of the “no-longer-just-a-rumor” BMW 1-series competitor.

Speaking of which, there was another image in Mag-X that may very well be a rendering of that very vehicle:

Lexus' BMW 1-series competitor

Far too bubbly, especially in the hood (though it might just be the scan), but it’s hard to ignore the charm of this smaller version of the IS. Why bother with a Prius when this shape is so much more appealing?

[Source: Club Lexus]

Four Wheeler Magazine reviews the Lexus LX 570

Lexus LX 570

Four Wheeler magazine recently tested the Lexus LX 570, and it’s an interesting read for anyone thinking about the LX as more than just a giant on-road cruiser:

The really big news, however, can be found beneath the framerails, where an all-new independent A-arm front/four-link rear suspension system utilizes Lexus-exclusive computer-managed hydraulics to lift and lower the vehicle as much as 3 inches on demand…and to re-tune spring rates and shock damping on the fly…The new system is said to reduce body lean by as much as 30 percent at road speeds via diagonally linked shock chambers…the new suspension struck us as far more responsive, and much quicker to react, to undulating terrain at trail speeds than the older (and still quite good) electromechanical Kinetic Dynamic system it replaces.

Despite our best efforts to cross up the new LX on some steep and deep-rutted two-tracks, it was much more difficult for us to lift a tire off the ground than we would’ve guessed for a vehicle of this type.

Seems like the latest version of the LX is more than capable of keeping its established off-road prowess. There was one thing that really stood out in the review, and it was in regards to the noise of the new Crawl-Control feature:

As with the Land Cruiser, the Crawl Control ultra-low speed-holding system is loud and rattly, and it’ll shake the seat of your pants (but thankfully not the well-isolated steering). It also, however, indisputably works, so just think of it as the automotive equivalent of one of those Magic Finger thingies you used to find in many of America’s finest motels, and enjoy the occasional lower-back massage while you’re crawling.