What's The Drive Driving? Week of Dec. 11, 2015
Subways are overrated. Let's take the Lambo.
Wherein we show you what our writers and editors are pushing around the block—or around the world.
Lexus RC350 F-Sport
Before departing for my annual post-Art Basel road trip from Miami to see my sister, brother-in-law, and five nieces and nephew in Key West, I received a note from a friend at Lexus. “I see that you’re scheduled in an RC350 this weekend,” he wrote. “Yeah, BMW didn’t have any cars in Florida,” I replied.
It was a kibbitz with a heart of stone. Lexus has never been among my favorite brands. The brand’s styling is overwrought at best, and in the case of this piscine coupe, downright carbuncular. The ride has felt isolated. And the infotainment interface—a clunky and awkwardly placed trackpad‚feels borrowed from an IBM ThinkPad circa-1993. But as a highway cruiser—from the inside, at least—this was one smooth conveyance. And the electric blue color garnered lots of attention in south Florida, which may not be the kind of attention everyone is seeking.
I would still pick a Cadillac ATS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class or BMW 4 Series coupe over this, and the sedan variant of any of them over those. (I’m a sedan man, and proud.) But this richly rendered GT brought Lexus up a bit in my estimation. And, clearly, my five-year-old nephew quickly imprinted on the grille design, as his first inclination upon meeting the car was to adopt this imitative pose.—Brett Berk, writer-at-large
Bentley Continental GT W-12 Convertible
It’s so hard to impress the rich these days. A very well-to-do Egyptian friend who wanted to go for a ride in the very gold Bentley W-12 GTC I was driving for the weekend said, by way of a backhanded compliment, “At least it's not Saudi gold.”
After giving him a ride, however, he went on to coo over the bottomless torque from the W-12—a fat, 531 pound-feet at a mere 1,800 rpm.
In a straight line most of what you feel, beyond rocket-launch propulsion, is absence.
First, the absence of road roar. At 5,500 lbs, even though it’s a “ragtop,” the GTC is serenely quiet. It’s more sinking into the pavement than cruising over it. Also, the absence of gear changes. The eight-speed transmission with manual shift paddles is absurdly smooth. You try playing with the paddles at first, and then you stop fiddling, mash the throttle and let the gearbox do its bathed-in-oil transit of twin-turbo V12 torque to all four driven wheels. Look at the speedo and 100 mph has come and gone in 10.9 seconds. The quarter mile elapses two seconds thereafter.
And at that speed, as we’ve found with past Contis, the GTC wakes from its slumber and changes personality. Push it and it wants to be pushed harder. Cornering grip is profoundly good and, given the pillow creaminess of the GTC in daily driving, wholly unexpected.
Naturally I had to make some of these tests in the cold, as well as the dark. But no matter; I dropped the top.
The front Barcaloungers have built-in deep-fat fryers at the neckline. Or maybe they use chicken-rotisserie technology. Whatever the heating element, hot fans blow hot heat at your spine, and when you pair that up with the seat heaters and turn on the massage function (you must turn on the massage function), your mood lightens. Is it really a December moonlit night under the stars and not a warm evening in May? No matter. You’re good with your gold Bentley. More than good, in fact. You’re grand. —Michael Frank, contributing writer
2016 Toyota Prius
Snapping shots of the Toyota Prius, I tried to find its best angle. It doesn’t have one. Toyota has made its all-new Prius even more unsightly, to the point that even Teva-wearing hippies may think twice. From its goblin eyes and slit of a mouth to its monstrous badonkadonk, the Prius is the automotive version of McDonald’s Grimace, a shapeless cipher seemingly extruded from polystyrene and leftover chicken parts. Sure, that shape is all about fuel-saving aerodynamics, but it’s hard to believe that Prius fans wouldn’t trade, say, 1 mpg for a car that’s not aggressively frumpy.
The interior fares better, especially if you never care to glance straight ahead: A driver’s main gauges are located atop the center of the dashboard, a hectic and wearying digital array that hectors you to go easy on the gas by scoring your performance whenever you stop. (Toyota makes ergonomic arguments for the layout, but it also plumps Toyota’s profits, allowing left- and right-hand driving versions from the same basic design.) Not taking a hint from one of the first-generation Chevrolet Volt’s failings, Toyota clads the center console and shift surround in white plastic that looks straight out of Barbie’s Malibu Dream Car. A central touchscreen, with its navigation systems and apps, is useful and well executed, and the seats are O.K. But the rest feels as hollow as ever, a Potemkin façade in place of a real car—distressing for a Toyota that starts above $24,000 and tops $30,000 fully equipped.
The upside is that the redesigned Prius drives more like a real car, thanks to a tauter structure and quieter cabin. The driving experience is still soporific, but steering is at least in the same galaxy as the road surface. Expect bulletproof long-term reliability, a Prius forte. Did I mention that the fuel mileage is better than ever? Spectacular, in fact, with the Toyota sipping at 54/50 mpg in city and highway. A Prius Eco model, with no spare tire among its weight-saving measures, should score 58/53 mpg. Baby the throttle and play along with the energy-saving screens, and you’ll get 50 mpg in your sleep. On one nightmarish slog through Manhattan, which took 80 minutes to cover 10 miles, I still kept the Prius at 48 mpg. Don’t try that in a diesel, or any conventional hybrid. Still, between this Prius and the similarly priced 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid—with far higher overall mileage, sprightly performance and styling that doesn't make you duck down in the driver’s seat—my money’s on the Chevy all day long.—Lawrence Ulrich, chief auto critic
2016 Scion FR-S
I'm not a lover of Scion. I'm a hater of Scion. For as long as Toyota’s youth subsidiary has been churning out boxy party machines, I've disliked Scion.
Then this week I ended up driving the 2016 Scion FR-S. It has a 200-horsepower 2-liter flat-four that isn't all that dislikable. In fact, it's, well, it's not a bad car. It's almost a good car. It's punchy, ambitious, with a solid rear-wheel-drive chassis and—God help me for saying this—pretty good style.
So: Scion, a momentary reprieve.—Mike Guy, editor