Lexus fine-tunes LX, GS in return to luxury roots

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The LX gets a dramatically updated interior and exterior, with a more aggressive version of the Lexus “spindle grille.”

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MONTEREY, Calif. — Lexus, which has been busy in recent years proving its hipness to millennials, came to this monied coastal enclave Thursday to show that it hasn’t forgotten its roots, or its customers, in the old-school luxury market. 

As festivities heated up at Monterey Car Week, Lexus unveiled facelifts to both its LX full-size SUV and its GS midsize sedan.

The LX is based on Toyota’s iconic Land Cruiser, and while it sold just 1,886 units this year through July – a 15 percent drop from 2014 – it remains one of Lexus’ most profitable models.

For 2016, the LX gets a dramatically updated interior and exterior, with a more aggressive version of the Lexus “spindle grille,” LED headlights, revised taillights, and new rear bumper and wheel options.

Inside, the LX gains a new 12.3-inch infotainment screen in the redesigned dashboard. Underneath the coddled passengers, a new eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the older six-speed, and an adaptive variable suspension keeps California’s potholed roads at bay.

A new standard suite of safety features includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection and lane-keeping assistance.

LX pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date this fall, but given the extra features, expect it to jump up a bit from the current model’s $ 84,120 base price.

The 2016 iteration of the GS is a mild cosmetic refresh for the interior and exterior, but important upgrades lurk beneath its skin.

GS homecoming

For the GS, Monterey is a bit of a homecoming. Lexus first unveiled the fourth generation GS in Pebble Beach in 2011, and it went on sale a year later. The 2016 iteration is a mild cosmetic refresh for the interior and exterior, but important upgrades lurk beneath its skin.

An all-new GS 200t model joins the lineup as the entry-level trim. As the name implies, this version comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a first for the GS line, and only the second current Lexus (behind the compact NX crossover) to use turbocharging.

In the GS, the engine makes 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, it promises an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 33 mpg on the highway, Lexus said.

The 200t will go on sale this fall and will be priced competitively with its midsize rivals, including the Audi A6, BMW 528i and Cadillac CTS. Each of those models starts around $ 47,000 to $ 50,000 and offers a turbocharged four-cylinder as the base engine.

The GS 350 still uses a 3.5-liter V-6, but it has been updated to boost power to 311 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque, up from 306 hp and 277 lb.-ft.

The GS 450h hybrid carries over with its powertrain unchanged.

Luxury dogfight

The addition of the turbo to the lineup should help Lexus in the Japanese company’s dogfight with BMW and Mercedes for the U.S. luxury sales crown.

Through July, Lexus trails Mercedes by fewer than 4,000 vehicles and BMW by fewer than 7,000 vehicles, narrowing the gap considerably since last year.

Toyota’s luxury division chose the setting in Monterey for its proximity to the area’s annual Car Week festivities, during which some of the world’s wealthiest car fanatics come into town for classic car auctions, races, tours, and on Sunday, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, one of the most prestigious classic car shows in the world.

You can reach David Undercoffler at undercoffler@crain.com.


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