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  • September 18, 2014

Luxury Sedans: Test Drive - Ladue News: Diversions

Luxury Sedans: Test Drive

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Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012 3:11 pm

For those who enjoy the finer things in life, a luxury sedan is a great way to get around. Modern luxury cars offer unprecedented levels of comfort, convenience and technology, all wrapped up in an attractive package.

Longtime luxury carmaker Buick has revitalized itself in recent years and now offers a fresh array of luxury vehicles, chief among which is the full-size Buick Lacrosse. Styling is conservatively modern, with a trademark waterfall grill, a sharply raked rear window and some nice character lines, the Lacrosse styling won’t exactly jump out at you, but it won’t offend anybody, either.

The interior is where the Buick really shines, with plenty of rich leather, heated and cooled seats, and lots of useful technology, such as a heads-up display speedometer, automatic headlights and blind-spot monitoring that alerts you with a light on the outside mirror when someone is in your blind spot. The dual-zone automatic climate control, audio and other vehicular functions are controlled by remote buttons that drive a center video console. Radio controls are made easier to control with hard audio buttons below the screen, and the screen can be used as a touch-screen, which is especially helpful with the available navigation system. Overall, the car has a solid, quality feel to it.

Rich leather, power-heated and cooled seats are comfortable for long trips, and you can even get a heated steering wheel if you don’t like to wear gloves. Rear-seat room is generous in all dimensions and there’s even mild bolstering for the outboard passengers, who also enjoy an air vent and available video screens with a DVD player. The tilt and telescoping steering wheel is manually adjustable. The trunk is large, but the opening is kind of small, though the split rear seat does fold to expand cargo-carrying capacity.

Front-wheel drive is standard, but an available all-wheel-drive system, joined with an electronic limited-slip differential, ensures that you can travel in luxury in any kind of weather and on any road surface. Power comes from a 3.6-liter, 303-horsepower V-6 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, good for 17 mpg city, 27 highway. An available mild hybrid 4-cylinder engine returns 25 city, 36 highway.

Lou Fusz Buick salesman Jim Kindred notes, “The Lacrosse is a luxury car at an economical price. It’s engineered to be quiet, and with an available mild hybrid option, can be very economical to drive.” The Lacrosse starts at about $31,000 and can exceed $40,000 for a fully loaded model.

Another exciting new luxury sedan is the Lexus GS350. Totally redesigned for 2013, the GS now offers sharp aggressive lines, especially from the frontal view, that suggest that this car is more of a driver’s car than previous versions.

The interior is typical Lexus luxury, with acres of leather, wood-trim accents, 18-way electrically adjustable heated and cooled front seats, a heated electrically adjustable tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 3-zone automatic climate control, and a large screen to control various functions operated by a computer mouse-like controller on the console between the front seats. The only objection was the intrusion of the housing for the front differential into the driver’s right leg space. Rear-seat passengers enjoy well-bolstered, heated seats with plenty of space in all directions and their own air vents; they even get controls in the center armrest to control the climate, audio and rear sunshade. The trunk is spacious, but the opening is small, so bulky objects cannot be inserted.

The new GS strives to be more of a driver’s car than previous models. Four driving modes are available—depending on your mood—ranging from economy to sport +. The different modes primarily affect throttle response, but sport + mode also tightens up the suspension. Manual shifting of the automatic transmission can be accomplished via the console-mounted shifter or steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. A ‘dynamic handling system’ provides four-wheel steering to assist in lowspeed parking maneuvers and high-speed corner-carving. A heads up display of speed, RPM and even navigation directions is a nice feature, as is the blind-spot monitoring system. Reversing is aided by a back-up camera and intuitive parking assist.

Power from the 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is conveyed to the rear or all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration to 60 mph is accomplished in less than 6 seconds, while gas mileage is a decent 19 city, 26 highway (AWD). A hybrid model also is available. Jim Evans of Mungenast Lexus says of the new GS, “The 2013 GS350 represents a new direction for Lexus, with aggressive styling, improved handling and performance, as well as next-generation technology.”

Prices for the GS350 begin at $47,000 and can climb northward of $60,000 for a fully equipped hybrid model.

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