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Car Reviews

2019 Lexus RX350L AWD

It was just two weeks ago that my station honored local student athletes for their academic achievements, at our annual Scholastic All-Star’s banquet. It’s an award program started years ago that honors these special young people for their hard work. I think the average GPA was something like 4.3!

Any large “event” that you host usually requires multiple stops at supermarkets, party suppliers and florist. In this case add a trophy shop for the awards themselves. Typically, a standard pick-up won’t work in this case, if for no other reason than the flowers would be more disheveled than a 1985 Jack Nickelson, from riding in an open bed from the florist to the event. This is where a true SUV shines the brightest. Roomy yet enclosed, the SUV has always been more versatile than a standard pick-up sans camper top.

This run of program cars has been heavy on the Toyota/Lexus side. Testing the LX570, RX350, and the Rav-4 have given me the Goldilocks experience. The LX570 is by far the most luxurious and most capable. But, like everything else in life except modern politics the middle always seems like a great place to land. That’s what made me prefer the 2019 RX350L AWD over the rest. Sitting firmly in the middle of the Toyota/Lexus SUV line the RX350 is the perfect combination of size, power and comfort.

On the day of the event I drew the short straw and was dispatched to the party rental store to retrieve 30 large table cloths. Now, I realize you might laugh at me for what I’m about to say, I’ll say it anyway. Those damn table clothes are heavy and bulky and would have rolled all over the place in an open-air pick-up bed. Even with my cumulative high school GPA of 1.9677, I looked like a genius rolling up to the event with perfectly folded and stationary table cloths.
No matter your high school GPA you too can look smarter in the RX350. First of all, the exterior styling is smart and slippery with curves in all of the right places. I’m not a fan of the split C-pillar that now denotes you are driving a Toyota, but the rest of the body looks great. The color was Autumn Shimmer, brown for those of you relating seasons to color. The interior color was very complimentary to the exterior, cream with dark wood accents. One of the most distinguished SUV’s I’ve tested under $70,000.

Powering the RX350 is the workman-like 3.8-liter 290HP 24 valve V6 power-plant. Nothing Lexus makes would be considered light but, they absolutely managed to match the power to weight ratio to perfection. No worries getting on the highway in this SUV. The eight-speed transmission and Drive-mode –select, ensure this. Of course, AWD does nothing but help the performance and it performed perfectly in the tropical-rainy climate formally known as East Texas. For the duration of my test period, every day it rained harder than a cow pissing on a flat rock. This gave the RX350 another opportunity to show off the AWD. At no time did I feel there was inadequate traction. The pre-collision software is not oppressive but, helpful deploying only when needed. This week the Pedestrian Detection system was the needed safety software. Annoyingly effective is how I would classify it. If a pedestrian walks anywhere near the rear of the vehicle, the brakes slam shut as if you were about to run into a pile-up on the interstate at 70MPH.

The Apple Car Play again showed itself to be effortless to operate, as was the Bluetooth hands-free phone. The sound quality, in the cabin was warm and full. Allowing you to enjoy the tunes even more is the quietness of the interior. I don’t know how much sound deadening material was used in the 2019 RX350 but I can attest it was enough. The seats were all comfortable, heated and cooled. To that end I would like to point out as I get older, I love this feature. Nothing better on a hot early-summer day than to have a way to cool down that part of your anatomy. Makes for a happier Driver for sure.
All of the comfort also manages to let you forget that the RX350 can also tow your toys. With the tow feature engaged you can safely tow a U-Haul or mid-size boat with ease.

I’ve mentioned just about every scenario that a 30-50-year-old would encounter in their daily lives. Weather, event planning, towing and traveling. Really, what else is there? If you need an SUV, you need it. If you don’t, buy a car. But, if your daily schedule offers opportunities to do the above mentioned and even some very light off-roading, I think the Lexus RX350L AWD would be an SUV you should consider if you’re in the market, and starting at $54,135.00 the Lexus RX350L offers everything you would ever need and does it with comfort and style.

2019 ES350 F-SPORT

Test driving and reviewing cars and trucks can sometimes be harder than it sounds. Sure, I get a great new car to drive each week, but how can you duplicate real world situations? For instance, monsoonal rain or freezing conditions are two great types of weather to test the true nature of a car’s real world performance.

My car last week was another Lexus, the ES 350 F-Sport to be exact. When Lexus delivered it, the weather was beautiful, allowing God and everyone to see how truly bright the color blue can be. I’ve always marveled at the mature color palate that Lexus employs. Not this car the 2019 ES350 F-Sport was delivered in ULTRASONIC BLUE MICA. If the sun were blue it wouldn’t be this bright, but I loved it. The color fits the fun, easy going nature of the ES350 and paired with the dark red, almost burgundy interior the ES350 is a looker.

Well, good looks are not the only strength of the ES350. The car is incredibly road capable. Here in East and Central Texas we have had one of the wettest years I can remember. For Mother’s Day I wanted to surprise my kid’s grandma with a visit. There was what looked to be a stroke of luck that weekend with the never-ending storm train. The sky was as blue as the car when we headed south. Twenty minutes later the blue sky turned to gray and the pouring rain resumed. We were headed from Tyler to San Antonio, which any good Texan knows should be about a 4.5 to 5-hour drive. On this day it took almost eight hours. Stopped traffic and flooded streets and the ever growing, Austin City Limits made for what should have been a challenging driving experience. It was about an hour into the trip when I realized just how special the ES350 is.

The sure-footed ES350 literally made the trip palatable. Whether we were making up for lost time at speeds slightly above the posted limit or at a standstill the ES350’s cockpit was impressively comfortable. The heated and cooled seats and 2-way adjustable lumbar support helped this 52-year-old drive in complete comfort. The automatic lights controlling the bright and dim allowed me to see very well in limited vision situations and Smart Stop technology worked its magic in the less than desirable real-life driving conditions.

My temper was controlled by my smart phone offering my best Foo Fighter playlist to the 10-speaker Lexus premium sound system. It’s weird to say, but angry music relaxes me and the louder and angrier the better. Apple I-Play works flawlessly in the ES350, allowing me to focus my energy on the road conditions instead of the infotainment systems.
Although the ES350 is FWD instead of AWD I found it to be incredibly sure-footed in horrible conditions. Sometimes when driving in pouring rain a car can slip and slide as it crosses puddles in the highway. Not so much with the ES350. Even under acceleration or hard braking the tires were firmly attached to the asphalt.

The F-Sport package is largely dressing and suspension upgrades but in Sport-Plus mode you can definitely feel the 302HP of the 3.5 V-6. On the return trip we chose the turnpike versus I-35. By the way the I in I-35 should stand for insufferable. The speed limit on the turnpike is posted as 80MPH but traffic flows about 90MPH. The ES350 was as comfortable at speed as Howard Stern is reminiscing about Dial-A-Date. The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control makes sure to keep you a safe distance away from the slower drivers.

The return trip offered skies as blue as the ES350 itself. Now with the sunroof open, rolling down the turnpike, I was able to really relax and enjoy the rest of the trip. Next to seeing Mom, the 2019 Lexus ES-350 was the only highlight to the thirty-four hours of hell that was Mother’s Day weekend.

Life is all about balance. And the ES350 is one of the most balanced, effortless, and comfortable road cars I’ve tested to date.

Prices start at $44,035.00 and can reach $52,000.00 as tested.

2019 KIA K900

Growing up every time I asked a good question someone, somewhere would utter the words “That’s the $64,000.00 question”. It would drive me nuts. That question seemed to never have an adequate answer. Well, in 2019 it finally does. The question is; Who makes a car usually thought of as frugal that can cost $64,000.00? The answer is KIA, and they hit an over-the-fence-homer with the new K900.

Be honest, when you think KIA you think affordability and reliability, not luxury. The 2019 KIA 900 changes all of that. The KIA K900 is fit for a Kardashian. A KIA with reclining back seats, are you kidding me?

Upon arrival the K900 struck me as attractive in the most subtle of ways. Looking more like a Euro offering than anything the Korean’s have produced so far, the K900’s styling will not jump off of the page when you lay eyes on it. Once inside the K900 you realize that the exterior styling has little to do with the cabin experience. Quiet luxury awaits you inside. From the multi-colored mood lighting to the Nappa leather seats wrapping the front and rear passenger’s in fluffy comfort. My only wish this week is that I employed a driver to chauffeur me around for the entire week so I could enjoy the living- room-esche command center located in the rear of the K900.

Not only are the rear seats heated and cooled but they recline, and the console, in the center of the rear seat drops to give you more precise control than a mechanical pencil. You can control the sound-system from the rear of the car. You can move the passenger seat forward giving you more leg room. The back head rest even adjust laterally.

Looking past the comfort for a moment, the power is exceptional as well. The 3.3-liter twin-turbo mated to the 8-speed transmission with paddle shifters make for a very fun and, for what it weighs, very enjoyable car to drive. Make no mistake this KIA weighs a ton, more than a couple of them actually. Most luxury cars always weigh more if not for the ride because of all of the tech and wiring required to make you feel like you’re driving a yacht. Given all of the added weight the KIA 900 is borderline fun to drive. Darting in and out of city traffic with ease. With zero to sixty times in the five-second range the K900 is quick enough to embarrass the guy or girl who tries to outrun you where the road ahead loses a lane.

The creature comforts are clearly the goal here and KIA achieves this with rear window and manual side shades offering more shade than a presidential tweet. With the shades up and the rear seats reclined you can forget you’re in a car at all.
Keeping all of this tech in working order is a breeze with KIA’s 5-year 60,000-mile basic warranty. The powertrain warranty remains the 10-year 100,000-mile warranty KIA has offered for years. It’s the best in the business.
If you’re in the market for a 7 series BMW or a Cadillac you should visit your local KIA dealer on the way. There’s no doubt the K900 will give you pause.

So, what’s the answer to the $64,000.00 question? The KIA K900.

2019 Mazda CX-5

Video may have killed the radio star but, Mazda killed the ability to air drum to good rock songs. While on the way to Dallas to celebrate the annual non-sighting of the Easter Bunny I turned on the very easy to use Bluetooth device, and cued up the Foo Fighters Learn to Fly. Anyone who knows the song knows that the drum parts were tailor made for air drumming. Problem is your hands can’t be on the wheel while you air drum. That’s a big problem with Mazda. The reason I know this is that the windshield practically exploded with the following warning message. *****PLEASE PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL****. Alas, new overpowering tech strikes again.

Except for that one warning and the odd placement of infotainment center controls, I absolutely loved the 2019 Mazda CX-5.
Mazda has been consistently producing cars and SUV’s that are fun to drive and the CX-5 carries on that tradition with zippy acceleration and quick handling that make the CX-5 a blast to drive. The steering is just tight and crisp. I’ve said for years that the only cars that I can drive blind folded and recognize the manufacturer are the Mercedes and the BMW’s. There is just a certain feel to the steering of these cars. But the great thing about Mazda is that they offer a very similar experience behind the wheel at a fraction of the cost.

The car is just peppy enough to make things enjoyable. The 2.5-liter motor with SKYACTIV technology offers adequate power in normal mode, while a twitch of a toggle puts you into Sport Mode and allows for more spirited driving. The AWD feature plants the wheels and tires firmly on the ground. Even in Sport Mode the CX-5 offers very good mileage. I averaged just over 25MPG for the entire week. That’s with an almost 50/50 split of city and highway driving. Driving in a metro area seems to be one of the CX-5 best traits. The 2.5-liter power-plant delivers fantastic power as you ask it to overtake that white cross addled truck driver.

The cabin space is just as impressive as the power and handling. The CX-5 checks all of the comfort boxes and has more options than the 2020 democratic presidential candidates. From the wheel mounted controls for most of the tech to the center console mounted command center to control the rest. This is another one of my gripes about the Mazda and many other manufacture’s offerings. I may never get used to my radio controls on the center console. Is there not room on the dash for two little knobs that actually control the radio. I spent two days trying to acclimate myself to these controls. Once mastered however, the ease of use is obvious.

The 8-way adjustable-power driver’s seat is very comfortable and left me feeling rested after my trip from Tyler to Denton. That’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive with more stress than a marriage to Angelina Jolie. Yet the CX-5 handled every little exception on the trip in stride. The CX-5 seats five very comfortably.

Let’s not forget the most important item to my 15-year-old. Yes, the CX-5 is equipped with Apple CarPlay. Fear not droid users. Mazda has your back with ANDRIOD AUTO. Whatever you do however, do not attempt to air drum to either audio feature, as you will be more harshly chastised than Jake Elwood attending class at a Catholic school.

Safety items are almost too numerous to cover let’s just say you’ll be safer than Elton John at Coachella. From the ANTI-THEFT ENGINE IMOBILIZER (LOL), to the multiple outside cameras to navigate grocery store parking lots with ease.
All of the above is protected by a 60-month 60,000-mile Powertrain warranty and a 36-month 36,000-mile bumper to bumper warranty.

With prices starting around $25,000.00 and going up to the $36,000.00 model I tested, the Mazda CX-5 is absolutely a crossover you should not pass-over, even at Easter.

2019 Lexus LX570

The 2019 Lexus LX570 is without a doubt one of the best SUV’s I’ve ever reviewed. The single biggest drawback is its drinking problem. I guess you could say it’s the John Daly of SUV’s, showing complete dominance in its field of competition and an inability to pass up a bar, err….in this case, a gas station.

Honestly, if you can afford the sticker of $88,940.00 as tested, then you should have no trouble keeping this very sexy behemoth well hydrated. For the sake of this review I’m going to omit the mileage because of this reason.

And now, the rest of the story. The 2019 Lexus LX570 is absolutely comfortable, quick and, wait for it….. nimble. Nimble feels like a strange description for a SUV just one spare tire shy of three tons, but it feels like a nimble, capable off-roader. Of course, with its strong Toyota Land Cruiser heritage I’m sure it’s very capable off-road. I didn’t dare take it there because the 20-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in four 285/50R20 mud and snow tires offered little confidence of returning the LX570 to Toyota with zero damage. I imagine if you were to swap tires and wheels to a more aggressive package, you could traverse most obstacles in your way. The truck just feels solid. Very little body roll for an SUV of this size.

Surely no one in the states will buy the new Lexus 570 for its off-road ability so, lets focus on the things that might move the needle for the 570’s potential buyer. Here’s one, USEABLE NON-INTERFERENCE TECH. The last SUV/Crossover I reviewed had more oversight than the new congress. Making every road decision reviewable in milliseconds. The 570 is far more passive allowing you to drive like we did before tech. From the cockpit I can tell you this makes for more enjoyable driving.
The Lexus LX570 is also quick for its size. Powered by a 383HP, 404lbft 5,7L V-8 the 570 lets you merge or dart in and out of traffic with ease and if someone darts in front of you, no problem, the 13.9-in front and 13.5-in brakes bring you to a stop faster than 40-degree temperature change, in our great state of Texas.

Moving on to the interior of the 570 you’ll find heated and cooled contrast stitched leather seats complimented by dark wood accents on the dash and doors. The outside noise level is non-existent in confines of the cabin. Muting the masses from disturbing you as you race by them in complete luxury. There were times when I would have to open the sunroof just to be sure I was indeed, on the road. I want to add again that the Lexus Safety System+ Pre-collision with Pedestrian detection remains Khashoggi quiet until it’s needed. Never at any time testing the 570 did I feel overwhelmed by the safety tech. The lack of frustration with the safety tech allowed me to relax and enjoy the fantastic sound system in the 570. The 9-speaker Lexus premium audio was as easy to operate and sync as it was glorious to listen to.

I know that when some of you read this you’ll be like, of course you like it, it cost eighty-nine-grand. I’ts not the price that matters most, it’s what manufactures deliver for the price that matters. In the case of the 2019 Lexus LX570 they delivered in spades, in all but one area, fuel mileage.

Fuel mileage is bad. Too bad indeed for a 24-gallon fuel cell. The second half of the tank disappears quicker than the passing thoughts of a millennial. All the cars and trucks I review are delivered clean with a full tank of gas. More times than not I can return them with fuel left. Not this time. When I put a half a tank of fuel in the mileage distance indicator informed me, I had all of 98 miles to go until empty.

As Sir Charles Barkley would say, that’s tuurredble! I’m sure in the not to distant future the mileage will be addressed but, that is all can find bout the 2019 Lexus LX570 to gripe about.

If you’re in the market for a very full size SUV that allows you to toil in luxury all the while having the off-road capability to star in an episode of Game of Thrones, than this is clearly an SUV you should investigate if you’re in the market.

2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

Effortless people mover that can be more overbearing than second generation trust fund mother-in-law. That’s how I would begin my description of the slightly redesigned 2019 Honda Pilot.

Sometimes situations dictate how much you will get to use these program cars for their intended purpose. This week certainly qualified. I have a little brother who just jumped all of the way in the deep end of the pool acquiring a beautiful fiancé and a home within three months’ time. No better feeling as a big brother than to possess some skills that your younger brother does not possess. In my case that’s easy because he’s an attorney so, except for case law that means I know more about everything else. Well, I’m good at hanging art anyway. So, like any good brother I load up my SUV with all of the tools necessary to hang a home full of art. One thing my brother and I share is a love of art. I throw my fifteen-year-old in the front seat and hit the road.

Almost immediately my kid commands the 10-speaker audio system and punches in Shaggy or Slippy, or dopey, or whoever is offering the latest in non-instrument inspired, sort of rap music. I notice right away that the tech on the Pilot is easy to navigate and offers more choices of environment than an afternoon in Texas.

Within minutes we were immersed in music or a reasonable facsimile of music and the voice recognition navigation system was in full effect. It’s important to note that the navigation system is the least intrusive and most enjoyable component to the Honda Sensing Safety Suite. This suite offers more security than an Afghan military base. Make no mistake, when on the highway the 2019 Pilot is firmly in control. The Pilot dares you to change lanes without using your blinker. A slight (not really) shimmer in the steering wheel lets you know that you’ve done wrong. If I had a suggestion to Honda it would be to diminish the severity of the warnings.

There are somethings computers are not great at. The first is subtlety. For instance, if a driver in front of you is turning out of your path, to the right and catches the front warning sensor just right, the Pilot thinks the car is directly in front of you and applies the brake accordingly. Problem is there is no longer a car in front of you.
I really want to move on from the safety tech however, because under all of that is really a great little SUV. Gas mileage was very good given the two-ton dry weight of the Pilot. I averaged eighteen miles per gallon, in the city and, given the speed limits in the great state of Texas, the highway mileage was excellent. The 2019 Pilot has an extremely smooth ride that has a quiet cabin. One cool feature is Cabin Talk allowing the driver to be heard even by the passengers in the third row seats.

Once in the city the Pilot really shines. Easy to maneuver, and in the city the Safety Suite becomes more useful. Let’s list the ways. The Pilot has more acronyms than the 2020 democratic presidential hopefuls.

Here’s the list:
ACC – Adaptive Cruise Control
CMBS – Collision Mitigation Braking System
RDM – Road Departure Mitigation
VSA – Vehicle Stability Assist
EBD – Electronic Brake Distribution
And on and on……..

After a long day of art hanging, furniture placement and TV mounting it was time to take the Pilot and the group out to dinner. A dinner paid for by my little brother (good man). So, now there are six of us headed to dinner. The pilot gathered all of us in extreme comfort while we drove to our very congested, parking strained dinner area of choice. Cloaked in leather seating and endless interfacing device hookups, including a cordless phone charger for the driver and front passenger we arrived to our destination relaxed and informed.

My relaxed state was surprising considering the entire trip was made in torrential rain making the AWD feature stand up and be counted.

Parking was made easy by yet more tech and the trip home was as comfortable as the ride there.
Let’s review. I threw my tools and a man child in the 2019 Pilot and headed to spend a day in the city with friends and family. I returned feeling rested and happy. Isn’t that what you buy an SUV for?

The Pilot needs a complete refresh as this model is now long in the tooth but, make no mistake, if your needs dictate that you move people and things around in larger than normal numbers the 2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite has to be in the discussion.
Price as tested was $49,015.00 and in my mind worth every penny.

2019 Toyota Tundra Pro Crew Max

I’d like to start off by mentioning the humor is not lost on me that the first review I do back on the BB, is me reviewing a blue truck. Welcome home, Lonnie. It’s not just any blue it’s Voodoo Blue. So, yeah, let’s just get these reviews going with some voodoo blue. It’s so blue almost everyone that sees it comments on it immediately. Something like, “Man, that trucks blue”. It is to blue what Hendrix was to guitar picks.

But, let’s not judge a truck by its color. Once I got used to it, I actually thought the Voodoo Blue matches this trucks personality perfectly. The truck is fun, just like the color. Easy to drive and, as you would expect with most full-size trucks, very hard to park at the grocery store. I’ve said it before, parking these trucks in Tyler isn’t too bad, but trying to park them at an event in the metro-plex would be absolutely brutal. One of the opportunity costs of being able to drive around, in what amounts to your living room, is that your living room is hard to park.

The interior is actually a great place to begin the breakdown of the 2019 Toyota Tundra Pro Crew max. Auto writers get all of the loaded cars and trucks so we can let you guys know about the cool the tech, and comfortable seats. Both play a big part of Toyota’s presentation of this truck. The Bluetooth is effortless and very user friendly. I think it took this fifty-two-year-old 15 to 30 seconds to give the Voodoo colored truck complete access to all of my personal information on my I-phone. That’s got to be a record. Once the phone was connected it became obvious how much sound engineering thought went into the Entune Premium Audio. Within seconds I had Joe Bonamassa making more noise than Mr. Kelly-Anne Conway. The bass was crisp and deep and the system as a whole was effortless to tune.

I really liked the red highlighted charcoal interior. Several passengers made comments about how much leg room exists in the rear of the Tundra, and the steering wheel mounted controls were effortless to operate. Which reminds me. Toyota, please move the cruise control onto the steering wheel like the rest of the controls. The cruise stick is harder to find than witnesses at Neverland.

From the comfort of the seats you feel in command, with a ridiculous ride height and endless power. With that power comes abysmal mileage. Funny I always associate Toyota with great fuel mileage. Not so in this case. Thank God for the huge fuel cell or this truck would make more pit stops than the old man reviewing it,
The reason for this lackluster mileage might well be the endless torque and power of the 5.7 I-FORCE V8 DOHC 32V with Daul independent VVT with 381HP and 401 lb-ft of torque. It sounds fantastic. Good job, again by Toyota engineers for making the 2019 Tundra V8 sound almost as good as the sound system.

The torque might also have felt more impressive because of the 4.30 gear ratio matched with the extremely smooth 8-speed Automatic transmission.

Look, if you’re in the market for a good looking tough 4×4, Toyota is again a perfect choice. Go ahead pick up one today at Classic Toyota, on the loop in Tyler. Price as tested is $350.00 short of $50,00.00. If you’re into blue, cool. Do the Voodoo that you do.