A sexy Lexus you can afford (CNET On Cars, Ep. 107)
Driving the little Lex with the little engine, but don't be fooled.
What happened to those decreasing road fatalities?
And the latest on connected tyres.
Nope, they're serious about this.
[NOISE] It's time to check the tech.
We see cars differently.
We love them on the road.
And under the hood.
But also check the tech.
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This is c/net On Cars.
Welcome to c/net On Cars, the show all about high tech cars and modern driving.
I'm Brian Cooley.
Well, it's no secret that Lexus is in the middle of an image revamp right now, a multi year move to become just a little hipper, hotter, sportier, you need no more evidence than to look at the RC, the NX, and of course, the coming LC, but a sleeper in this mission is the sometimes forgotten IS, the smallest sedan, and I like it with the smallest motor The two liter turbo 4 which is relatively new on this car.
We got in the 17 to check it out and check the tech.
Now the IS itself is not a new model of course it was in many ways the first of the hipper, trimmer Lexi.
Back in the day.
Soldering on nicely, we have an F Sport in this 2017.
You can tell that, quick spotters guide, is that face which is very polarizing.
I happen to like it.
A lot of folks thinks it's too scary monster.
You've also got a mild body kit.
These wheels, And some very nice sports seats I'm gonna check out in a moment.
Now what does this guy compete with?
Just about everything.
This is really vibrant class.
It starts with 3 series, goes on to C class, Audi A4, Infiniti Q50, Cadillac ATS, and I'm out of screen room or I'd put more up there.
The cabin ergo on this IS is fantastic.
It's got this really great layback console that first appeared with the Lexus CT a number of years ago.
There's not one thing in this car that doesn't fall to my hand properly.
The little tack-on rails It's cool, I'll grant you that.
Comes off the LFA super car, but when don't I wanna see the menus to the left of the tack?
We have the F sport seats that are very supportive, but they're also very soft.
So they're sculpted like a sports seat, but upholstered like a luxury seat.
Why can't the Germans get that right?
Okay, now things start to go downhill as my hand falls to one of the controls.
This stupid thing, this upside down puck controller, remote touch they call it at Lexus.
It's the worst way to run an automotive interface, you'll just overshoot all the time.
And you constantly gotta be looking up to confirm, is the pointer where you think it is based on where you've moved this thing?
And speaking of the screen, that interface is looking long in the tooth, I don't think it's changed in the history of Lexus Navigation.
And head units.
And isn't that background from PowerPoint 97?
Similarly unthinking you've got radio and you've got media.
You can do search for destination from nav but you've gotta poke a little bit.
Or you can go to the apps and search for destination.
Few cars cry out more for Android Auto and CarPlay and dont offer it.
And once you slide your [UNKNOWN] Back to where you think you want it, it's very clear right off the bat, you are driving a two leader turbo floor.
They can have a lot of car in it's plate from time to time, it's just a nature of these small high strong mills.
Keeping it fed is both port and direct injection and a single but, twin scroll turbo charger Powers 241 horse and 258 pound feet of torque, you only have one choice on transmission, eight-speed automatic.
Not the quickest.
Rear wheel drive or step up and you can get all-wheel drive on larger engines.
3600 pounds of IS gets to 60 in about seven seconds.
That's tepid compared to a number of its competitors You'll get over 30 on the highway, 26 average.
But none of that's a revelation.
What is, is what's under me.
This car is all chassis.
Toss it, throw it, fling it, flip it, no don't flip it.
I didn't find one turn or curve Well, I didn't think hey, I'm a better driver than I thought I was, it's the car.
And unlike some competing German cars that handle as well or a little better, this one doesn't make you pay for it with the ride quality of a vegetable truck.
Perhaps, the only downside to the overall package, maybe it sounds better outside but in the cabin it Sounds like a four cylinder engine.
Okay, let's slice our sporty little pal.
An IAS Turbo, that's the bottom of the line for this class, is 38 8, but we have the F sport package And that adds 3,500 more.
Now there's navigation and Levinson together for 2,800.
I have almost no value for that nav so I don't feel great about it.
Blind spot and cross traffic alert is a reasonable $600.
There's also the option of some lowering springs for under 700.
I'm not sure what they do with the ride quality and on a Lexus I think I'd wanna preserve that.
All in, CNET Style, about $45,800, again, turbo, F Sport, with just about all the tech, where does this guy fit?
The IS is not as fast nor as much of a hard driver's tool as some of the German competition, or even a Cadillac in some cases Lexus.
But what you're looking at here is a vehicle that brings the Lexus DNA of comfort and luxury credibly into the mix with about as much performance that you likely to need.
So, how many times in this show have I told you rather pleasedly that combination of auto technology, regulation, and awareness have brought car fatalities in the US On a constant march down would basically sitting a historic lows in the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, that just change, the most recent auto fatality stats in the US show a nasty spike up.
How and why is of interest to the smarter driver.
On US road, it's been high clover for low death rate
In the 20 years from 96 to 2015, US traffic deaths per capita were down 16 of those years.
But in 2015, something started turning wrong.
Fatalities per capita, up 10%, total deaths up as well, and they hit 40,000 when the 2016 numbers are in, according to the National Safety Council.
That would be the first time they've crested 40K since before 2008 recession.
Even benchmarked against miles traveled in a strengthening economy since then, 2015 marked a spike and the National Safety Council thinks 2016 will come in 3% higher on that measure as well.
Hot spots are Georgia, Idaho, Oregon, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and all of this despite the fact that higher risk young drivers are trending away from the wheel, according to University of Michigan's Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.
A broad trend since the early 80s shows a big drop in 16 year olds with licenses, but also those in their early 20s And even early 30s.
They give various reasons ranging from being too busy to get a license to thinking cars are too expensive, or just bumming or borrowing a ride is easier.
In response to all this, the National Safety Council is calling for some changes you might find encouraging, or perhaps alarming.
Requiring ignition locks for everyone convicted of a DUI.
Broader use of speed cameras, no more hands free calling, no phone use at all.
And making doing so a primary offense, doing the same for seat belt laws in all seats of all kinds of vehicles.
Requiring drivers under 21 graduate through Through two preliminary tiers of drivers license before they get a full DL.
And standardizing blind spot, automatic breaking, lane departure and adaptive headlights in federal regulations, all of that's voluntary death today.
Just when we starting patting ourselves on the back for a long down trend in road fatalities, it looks like there's still more work to be done.
And perhaps a stronger argument that degree of autonomy is the key to the next big reduction in deaths.
Welcome back its an idea that seemed almost like a joke when we first brought to you an year ago, but now it's moving forward when seen it on cars rolled on.
Welcome back to CNet On Cars, coming to you from our home here at the Mount Tan Motor Club, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Now to the savvy car owner, you know that tires are a place Have advanced technology.
But to most car owners, they just see a big blob of rubber and say what's the big deal?
I've either got tread or I don't.
But the innovations happening under all four wheel wells are really starting to quicken as we noted from two of the biggest tire makers at the Geneva Auto Show, showing us their road to the future.
Goodyear is actually serious about its idea for tires that are omnidirectional things.
Riding on magnetic levitation like we showed you January 2016.
Back then they imagined a new kind of foam in the tread grooves, so water on the road would create pressure that automatically creates deeper grooves to deal with it.
Now they're going further, first with a rubber that is 3D printed, with he ability to stretch and shrink like human skin, gross.
When it loosens, it can create dimples that work better in wet weather.
Stretching tight again makes it close to a slit, ideal for dry pavement.
And it doesn't hurt that a ball shaped tire is a natural water evacuator.
Now of course today, you have to use the phrase AI in every sentence when you announce a new product.
In this case, they say the tire would use AI to use things like sensing damage, and maybe deciding to rotate on it's axis to keep the damage more out of the load path.
If this is all too much to take seriously, Goodyear's also showing something more down to earth.
IntelliGrip Urban, a new kind of tire for autonomous fleets, like what Uber wishes they already had.
Sensors monitor the tire's wear Or damage.
Let's face it.
When nobody drives the car then maybe no one did.
Keep an eye on the tires until there's a big problem.
We'll be tall and narrow pings for lower rolling resistance, use less gas, and these aren't sports cars after all.
They also talk about sweating the designs.
Those are cuts you see on some tire.
They are much larger than some groups you on large Good news is more and different sipes can improve all-weather performance, while still resulting in a service that is smoother, which creates less noise, making for a quieter city.
Now like Goodyear, Pirelli's thinking connected as well.
Their connesso, or connected tyre will have a sensor inside that sends info to the Pirelli Cloud.
How about pressure, wear or damage, and monitors conditions based on the model and application of the tire on your kind of car.
It could even track the history of use to know when the tire needs replacing, order its replacement, and book a shop appointment.
This is where it all begins to sound a bit too much like a way to sell us more tires more often, but I'm willing to withhold judgment until these Caneso Pizzeros hit the market, summer of 2017.
Okay let's get in to some of your emails gotta mix interesting that you guys never fail on this one.
This one was comes in from Chris S. who says, in the last episode of On Cars you mentioned LCD coming on to instrument panels in a big way.
Why don't automakers- Use OLED, Organic Light Emitting Diode tech for these displays.
Well Chris, good point, I actually meant LCD and the coming OLED, I should've said that.
This whole idea of these addressable pixel displays are starting to really change what's happening in the dashboard.
They give us very different looks, whether it's light emitting diode or organic light emitting Emitting diode.
They are part of the future.
Take a look at those things we've seen from Visteon recently, one of the biggest suppliers to car makers, and they're not the only company that is pushing hard to say hey, we've got the tech car makers.
Let's start putting it in your dashboards to get rid of swinging needles.
And little glowing idiot lights, it's gonna be a fast in the future.
Now, there are some reasons that OLED will be so great in cars.
One is, it's a thinner technology, really thin, almost paper thin.
And that's a good thing because it allows for better packaging.
The dashboard is tight, it's full of so many components these days that, literally, saving a couple of millimeters in thickness compared to gauges or even compared to LCD Matters to the engineers out there.
It also uses less energy, [UNKNOWN] does, it's known for this in televisions for example.
Using less energy also means you throw off less heat, which are both wins for car makers, because they're electrical systems are really strained these days with the amount of tech we're putting into cars.
And heat trapped in the dash is always the enemy of durability.
It tends to cook things and make them fail sooner.
OLED's gonna help in that direction in two ways.
OLED's also know for being flexible, it's a great flexible substrate that allows you to make these curved Kind of multicontoured display.
We see them all the time on the auto show circuit, on concept cars, and they never come to the showroom.
And the last thing is touch.
And this can be a little tricky on OLED, not that it's impossible, there are phones on the market that are OLED touch displays.
But in the car space you want to make sure you're using resistive touch usually.
That's the kind of touch where you have to press with a little bit of pressure.
It's considered a cruder technology in many circles, however it's good for the car because it works if you've got a glove on for example in cold weather.
That's different from capacitive touch which most of our advanced smart phones have which is much more nuanced.
You barely have to touch the screen ant it also supports multi touch.
Now Some cars do that now but in general, they like a little more robust simple resistive touch and all of this is done by a separate touch layer sandwiched om front of the OLED display.
That means they want that touch layer to very thin so it doesn't [UNKNOWN] the benefits of OLED being [UNKNOWN] in the first place.
So these are some of the challenges and benefits but OLED's absolutely gonna revolutionize the dashboard in less than the next decade.
You'll be amazed what you see in front of you when you drive.
Our next email comes in from Shubaum/g/ S who says, in the last episode you mentioned your diesel point of view.
That was an email reply where I kind of pointed out the dire straits for diesels in the US market at this point.
He says, what about estates, or station wagons?
You know Subham, that's another category that's kind of in between a rock and a hard place.
Wagons have come and gone, at least in the US market, states and shooting breaks are doing really well in western Europe and they always have.
In the US they've run hot and cold, and in the last Couple decades, mostly cold.
In the United States, it's tough sledding for wagons as a category.
Doesn't matter who makes them.
It could be larger domestic wagons, which are all gone now.
It could be imported wagons, which are a little more stealth.
I mean, look at that new Volvo wagon.
That's an absolutely gorgeous car, that [INAUDIBLE] It's going to be mixed as nice as it is.
Wagons are about 2% of the US market right now, very small, a bit ahead of electric cars and hybrid.
It's nothing to brag about.
Part of it is the crossover.
We are so in love with these car base, relative compact to midsized crossovers.
Americans like the higher ride height.
We like the boxier body.
We like taking more crap with us everywhere we go.
I really believe that, compared to a lot of other markets that feel like a little more stealth utility in wagon form works well for them.
And I think looks better.
To the eye of other consumers.
Now specifically, the 3 Series Wagon is one of the most interesting barometers out there.
Because it is compact, it's sporty, it's not this big gigantic anachronism.
And yet it comes from a company that does Really well with crossovers.
Unfortunately the word that we get what we hear around the biz these days is the 3 series wagons is gonna go away, it's not gonna make it to another generation.
That should give you an example, I mean 3 series sells so well and appeals Which is so many types of consumers, if they can't make a wagon go in that name plate, I don't know who can do better.
Coming up, more of your emails, including badges, the auto industry does need stinking badges, and we'll decode them when CNET On Cars returns.
Okay now back into cnet on cars emails.
This one comes in from Elijah M. He's in florida and he says, my question is this, why or what determines the designations that car companies give their different trim levels in cars.
And why are they all so close to each other?
Well, Elijah, this is a fascinating area.
Let's start off with a realization of what we're talking about.
So you've got manufacturer, Chevy, BMW.
Then you've got nameplate, which we all call model, right?
That's like 3 series or Camaro.
And then you've got the things you're asking about which are, what gets appended to that to show trim level?
This is a very fascinating black art, bit of a science, lot of tradition.
So, among the factors that go on here are trademarks.
Some automakers have trademarks on certain acronyms that go after their model names.
There's not a lot of those but they're out there.
To cut the other way a lot of [INAUDIBLE] use common words you can trademark things like limited or platinum my favorite is custom that usually applied to the least custom car in the line write the total stripper based model but that how they dressed up a base model in many cases and then you got this idea of getting something unique.
So here's where you'll find some of these tortured constructions like, look at all the Lincolns right now with their three letter acronyms.
I have a hard time remembering those Take a look at the BMW or Mercedes nomenclature.
BMW has been very consistent with a three digit number typically an a letter or two afterwards and a certain number structure.
Mercedes was that way for a long time and the changed it a number of years ago.
They went from letter in front of number and numbers after letters.
It's confusing to my mind, but that is their secret sauce, right?
They all try to have something that you can recognize by the designation alone, what brand it is.
And then finally, you've got this area of conventional wisdom.
I find this fascinating.
Any car maker that sticks an L or an LX On their car.
We all know that means a luxury model, right?
If they put an E on there it typically means that's kind of a more efficient model that maybe sacrifices performance, and of course anything with an S or S something we assume it's sport, same thing with GT.
Some of these are just ingrained in the consumers head.
So it's a mixed bag of how and why they so this, but those are your four factors that they look at in terms of why.
Okay our last theme now for this show comes in from Will R he's in Columbus Ohio and he says car companies seem to be electrifying everything that used to be mechanical like door handles, breaks, steering obviously.
He says I'm curious what the law requires of these systems in terms of operation during a problem or a collision.
For example, what happens when a passenger needs to quickly exit the vehicle if the electrical systems are offline and the driver is unable to help?
Apparently, you saw our LinkedIn continental video in the last episode where I noticed we have electric door releases all around but only the drivers door has a manual backup release.
Makes me a little nervous to be honest, although I bet statistically there's almost never a problem.
Let's talk about the dictates of doors in the federal motor vehicle code.
From what I was able to find from the FMVSS, that's the bible on this stuff that we often talk about on this show.
There are really only four things that they speak to.
First of all how much force does it require to pull the door open when it's locked.
In other words how strongly does it stay latched.
In a collision, so the doors don't pop open when they shouldn't, unless there's really overwhelming force.
Another criteria in there has to do with a double pull.
They had to get into this and answer this question for the industry recently, when some car makers required one pull to unlatch And unlock, and another pull to cleanly get the door clear of it's mechanism.
A lot of Porsche's do this for example you gotta to go click, click to get the door open.
That by the way is legal, but requires a review and a decision to be issued.
Then there's this idea of some cars, not many that have the reverse opening of suicide doors in the second row, those have another little carve out, they must auto lock and be locked Above four kilometers per hour in speed, so just about anytime the car is moving, those have to stay auto locked.
And another thing I found is of course child lockout, so that you can set the back doors so that the kids can't unlock them and get out themselves, that's been around for quite some time.
I didn't find anything about the actual latches being redundant, in terms of electric having a pull handle as a backup.
So maybe it's a case that the regulators just haven't seen enough of this yet to have to issue a rule, we'll keep an eye on it for you.
Thanks for watching, as usual, I hope you enjoyed this episode, basing so much of it on your email is what makes the shows great, so keep them coming, note my new email address, Cooley@theroadshow.com, and I'll see you the next time we check to chat.