Cooley On Cars
New Lexus RX: Prescription for continued dominance? (CNET On Cars, Episode 89)2016 Lexus RX 350 is the antidote to the German crossover; how to buy a new battery for your car; and five cars that probably shouldn't be made.
[SOUND] [MUSIC] New Lexus RX. Prescription to keep winning. [SOUND] Heavy square mysterious. How to choose your next car battery? [SOUND] And the top five cars you probably wouldn't miss. [SOUND] It's time to check the check. [SOUND] We see cars differently. [SOUND] Nice. We love them on the road. [SOUND] And under the hood. But also check the tech and are known for telling why it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET on cars. Welcome to CNET On Cars, the show that's all about high tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. Well, Lexus invented the category of the luxury crossover with the RX back in the day. But, as you can see, it doesn't look like that anymore. The new heavily refreshed version A 2016 has a lot of very different cabin look inside, different technology and a slightly different mission. Make the company's appeal a little bit younger. Let's see how well it works out as we drive the 16 RX 350, an F Sport and check the deck. [MUSIC] Now you can tell the new RX is real different looking, even if you didn't have one like ours that's an F sport with its special wheels and fancy body kit. It's bigger piece of RX, almost 2 inches longer between the wheels, 4.7 inches longer overall. Nearly an inch and half taller, and another inch under the belly for ground clearance. With these bigger dimensions, you obviously get more head room and more leg room. Front and rear. And Lexus is very proud of that black thing back there on the side of the roof they say it makes the roof float in middle air kinda like what Jag did on the XJ a few years ago. Now all F-Sports like we have are all wheel drive but they share the exact same engine and transmission with a non F-Sport. And the S Sport is more about the interior changes, body changes, suspension and handling changes. Let's get inside. Now, like a lot of Lexi lately, you got this handsome cabin with these kind of rails and angles all over. It's a good sporty look. Notice the very macho kind of wheel. And that instrument panel is unique to an S Sport. If you get a non-FRX, you got kind of a more. LS looking set of gauges and dials. So they really go on to the efforts and make this distinctive inside. Here's the worst thing in this car, this controller's crap. I wish they'd get rid of it. They call it remote touch, it's an upside down kind of a puck operation. It is nothing more then a festival of over shoots as you try and guide the cursor, with haptic feedback by the way, across the icons and things on the list. And invariably miss and have to come back. Disaster. fortunately you've got pretty good voice command in this car and it works not only with the built in Lexus functions, but more or less conveniently works with the various apps under the Lexus app suite, which by the way is optional. Most importantly you've got a basic overall web search that you can use to find destinations. That is the single most important feature of the apps on this interface. Now notice this big old display which caught your eye. This is a It's a 12.3 inch. It's not standard. You can also get an eight inch if you don't order this car right. So bear that in mind on the option sheet. And navigation by the way isn't even standard. You get that optionally. And you can get it with or without Mark Levin's In audio I'd recommend it with. A very conventional type automatic shifter. Paddles on the wheel as well. And then here you've got your drive modes, from eco, press to go normal, or turn it once or twice to go to sport or sport plus. Which controls a lot of things, including an adaptive suspension on an F sport. We'll check that out on the road in a minute. Under the hood is a story of conventionalism. A three and a half litre V six. That doesn't use direct injection or a turbo. However compression's been cranked up from 10.8 to 11.8. As a result you get 25 more horsepower in this year and 19 more pound feet of torque. And in the transmission you get two more gears. Eight now instead of six. Always in automatic, though. Now the RXF Sport's got a nice amount of power, good torque as we saw, and yet the driving is not really sharp. If you really put it into sport plus, and probably need to get on the paddles as well, you get some good sharp response. Otherwise, this damn thing hunts top gear like a hound dog. And that means you're too often caught flat footed. Unless you're really minding the power train that annoys me. Now we have 4400 pounds of RX under our ****, that's quite a bit of a vehicle. 0 to 60 in 7.9 seconds, two-tenths slower with all-wheel drive than front wheel drive. 1926 is your MPG on regular gas, by the way. Averaging out to 22. I'm gonna guess you're gonna be under 20 in real world. And of course being a Lexus, just about all your touch surfaces in the cabin are soft. Soft, behind the wings of the wheel here, soft and padded. These seats, giving and comfortable, completely the opposite of a BMW X1 I recently drove. And even down here inside the door wells, where you pull the door closed, it's padded in there too. Lexus could not be less Teutonic. One ergonomic gripe that big old 12 inch LCD, as beautiful as it is, it's set so far out under the windshield, it is frequently victim to heavy glare and a reflection coming off the top of this dash that just kills a lot of the contrast. [MUSIC] A 16RX350F Sport, as I mentioned, that's only going to be all wheel drive. Starts at $50,000. But we have a long way to go to get to CNET style. Lexus Safety is the adaptive drive stuff plus triple bulb LED headlamps. Navigation with a big screen and Levinson is pricey, but it's worth it. Park Assist is just sensors. Blind Spot and cross Traffic Alert, why not? The Moonroof is a must at just over I don't have the HUD but it sure looks good for 600 bucks. Touch free hatch is almost pocket money. And the heated wheel, why not. All in about $59,000 let's call it 60 CNet style. [MUSIC] Check out our full review on RX350 from N E Hall over at the TheRoadShow.com. When we come back we'll take a look at the original blackbox in your car and how. Make sense of it. And take some of your email about the lifespan of a CVT transmission, when CNET ONCARS returns. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] Now when I say batteries in cars these days, I could easily mean a Giant battery that runs the car, but not in this case. We're going mainstream, the battery that we all deal with. This big, nasty, heavy, big old black lead box that you never think about, until it dies. And then you think about it laced with obscenities. So when you have to go buy one, you need to understand a little bit about its parameters. [SOUND] [MUSIC] Now, the first thing you're going to have to learn about or encounter in batteries is something called the group number. It's the first thing they ask you at the parts counter. A group number tells you a lot of things. This is a group 24 here. This is a group 75. It's actually physically smaller. So that's a little counterintuitive. What the group number tells you is a combination of width, length, and height of the physical battery case It also tells you where the terminals are located. This is a top terminal battery. This is a side terminal battery. The places where you attach the cables are on the side. The other thing group number includes in it is the polarity. This is positive. This is negative. But they could be opposite in a different group number. And it's very important because a car's cables that go to the battery are a fixed length, and you can't just stretch them to move around. Positive's only gonna reach to the positive so the polarity, the posts, have to be in the right place for each cable. And by the way, group numbers were devised by something called the Battery Council International. It's a trade group for battery makers. As a result. You might also see the group number referred to as the BCI number like we see on this one. Same thing. [MUSIC] Now the next thing you need to know is the power of the battery, to put it in common parlance, and that's usually expressed in amps. That's what really matters. Because the voltage is the same. These are all 12 volt batteries. Unless you have a very old car that uses a six volt battery. But we're talking vintage rides. Probably pre mid 60s. At the most recent. So 12 volt battery. But how many amps does it have? Which tells you how much umph it has to turn over your engine. Now you find that measured in two main ways cranking amps and cold cranking amps. Cranking amps are tested in the lab at 32 degrees fahrenheit. That's considered cool but not cold. Cold cranking amps are tested in the lab at 0 degrees fahrenheit. Which more simulates really harsh winter weather and there's a big difference. Batteries perform much less stoutly in very cold temperatures. And, as a result, when you look at the cranking amp versus the cold cranking amp number on a battery, it's gonna be quite different. The more cranking amps the better within reason. It won't hurt your starter. Your starter will only draw as many amps as it can use in a given situation. Then again more amps equals more cost. [MUSIC] Okay, our last consideration is construction and chemistry inside the battery. Now your conventional black square battery like this is probably what's called a lead acid battery. It's got sheets of lead suspended in it. That are in a bath of acid. It's water and sulphuric acid. And those two combine when the circuit is closed between the plates inside, creates electrical current. That's about as far as my chemistry goes. By the way, a battery is actually six batteries. Inside here are six separate cells. Each one puts out two volts or so. That gets you 12 volts. Now a variant on the led acid battery is an AGM or absorbed glass mat battery. It takes that fluid, that solution and absorb that in to typically some fiber glass sheets and beds those down next to the plate that creates electricity. And those can be flat or as you can tell from this battery, they can also be wound up in coils and held that way. Again, still six assemblies, two volts each. 12 volts total. Benefits to a AGM battery is they can't leak because there's not anything sloshing inside. They tend to be very good about recharging quickly. They're very good about resisting vibration. For cars that are off road or performance cars, that's very important. And they tend to have a longer life when they're called upon to start a car very frequently. On the downside, they tend to be substantially more expensive, and they're very sensitive to overcharging if there's anything wrong with your charging system or an external charger you attach Of them. Now, another variant of battery you'll see that is typically not used in cars, but you'll see it sold right alongside these, is what is called a deep cycle battery. A deep cycle battery will give you a lower number of amps, so less current, but it can put out power for a longer time, and it can bounce back from being drained much better, many times. These are used not so much for starting, but deep cycles are used for running things. So think RVs and boats, as opposed to car engine starts. [MUSIC] Now frequently you're shopping for a battery because it was in a car that didn't get started or driven very often, and the thing got depleted and wouldn't charge up again. Sound familiar? Well, when you shop for a new battery for that car, consider a couple of things. One is to get one of these simple mechanical disconnect switches. By turning a knob, you actually physically disconnect the negative cable on the battery. That means it almost is impossible for it to discharge through phantom drain while sitting there connected to a car that may not get driven very often. Another way to accomplish this idea of battery preservation is not to disconnect it, but to actually connect it all the time to what's called a battery tinder or a battery minder. This is basically a trickle charger with a little bit of intelligence in it that will monitor the battery's condition. And when it gets a little bit low, it'll give it a gradual charge to keep it topped up. Now, some folks have fear about fire hazard and about keeping one of these connected all the time. And that's where your very simple mechanical disconnect Is gonna be some nice piece of mind. OK, that's a quick primer on the outline of knowing, understanding, and buying batteries. We're gonna do a how to soon that tells you how to put one of these things in. It is the easiest, most satisfying repair you can do on your car. Look for that soon. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNet on cars. Coming to you from our home at the Mount Ten Motor Club, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge I'm Brian Cooley, ready to take some of your emails. This first one comes in from the UK from Ufuoma O who says why is it that the car dealers are so reluctant to offer upgrades to infotainment systems, like navigation updates, upgraded system software or, he asks, options on how to retrofit his car with things like Bluetooth or presumably a better infotainment system? Well, Ufuoma, I don't know about UK K dealers specifically. But I imagine they are not too much different than those here in the US. So more surprise, you've been in a hard time getting your navigation software or systems software updated You didn't mean to account a car you have. So I can't get in more detail for you. However I'll try Tell you some car dealers as simple a job as that is they're just not that tech savvy. Theyre still a little bit caught in the past in terms of what they focus on doing in there service department. Now lets move on to your other question, which is how to get car electronics updated. You were hoping to get new features added, it sounds like putting in a whole new system and this is where it gets while and wooly for car dealers. Bottom line is, they don't do that. That's what car stereo or 12 bolt shop our specialist in because it tends to be a fair amount of custom work. Instead car dealers make money five ways and fiddling with stereos is not one of them. Car dealers get the majority of their initial customer relationship and money that comes from it by selling you a new car of course. That's why they're featured right up front. Although new cars in and of themselves Are not huge profit centers. You wanna be a nightmare to your car dealer? Show up and buy an affordable car, pay cash, and get all your service done at a third party shop. They hate you. You're like a deadbeat to them. The other area that's important is selling used cars. At some dealers it's actually a better business than selling a new car. Financing or leasing either of the above is a big deal, because they get a cut of that, if they do it through one of their partners, or in house lenders. Another big one for them are warranties, or extended service contracts. Again, they get a cut of those as well. And that's above and beyond the factory I'm talking about there. And the last big bucket for them, is the service bay, where you've gone, and apparently been frustrated. But in the service bay they want to do things that are straight forward, repeatable, factory procedures for the most part, and do tires, breaks, and oil changes. They don't want to go cowboying around doing one off jobs because you want to add some features. Just isn't their business. [MUSIC] Okay, our next email comes in from James C. and he asks do the belts in a CVT, a continuously variable transmission, ever need to be changed and, if so, what's the average cost? Well, James, interesting question. I can tell you this from the cars that we've encountered and the manuals and warranties I've looked at, the CVT belts, which are sort of the main guts in one those gear boxes instead of using actual gears back and forth, they don't appear to be Scheduled wear items. They should just always last, as long as the transmission lasts. So they're a lifetime part. That said, you could make the same description of the timing chain inside your engine. That's not supposed to go either. But they often do. So, it's not a scheduled wear item. But it's a wear item. Here is the problem do with CVT lifespan. This thing has been in the market all that long. A handful of years in big numbers at least at least here in the US. So while, it should be a lifetime part. We don't necessarily know with experienced how long a lifetime is? For a CVT gear box. The biggest maker of them right now, and I think the earliest maker in mainstream use, was Nissan. And I can tell you that their recommendation doesn't involve changing the belts ever. But they do say you'd wanna change out the fluid, do a fluid service on that gear box every 30,000 miles or 24 months to give you a ball park. Park. [MUSIC] Okay, next email comes in from Tehran, Iran where Arash says did you know you have viewers in Iran? We absolutely do. In fact we've long had some of our most dedicated early viewers from the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. So thank you for watching. His question now goes on to say how about doing a top five or even a top 10 Of vehicles, SUVs with the highest ground clearance. The second followup is does a second ride height always mean a lower form of stability when you're on the road? Okay, Arash. Now it'd be a little hard for me to give you a top five or a top ten or a ground clearance. That'd be a little hard for me to do because You have some vehicles that we don't have and we have some vehicles you don't have, so that would be an issue. And also even the same vehicles shipped to different regional markets around the world may have different specs. Ride heights may vary so it's gonna be a little hard for me to give you a meaningful list on that, but I'll keep an eye out for something like that. Now in terms of your question about taller cars being tippy, yeah physics Are physics. Center of gravity generally gets higher as the overall mass of the vehicle is taller from top to bottom. But there are some technology innovations lately that have become very common that can help to work against that. One is adaptive suspension. That's a suspension that reads the road and the loads on the car and Firm itself up when it needs to, and then become softer and more compliant when it doesn't. That can aid tippiness, or stability. Also now some adaptive suspensions can have active anti-roll bar, or active stabilizing technology. That pushes back when a car leans one way, it can push that side of the suspension to right the car more. That's not entirely hard to find these days, although it tends to remain on more expensive cars. Now another thing is you can lower the powertrain in a car, especially the engine and transmission, cuz those are big and heavy. Subaru, for example, is very good at this. They have their flat boxer engines, so the engine is spread out wide to begin with, and they push it down low in the car, to low, low, lower that center of gravity. Helps even their taller vehicles have a little more stable presence on the road. Now you can also widen the stance on cars. That means both the tire wheel package, as well as cars tend to get a little wider and bigger as they age. Look at a Crossover five years ago, look at the same model today. It probably got bigger, longer, wider, and a wider stance. And they tend to be a little more stable. And finally, more and more vehicles have a form of ballast this days. If it's an electric car or even a plug in hybrid, it's got a big battery and it tends to be mounted down low in the belly of the car. Look at a Tesla model X. That is a tallish, Crossover, but it's got a big battery down super low, helps to keep it stable. The new Chrysler Pacifica minivan, which will be available in a plug-in hybrid form, that means it will have a very big heavy battery somewhere down low. Though that balanced factor, this is kinda low tech can certainly help as well. [MUSIC] Okay, next email comes in from JG in North Carolina, has a question about diesels and the cost of them. He says can you explain why diesel engines cost so much more in a new car or truck compared to a gas engine in the same car or truck? He says I thought diesels have fewer moving parts And operated on a simpler principle of combustion? You're absolutely right, diesels do have fewer parts and simpler mechanism internally. But a lot of other factors make diesels more expensive, at least here in the US Jay. One of them is a market factor, and that is to say that The diesel is positioned as an economical choice. One that's going to save you fuel cost overtime. As a result, it can be positioned as costing a little more because you think you're gonna make it back overtime. Now here are four other factors that make diesels more expensive at the MSRP level. First of all, a diesel engine is a much more heavy duty construction mechanism That's gonna raise the cost. If a gas engine can be described as a box full of bombs going off, a diesel engine is like a box full of nuclear bombs going off. The compression ratio is much higher and the force of the combustion is really serious. Another factor is diesel engines are universally now turbocharged. Gas engines are not necessarily. Diesels always have a turbo and all that plumbing and sensing and electronics that has to go with that. That adds cost. Another factor is exhaust scrubbing. To keep diesels clean these days there are elaborate additional catalysts. An urea fluid injection system with it's own sensors and electronics, that adds a bunch of cost. You can try and make a clean diesel without it, you can ask VW how well that went. And the other factor is we've got relatively low volume in the U.S. As a result, the scale isn't there for economic impact. Now, you may say, wait a minute, the diesel I'm buying is sold all over the world in huge numbers. But it's not the exact same car. When they bring is to the US it's gotta be somewhat tuned and tweaked. It may have some different components, and it's gotta be recertified and adjusted for US specs. As a result it sorta becomes a low volume car again. There are no massive volume selling diesels. In the U.S. [SOUND] In a moment, the top five cars that make us wonder why they're even made when cnet On Cars continues. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [SOUND] Now when I talk about loser cars, I don't mean you're a loser for driving one. Let's just call you an iconoclast. I mean worst selling. These are vehicles that all sell in the hundreds of cars in all of Q1 2016. But they weren't intended to. These aren't Lamborghinis or Bentlys, they're just duds. [SOUND] Number 5 is our old pal, the Shapped Cadillac ELR. 262 copies sold in a whole quarter off 18% from the quarter a year ago. And let's face it, I should give this car a pass because GM has already announced they're killing it but not until 2018 at least. Until then they'll keep selling this gutsied up $60,000 Chevy Bolt to everyone who's willing to buy one. That means you. I hope not. [SOUND] Number 4 is the Kia K900. 249 of these left the showroom in Q1, down 9% from the year before. And apparently the concept of Kia and luxury flagship just isn't jelling in consumers minds. Add to that a model name that sounds like a U-boat [UNKNOWN] Designation. And you can see why this one remains underwater. Number 3 is the BMW Z4 Roadster, 217 copies sold. Down 269% from the quarter a year ago. Now normally I would say these numbers are okay because it's a special production model. But at 200 and that kind of downward trend, there's nothing special going on here. BMW, for the record, blames the Chinese market for the lack of appetite. I guess the idea of driving around with the top down and a smog mask on isn't exactly [MUSIC] Number two is the Mercedes B class, electric car. 161 copies sold, down 206% from the quarter a year ago. I bet you, like me, forgot they even still made this frumpy little grocery getter. It's their answer to the BMW I3. A question nobody was asking. [MUSIC]. Number one, is the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. 83 copies sold in 90 days. The only one that does less than one a day. Down 74% from the quarter a year before. This is a car that takes the Panamera S Makes it slower, more complicated, and gives you a little bit of fuel efficiency, which is not what you buy a Porsche for in the first place. Instead, you buy a Model S. [MUSIC] Thanks for watching, hope you enjoyed this episode. Keep those emails coming, backbone of the show. It's OnCars@cnet.com. And of course Find a ton of great back content like Car Tech 101 at CNETonCars.com. I'll see you next time we check the deck. [SOUND] [MUSIC] [SOUND]