Lexus, when it was created in 1989, was itself a halo brand. Today Lexus is pushing its own groundbreaking products — that is, incredible vehicles — to reach new automotive heights. We were recently invited to experience those new halos, several of the company’s latest F models, this time at the very same proving grounds on which they were first developed: Fuji International Speedway. The opportunity provided a unique chance to study Lexus’s approach to the wide spectrum of automotive performance. It also gave us the chance to routinely push 150 mph right under the nose of Mount Fuji.
High-Speed Thrills at the Legendary Raceway
The Snake Lives On
When thinking of an automotive CEO, one expects a suit topped with a lot of gray hair, moved along with the help of a tidy personal chauffeur in the brand’s finest flagship sedan. Not so with Ralph Gilles of SRT. The man wears a baseball cap and jeans, is remarkably affable, and helms his own supercar creations at the track. He’s passionate and proud of his vehicles, and his latest, the new SRT Viper Time Attack ($123,080) is more deserving of those dotings than any other. This is no “base” version — it’s an impressive track edition of a true American sports car that’s no longer the unhinged, unrefined, chopped-top V10 monster that took to the streets and scared respectable citizens way back in 1999 in the form of the SRT10.
Enough room for passengers, enough excitement to forget about 'em
When choosing a car for the track, it’s key to choose a ride with certain distinct criteria — things like sports-car dimensions and weight, great handling, two seats, an eye-brow singeing top speed and extreme impracticality for everyday driving. But what if your tool of choice just happens to be a luxury sedan? In that case, you obviously like challenges; maybe you’re the kind of guy whose idea of a workout is strapping a bag of rocks to your back and scaling a hillside in track spikes. Or maybe your choice of luxo-sedan just happens to be the 2014 Porsche Panamera ($78,100+). We hit the track in one at Atlanta Motorsports Park.
Racing ferocity wrapped in quiet elegance
Lexus is no longer in the business of selling warmed-over Toyotas with nice interiors, and they haven’t been for some time. Indeed, the Lexus image has been completely revamped from its early days, and they’ve poised themselves in recent years as a formidable opponent to world-class luxury vehicles. Now, with their fully integrated F Sport lineup, the company has taken a solid shot across the reigning sport sedan titans’ respective bows; heralded by their flagship supercar, the LFA, Lexus is undeniably in the sport sedan business.
A Feeling of Displacement
Recently, we made our way out to Bilster Berg, a new $45 million dollar track and driving resort tucked into the eastern foothills of Germany. A former British ammunition depot, the 2.6-mile track has quickly launched to must-drive status due to a challenging mix of speed and extreme elevation changes. It was a worthy canvas for painting tracks with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, a 2.0-liter beast.
From isn't to IS
The suburbs of Austin, Texas are hilly, colorful and vast, and look especially pretty when seen out the windshield of the latest, all-new sports sedan. They’re even better looking when reduced to a racetrack blur. The 2014 Lexus IS F Sport has been redesigned to look sexier, feel more solid and drive harder, and recently gave us the distinct pleasure of melting scenery around the track at Driveway Austin while testing out its sporting mettle.
I believe I can fly
Most drivers with sport-tuned cars like BMW’s Ms and Audi’s S line are relegated to red light straightaways, only partially exploiting the true potential of their steeds. The pathway to higher speeds lies elsewhere. Mercedes recognized this problem and invited us to Rosamond, CA., a quiet farming town with long, unpatrolled stretches of road, to play with all their AMG
toys offerings for 2013 and to use the track at Willow Springs Raceway for their brand new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT ($200,000 Base Coupe).
Drivers have their day
We approach track time like a fluffy white cat to Fancy Feast. That is, we lick our chops… which is exactly what happened in sunny Las Vegas on Superbowl weekend in the all-new 2013 Lexus GS and LFA supercar. With a bevy of Lexus staff and race car driver extraordinaire, Scott Pruett, we availed ourselves…