Lexus, like a lot of other manufacturers, got caught. One of the world’s premier luxury brands, it is in the middle of rolling out a new generation of sedans when the entire market has become utility driven, pun intended. Last year light truck sales accounted for two thirds of market sales. Still, Lexus can’t stop its product cycle. In other words, it must launch the vehicles that are in the pipeline and it is time to launch the 2019 Lexus ES 350. With about 50,000 sales last year, the ES is the top seller in the entry luxury market.
Although it is early in this generation of the Mazda CX-3’s model cycle, the automaker made a few changes to keep the current rendition fresh in its offerings for the hot small crossover market. They made a lot of under the sheet-metal improvements. They added what they’ve branded Smart City Brake Support as standard equipment on all trim lines. Other improvements included Standard G-Vectoring control, automatic on/off headlights on some models, others got rain sensing windshield wipers, automatic climate controls and the GT premium package now includes six-way power seats, power driver lumbar supports, driver seat memory, heated steering wheel and traffic sign recognition.
The Lexus RX is the vehicle that catapulted the automaker into the front ranks of luxury brands. Yes, Lexus almost from its beginning had the reputation of manufacturing first-rate luxury cars. But it was the RX crossover that generated the volume that made it the best-selling luxury brand here for years. Escalating gas prices cooled the sales of all utility vehicles and even though prices have fallen buyers are a little timid when considering that market. Still, crossovers dominate the U.S. market in terms of sales and manufacturers are meeting demands with vehicles that have power but don’t guzzle gasoline.
As Mitsubishi continues its rebound in this market, I had the chance to test drive the 2018 Outlander Sport. For this model year, the small crossover got a new grille, LED daytime running lights as standard on upper trim models, a new rear fascia, a new center console design, shift lever and USB ports. Other equipment was made standard like Car Play and Android Auto on Se and SEL trim lines. A new touring package included forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning and automatic high beams, a premium audio system and a fixed panoramic roof. The roof featured LED lights that illuminated the slide track; it’s the first time I’ve seen that feature.
You don’t find many nameplates that survive for decades. But Toyota’s Corolla is one of them. In fact, if this car had not been successful it is doubtful that the brand would have survived in the U.S. market. Introduced in 1966, the Corolla celebrated its 50th anniversary in this market a little while ago. More than 43 million have been sold. And the traits that made Corolla so successful in the past hold true today. It was small, fuel efficient and reliable. It is still small, comparatively. And for 2018 it got snazzier with a new grille and LED headlamps. The wheels had been redesigned on the trim line I had, the Corolla SE and those LED lights were standard and the car had 17-inch wheels. My test car had a moonroof too.
Auto review: 2018 Toyota Prius C
After test-driving several Mazda hatchbacks and crossover models, a Mazda3 sedan finally showed up at the door. I found this four-door just as sporty and responsive as its hatchback counterpart. I had the 2018 Mazda3 4-door Grand Touring in Mazda-speak. What that meant was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that made 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability, paddle shifters and the ability to be put into sport mode.
Somebody once told me that a luxury brand is defined by its sedans not by its coupes, wagons or its utility vehicles.
Impressive, that is the first thing that came to mind when we saw the 2018 Hyundai Tucson crossover.
New offerings from Mitsubishi have been rare.