LA Auto Show 2019

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible heading to dealerships in time for summer

Lexus is adding a convertible variant of its flagship sports coupe to its lineup for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

Summer is waiting. Lexus has debuted the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible in Los Angeles, signaling the realization of a model that first debuted as a concept nearly a year ago.

This isn't just a topless LC 500. With the LC 500 convertible, engineers wanted to improve the car's chassis rigidity while adding and relocating key structural braces that would allow for the top to be off. At the same time, the company wanted to ensure that the car didn't lose its superb handling or balance, which was a careful equation to get right as the car's weight changed.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible On the outside, the 2021 LC 500 Convertible looks nearly identical to the LC 500, except for its soft top.Photo courtesy of Lexus

The result is a car with a die-cast aluminum suspension brace, performance dampener, and an un-sprung weight reduction in the front. Lexus says that the changes give the rear-wheel drive car the desired effect.

Each LC 500 Convertible has a 5.0-liter V8 engine under the hood that is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and achieves 471 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque.

The convertible features a four-layer soft top that includes a tonneau covering for when it is retracted, allowing the cabin to appear completely open front to rear. The roof can be opened or closed at speeds up to 31 mph. It takes just 15 seconds to open and 16 seconds to close. Lexus will sell the LC 500 Convertible with either a black or beige roof.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible Lexus will offer the LC 500 Convertible with a black or beige roof.Photo courtesy of Lexus

The car's spoiler has been broadened over the LC 500 hard top design and the car's center is integrated into the trunk lid. On the LC 500 the brake light is in the rear windshield. A wind screen is available. Active noise control is standard.

Lexus will sell the car in the buyer's choice of 10 paint jobs: Ultra White, Smoky Granite, Liquid Platinum, Atomic Silver, Obsidian, Caviar, Infrared, Cadmium Orange, Flare Yellow, and Nightfall Mica. A black, Circuit Red, or Toasted Caramel interior is available depending on paint choice.

Each LC 500 Convertible comes with automatic climate control that works to keep the cabin temperature stable whether the top is up or down. Lexus Climate Concierge and Upper Body Heating work in sync to manage the air conditioner, seat heaters, neck heaters and steering-wheel heater to ensure the cabin is at the ideal temperature. Lexus says that the HVAC system has been optimized to send warm or cold air to the back of the driver's hands when gripping the steering wheel.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible The car's interior contains the same modern design as the LC 500.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Lexus is equipping the model with the same 10.3-inch infotainment screen that's in the LC 500. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard, as are Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration.

Each new Lexus LC 500 Convertible will come standard with Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+). This suite of safety and driver assistance technology includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with active lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and high beam assist. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are also standard. Lexus Enform Safety Connect is complementary for the first 10 years of ownership.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible Lexus has made the car more rigid, allowing for the cabin's sight lines to be uninterrupted front to rear.Photo courtesy of Lexus

The 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible Inspiration Series show at the Los Angeles Auto Show is a limited edition offering. Just 100 will be made of the unique model with a Structural Blue paint job, white semi-aniline leather interior trim, unique blue top, gray headlamp garnishes, side intake garnishes, and taillamp garnishes. It comes standard with 21-inch wheels. Pricing is not yet available.

Pricing for the special edition and more traditional variants has yet to be released. The 2020 Lexus LC 500 starts at $92,950 and it's likely that the convertible variant will be priced higher to start.

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New affordable sports sedan

The new VW Jetta GLI may be more GTI than the real GTI

The GLI is slower than a GTI but offers all the driving fun.

Victoria Scott

The Jetta GLI has always occupied a strange niche in the Volkswagen model line. The GTI is typically the go-to affordable sports Volkswagen, and the GLI has always felt like the compromise proposition for Volkswagen buyers; it was hard to endorse choosing the relatively soft, grown-up sedan vs. the youthful, more-tightly tuned hot hatch. And with the Golf moving to a four-door-only offering four years ago, it made the Jetta even less appealing, as the outgoing GTI actually offered more cargo space than the Jetta and still kept an accessible back seat.

2022 VW Jetta GLI A turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four and a six-speed manual transmission are standard.Victoria Scott

But the MK7 GTI is no more, and now the relatively forgotten GLI has a chance to stand outside the shadow of its five-door sibling. Volkswagen has fully revamped the GTI and Golf R for the 2022 model year, but the Jetta GLI persists with the last-generation interior and drivetrain that it shared with the outgoing GTI. The GLI has been refreshed for the 2022 model year, but make no mistake, under the skin, it’s the same as it has been since its introduction in 2019.

On paper, this makes it look relatively weak compared to its newest hot-hatch sibling. The GLI still persists with the third-generation EA888 2.0L turbocharged inline four, with 228 HP and 258 ft-lbs of torque; the GTI now punches out 13 more horsepower and 15 more ft-lbs with its fourth-revision EA888. All lower trims of the GLI have been dropped, with only the fully-loaded Autobahn edition offered at an MSRP of $30,995, which makes it roughly $1,500

more than the base price of the all-new GTI on offer. The GTI has actually gained a slight amount of cargo capacity, now offering just shy of 20 cubic feet, whereas the Jetta offers just 14.1 cubic feet. Nearly everything in the spec sheets favors the newest iteration of the hot hatch over the sporty Jetta.

2022 VW Jetta GLI The new GLI makes its limits clear through a communicative steering system and chassis tuning.Victoria Scott

When I drove the GLI, it was at a media event in Asheville, North Carolina, through some of the most fun and challenging roads East of the Mississippi. I bookended my hot-Jetta driving experience with the all-new MK8 GTI and Golf R, and as I’ve written here before, those two cars didn’t quite cut it for me. They’re both incredibly competent and quick hatches, but the newest iteration of VW’s infotainment makes the interiors feel considerably less usable, and the handling dynamics are now more buttoned-up and refined. Surely, the new MK8 GTI will be faster around a track than the outgoing MK7 generation car, but it didn’t strike me as nearly as much fun. With the Golf line, fun should be key; the first generation GTI had all of a whopping 108 horsepower and that was still plenty to define an entire generation of sports cars, because it was so damn enjoyable.

And so I was sad to report that the shift to the MK8 is the first step back in the history of the long-running VW line, and driving it made me nostalgic for the wholehearted embrace of driver amusement and driver involvement that the MK7 had mastered. And lo and behold, the GLI is right there, still persisting with its last generation interior that still has physical dials and buttons, and it finally has a chance to be appreciated in the way it’s always deserved to. The lesser numbers belie the true point of the new GLI: It is the final hurrah of the MK7 generation’s perfected formula.

2022 VW Jetta GLI The GLI is every bit as capable as an everyday cruiser as a normal Jetta.Victoria Scott

So as soon as the GLI is evaluated off of the specification paperwork and on the streets, it shines. The new sheet metal looks sharp, and helps give the GLI some of the aggression it’s always been missing as the softer, more adult GTI sibling. The interior is mostly unchanged from the outgoing generation’s layout with the exception of the unfortunate capacitive-touch steering wheel shared across the VW line, but there are still physical controls for volume and climate control, and that’s enough to make it a pleasant place to be. Because the only trim available is now the fully-loaded Autobahn package, it has all of the finest tech and driver comforts VW currently offers, including Volkswagen’s excellent IQ.Drive driver-assistance package and a bumpin’ BeatsAudio 400-watt sound system. The seats are comfortable, the interior is quiet, and the driving position is relaxed enough that even when eating highway miles, it feels like a usable daily driver in the way a Jetta is expected to be. Whip it through some corners, though, and it truly makes its case.

2022 VW Jetta GLI The GLI remembers that fun doesn't show up on a stat sheet.Victoria Scott

On the two-hundred-plus tight corners of my test roads in the hills of Asheville, the GLI’s chassis felt excited in a way that the GTI no longer does. On hard braking, there’s noticeable weight transfer from front to rear that doesn’t loosen the tail but loads the front suspension in a lively, predictable manner. The Hankooks scream long before the nose gently understeers at the limit in a way that’s extremely easy to anticipate and forgiving when you do push a bit too hard. The body doesn’t suffer from excessive roll but it lets you know that it’s feeling the G’s in the same way you are; it is not a corner-terminator perfectly optimized for lap times in the same way the newest hatches are, and it’s more fun for it. The steering feel is less surgical than the MK8’s, but it makes the car more engaging in the switchbacks of North Carolina’s finest twisties. Boost comes on with just the slightest delay, and the GLI’s engine management tuning encourages revving it all the way out.

2022 VW Jetta GLI The GLI now gets 13.4-inch brake rotors for incredible stopping power.Victoria Scott

All of these traits make it slower than the new GTI, but as a driver just looking for a fun run through some incredible roads, it made me much more captivated by the GLI. As I’d line up a corner I’d actually need to throw it down a gear, make sure I nailed my braking points, and give it as much power as I could as early as I could and let the now-standard LSD yank me out of the corner. I could do all of this on the tight roads of NC-209 because I never was unclear where the limits were, thanks to how expressive the chassis tuning is and how progressively the front end loses traction. Slamming the brakes late into a corner is more confidence-inspiring than ever, too, because the GLI now gets the massive 13.4” brake rotors that previously only the MK7 Golf R had. And for an extra dose of fun, where the MK8 gained a dose of quiet and moderation, the GLI didn’t - it barks on downshifts, and it sounds great doing it.

2022 VW Jetta GLI Competition for the GLI is stronger now than ever before, with several great affordable performance cars hitting the market this year.Victoria Scott

Granted, it’s not all perfect. Downsides of the MK7 were few, but they’re still present: the manual transmission is unchanged along with the rest of the drivetrain, and so the six-speed I drove suffered from typical VW long throws and vague feel, and I did miss the new generation’s electronic brake booster as the day went on and I began to feel the GLI’s pedal fade. The price is admittedly a bit high for what it offers, with strong competition from the likes of Hyundai’s Elantra N and Honda’s 11th generation Civic Si inbound, both likely to start slightly cheaper.

But at its core, the new GLI nails Volkswagen’s ethos for affordable sports cars with such deftness that at the end of my day in Asheville, when we could take out any of the new Volkswagens we’d driven for more photos or driving time, I walked right past the technologically superior all-new hatchbacks and straight back to the GLI. A car can always be improved on paper, sure, but the GLI remembers that fun doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, and I love it for that.

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Updated premium crossover

2022 Infiniti QX50 picks up new standard features

The new QX50 gets more tech and safety features.

Infiniti

Infiniti is one of a handful of automakers that have continued developing and building cars instead of focusing only on higher-profit and much more popular SUVs and trucks. That said, Infiniti's catalog is crossover- and SUV-heavy. Its smallest and least expensive crossover, the QX50 gets a handful of new features for 2022, and today Infiniti announced pricing.

Infiniti offers the 2022 QX50 in five trims: $40,025 Pure, $43,375 Luxe, $47,825 Essential, $52,525 Sensory, and $57,975 Autograph. All trims get Infiniti's variable compression (VC-Turbo) engine that makes 268 horsepower and returns up to 26 mpg combined. The advanced engine shifts its compression ratio to match the driver's behavior. When more power is needed, the compression changes, and when efficiency is the priority, it changes again. It's a marvel of engineering, but it's not as fuel-efficient as a hybrid. Power reaches the front or all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

2022 Infiniti QX50 Pricing starts at around $40,000.Infiniti

Beyond the new standard features for 2022, buyers of the new QX50 will have to step up to the Luxe trim to get the most desirable features such as auto-folding exterior side mirrors, power lumbar support, and perforated leather upholstery. Standard comfort gear includes eight-way power front seats, dual-zone climate controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Infiniti stuck with its dual-screen infotainment configuration with the 2022 QX50. The top eight-inch screen handles wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto duties, as well as navigation. The bottom seven-inch screen handles vehicle controls, radio stations, and other settings. Though the system looks great and adds a high-tech feel to the cabin, two screens can be distracting and confusing while driving. The good news is that the QX50 gets an excellent 16-speaker Bose stereo starting with the Luxe trim.

2022 Infiniti QX50 ProPilot Assist and Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are now standardInfiniti

The 2022 QX50 hasn't been crash tested by either major ratings organization yet, but the 2021 model performed well. It earned Good ratings in crash testes and a Superior score for its standard crash prevention systems. The 2022 QX50 comes standard with Infiniti's ProPilot Assist system, which brings advanced adaptive cruise control functions that can center the car in its lane, brake, and accelerate. Other standard tech includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, rear automatic braking, predictive forward collision warnings, and forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.


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