Go Flat Out In Japan: Visiting The Lexus International Gallery in Aoyama, Tokyo (26 Photos)

Lexus International Gallery is located in Aoyama, Minato, Tokyo. The nearest train stations are Tokyo Metro (TOEI)’s Aoyama-Itchome station and Gaien-Mae Station. Three lines pass through Aoyama-Itchome station. The Ginza Line, Ōedo Line, and Hanzōmon Line. If you are coming from Shibuya Station, take the Ginza Line, and if you are coming from Daimon Station, take the Ōedo Line. Another point of interest is Honda’s main office (article coming soon), which is just above Aoyama-Itchome station, and a few walks from the station is Tesla Aoyama, which is midway through your walk towards Lexus International Gallery. Gaien-Mae Station, meanwhile is just before Aoyama-Itchome if you are coming from Shibuya.

From blunt to grunt. The Lexus brand has evolved from what was once an old man’s glorified Toyota, into something much more serious, perhaps even vulgar. As a fan of the new image of the Lexus brand, I couldn’t resist visiting the Lexus International Gallery in Aoyama, Tokyo, Japan during my winter visit in February. On display were two recently launched cars, both locally and internationally. The facelifted Lexus GS, and the all-new Lexus RX.

From its previous motto “The Pursuit of Perfection”, Lexus now carries the tagline “Amazing In Motion”. Well, we couldn’t blame them for it. The Lexus LFA supercar that was produced from 2010-2012 with a limited run of 500 units, was a revelation not just for Lexus, but for how the world conceived supercars from Japan. While Japan is a country that isn’t short from technological innovation in its cars (just look at the Nissan GT-R), it however, isn’t known for prestige, a clear, bold and striking identity that seems to make European luxury and exotic cars carry a status symbol that Japanese cars usually don’t posses. Things changed when the LFA came, and this became the turning point for Lexus’ direction. Whatever lessons have been learned in the development of the LFA, they promise an injection of luxury, sportiness, and athleticism in every new Lexus after the LFA.

I’ve visited Lexus Manila in Bonifacio Global City multiple times already, and I can’t help but feel cozy and relaxed whenever I am at their dealership. It feels more like a hotel lobby rather than a dealership. It’s a principle that embodies every Lexus dealership around the world, where it is centered towards excellent customer service. It’s not just the dealership that makes up the typical Lexus customer experience. What’s a good dealership without good people, right? The folks of Lexus Manila welcome every guest as if it was part of their family, and that’s something you rarely experience with dealerships nowadays, regardless if it’s in the premium or mainstream segment. Upon entering the Lexus International Gallery in Tokyo, I am surprised by how consistent the principles of Lexus are followed around the world. The Lexus Manila dealership’s ambience is exactly in line with it’s international gallery in Tokyo, and that’s quite a difficult feat to achieve for a company to implement its principles around the world. I mean, just look at some BMW dealerships around the Philippines. Some are pretty nice, and some are pretty trashy. Let’s not even talk about the service bays of some luxury car dealerships. Lexus Manila’s looks miles better compared to the competition, and this is, again, in line with Lexus’ main focus on bringing excellent customer satisfaction that befits only a luxury brand.

Bilingual staffs welcome you to the gallery as if you were, again, part of their family. After chatting with the staff for a few minutes, she invited me to have dinner at Intersect by Lexus. I humbly declined the offer, however, since whenever I visit Japan, I always would prefer eating Japanese rather than western food, which is primarily served in Intersect.

As a Lexus fan myself, I am more than happy to see the Lexus brand evolve to what it is today. I wasn’t a fan of Lexus before, since I view these cars as glorified Toyotas that only a grandfather would appreciate. Now though, you could argue that a Lexus IS has more character and road presence than a BMW 3 Series. Perhaps another trump card the Lexus has that other manufacturers don’t possess is their ability to explore the waters and try other things. From grandpa’s luxury car to a millennial’s bold, fashion statement. Love it or hate it, Lexus has changed its identity, and it’s an identity that I truly love.

All Lexus now carry the brand’s bold, spindle grille. It’s a design identity that is clearly identified as a Lexus, the same way you’d treat the kidney grille as BMW’s, or the single frame large grille as Audi’s. It’s a bold statement that’s sure to catch the eye of a passer by. Driving dynamics have also changed. Whereas Lexus were known for comfortable luxury cars, now they’re more razor sharp. While some cars are still not as competent handling-wise to a BMW in order to not fully alienate its past customers, those Lexus with sporty intentions can compete neck and neck with its German rivals, and this is clearly evident with their F Sport and full-fledged F vehicles.

The Future

In 6 years time since the 1st Lexus LFA came out of the production line in Motomachi, Lexus has gone from blunt to grunt. The world is taking notice of Lexus’ newfound character. With Akio Toyoda’s goal of injecting fun to their cars and bringing back Japanese driving passion to its cars, it’s an exciting time to not just be a Lexus fan, but to be a fan of Japanese cars as a whole, and the tides are once again changing, and it begins with this car below. The new Lexus LC. We’re genuinely excited to witness what kind of Amazing In Motion Lexus is cooking us up.

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Mazda Philippines Brings In The D! Because D is for Mazda 6 and CX-5 Diesel.

The Mazda 6 and CX-5 have been updated this year, bringing with it, not aesthetic or equipment changes, but a new engine. Finally, after our fuels have been raised to a minimum emission standard of Euro IV, Mazda now has the confidence to bring in their Skyactiv diesel engines for the Mazda 6 and CX-5.

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Both models are priced at P1,985,000, and with it, brings no equipment changes to their gasoline counterparts. What’s different though is the 2.2 liter Skyactiv-D diesel engines with twin turbos and variable valve timing, bringing with it a different driving experience. The numbers. 2.2 liter Skyactiv-D, 173 hp @ 4,500 rpm, and a mighty 420 Nm of torque from as low as 2,000 rpm. Overtaking is like simply turning a dial with these two cars. As these are diesel engined cars, fuel economy will be its strength. Whereas the Skyactiv-G engines have elevated compression ratios compared to normal petrol engines, the compression ratio of the Skyactiv-D diesel engines are at 14:1, the same as the Skyactiv-G, but lower than a typical diesel, which reduces fuel consumption by 20%. This will however, negatively affect emissions, but the diesel engines are equipped with EGR, or exhaust gas recirculation. The exhaust gas is sent back to the engine to heat up the engine faster, while a lengthened combustion stroke and unique injectors burn off unwanted greenhouse gases, which enables the Skyactiv-D engines to be Euro VI (Euro IV in the Philippines) emissions compliant.

 

Honda Cars Philippines Launches The All-New 10th Generation Civic (With Specs and Video)

The Honda Civic is one of the world’s most popular cars, which alongside the Toyota Corolla, is a car that is known all over the world by almost all walks of life. It’s also a car drooled over by college students both in the Philippines and around the world. I myself, included, love the Honda Civic, having owned the 9th generation model, which, wasn’t exactly a huge leap forward compared to its predecessor. Not resting on their laurels, Honda made sure that the new, 10th generation Civic, will once again bring back the Civic magic that made the Civic such as popular nameplate, combining practicality, reliability, and why it was made famous in the first place, fun to drive. One of the most awaited cars of 2016 in the Philippines is here. Welcome, to the all-new Honda Civic.

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The outside of the Civic is a huge departure from the cab forward design of the 8th and 9th generations, also known by their codes as FD and FB, respectively. Instead, it now has a longer hood, and with it, a lot of style. A crease from the standard full LED (including turn signals) headlights run all the way to the door, giving an impression of dynamism and sportiness, which continues all the way to the side. The coupe-like roofline gives the Civic an elegant and aggressive stance, giving off a similar vibe to the 4-door coupes we’ve come to see from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. At the back, C-shaped LED tail lights give the Civic an unmistakable look at night. RS variants have high gloss shadow lines and a blacked out grille, and 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels.

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Inside is also a huge departure from the double-tier layout of the 8th and 9th generation Civic. Gone is the eyebrow display, now replaced by a more conventional gauge layout. What is interesting to note is that, the gauges are an all-LCD affair, which means there’s a huge TFT LCD screen at your face, and upon start up, has some cool animations that brings oohs and aahs to anyone who first steps in the all-new Civic. The interior is also made from premium soft touch materials, and for the first time ever, the Civic becomes part of Ward’s 10 Best Interiors for 2016. A testament of Honda to making the Civic an even more upmarket and premium feeling sedan. Honda’s capacitive touch screen Display Audio is standard across the line-up, including automatic climate control (dual zone for the RS), smart entry with a pulsating push button start, electronic parking brake, and electrostatic steering wheel controls. A godsend to us Filipinos is the Remote Engine Starter feature. In our hot country, drivers are able to turn on the engine from a distance, enabling them to also turn on the climate control way before they enter the new Civic, and this is standard on all variants. As a matter of fact, not much separates the 1.8 E and the 1.5 RS in terms of features, with the RS only gaining power adjustable leather seats, navigation, and an auto dimming rear view mirror.

Powering the all-new Civic are two engine choices. A not so new 1.8 liter i-VTEC engine, as it is a carry over from the previous generation Civic, still producing 141 hp and 174 Nm of torque. Of course, what you’re interested at is the new 1.5 liter, turbo and direct-injected petrol engine. It produces a mighty 173 hp and 220 Nm of torque from as low as 1700 rpm, a characteristic of a turbocharged, direct-injected petrol engine. All variants are equipped only with a CVT, and this enables the 1.5 RS to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 7.6 seconds, the fastest in its segment.

It’d be interesting for everyone to know that the 1.8 E Civic has no price increase over the previous generation. However, it is understandable that the new Civic 1.5 RS will not be for everyone. See the prices of the two variants below, but whichever you choose, you get an innovative, practical, reliable, and fun to drive compact sedan.

Specifications

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1.8 E: P1,088,000
1.5 RS: P1,398,000

Volkswagen Philippines Launches Tamed Golf

Last year, Volkswagen launched its iconic hot hatch, the Golf GTI. The Golf GTI is world renowned for its fine handling characteristics while being able to give its owners practicality and everyday usability. Over the course of many generations, the basic recipe of the Golf GTI has been kept intact, and it likewise applies to the standard Golf, but questions were raised by people last year. Where is the standard Golf?

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The Volkswagen Golf is one fine looking machine. It is a conservatively designed car, but it isn’t a boring car to look at. The car has so much class and elegance, a design that will surely stand the test of time, and German cars have been generally known for this. 16 inch alloys grace the base Comfortline variant, while 17s are equipped in the Highline variant. Nicely designed automatic Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights, active cornering lights, also complement the Golf 1.4 TSI Highline’s elegant exterior design. LED tail lights are equipped as standard on all variants.

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Inside is one of the classiest and most premium cabins in its class. Well thought out details that is very German are the felt-lined bins around the cabin. Not only do they feel nice, but they eliminate noise when these items are loosely moving around the cabin. The little details, people, that make the driving experience that much more pleasant. The interior is beautifully crafted and well screwed together, with a solid door thud unlike any other in its class, and materials that are posh and premium to the touch. In the middle of the well trimmed dashboard is a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The Golf remains the class benchmark in terms of interior quality, but it is not to the point that it’ll faze BMW, Mercedes-Benz or even Volkswagen Group’s own Audi. Another feature that I appreciate in the Volkswagen Golf are the rear aircon vents. Guys, us Filipinos live in a hot country. This is the one thing we will wholly appreciate with all our hearts, and not all car manufacturers give plenty of attention to this aspect of a compact car.

Powering the standard Golf is a 1.4 TSI turbocharged, direct injected petrol engine, which is good for 148 hp and a punchy 250 Nm of torque. Mated to Volkswagen’s excellent 7-Speed Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG), their marketing brouhaha for their dual clutch transmission, the Golf 1.4 TSI is good for 0-100 km/h in 8.2 seconds, which is certainly no slouch, and is fast enough for most people. Equipped with BlueMotion technology, the Golf 1.4 TSI is equipped with engine start/stop technology, which shuts off the engine in let’s say, a set of lights, and regenerative braking captures heat energy from the heat of the brakes and converts it to electricity.

One thing the Germans are known for in our market is their generous standard safety kit. Standard on all variants are 7 airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability program, and an electronic locking differential.

The standard Volkwagen Golf is one of the world’s most loved cars, and it’s one that I wholly love as well. Now that the standard variant of the Golf has arrived, are you now tempted to own your first ever German car? I sure am.

Golf 1.4 TSI Comfortline: P1,590,000
Golf 1.4 TSI Highline: P1,739,000

Suzuki Philippines Enters The Subcompact Segment With The Ciaz

Suzuki is known for its small hatchbacks such as the Swift, Alto, and Celerio, but the typical Filipino usually looks for a sedan, which is why Suzuki has entered the subcompact sedan segment with their new Ciaz.

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In a segment dominated by the Toyota Vios and Honda City, plus some interesting and quirky models such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta, the Suzuki needs to stand out, and in this case, it stands out in value for money. The exterior design is pretty much on par with the competition, with the conservative but sleek design that somehow makes the Ciaz look like a bigger car. The design is, while not the sexiest in the segment (the crown belongs to the Mazda 2),  it is the most cohesive, front to back. The proportions are nicely done, eliminating some awkward proportions that seem to plague the designs of most cars in this class.

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Inside is an exercise of restraint, but the colors are tastefully done. The materials are still on the cheap side, but with a price (as I’m going to highlight later) that is a little less than its competitors, then it’s not a problem, and besides, there’s only a few rare cars in this segment that truly feel posh inside. The standout feature of the Ciaz, however, is its rear legroom. With a 2,650 mm wheelbase, the Ciaz has the longest wheelbase in its class, and it certainly feels like it in the back seats.

Powering the Suzuki Ciaz is a 1.4 liter petrol engine found in the Swift and Ertiga. It is good for 92 hp @ 6,000 rpm, and 130 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm. The transmission is mated to either a 5-Speed Manual or a 4-Speed Automatic. With a MacPherson Strut fron suspension and Torsion Beam Rear Suspension, and a platform based from the Swift, we certainly do hope the Ciaz will not be a boring car to drive.

Two variants are available, one of which is the base GL (if you want to call it that, because it is well equipped for as “base” model), available as a manual or an automatic, and the GLX, which is only available as an automatic. Both are well equipped. All variants have ABS and EBD, 2 airbags, touchscreen infotainment system, keyless entry, and for the GLX, power folding mirrors, push button start, an Android-based infotainment system, automatic climate control, leather seats, 16 inch alloys, and leather seats.

GL MT/AT – P738,000/P773,000
GLX AT – P888,000

Go Flat Out @ 2016 MIAS: In Photos

Apart from the local launches of the facelifted Subaru Forester, Chevrolet Sail, Hyundai Veloster Turbo, facelifted Mitsubishi Mirage, SsangYong Motors‘ PH return, and Kia’s first public appearance of the new Sportage, there were a few surprises at the 2016 Manila International Auto Show. For instance, Peugeot PH brought in the country the 308 GTI, the first and only one in the whole Asian continent, though this is not yet for sale, nor have they made any announcements for their intentions to sell the hot hatch.

Then there’s Ford’s Black Edition of the EcoSport, and the Ford Everest 2.2 Titanium with Premium pack. Essentially, this variant of the Everest makes all the Blind Spot Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control, and all the other features of the 3.2 Titanium with Premium pack available in the 2.2 liter, non-AWD Titanium variant, because, let’s face it, not everyone buys the highest trim because of the powertrain or the AWD, but for the features.

Mitsubishi also gave a silent launch of the facelifted version of the Lancer EX, and this is probably the last facelift the Lancer will be receiving before the car ends its production cycle.

Mercedes-Benz also silently made the first public appearance of the facelifted Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and perhaps grabbing the most attention in Mercedes-Benz’s booth is the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45, which is done in an amazing coat of silver plus some orange highlights that actually make the car pretty interesting and head turning.

Of course, who wouldn’t take notice of the tuner displays at the tent beside the World Trade Center? Personally, I have a bias towards Japanese tuners, and it’s these cars, especially the Toyota 86 and Toyotoa Corolla AE92 that captured my attention.

Go Flat Out @ 2016 MIAS: Chevrolet Sails Through MIAS With The New Sail

Wanting to have a piece of the subcompact sedan market, Chevrolet Philippines wants to have a chunk of the rapidly growing subcompact sedan market, and for some reason, they think it’s a good idea to replace the stylish Chevrolet Sonic, a subcompact designed for global markets, with a subcompact sedan developed primarily for developing nations. Hmmmm…? So here it is then, the new Chevrolet Sail, and it’s here to replace the Chevrolet Sonic.

Sailing (pun intended) from GM’s Chinese plant, the Chevrolet Sail is being marketed by Chevrolet Philippines as your first sedan, your first Chevrolet. The exterior is typical Chevrolet, with your large double vented grille, proudly wearing the golden bowtie the brand is known for. Its compact dimensions hide a somehow expansive interior room.

The interior is well laid out, and easily catching your attention is the large almost Tesla-esque touch screen system. The interior is best described as no nonsense and straightforward, without any pretentious details to making it like a pseudo-luxury car, such as fake metal accents, etc. Surprisingly, the top trim variant is equipped with a sunroof.

There are two engines available. The 1.3 liter petrol, mated exclusively to a 5-Speed Manual, produces 103 hp and 127 Nm of torque, while the 1.5 liter petrol, mated exclusively to a 4-Speed Automatic, produces 113 hp and 141 Nm of torque. See the developing country roots? The Sonic, for about the same amount of money as this Sail, had a more modern 6-Speed Manual and Automatic Transmission.

There are three variants all in all, and listed below are the prices of all three variants.

1.3 L MT: P688,888
1.5 LT AT: P768,888
1.5 LTZ AT: P816,888