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2014 Lexus IS 350 (Toyota)
2014 Lexus IS 350 (Toyota)

Best of the Lot

It's Japanese brands all the way for this car buyer Add to ...

My wife and I need to buy a new car the last week of April. We are looking at three: the Lexus IS 350 RWD, Honda Accord V6 Touring, and the Acura TL because there appear to be some good incentives from Honda on this one. Our last four cars have been a 1990 Accord, 1998 Nissan Maxima, 1998 Acura EL and a 2004 Acura TSX. All the Hondas were four-cylinder rides with great mileage, but a little light when we were travelling with four adults in the car. What do you think? – Ken in Waterloo, Ont.

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Vaughan: Have a look at this, Cato – Kenny’s been unflinchingly loyal to Japanese brands for 23 years and what is he considering now? Three more Japanese cars. Detroit auto makers are building some excellent cars, yet they don’t even get a sniff.

Cato: Cars. The key word is “cars.” Detroit is still playing catch-up here and may forevermore. And not to just the Japanese. Guess which car brand was No. 1 last year in Canada: Hyundai. From South Korea. Sold 95,825 cars to Canadians in 2013. Ford of Canada sold 122,325 F-150 pickups. Ford sales overall – 283,451 – tripled Hyundai’s car sales. But plenty of them were SUVs, not cars, and the rest were pickups.

I don’t know if Detroit’s cars will ever get a sniff from the Kens of the world. I have a cousin, for instance, who spits venom with the mention of Ford. He’s like Ken. Last five cars have been Subaru, Honda, Honda, Honda, Toyota. My cousin has never forgiven Ford for cars that broke, rusted, left him stranded and so on.

Vaughan: So it’s Asian. Kenny notes that the Lexus is rear-wheel drive yet all the other stuff on his list, and everything he’s driven since 1990, is front-wheel drive.

I’m sure Lexus went RWD to be like BMW and the Lexus IS has some BMW driving characteristics, especially if you can turn off the traction control and let the back end swing out a little. Oversteer is fun, but most people would rather have the go-through-snow advantage of FWD.

Cato: Lexus keeps beavering away at its BMW-fighter, but let’s not get carried away. This new IS is impressive, but it’s no BMW 3-Series. Yes, it’s beautifully built. Yes, the styling is distinctive. Yes, the ride and handling are entertaining. And by the way, you can get an IS with all-wheel drive for snowy days.

But the power-train offerings are mediocre, despite that eight-speed automatic. The V-6 – 306 horsepower – is nothing special. And an IS 350 isn’t cheap at $44,500. BMW has a Twin Turbo 3-Series for $42,000.

Where Ken baffles me is with the Accord. A front-drive family car? Really? Against a Lexus and with the 3-Series in the conversation?

At $35,400, the Accord Touring is far less than the Lexus or the BMW. Superb build quality, quiet ride, loads of features and the 278-hp V-6 is no wimp. I guess Ken is eyeballing the numbers.

2014 Acura TL
 

Vaughan: Cato, the Accord is a gem. It’s so good I don’t know why Kenny would want to pay a lot more for its close relative, the Acura.

The Accord is in its ninth generation and while you wouldn’t call its design exciting, you have to appreciate just how sensible the car is. The cabin is extremely comfortable in the front seat and the back.

It has good fuel economy, great safety ratings and surprisingly pleasing handling and responsiveness. It’s been 23 years since Kenny bought his last Accord; it may be time for a new one.

Cato: Well, there you go. Pretty much puts this discussion to an end. Not.

Because the outgoing Acura TL is, as Ken suggests, loaded with discounts – both front- and AWD versions. Take the A-Spec model: I found at least $3,000 in rebates on the table. This is a fast, powerful car. Sure, the styling is over the top, but it’s solid overall – even if it does borrow the underpinnings of the last-generation Accord.

Look, Acura wants to keep leftover TLs moving off the lot. That explains the sales sweeteners. And keep in mind that a replacement for it and the TSX is coming – the TLX we saw at the Detroit auto show.

2014 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan
 

Vaughan: Well, the TLX isn’t available until this summer; besides, it’s too jazzy looking. Acura has gone overboard on styling for several years now and this new TLX goes even farther.

Kenny, shop for a 2014 TL like Cato suggests if you want to put another Acura in the driveway. But I’d buy the Accord over the Acura, even if it were to cost more. But it costs less. Done deal.

Cato: Nah. Ken my man, the Lexus suits you. You’re not a BMW guy, the Detroiters are nowhere and you’ve had too many Hondas.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

HOW THEY COMPARE

 

2014 Lexus IS 350 RWD

2014 Honda Accord Touring V6

2014 Acura TL A-Spec

Wheelbase (mm):

2800

2775

2775

Length (mm):

4665

4862

4928

Width (mm):

1800

1849

1880

Height (mm)

1430

1465

1452

Engine:

3.5-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

306/277 lb-ft

278/252 lb-ft

280/254 lb-ft

Drive system:

rear-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

Transmission

eight-speed automatic

six-speed automatic

six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1630

1631

1709

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.8 city/7.3 highway

9.6 city/5.7 highway

10.4 city/6.8 highway

Base price

$44,500

$35,400

$41,490

Source: car manufacturers

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