BOWMANVILLE, ONTARIO – In recent years, Lexus has expanded their all-wheel drive portfolio to include almost every model except the sporty RC F and the flagship LC. Canadians seem to have taken this expansion in stride, so much so that AWD models have accounted for a whopping 93% of all Lexus sales in the last two years. Lexus is confident that their AWD capability in even the toughest Canadian winter settings that they invited us for a Lexus AWD Round-Up over a series of tough challenges they have set out at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
To get our adrenaline going, our day started with two Lexus RXs lined up on an icy drag strip. There is a RX 350 model with the 295-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 engine put up against the RX 450h with a 308 net horsepower, with the bigger differentiator being in their all-wheel drive systems. The RX 350 uses a more traditional drivetrain to deliver power to the rear wheels where traction is needed, whereas the hybrid uses an electric motor to drive its rear wheels on demand and negating the need for any physical linkages.
The two crossovers came away with very similar performance off the line and we can hardly notice the difference. We would note that the RX 350’s AWD system would work better in crawling out of deep snow situation using its locking centre differential feature, however most urban commuters will happily trade off a bit of off-road prowess for the hybrid’s phenomenal fuel economy ratings (7.5L/100km city and 8.4L/100km highway).
Next, we found ourselves behind the wheel on a small section of the road course testing out the capabilities of a variety of Lexus products including two NX crossovers, an ES 250 AWD, and the sporty RC 350 AWD. Having the opportunity to try the turbocharged NX 300 and the hybrid-powered NX 300h back-to-back, we noticed the turbo is more eager to get going even in slippery conditions but they are both similarly capable in cornering and emergency braking situations.
The RC 350 features an AWD system that sends 70% of its power to the rear by default, with the ability to go 50/50 front and rear when the system detects slippage, and it performed admirably with some flair exits on demand as expected.
The real surprise of the day was the ES 250 AWD. Our expectation for snow sliding fun was modest knowing that the ES 250 AWD is a front-biased all-wheel-drive system and only splits its power when needed, but it ended up being a real delight on the snowy course. The ES 250 AWD felt light and well balanced and felt totally in control throughout.
Despite having all the latest Lexus models present, it was a trio of early 2000s Lexus IS 300s that stole the show. Lexus managed to source three high mileage IS 300 sedans that were equipped with studded tires, and handed us the keys for some ice drifting actions. These IS 300s were far from pristine as they had well over 400,000 kilometres but mechanically they all withstood the test of time (and hard thrashing) like champs.
After a long day doing a Lexus AWD round-up, we left feeling inspired and confident of the ever-growing Lexus brand and their hybrid and all-wheel-drive portfolio. These cars do a wonderful job helping Canadians conquer the tough winter climate, and the fact that they manage to do this in a refined and fuel-efficient way will no doubt help further expand the brand’s reach in the competitive luxury market.
Photos Courtesy of Lexus Canada