Lexus LM review

Lexus LM review

We experience the epic Lexus LM luxury people carrier – from the driver’s seat, and as a pampered passenger…

Lexus appears to have pulled off a masterstroke with its LM (luxury mover). An exclusive niche market has been identified and LMs will soon be seen shuttling the wealthy between airports and plush hotels, depositing celebs on red carpets, and generally ferrying movers and shakers around the country.

The ubiquitous Mercedes-Benz V-Class isn’t for everyone and limousines are a little ostentatious, so Lexus is on to a winner with the LM. What’s more, the price range of £89,995 to £112,995 doesn’t appear to have put off buyers. Orders are already way above expectations.

Lexus LM review
Lexus LM four-seater

The secret of the LM is that it’s not too flash and it offers a flexible space that can be used as a sumptuous people mover, spacious mobile office, or somewhere to simply relax in abject luxury on the move.

Two versions are offered, with four or seven seats. The flagship four-seater features two “captain’s chair’ rear seats (inspired by those found in first class airline cabins) which can also be fully reclined.

The seven-seat model has two seats with massage functionality, plus a third row of flip-up seats which can be folded away when more load space is required.

Lexus LM review
Lexus LM seven-seater

The standard Lexus LM is front-wheel drive (AWD is optional) and comes with a 14.0-inch screen in the rear, dual sunroof, a 21-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, and a goodies list as long as your arm.

The top-of-the-range Takumi gets the wow factor with a partition between the front and rear cabin housing a 48-inch screen, plus a fridge and 23-speaker 3D surround Mark Levinson sound system.

First impressions count, and it’s fair to say that the Lexus LM is more of a statement than a looker. The designers have done their best to make it special, and not just another slab-sided MPV.

Lexus LM review

The combination of clever contours, bold creases, massive signature ‘spindle’ grille with slim LED headlights, plus the illusion of a floating roof, result in a people mover with serious road presence.

And at 5.1m long, 1.9m tall and 1.89m wide, it’s no shrinking violet. Though weirdly, behind the wheel it’s far more manageable than you might think, as long as you steer clear of narrow country lanes.

Built on the GA-K platform shared with the NX and RX SUVs, Lexus is keen to emphasise that the LM has more in common with a car than its rivals, which tend to be van-based.

Lexus LM - Gareth Herincx
Lexus LM seven-seater

The driving experience proves the point. The front cabin and seating position have the feel of a big crossover.

We suspect most LM buyers and users are unlikely to get behind the wheel themselves, but for the record, here goes…

From a driving point of view, all-round visibility is best in the seven-seater without the partition and widescreen (a rear-view digital mirror helps), but otherwise it’s a comfortable, spacious and well-equipped place to be, with a car-like dashboard layout.

Lexus LM review

There’s no shortage of power, thanks to the same 247bhp self-charging hybrid system you’ll find in the NX 350h and RX 350h models, combining a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with electric assistance.

Acceleration from rest to 62mph can be accomplished in 8.7 seconds (9.1s for the FWD model) and maximum speed for both models is 118mph. CO2 emissions are in the 152-163g/km range, while fuel economy is as high as 42.1mpg.

Like the NX and RX 350h models, the LM uses a CVT gearbox which spoils the ambience of the cabin if progress is anything but stately. You see, the revs shoot up if you’re anything but soft with the right pedal, producing a temporary din.

Lexus LM review

It may not be possible, but I’d suggest fitting the hybrid powertrain from the RX 500h F Sport which uses a six-speed automatic gearbox and is far more relaxed.

That said, chauffeuring is all about smoothness, so the LM is still a delight to be driven in by a professional, even with the CVT.

At nearly three tonnes (gross weight), it’s a substantial vehicle, yet it’s easy to drive and surprisingly manoeuvrable. It would be an exaggeration to call it agile, but it floats around nicely, switching seamlessly between petrol and electric modes at lower speeds.

Lexus LM review
Lexus LM four-seater

I can’t help feeling that a plug-in hybrid or 100% electric version might further boost sales where regular journeys take in ultra-low emissions zones, but maybe that’s one for the future.

However, the Lexus LM is all about the rear compartment. Both the four-seater and three-row options are a treat to travel in, though being able to fully recline in the former is particularly relaxing.

Each of the main two seats in both versions get individual digital handsets to control everything from the audio to the window blinds (they all close), while the seats are super comfy. There’s also an overhead console with some storage and controls for features such as the power-sliding doors.

Lexus LM - Gareth Herincx
Lexus LM four-seater

Overall, as you’d expect from Lexus, the materials used in the cabin are top notch and the quality is faultless.

A special mention for the panoramic screen in the top spec version which can also be split so that one passenger could be watching a movie, while the other is scrolling through a presentation.

A ‘Rear Comfort’ drive mode has also been developed to further refine the passenger experience with new braking and body control systems. There’s also tech to counter cabin noise and vibration, which worked particularly well.

Lexus LM review
Lexus LM four-seater

I’m very sensitive to travel nausea and I managed perfectly well as a back-seat passenger while in a normal sitting position, but not so much when I was lying down on anything other than smooth, straight roads.

The two versions have their plus and minus points. As a passenger I prefer seeing out front, so the seven-seater without the partition works best, but nothing can quite match the opulence of the widescreen, two seats and extra space of the top-of-the-range Takumi model.

Verdict: The bold new Lexus LM luxury people carrier recaptures the feeling of flying on a private jet, offering a winning combination of superb comfort, quality, practicality and privacy.

Lexus UK

Mercedes-Benz B-Class review

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

We road test the classy compact people carrier that is the Mercedes-Benz B-Class…

OK, it’s not in the same league of revelations as ‘I’ve never seen Star Wars’, but – up and until recently – I have never driven a Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

Originally introduced as a small MPV in 2005, the current third-generation version was launched in 2019, and it’s just been treated to a mid-life facelift.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

More of an update than facelift, visually it’s very light touch. Mild styling changes include new LEDs front and rear, a revised front grille and bumper, plus a reworked rear diffuser.

Inside, the new B-Class has been treated to the latest dual-screen MBUX infotainment system with a digital driver’s display and central touchscreen (both 10.25-inch).

It also gets the improved “Hey Mercedes” voice control, so drivers can keep their hands on the new flat-bottom steering wheel. And, apparently over time, it can even predict personal habits thanks to artificial intelligence. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

The MBUX system is slick and updates the interior, while the removal of the rotary controller in the centre console adds to the more modern, minimalist look.

Traditionalists will be pleased to see that Mercedes has kept the three round turbine-look air vents below the centre touchscreen. Others might think they are massive and look dated alongside the cutting-edge infotainment system.

All the petrol engines in the line-up now feature 48V mild-hybrid technology. Mercedes says the system ensures a quieter start than conventional starter motors and allows ‘sailing’ with the combustion engine switched off during steady cruising.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Overall, there’s a choice of two four-cylinder engines – the B200 (petrol) and B200d (diesel).

That B200d is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel which develops 148bhp. It comes as standard with an eight-speed dual-clutch (DCT) automatic transmission.

With a top speed of 136mph, it can accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds, return up to 55.4mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 133g/km.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

I tested the B200 which features a 1.3-litre petrol turbo with 160bhp (though it gets a small hybrid boost, adding a temporary extra 14bhp). It has a seven-speed DCT and power is also through the front wheels.

It’s slightly faster to 62mph (8.2 seconds) and quicker overall (139mph), while fuel economy is up to 46.3mpg and CO2 emissions are 136g/km.

Priced from £35,100, there are five trim levels – Sport Executive, AMG Line Executive, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus, along with the limited Exclusive Launch Edition.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Driver assistance and safety technology has been updated on the new B-Class. Essentials such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, automatic headlights, speed sign recognition and cruise control are all standard across the range.

Apart from the updates, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class is much the same as before, which is no bad thing.

There’s ample leg and headroom for five people, while the seats are comfortable. Overall, the build quality is impressive and there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces up front.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

It’s great for families too, offering 440 litres of boot space (575 litres loaded to the roof). Fold the rear seats down and you get an impressive 1,540 litres.

On the road, the B-Class offers good visibility, thanks to the raised driving position and large glass area.

The punchy B200 petrol engine is generally up to the job and refined for the most part, only becoming vocal when pushed hard.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

There’s a choice of driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual), but Comfort is just fine and best suits the practical character of the car.

With light steering, it’s especially easy to drive in town, but it also cruises well on the motorway. For a relatively tall car, it’s surprisingly competent on more challenging roads too, but then that misses the point of the B-Class, which is more about carrying people in comfort.

As for rivals, the B-Class’s most obvious one is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, which is also offered as a plug-in hybrid.

Verdict: The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class may not be the coolest car on the road, but it’s a classy and sensible family choice offering comfort, safety, practicality, good build quality and top badge appeal.

Mercedes-Benz UK

Volkswagen ID.Buzz review

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

If the success of a new vehicle could be judged purely on kerb appeal and cult status, then the Volkswagen ID.Buzz is a winner.

This retro-cool reboot of the iconic VW camper generated more interest and positive comments from complete strangers during my road-test week than just about anything else I’ve driven over the last few years.

But here’s the thing – the 100% electric ID.Buzz isn’t just eye candy. Underneath that captivating exterior is a practical people carrier that’s easy and fun to drive.

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

At launch, this eco minibus has five seats and features a 150kW electric motor powered by a 77kWh battery pack that delivers its power to the rear wheels. There’s also a cheaper commercial version (marketed as the ID.Buzz Cargo Van).

Sharing its underpinnings with the smaller ID.3 hatchback and ID.4 and 5 crossovers, it has a claimed range of up to 258 miles (closer to 200 miles in real-world driving).

With a charging power of up to 170kW, it’s possible to replenish the battery from 5-80% in as little as 30 minutes (using a rapid 150kw connection), and if you have a home wallbox it will charge overnight.

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

If you’re familiar with Volkswagen’s ID family of EVs, you’ll recognise the minimalist front cabin which features a large central touchscreen and a ‘twisty knob’ gear selector positioned behind the steering wheel.

Sadly, this infotainment system is not without its critics. Too many of the vehicle’s main functionality is accessed via the touchscreen (including climate control), while the touch sensitive sliders below and on the steering wheel are fiddly.

Thankfully, the electrically adjustable driver’s seat is comfortable with a commanding driving position, offering an expansive view of the road ahead. There’s plenty of glass around the rest of the ID.Buzz too, so with the help of the reversing camera, manoeuvring isn’t as challenging as you might think. What’s more, it has a turning circle of just 11.1 metres.

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

My test car also came with Park Assist Plus which can memorise up to five individual parking manoeuvres – such as you backing into your garage. All you do is park up, save the spot, and it will park itself automatically next time.

On the road, the ID.Buzz is amazingly nimble for its size (L= 4,712mm, W= 2,211mm x H= 1,937mm) and weight (up to 3 tonnes).

There’s something uncanny about driving a van-sized vehicle with instant torque that can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 10.2 seconds. The look on other drivers’ faces as you floor it to overtake is priceless – and it feels swifter than the official acceleration figure suggests.

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

There are various drive modes (eg Eco, Comfort and Sport). Inevitably, Comfort is just fine for everyday motoring, because Eco dulls the driving experience and Sport is just fine for energy-sapping short bursts of fun. In fact, the only noticeable difference between the settings is the responsiveness and output of the throttle pedal.

Oh, and don’t forget the ‘B’ setting on the gear selector which can be used for higher levels of brake regeneration while you’re driving (especially useful on downhill stretches or when braking from speed for junctions).

But it’s not just about straight-line speed, the ID.Buzz is remarkably agile on twisty country roads, only let down by the brakes which seem to have a lot of travel before they engage, meaning that slowing down requires a little more anticipation and isn’t as smooth as it could be.

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

As you’d expect with an EV, it’s smooth and refined. Yes, the ride is on the stiff side, so it’s not so forgiving on poorer surfaces, but overall it has more in common with a large car than a van.

Add direct and well weighted steering and it seems to defy physics and definitely puts a smile on your face.

So far so good, but perhaps the biggest surprise is that the ID.Buzz is so expensive at launch. There’s currently just the one model available with two trims.

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

Starting at an eye-watering £58,915 for the entry-level Life spec, next up is the Style trim for £63,715. A flagship GTX will join the range soon, and it will have a dual motor four-wheel drive system.

A longer wheelbase version and camper van are also coming, and the latter will address the other current annoyance, which is the MPV cabin’s lack of flexibility.

At present, the rear seats can recline and slide to either improve the cavernous boot or increase legroom if pulled forward.

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

Ideally, ID.Buzz owners want to be able to swivel the front seats round and have the ability to remove the rear seats altogether.

That said, boot capacity is one of the its biggest strengths. Even with five passengers on board, there’s 1,121 litres of cargo space. With the rear seats folded and pushed forward there’s a van-like 2,123-litre capacity.

And a special mention for the clever ‘Buzz Box’ – a removable storage compartment between the driver’s seat and front passenger seat.

Volkswagen ID.Buzz

So, it isn’t perfect and there’s definitely room for improvement which future versions will address, but overall VW has done a great job with the ID.Buzz, which oozes style and character.

Awards for the ID.Buzz so far include Car of the Year and Best Large Electric Car at the What Car? Awards 2023, plus Best MPV and Electric Car of the Year at the 2022 Top Gear Awards. It’s also packed with safety and driver assistance tech, achieving a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Verdict: Funky, functional, fun to drive, comfortable and safe, the retro-cool Volkswagen ID.Buzz has room for improvement, but such is its character, all is forgiven.

Volkswagen UK

Dacia Jogger review

Dacia Jogger

Every now and again a new car rocks up that takes me by complete surprise. Believe it or not, the Dacia Jogger is one such vehicle.

The headline is that this latest model from Renault’s Romanian budget brand is the cheapest seven-seater on the market – by a long chalk.

The reality is that it’s a remarkably affordable family car that can genuinely seat seven people (I’m just under 6ft and I can fit in the third row), which is more than you can say for some other supposed seven-seaters for more than twice the price.

Dacia Jogger

The cheap and cheerful Jogger range starts at just £14,995 and it’s hard to categorise because it’s the length of an estate car, has the ground clearance some crossovers, and yet boasts the interior versality of a people carrier, or even a LAV (Leisure Activity Vehicle).

There are three trim levels – Essential, Comfort and Extreme SE. The former comes with cruise control, air conditioning, LED lights and rear parking sensors as standard.

Comfort, which is likely to be the most popular option, gets keyless entry, an electronic handbrake, automatic wipers and a rear parking camera, while Extreme SE adds heated front seats, interior floor mats, sat nav and a few rufty-tufty exterior styling tweaks.

Dacia Jogger

Comfort and Extreme get an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, but you’ll have to use your smartphone for media and navigation duties on an entry-level Essential model.

So, the Jogger follows in the same successful wheel-tracks as its siblings – the Sandero, Sandero Stepway and Duster – which is no-frills motoring at a bargain price.

It shares its attractive front end, complete with straked LED headlights, with the recently launched Sandero, while its profile is certainly distinctive (and long), but it won’t win a rear of the year contest.

Dacia Jogger

That said, it is a clever design because the rear gently rises up, allowing stacks of headroom and visibility inside for passengers in the stadium-style second row of seats, where there’s already impressive legroom.

The huge tailgate opens to reveal just 213 litres of cargo space with the third row of seats in place.  As a five-seater, you get a massive 699 litres of space. Fold these down and remove the third row of seats (easily done) and there’s a van-like 2,085-litre load bay.

The Jogger also features Dacia’s clever roof rails, which swivel around to create a roof rack.

Dacia Jogger

The front cabin will be familiar to Sandero drivers, which means that it’s pretty basic and there’s no shortage of scratchy plastic, but it does the job. My only gripe is that the driving position is a little high for my liking.

The Jogger’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine is more refined than I expected and surprisingly punchy at lower speeds. The Eco button dulls the engine response, so best left for longer cruises. The six-speed manual gearbox works just fine – it’s just a shame Dacia sticks with its uncomfortable gear knob.

On paper, the 108bhp turbo petrol engine (TCe 110) can sprint to 62mph in 11.2 seconds and return up to 48.7mpg, while CO2 emissions are 131g/km. From my experience of driving on mixed roads, 45mpg is achievable, and it can nudge 50mpg on a motorway run.

Dacia Jogger

It’s incredibly easily to drive with light steering and good visibility, but things get a little more challenging when its pushed beyond its comfort zone. More spirited drivers will soon realise that it loses its composure on more challenging roads.

Keep it sensible and the lightweight Jogger is nimble and good fun to drive.

So far so good – now the fly in the ointment. The Jogger scored just one out of five stars in Euro NCAP safety tests, which are more rigorous than ever.

It was marked down for its lack of safety kit and driver assistance technology equipment and the testers were unimpressed that it doesn’t have airbags or seatbelt reminders for the third row of seats.

While this safety score is nothing to boast about, it’s worth pointing out that the Jogger isn’t a dangerous car, it’s just not as super safe as many other new vehicles.

Dacia Jogger

For the record, all Jogger models feature six airbags, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), anti-lock brakes (ABS), ESC (Electronic Stability Control) with ASR (Traction control) and Hill Start Assist (HSA), while Comfort trim and above get a blind spot warning system. In other words, it’s still a lot safer than millions of older cars on the roads today.

It’s a shame to end on a negative, because the Jogger is a fantastic all-round package, especially when every penny counts.

Verdict: As the cost of living crisis deepens, the all-new Dacia Jogger is well worth considering because it offers remarkable value for money and is a superbly honest and practical car. A genuine seven-seater, it’s economical, easy to drive and incredibly versatile. Take one for a test drive and prepare to be bowled over.

Dacia UK

Dacia Jogger