’18 LX 570
Lexus. 383 horsepower,
5.7-liter V8. 13/18-MPG city/hwy.
As-tested price: $93,360.

When it comes to car prices, you can go high or low. Here’s a pair to consider

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer
[email protected]

Model of efficiency

Even if you aren’t a Prius geek, you know there’s something different about the Prime Advanced edition. Sure, the familiar shape is there, and it gets extraordinary fuel economy, but there’s something more aggressive about it. It’s more aggressively styled… and is more aggressively efficient. It’s just more aggressively Prius.

Prius Prime has an angrier face and overall futuristic look. The lower face, with its vertical running lamps and sculpting, could have come from a sports car. Above, quad LED projector lamps on each side glisten and shine. The side profile is pure Prius, but the rear hatch — crafted from carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer — features a double bubble affect and unique LED taillamps.

’17 PRIUS PRIME Toyota. 121 horsepower 1.8 liter In-line 4/Li-Ion batteries. 55/53-MPG city/hwy; 133-MPGe. As-tested price: $33,985.

This is my favorite Prius interior. A large digital instrument display beneath the windshield is a Prius hallmark, but the center controls are dominated by a vertical, almost Tesla-like, HD touchscreen display for audio, climate and navigation. It’s a little cumbersome to use, but you find your way around quickly with pinch, zoom, tap and swipe functionality. Drivers also get a head-up display for speed, navigation directions and energy use.

Heated leather seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and automatic climate control enhance comfort, as does the JBL audio system. That arching roof provides a roomy cabin, but rear passengers are separated by the battery tunnel, so only two need apply. Open the big hatch and flip down the rear seats for ample storage. Safety is fortified by forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, rear cross path detection, radar adaptive cruise and rear camera systems.

Moving this parade of technology is an efficient 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack located in back. All in, the system generates 121 horses — enough to move a Prius, but not enough to race a Corolla. The Prime travels 25 miles on electricity before the gas engine extends the journey: up to 640 total miles. It takes about 5.5 hours to recharge on household current or under 2.5 hours on 240v. Best of all, the car achieves 55/53-MPG city/highway as a hybrid, or 133-MPGe as an electric car.

Drivers can choose how to use available energy, too, with three buttons beneath the big screen. One in the middle switches the car between normal gas/electric hybrid mode and pure EV mode, which stays active up to 84 mph or when the juice runs out. To the right, is the Auto EV mode, which favors all-electric driving, but more often perks up the gas engine under acceleration. To the left is a button that changes the throttle from nearly numb in ECO mode to Normal and Aggressive.

This is by far the best-driving Prius yet. A 4-wheel independent suspension and enhanced steering feel lets you zip through corners with confidence, though a dearth of power will squelch the fun quickly if acceleration is your desire. It’s not all paradise. A Prius is still a Prius. Styling is iconic, but not everyone’s sport coat. If at the end of the day you like it, then plug one into your own garage.

Twenty years on, the Prius is still a vision of the future. It looks, drives and charges like a next-decade ride. But it’s here today with a base price of just $27,100 (the one we tested was loaded up to $33,985), putting Prius Prime against the Chevy Volt, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Nero and Ford Fusion Energi.

A luxe mountain goat

You’ll spend a heckuva lot more on a Lexus — sticker and fuel costs — than with a Prius, but glamour has a pricetag. The 2018 Lexus LX 570 is about the poshest mountain goat you could roll into your garage — and there’s nothing fake news about it.

Well, maybe just its nose — with that outrageous spindle grille smashing wind into particles as 6,000 lbs. of SUV follow it. You can slap a decadently sculpted hood on it, 20-in. wheels under it and gingerbread it with chrome and step bars, but it’s still a big truck, though it looks more like a Lexus with triple LED headlamps and LED taillamps.

Climb aboard to spoil thyself. It’s a bit of a heave to get inside, but once there, plant your rump on heated and ventilated front leather seats, grip the heated steering wheel and crank the crisp audio system. Second row passengers enjoy their own bun warmers and climate controls, housed in a fancy armrest. It’s a little tighter in the third-row, but adults fit for shorter trips. Available open pore walnut on the steering wheel, dash and doors adds ambience, as does soft ambient lighting. A large head-up display keeps drivers looking forward.

As in other Lexus models, infotainment is managed through a wide screen in the upper dashboard and controlled with a joystick in the console. It’s a bit much to use while going down the road but does provide comprehensive access to audio, climate control, navigation and vehicle settings. Radar adaptive cruise, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, rear cross path detection, blind spot warnings and around-view cameras enhance safety.

Mash pedals into plush carpeting to throw it forward. Kicking this goat in the shins is a 32-valve 5.7-liter V8 engine delivering 383 horsepower and 403 lb.-ft. of torque. That gets routed to the full-time 4-wheel-drive system through a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. The Plaza Hotel of trucks whooshes from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds on the way to a 137 mph top speed. Click onto trailers weighing up to 7,000 lbs. And, fuel economy? Heh, well, that’s cute. You’ll melt plastic given 13/18-MPG city/hwy.

Right in the beautiful wood panel across the wide center console is an array of buttons that would give jumbo jet pilots a fright. That’s how you control the chassis and powertrain like fine-tuning a string instrument… if a string instrument climbed mountains. Various buttons raise/lower the suspension, control the drive modes (adjusts throttle, steering and suspension from comfort to sport), configures the powertrain for varying terrain, and engages Crawl Control with Turn Assist for serious off-roading. The LX can even automatically adjust its height and suspension should you wish. Play it like Charlie Daniels, hoss!

The LX 570 is a formidable beast of a luxury SUV, but it isn’t without foibles. Adaptive suspension or not, it drives like the 6,000-lbs. truck it is. Corners aren’t attacked so much as careened. As is typical in serious off-road vehicles, the steering can feel a bit twitchy on paved roads. And there were strange vibrations from the audio system. It’s all minor stuff that reminds you of the LX’s serious capability.

Based on the thoroughly proven Toyota Land Cruiser, a fixture in the most inhospitable places on earth, the big Lexus gets it brawn genuinely. It’s as roomy and comfy as an LS sedan but can go places only serious off-road vehicles dare. Nothing fake about that! A base price of $84,980, or $93,360 as-tested, sets cleats against the Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Audi Q7, Lincoln Navigator, Range Rover and Infiniti QX80.