Sunday Group Drive: Long Loop to Lynx Lake, Arizona
Odometer (Legend): 533,182
Odometer (ILX): 123,824
Trip Distance: 243 Miles
“My Bugles spilled all over!”
That was James’ flustered exclamation immediately upon exiting his Ultrasonic Blue Mica Lexus NX200t on a pullout of Highway 89 on Sunday morning. This particular road is unlike most of our state highways for a few reasons: It delivers seemingly endless twists and turns, the corners are banked, and the pavement conditions are as smooth as can be. For any car enthusiast, all those factors can only mean one thing: Wheeeeee!
So, as James took the corners aggressively in his “cute-ute” SUV to keep up with me in the ILX and Peter in his 3-series station wagon, his open bag of Bugles chips that was sitting on the floor repeatedly got rolled over by a rogue water bottle. And James, hands white-knuckling the wheel at 10:00 and 2:00 positions, was powerless to stop it from scattering crumbs all over the place in the process.
It was all worth it, and this Sunday drive did not disappoint. This was a small group with 3 unique luxury cars:
- 2002 BMW 325iT (Peter) – $36,250 as tested
- 5-speed manual
- Sport, Premium, and Cold Weather packages
- 2.5 liter Inline-6
- 189 horsepower
- 190,155 miles
- 2013 Acura ILX (Tyson) – $31,980 as tested
- 6-speed manual
- 2.4 liter 4-cylinder
- 201 horsepower
- 123,824 miles
- 2015 Lexus NX200t (James) – $43,398 as tested
- 6-speed automatic
- F SPORT and Navigation packages
- 2.0 liter 4-cylinder
- 235 horsepower
- 2,901 miles
From our home base in Scottsdale, we made our way northbound (Loop 101 -> Interstate 17 -> Highway 74 -> Highway 60) and our first stop was for fuel and snacks at the Mobil gas station in Wickenburg. That’s where James got ahold of those Bugles which later became the strewn-about crumbs in his back seat.
Peter’s 5-speed 3-series took the lead with Jack playing the role as copilot. As soon as traffic and road conditions permitted, the white station wagon quickly left me in its dust. Thanks to its custom upgraded H&R Sport suspension and 18″ low-profile tires, the BMW was well-suited for the twists & turns of Highway 89. The ILX, too, seemed to be right at home in that environment. Jack drove it for a stretch and commented on how superior Honda’s stick-shifts are. (A shame, since as of the 2016 model year, Acura has nixed the option). Between Wickenburg and Prescott, the highway ascended about 3,300 feet in elevation; rowing between 3rd and 4th gears it was fun to hold the motor in the higher RPM range and make use of VTEC technology.
Prescott welcomed us with light rains, refreshing pine-scented air, and cool mountain temperatures. There was only thing one left to make it a perfect road trip: tasty food. And for that, we went to the Lone Spur Cafe on Gurney Street in historic downtown Prescott.
Since it would be on our way home anyway, we decided to hit up Lynx Lake for a few pictures. I last visited both Lynx and Watson lakes in the Prescott area in February in the ILX. When we turned off Highway 69 at Walker Road, I noticed that there were even a few snowflakes on the roadside as we headed toward the south shore of Lynx. We were glad to have sweatshirts. I know all my readers up north are rolling their eyes at how we Arizonans crank our seat heaters to “HI” when the temperature dips below about 70 degrees.
James let me take the wheel of the Lexus for the drive home from there.
Coming from a lower-slung sporty sedan, I expected the NX to be a little less agile around the corners due to its higher center of gravity. What I instead discovered was that the NX “thinks” it’s a car, and behaves accordingly. If I had closed my eyes while driving (not recommended!), I could have easily mistaken the ride & feel for a sedan, and that is impressive considering the vehicle’s heft and profile.
Lexus tries hard to put all the controls at optimal locations. I noticed that the cruise control stalk (tucked away behind the lower right side of the steering wheel) is the same one that my mom’s 2003 Lexus GS430 had. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix/change it! The rest of the cabin is a nice place to spend time. I liked the red stitching on the dashboard (part of the F SPORT package) and the abundance of soft-touch materials surrounding the driver.
Among other adds for F SPORT are the sport-tuned suspension (which we definitely put to work), perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel, cornering front fog & driving lamps, special door scuff plates, and active sound control (“ASC”). That feature is a bit of an oddity: It’s a dial mounted to the dashboard below the steering wheel that controls the level/intensity of engine sound coming into the cabin. Oddly enough, the NX even has a G-meter. Those are all nice efforts to make the vehicle fun and sporty, but something tells me its primary buyers are folks who probably aren’t going to care. I picture the NX spending more time fighting for parking spaces at the mall than doing any kind of technical driving. I have to wonder how the NX would fare on an extreme road like Bloody Basin.
All-in, I enjoyed driving the NX200t more than I thought I would. At 80 mph on the freeway, there was almost undetectable wind noise. We streamed Bluetooth audio from James’ iPhone and the 8-speaker audio system rocks out (thanks for reminding me that Bloodhound Gang exists!). We got dumped on by a cloudburst coming down a curvy section of Interstate 17 between Sunset Point and Black Canyon City. Even though the NX was wearing summer tires, traction was grippy and confidence-inspiring. The windshield wipers (front and rear) did a great job of sweeping away the rains and I must say I really enjoyed the higher ride height of a crossover and the visibility it gave to what was going on around me.
Many thanks to James, Peter, and Jack for coming along and to the folks at Toyota/Lexus for giving James access to that sweet NX so it could join us for the drive. That about wraps it up for this weekend’s adventure. Thanks as always for coming along! Photo gallery below.
Westbound on Highway 74, following the Lexus
Peter’s E46 takes the lead
ILX spotted in the sideview mirror of the NX
Just about to start our climb from Wickenburg to Prescott
Mile marker near Yarnell on Highway 89
Quick pullout off the highway
Arrival in Prescott
Walking a few blocks to our lunch spot at Lone Spur Cafe
Lunch bunch at Lone Spur
Peter knew just the right angles to get on his wagon pictures
Lining up the cars
And hey, check out this milestone I hit a few days ago! 123,456! If it had been one degree warmer, it could have almost been a perfect capture.