The launch of the second-generation XC90 marked the beginning of a new era for Volvo a couple of years ago. The XC90 is the first model to ride on the company’s all-new scalable product architecture (SPA), the first all-new platform to come from Gothenburg since Ford sold the Swedish brand to China’s Geely in 2010. After initially being available only with boosted four-cylinder engines, the XC90 is now the first regular production plug-in model Volvo is offering in America and I recently spent a week driving one.
Through the 1970s and early-1980s, three Japanese companies, Toyota, Nissan and Honda upended the American automotive industry. With the help of lower manufacturing costs in Japan and favorable exchange rates, they entered at the low end of the market and offered consumers, affordable, higher-quality and more efficient cars than they could get from Detroit. After gradually filling in their lineups from the bottom up, by the end of the decade, all three were ready to expand into more premium offerings. After Honda launched Acura in 1986, Toyota and Nissan brought us Lexus and Infiniti three years later. Thanks mainly to the flagship Lexus LS sedan, the premium car market has never been the same and I recently spent a week with the latest edition of the LS460 AWD to see how it has progressed in 25 years.
After debuting in 1989 with two sedans, the Camry-based ES250 and the big rear-wheel drive LS400, Lexus began to grow its lineup in 1991 with the sleek and stylish SC400. The original SC had a nine-year run before being replaced by a the bloated and lifeless second-generation model which is best forgotten. Now, after a suitable cooling off period, Lexus has returned to its roots with a new coupe more in keeping with the original and it gets a new RC badge. Does the 2015 RC350 F-Sport take Lexus in a new direction? Read on.