2013 Lexus GS 350: Van Horn, Texas To Home
March 5, 2013
This road trip has been great, and the 2013 Lexus GS 350 was a good choice, but I'm ready to be home.
So I'm getting up at sunrise and hammering out the remaining 909 miles in one go. I'll get there after dark, sure, but tomorrow night I want to sleep in my own bed.
But I'm still in Texas. I need to finish up here, and then tackle New Mexico, Arizona and California before I get back within whiffing distance of the Pacific Ocean in Orange County.
I have two things going for me. Two things that will get me home by my usual bedtime. I'll gain two hours as I cross from Central to Mountain to Pacific time during the day, and only the last couple hundred miles in California will be posted below 75 mph.
In the context of a 12-14-hour day, it doesn't take long to get across the border into New Mexico. It's still a couple hours to lunch and I need miles, so the weapons-grade Las Cruces enchiladas I was hoping for will have to wait for another time.
This far south the Continental Divide is nothing more than a sign. There's no dramatic ridge of mountains, no fanfare. A curio shop with a dilapidated Styrofoam teepee is about it.
Think my new "Can you tow it behind a motorhome" series is superfluous? This morning I've seen dozens of rigs like this as I cross New Mexico and approach Arizona. The snowbirds are out in force.
Before I know it the Arizona state line looms ahead. I'm only a third of the way home. Just over 600 miles remain.
Just as I pass through Benson, Arizona, it starts to rain, then hail. Within three minutes it's snowing. I slow to 50 mph, then 35 mph. Visibility isn't good enough to see the topography ahead or the horizon, but I know I'm climbing.
The Tucson weather forecast looked fine this morning, but between Benson and Tucson there's a high point that's apparently outside of the forecast area. How high? Can't recall. How far ahead is the summit? No idea.
These questions matter because I'm caught off guard on the GS 350's summer tires. And they're starting to slither around sickeningly as the temperature drops and the snow accumulation builds.
The on-board temperature gauge sits at 32 degrees but, for the moment, doesn't drop further.
Should I turn back? Is it going to get worse ahead?
I consult the Lexus navigation system, but it's no help. Unlike a paper map, there's no topographic representation, no summit or pass icon with a corresponding elevation mark. The road is depicted simply as a thick ribbon through a field of white that tells me nothing of value.
Does the road climb for a long ways, in which case there'll be more snow and colder temperatures ahead? Maybe the high point is a half-mile ahead and I'll soon start to drive downhill out of this. I'm simply not familiar enough with this area to know.
So I call my wife and ask her to see if she can get elevations on Google earth. I pinpoint my location with an exit sign and we soon figure out I'm within a couple of miles of the high point. It will plateau for several miles before dropping into the Tucson basin.
The snowfall rate hasn't increased, the temperature is still stuck at 32 degrees and the summer tires have only scared me once, so I press on.
After ten minutes or so the accumulated snow turns to slush, then mere wet asphalt. The temperature comes up above freezing a bit and the snow melts as it hits my windscreen. I bring my speed up once more and set the cruise control.
It won't work. There's an error message: "Cruise control not available."
I have a hunch. The adaptive cruise control sensor is probably encrusted with ice. No problem. This cruise control can be put in normal mode, too.
First you turn it on in the default adaptive mode, then you push the lever forward to cancel...
Oh, wait. If I can't engage adaptive cruise, I'm unable to cancel it in order to get into regular mode. So even the non-adaptive cruise control mode is unavailable. That's smart.
So I pull over and stop. The ball of ice I expected to see is melting, but the sensor that's built into the Lexus badge is still mostly covered.
It takes seconds to knock off the chunk. As expected, cruise control function is fully restored.
In Tucson the roads are dry and the temperature is close to what I saw in the forecast. Ninety minutes later I reach Phoenix at rush hour just as another cold squall rolls through. It's raining hard. Traffic comes to a dead stop and the red traffic line on the nav screen marches far ahead. Great, I'm going the same direction as the prevailing afternoon commute.
I exit the next freeway and use parallel side streets just to feel like I'm making progress. It mostly works, I think. You can rarely tell if the other option would have been better. Best not to think about it.
Just west of town I stop for a stretch, some gas and a burrito. The storm and the traffic put me behind schedule, though. Time for a quick picture then it's time to move on.
Will this trip never end? I'm ready to be there, already. In my boredom I call up the GPS speedometer on the iPhone to see if the Lexus' speedometer is on the mark or not.
They match perfectly.
I can barely remember the last miles, and by the time I get home I forget to take an end-of-trip picture as I fill the tank one last time at my local station around the corner. You'll have to take my word for it when I say the Lexus doesn't look all that dirty. There's more gunk on the floor mats than the paint. Must be the dark silver paint.
I could tell you about how much I enjoyed this trip, how much I enjoyed the 2013 Lexus GS 350, but I'm pooped. I'll sum up the fuel economy picture and any likes and dislikes that haven't already surfaced another time. Now, it's time to hit the sheets.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 13,176 miles