BY ROGER WITHERSPOON
Peel me a grape, crush me some ice
Skin me a peach, save the fuzz for my pillow
Talk to me nice, talk to me nice
You’ve got to wine me, and dine me
Don’t try to fool me, bejewel me.
Either amuse me, or lose me
I’m getting hungry,
Peel me a grape.
The highway was empty, the road was hard and dry, and the New England sun was setting in a warm, orange cloudscape that seemed out of season on a cold winter night.
My wife leaned forward in the passenger seat, her head cocked at an angle, listening intently. She glanced periodically at the back seat through eyes that were at half mast as she nodded to the beat of the music. She had heard Diana Krall croon “Peel Me a Grape” before. But not like this.
Pop me a cork, French me a fry
Crack me a nut bring a bowl full of bon-bons
Chill me some wine. Keep standing by
Just entertain me. Champagne me
Show me you love me. Kid glove me
Best way to cheer me. Cashmere me
I’m getting hungry.
“I don’t understand,” said Marilyn in a voice barely above a whisper, as if trying not to interrupt a performance. “It sounds like we’re in a live cabaret, and she’s in the back seat. How is that possible?”
“Well,” I whispered back, so as not to break the mood. “It’s an 845-watt sound system, and there are 17 speakers and a sound leveler to balance the music coming to each seat.”
“Aaaah,” she sighed. “That explains it. We don’t have 17 speakers in our whole house.”
At that point, the pianist and bassist took off in a tight, syncopated dance of their own – each note, crisp, clear, soft, and the vibrations from the bass could be felt through the thick leather padding in the Lexus’ arm rests. She was so engrossed in the private concert that she didn’t notice the speedometer had crept to 110 – an occupational hazard when driving a musically enhanced living room. Instead of admonishing me to slow down or commenting on the absence of wind noise inside the sedan, she closed her eyes, sighed and said “play it again.”
And the voice-activated audio system did just that.
Send out for scotch, boil me a crab
Cut me a rose make my tea with the petals
Just hang around, pick up the tab and
Never out think me. Just mink me,
Polar bear rug me. Don’t bug me
New Thunderbird me. You heard me
I’m getting hungry.
Peel me a grape.
One doesn’t buy a car for the amenities.
But if you are going to shell out more than $60,000 for a sedan, you have a right to expect a lot more than basic, comfortable transportation. The Lexus GS-350 is a sport sedan aimed squarely at the upscale, market regularly patrolled by the BMW 535i, Mercedes E-350, Cadillac CTS, and Audi A6. It’s a tough crowd with cars justly known for performance and very high levels of comfort. In this case, the high quality sound system is just one of many items Lexus hopes will let the GS stand out in a demanding marketplace.
So far, Lexus’ designers seem to be doing something right. According to surveys of owner satisfaction conducted by J.D. Powers and Associates, Lexus is the highest ranking, high end nameplate in 2012, followed by Jaguar, Porsche, Cadillac and Honda, in that order. That’s a tough crowd to lead, and aside from the price, they have nothing in common.
The look of the GS starts with its split, black, angular grill featuring sharp edges pointing towards the center and flaring widely towards the bottom. It’s an image vaguely reminiscent of ancient Samurai headgear, which flares towards the neck and shoulders. From that aggressive face follows a sleek, flowing silhouette, with soft lines along the sides resembling the tracery of water droplets across a fast-moving plane. The lines aren’t all for subliminal design – they serve to channel the airflow past the car and are part of the reason the interior is a silent theater.
Under that sloping hood is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine capable of cranking out 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. That places the Lexus about in the middle of t the V-6 power plants of the BMW 535i, Mercedes E350, Cadillac CTS, and Audi A6, which put out between 300 and 310 horsepower. And with a top speed of 142 miles per hour, the Lexus is likely to run with, rather than ahead of its competitors.
On the road the Lexus, with all wheel drive, yields nothing to its competitors in terms of performance. It has a six-speed automatic transmission which shifts without any noticeable or audible lag. And for an extra boost in passing, particularly uphill, there is a sport manual mode and paddle shifts on the steering column providing the type of instant response one finds in a quality sports car.