Photography by ©2016 Jessica Lynn Walker unless otherwise credited to ©2016 Toni Avery
Late last year, Lexus brought out some of the most influential women in the automotive and lifestyle world to experience its two highest performance cars in the lineup on track. It also didn’t hurt that we stayed at the beautiful Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage, CA.
I left that event thinking the next one couldn’t possibly get any better. This year, Lexus brought out that same group of women plus some new additions to experience the best in the SUV lineup, on and off-road. And while the Ritz was completely spectacular, the stunning Brasada Ranch in Oregon we would call home for two days just might take the cake.
Before all the driving excitement, we had the opportunity to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenic surrounds. Later, we listened to a presentation on the Lexus Eco Challenge and were encouraged to create our own mini challenges in small groups. After, we took a short walk to a wonderful dinner at the resorts restaurant.
GX 460 Basic Specs:
Luxury Midsized Sport Utility Vehicle
Performance – 4.6 L V8 301 HP & 329 lb-ft of torque
2014 Design update – Spindle grille, LED lighting, new multimedia system and safety technologies
Day two was full of driving adventures. We were split off into two large groups and mine was first to participate in the off-road course. We headed off in the 2016 GX 460 and put it through its paces. Having not taken part in too many off-road courses, I was a bit nervous, but the professionally trained instructors and two encouraging passengers put my fears to rest.
While the trail wasn’t incredibly challenging, I found the GX’s off-road capabilities quite impressive. The GX I drove was equipped with Downhill Assist Control (DAC), which is a braking function that helps the vehicle to maintain slow, steady progress when descending steep grades with the transmission in low range. DAC worked without a hitch down the steep grades the course took us on. Using this function does take a bit of getting used to simply because of the noise it makes while in use. It’s not pleasant and actually sounds like something isn’t working properly. But that’s what you should expect to hear when using DAC.
Even with the amount of rocks and uneven trail, the GX smoothly drove over each obstacle with ease. And while it was dusty and warm outside, the cabin kept us cool and dirt free.
RX 350 Basic Specs:
Luxury Midsize Crossover
Performance – 3.5 L V6 295 HP & 267 lb-ft of torque
2016 redesign offers Lexus Safety System + package of advanced driver support
After a couple of hours on the off-road course, we stopped for lunch and then headed out in our road cars for the scenic portion of the day. We hoped into a 2016 RX 350 (car shown in photos is an F-Sport).
The long, two-hour drive didn’t seem to take that long thanks to the gorgeous scenery and good conversation inside the car. On the way to stop one, I was first to drive the RX and wanted to see how it compared to the NX I tested a while back. It doesn’t feel quite as nimble or quick, but the interior space and exterior design is definitely on par with the NX. It took to corners nicely and didn’t seem to suffer from too much body lean for an SUV.
Our first stop was at a stunning river. We stayed for a few minutes, taking some photos, before venturing off to our next stop. Stop number two took us into a small town where a newly renovated Inn, welcomed us with treats and refreshments. Heading back to the ranch, we had some more quality time in the RX before ending the drive portion of the day.
The day ended with round-table type discussion with two powerful women business owners. One, a wine maker local to the area and the other, a woman who studies women as consumers. Hearing these women speak lead to over an hour of interesting discussions among the group about what makes women such powerful influencers and decision makers in automotive and other marketplaces.
Dinner capped off the night with even more wonderful discussions among the group. While I thoroughly enjoyed the track time and resort on the last Heels and Wheels trip, I felt that the overall experience and quality time with each of the women on this trip was even better this time around.