Adaptive cruise control is all the rage. Seems every car is getting it nowadays, and our test Lexus GS F-SPORT is no exception. I recently got to use it for the first time, not just in the Lexus, but ever. And I felt stupid.
The idea behind adaptive cruise control is a sound one: The car shoots out a SONAR-like wave ahead of itself, and when it senses traffic in your lane is moving slower than your cruise control setting, it automatically slows down the car to stop you from running up under the person ahead. On crowded interstate highways or local divided four-lanes, this can be a true blessing. It stops that awkward “…but I don’t wanna shut off the cruise by tapping the brakes” moment. We’ve all been there. Don’t act like you haven’t.
Anyway, I was driving down the main four-lane divided artery through my region of the country on a busy Saturday night, and it was the first time I had set the cruise control on our Lexus GS F-SPORT test car. I’ve never been a fan of cruise control setups like the GS has, where the cruise stalk sticks out awkwardly at an angle toward the bottom right of the wheel. For one, those stalks always look kind of aftermarket to me, and for another thing, the stalk isn’t lit up like the cruise buttons found on many car steering wheel spokes, making it more difficult to ensure you punch in the correct function in the dark. However, given the GS F-SPORT’s preponderance of cool functional buttons on the wheel spokes and the two major stalks on the steering column (left for lights and signals, right for wipers– including automatic rain-sensing function), I quickly learned how to manipulate the little cruise stalk, despite it being dark-thirty on a crowded highway.
Coming up behind a slightly slower-moving Geo Tracker (remember those?!?) the adaptive cruise kicked in. And stupidly, I didn’t even realize it. There is a graphic in the central gauge display to let you know when adaptive cruise is active, showing an image of the Lexus with a road lane ahead of it. When another car is ahead of you and close enough to kick in the adaptive cruise feature, it shows an image of another car on the little display as well. Yet for a couple miles there, I was following this car at 52 MPH even though my cruise was set at 55 MPH. I only realized this once I glanced at my speedometer and saw it resting at 50 MPH indicated.
Long story short, I checked my blind spot, signaled, and got into the passing lane, and the cruise accelerated the Lexus back up to 55 MPH, allowing me to pull off a somewhat-lazy pass of the Tracker.
I chalk that up to a learning experience. As I said, it was my first time using an adaptive cruise control system. After that first time, I was better able to feel the system “kick in” and slow the Lexus down as we approached cars ahead in our lane, find myself a hole to get out in the passing lane, and make a pass at my original cruise speed.
One nice thing the adaptive cruise system does that I hadn’t previously thought about: It gives you adequate cushion when someone cuts over in your lane too soon after passing, as another vehicle did. This is another one of those dicey “but I don’t wanna shut the cruise off by tapping the brake” moments we all run into from time to time.
Bottom line: Even though I looked like a total noob for a couple miles there, I’m starting to like adaptive cruise as much as I’m starting to like the Lexus GS F-SPORT.
Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.