The navigation system in the 2014 Lexus IS 350C, my test vehicle during the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, offered three options for driving from Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte during stage 2 of the weeklong pro bike race.
The shortest route, about four hours, first took me about eight miles to Aspen, the start of stage 2 and the location of the finish of stage 1.
Navigation system quality varies greatly, but the main priorities are intuitive, accurate directions, a crisp viewing screen, easy of getting instructions and prompt re-routing directions.
Bike races often require closed roads in starting and finishing cities, and that’s what occurred approaching Aspen. The downtown section was blocked off in a multiple-block radius.
The navigation system couldn’t have known about the temporary road blocks, so I used my instinct, watched for road signs and didn’t listen to the navigation system’s instructions.
Once past the starting area of the race, the navigation didn’t recalculate for the alternative route for several miles. Perhaps it was because of an elevation approaching 10,000 feet and thick forest of Aspen trees limiting the GPS coordinates.
Once en route, the directions took me on a winding, narrow in Hwy. 82 over Independence Pass, at slightly more than 12,000 feet of elevation. The navigation system briefly lost its mapping from time to time as the road tucked tightly in the rock formations. But once engaged again, the directions and the visibility of the split screen option I used worked well.
Some navigation systems, in my opinion, don’t offer instructions quick enough. But the Lexus system offered turning instructions a half-mile in advance. With the next turn imminent, a second instruction followed with a short “bing.”
After coming off Independence Pass, I stopped in Granite, a hamlet on the side of the road on Hwy. 24 with about six homes, a rafting company, an out-of-gas gas station and the Sage Cafe.
After a 30-minute breakfast break, I continued the drive to Mt. Crested Butte. Ten miles later in Buena Vista, I stopped for my first fill-up of the trip. The Lexus IS 350 C, a V6 with 306 horsepower and a shiftable, six-speed automatic transmission, is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the freeway.
Through three days of the USA Pro Challenge, I’ve driven on steep mountain roads, long highway stretches and several short journeys on city streets. I began my week in Denver at around 5,000 feet and spent the last two days driving between 8,000 and 12,000 feet. I’ve frequently used the air conditioner.
My fill-up was 13.0 gallons of unleaded at 3.79 per gallon for a total of $49.39. I’d driven 325 miles, resulting in 25.0 mpg.