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2020 Lexus LC500h – The Most Beautiful Lexus Ever

2020 Lexus LC500h – The Most Beautiful Lexus Ever

Back in 2012, I remember seeing the achingly pretty LF-LC Concept. I thought, “Lexus will never build something that outrageous for the road.” I was dead wrong. Fast forward five years and I saw early models, re-monikered the LC 500, gliding along city streets. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a press loan. In October 2019, I got the opportunity to spend two full weeks with the gorgeous LC 500h.

EXTERIOR

Get ready for attention. While filling up somebody may saddle up to you and say, “Hey nice car, how long have you had it?” You may reply, “Not long, about a week.” He, a hard-working white-collared suburbanite, will look you up and down and silently wonder how an unshaven, rakish neerdowell can afford such a machine. He’ll wonder where his life went wrong as he climbs into is F-150 and stares longingly at the hard creased body and perfect proportions of the LC500.

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It’s a stunning thing to behold, and really the first design by Lexus that’s swept me away.  That’s why I assert that this is the most beautiful Lexus ever built. Now, you may be thinking, “What about the LFA, huh?” Well, perhaps you need a refresher. Go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait… See, I told you. While the LFA was certainly a departure in design terms, I don’t consider it beautiful.

The LC 500 looks like a low-production hyper-car. It’s classy too. It manages to be outstanding without being garish. There are no silly wings or splitters hanging off the front or rear to spoil the profile and you won’t find any day-glo accents. It’s simply a stunning shape.

Back

The LC 500 has a long low hood, sweeping A-pillars, and a neat little trunk space. It’s a formula for a sexy silhouette. It’s low, slinky and pinched in the middle, resulting in a slightly arched look. Like a cat ready to pounce. There are no odd angles to the car. From the front corner, it has no rival. The wheel design makes the optional 21 inch rims look even larger. They tuck perfectly within the wheel wells. Lastly, this is the first car I’ve seen where Lexus’ spindle grille really works.

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INTERIOR

The interior is lovely too. The materials are excellent and the execution is about as nice as you’ll find in any car. This is no surprise though, Lexus brought in the same craftsmen they employed for the LSA to do the finer work on the LC 500. It sounds nice too, this press car was fitted with the optional 13 speaker Mark Levinson audio system.

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The seats are firm and after about 350 miles you’ll feel it, but just look how pretty they are. The door panels feature a gorgeous sweeping design stitched into Alcantara, carbon fiber accents and bespoke Lexus branded fasteners.

INT 2

The 2020 LC500h features a 10.3 inch display controlled by Lexus’ baffling touchpad interface to control everything from the A/C to the navigation. It’s bizarre and nearly impossible to use. I didn’t figure out how to activate the heated and cooled seats for a week. But who cares? Look how pretty the car is.

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THE DRIVE 

In the two weeks, I had the car I made the drive from Dallas to Austin and back.  On-ramp acceleration is quick. Combined power from the dual electric motors and 3.5 liter V6 is 354 hp. That’s good for a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds. Faster than a 911 Carrera and only .2 slower than the 471 hp V8 LC 500.

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Power is transmitted to the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic combined with a CVT setup that acts like a ten-speed auto. It’s efficient too, Lexus claims the LC 500h gets 35 mpg on the highway and 27 around town. I didn’t keep that close an eye on the mileage numbers, but I can vouch for a 500 mile range before the fuel light comes on.

Mash the gas pedal and the LC 500h V6 leaps into a sonorous departure. The back end gives a subtle slither before the traction control engages to keep the nose pointed in the right direction. It’d be a pity to bend one of these beautiful fenders. When you’re not hotdogging around, the drive is smooth and quiet. Different drive modes change the ride from firm to supple. It’s an excellent interstate hauler and predictable handling makes winding back roads fun.

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On the hill country backroads outside Austin, there were ghostly quiet moments when EV mode would kick on at speed. Cruising over winding blacktop through pristine scenery when the engine cuts out and the electric motors silently waft the car along at 60 mph is my favorite memory driving the car.

THE DIRT

I don’t really know who this car is for. There are more comfortable, more sporty and less expensive cars. However, you’d be hard-pressed to buy anything this lovely to look at. It’s not only the best-looking Lexus ever built, it’s in the running for one of the best-looking things on four wheels made in the last two decades.

It has supermodel skin over a distance runner’s guts. The LC 500h has a sticker price of $97,000. When it’s dolled up the way this one is you’ll be out nearly $104k. That’s a whole lot of dough and makes this car the third member of the Dirt on Cars $100k club.

Last year, a Rembrandt doodle of a guy with a mustache sold for $80,000. This car, to my eye anyway, is much better looking and I challenge anyone to drive a Rembrandt etching at 100 miles per hour. I admit to being more than a little smitten with the LC-500’s looks. In my head, there’s a flow chart, where each path leads from a fault to the ultimate answer “But just look how pretty it is.”

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2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport – The Best ES Yet

2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport – The Best ES Yet

Now in its seventh iteration, the Lexus ES is better than ever. The first ES came out three decades ago in 1989. Back then they were built on the Camry platform. The newest ES shares a platform with Toyota’s excellent Avalon. Has the Lexus treatment improved Toyota’s recipe?

EXTERIOR

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This ES350 came off the assembly line in Georgetown, Kentucky sporting Ultrasonic Blue paint on its sheet metal skin. I was slow to warm up to the spindle grille, but now I think it looks pretty sharp.

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The roofline makes an arc that sweeps gracefully from the base of the windshield, up over the four doors, and terminates beneath a spoiler on top of the deck lid. The chrome molding around the windows is a nice touch, and it just enough bling. 19 inch F-Sport alloy wheels finished in gray offer a nice contrast to the intense blue.

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Lexus designers did a good job of developing the design theme on this car. Nothing looks out of proportion. And, rather wisely, they stayed away from a completely hard-edged motif. The problem with blocky designs for cars is that they’ll never be totally cohesive. There are certain elements that must be organic. Until we figure out square wheels, I fear we are beholden to at least some rounded features.

 

INTERIOR

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The gauge cluster in front of the driver mimics the hourglass shape of the grille. The driver’s feet are treated to aluminum pedals thanks to the F-Sport package. And everyone’s ears are treated to the 10 speaker Lexus premium sound system. The screen in the dash is lovely, both for its size, 12.3 inches, and its resolution. It’s also nice to see that Lexus has adopted Apple Carplay. I did notice a little distortion 10.2 inch wide heads up display, making this $500 option a questionable value. To be fair though, this is the first time I’ve noticed it in a Lexus product.

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The build quality inside this ES is better than ever. And whether you like red skins on the seats or not, the excellent execution of these seats is undeniable. Everything you touch feels good. In the past, for whatever reason, Lexus’ shift knobs were never tight. They would always spin in your hand. After you buy this Lex though, you can tell all your friends about its nice tight knob.

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There’s a lot to like inside, from the embossed headrests to the tasteful detail stitching on the dash and door panels. One particular detail I liked fixated on is the elegant shape of these door handles. It’s a small thing but it’s one we touch every time we drive. What can I say, I’m a sucker for hardware.

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DRIVE

The ES350 has a 3.5 liter, dual overhead cam V8 that churns out 302 horsepower and makes a particularly mellifluous noise while doing it.  It’s smart too. Variable valve timing allows this engine to switch between the Atkinson cycle, which holds the exhaust valves open just a bit longer for better fuel economy, and the old fashion Otto cycle for power. Passing power is excellent but don’t you try any shenanigans in this car.

Even with all the nanny controls turned off the Lexus slaps your wrist if you flat foot it from a stop. This car has the power to lay parallel rubber lines for half a city block. But Lexus engineers didn’t think that was an essential part of a luxury car’s disposition. When the traction control takes hold it doesn’t just turn down the volume, it shuts down the party and sends everybody home. Rather than tapering off the power it shuts it down pretty abruptly. I mean, what’s the point of having all those ponies under the hood and enduring the so-so fuel economy if you can’t let them run?

The ES350 is exceptionally quiet and comfortable to ride it. It has a truck-load of bells and whistles to keep occupants safe too. Radar cruise, airbags crammed into every cranny, pre-collision system, the gang is all here. Plus the F-Sport trim comes with tuned suspension including performance dampers.

 

THE DIRT

The MSRP on a new ES350 is $44,035. But if you want the F-Sport trim all gussied up like this test car, it’ll set you back $52,904. That’s a considerable pile of scratch. But if it must be luxurious and it must be Japanese, then perhaps it must be this car. If I were in the market, I’d probably go with the ES300h hybrid rather than be teased by that great lump of power under the hood that I can’t use. Perhaps there was a hiccup during my transition from being a child to adulthood, but I don’t like being told what to do, even by a car. Realistically though, who would buy a buttoned-down, mid-sized luxury sedan to do something as juvenile and uncouth as turning tires into white smoke?

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2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid – A Silky Smooth Fuel Sipper

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid – A Silky Smooth Fuel Sipper

For 2019, Toyota unveiled the latest generation of their largest sedan. This fifth generation Avalon has grown both in proportion and refinement. This is the second ’19 Avalon I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. I was smitten with previous car’s excellent 301 horsepower V6. Read that review here. But how does the hybrid version measure up?

INTERIOR

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Inside, the 14-speaker JBL stereo, infotainment and navigation are all controlled with the nine inch touch screen set in a waterfall console that cascades from the dash down to fill the space between the seats. Apple Carplay makes connecting your phone seamless.  In a hidden cubby forward of the gear shift is a Qi wireless charging pad. There are up-market touches in the door panels, seats and console.

I’m a sucker for a peanut butter colored interior. So, of course, I felt immediately attracted to the color of this car’s upholstery. Upon looking closer, it’s evident that Toyota is taking their fit and finish seriously. There are exactly zero squeaks or rattles. Gaps are consistent and the materials used have a quality feel. The beautiful arced pleats in the door panels are sewn with two different colors threads. This means someone made a decision to deliberately complicate the manufacturing process. Why? ‘Cause it looks cool.

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The front ventilated and heated seats offer eight-way power adjustment and customizable lumbar support for both driver and passenger. There’s plenty of room for heads and legs up front. The seat inserts are perforated in a dashing starfield pattern.

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The rear seats have ample leg and headroom. There’s even plenty of room to forget your camera bag in the passenger footwell as you photograph the car for your website, you know, like a professional.

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EXTERIOR

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The new Avalon grew in nearly every direction. It’s longer, wider and heavier. It’s also slightly more aerodynamic than the last generation. The low hood and high trunk give a slightly sporty look to the car’s profile. Spindly A and C pillars give the roofline a delicate appearance and make for good driver visibility. The grille design and the chiseled body lines on the car’s flanks are in step with current automotive design trends. Time will tell if they hold up or date the car. This car is fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels which look pretty sharp.

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The hybrid’s single exhaust outlet is tucked up out of sight behind the rear bumper cover.

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DRIVE

Rather than 301 hp V6, this hybrid version has 2.5 liter gas-burner that works with an electric motor. The power makes its way to the wheels through an electronic continuously variable transmission. The steering feel is light. Click it into sport mode and the car tightens up. Throw it into a curve with gusto and the tires may protest but the car holds a line with no drama.

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Off-the-line acceleration is adequate, hauling the car from 0 to 60 in 7.8. seconds. Where this car shines though is the pull from 60 mph. Put the pedal down and you’ve got passing power on tap. This car came outfitted with the optional$1,150 advanced safety package that includes features like bird’s eye view and cross traffic alert. The hybrid system lets this big sedan get 43 mpg around town and on the highway.

THE DIRT

There are those who would argue new cars suffer from a lack of character. “It’s just an appliance,” they say. Well, I drive both sides of that coin. My ’49 Ford is silly with character. Because of this wealth of character, I don’t drive it too far outside the radius of free towing that my insurance company offers. And it’s in its character to occasionally respond to the application of pressure to the brake pedal with indifference. It has no air conditioning, no airbags, and seatbelts that I had to bolt in myself. There’s a cute nickname for the non-collapsible steering column like the one in my Ford. They’re referred to as a spear of death.  The transmission is only three forward speeds and I dare not push the ancient flathead V8 above about 60 mph because I know deep down that the bottom end is just waiting for an excuse to grenade, and blast FOMOCO labeled shrapnel through the oil pan.

On the other end of the bell curve is the Avalon. It’s slick to operate, gets 400 miles to a tank, and the fit and finish on the inside make you wonder why anyone would spend more for the Lexus equivalent. Jump in, push the button and the car wakes up ready to go. On the road, it treats occupants to an almost absurdly quiet ride. There’s so much to like about the interior, it makes your commute a pleasure rather than something to be endured. As tested this Avalon will set you back $44,870.  I tend to think everything is too expensive no matter the price, but after spending the week in this ride, I think it’s worth the money.

If it really is just conveyance appliance, then it’s a damn nice one. And if I had to pick just one car. I’d take the comfort, convenience and reliablity of this appliance over my character car without hesitation. Thankfully I don’t have to choose.

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