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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.

Int 1

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 HONDA CR-V LX – BASE MODELS NEED LOVE, TOO

2019 HONDA CR-V LX – BASE MODELS NEED LOVE, TOO

I’m dating myself here, but when I started driving, a vehicle that had an automatic transmission, air conditioner, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, and a cassette player was considered “loaded”. Add in power locks and windows and you had a “hard loaded” model. If you had remote keyless entry and anti-lock brakes, you had a luxury car. These days, all of those features and more are ubiquitous. Most of us wouldn’t think about buying a new vehicle without air conditioning. Having to roll down a window by turning a crank is considered an embarrassing hardship!

I recently had the rare opportunity to experience a base model Honda CR-V. It hasn’t been too many years ago that a base model vehicle was equipped with only minimum levels of safety equipment and very few comfort or convenience items. The CR-V LX is a base model that I could actually enjoy.

Manufacturers typically populate their press fleets with the highest trim level of each model which gives the reviewers an opportunity to evaluate all of a vehicle’s features and experience the best a model has to offer. While the top trim levels may be the fastest, best looking, and have the most features, most buyers don’t choose those higher-priced trims. Instead, they opt for the lower-cost middle and lower trims.

EXTERIOR

From the outside, there’s little to distinguish a base LX from a top-of-the-line Touring trim aside from black door handles and some black trim pieces instead of body-colored or chrome. Even the LX has nice-looking alloy wheels instead of the plastic wheel covers that are common on entry-level trims. Unless a person is a Honda CR-V aficionado, they’re unlikely to identify the LX as a base model.

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I’m accustomed to driving vehicles that automatically unlock when you grab the door handles, so it took me a moment to realize the CR-V LX isn’t equipped with such a feature. I had to pull the remote out of my pocket and push a button before I was granted access to the inside if the CR-V.

INTERIOR

Once inside, the differences in materials and features become more apparent. I was expecting to see a boring, monochromatic interior filled with the same color and texture of hard plastic. To my pleasant surprise, I found a durable-looking and comfortable cloth seat material, with contrasting plastic textures and colors.

The next step was starting the vehicle. I instinctively reached for a start button, but there wasn’t one. I would need a physical key before getting any further. Unfortunately, I had placed the remote back into my pocket after unlocking the door and was now forced to dig back into my pocket for the magic key for a second time. One thing I like about the ”old” key-based system in the LX is that I can shut then engine off while still listening to the radio or talking over Bluetooth. On the higher trims with pushbutton start, you have to shut everything off then push the start button again without pressing the brake pedal to put the vehicle into accessory mode which drops the Bluetooth connection and reboots the audio system.

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Finally, the hard part was over! I turned the key and the CR-V’s venerable 2.4L non-turbocharged engine started breathing on its own with a familiar sound shared with Honda models of yore. It quietly and smoothly idled with refinement and precision as I familiarized myself with the other controls. The gauges are a combination of analog and monochrome digital instead of the color LCD display used on higher trims, but all the information you need is there – including a trip computer.

There are no power seats in the LX, but the driver’s seat is manually adjustable in all the normal ways including for height and recline. Most vehicles I’ve owned have had power seats and once I set them that’s where they stay…forever. Admittedly, I’m usually the only driver, but even in situations where there are multiple drivers, it’s actually faster to pull a lever and move the seat manually than it is to push a button and wait for electric motors to do the job.

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Power door locks, windows, and mirrors are standard. The steering wheel adjusts for height and also telescopes. The cloth-covered center armrest slides forward. Although the vanity mirrors on the visors aren’t lighted, at least it has mirrors so you don’t have to yank down the rearview mirror or stare creepily into the side mirrors while picking spinach out of your teeth.

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Once I found a comfortable driving position, it was time to set a comfortable temperature. The CR-V LX is equipped with automatic climate control so you just set your desired temperature and let it do the rest. It’s only a single-zone system, but as long as both the driver and passenger are warm-blooded creatures, that shouldn’t present too much of a problem. Besides, who wants to deal with a thunderstorm in the middle of a vehicle where the cold and warm fronts meet! There are A/C vents on the back of the center console and heater ducts under the front seats for rear passengers.

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Next comes the audio system. With large touch screens and satellite radio being so common these days, the small color display in the CR-V’s AM/FM-only audio system felt neutered. Pairing my phone to the vehicle via Bluetooth was easy. Bluetooth works for both phone calls and music, so I was able to listen my music library and stream my favorite stations. After some adjustments to the bass, midrange, and treble, I was pleasantly surprised just how good the base-level audio system sounds. A pair of tweeters mounted higher up would be a welcome addition, but I found the sound quality to be more than adequate for phone calls, audiobooks, podcasts, and casual music listening.

THE BUSINESS END

One of the primary reasons for purchasing an SUV is cargo capacity. You won’t be fitting any 4×8 sheets of plywood in the back of a CR-V, but you could possibly shoehorn a 75” TV in the back at a creative angle. If you are interested saving money on a hotel, couples up to 6 feet tall can fit in the rear with the back seats folded down and the head rests turned around to serve as pillows. And, not that it’s necessarily related, but there’s an actual spare tire instead of an inflator kit back there! 

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DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

With everything adjusted to my liking, it was time for takeoff. I placed the dash-mounted shift lever in reverse and was greeted by a small, but clear rearview image on the audio system’s color screen. The guidelines are fixed rather than dynamic, but at least you can see what you’re about to back into. Once I had the nose pointed in the right direction, I shifted to drive and pressed the accelerator pedal. The CR-V’s continuously variable transmission brought the vehicle to cruising speed with no drama whatsoever. Unlike some, I’ve always appreciated the shiftless feel and efficiency of.a CVT – particularly for relaxed driving. Sure, I wouldn’t have one in a sports car or rock crawler, but that’s not what the CR-V is all about.

The 2019 CR-V LX is the last Honda model available with the 2.4L non-turbocharged engine, so if you’re not a fan of turbochargers, you better grab one while you can. Power and performance from the 2.4L/CVT combination is more than adequate for city driving and cruising on the highway at all legal speeds. However, passing at highway speeds results in less progress than the noise suggests, so allow yourself plenty of distance to overtake.

The ride is on the firm side, yet comfortable and far from harsh. Steering is precise and direct, although it’s slightly heavier than I would prefer in parking lots. The CR-V remains surprisingly flat in corners – almost…sporty.

SUMMARY

Overall, the CR-V LX is a very comfortable compact SUV that is easy to live with even for a base model. It’s got everything you really need and even a few things that you don’t. I find a certain charm in its simplicity.

For the 2020 model year, all CR-V trims have revised front and rear styling and gain idle-stop technology which can be temporarily disabled. The 1.5L turbocharged engine, which offers better low-end torque and a 2 MPG increase in fuel economy, replaces the 2.4L engine in the LX. Honda Sensing and a color driver information interface are now standard for 2020 as well. 

The 2019 CR-V LX starts at $25,570 including destination. The 2020 CR-V LX starts at $26,170. That’s an increase of $600 – not bad for Honda Sensing with its adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system, automatic high beams, and other safety features along with the color LCD driver information interface, turbocharged engine, and increased fuel economy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you prefer the simplicity and lower cost of a base model, the luxuries and safety features on higher trims, or do you fall somewhere in between?