Select Page
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.

IMG_9668

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.

IMG_9690

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.

Gauges

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.

IMG_9353

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.

IMG_9354

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.”

IMG_9588

 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec -You’ll Want To Put A Ring On It

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec -You’ll Want To Put A Ring On It

The last Acura RDX I drove was the 2017 model. I drove 300 miles in one direction with my girlfriend and drove back with a fiance. That car’s performance was flawless albeit unremarkable. For 2019, Acura introduced its third-generation RDX. It’s more beautiful and more comfortable. We took this one to San Antonio to watch our friends tie the knot. Thus forever solidifying a link between nuptial processes and Acura’s RDX in my mind. 

EXTERIOR

53092844_620367615070301_8630689729945272320_n

For the 2019 model year, the RDX got a makeover. Up front, there’s a much larger grill opening with a massive Acura emblem floating in the center. I think it works. The  A-Spec trim offers 20″ shark gray wheels. They look fantastic under the platinum white pearl body color.  The aggressive body styling and dual exhaust hint at the A-spec’s performance-tuned suspension.

INTERIOR

 

img_78901.jpg

It’s red! While the color may not be for everyone, the execution is undeniable. For those folks looking to make a more subtle statement, the A-spec also comes in black. The build quality of the seat covers is above average even for a luxury car. There’s lovely red decorative stitching.  Seats are firm. After hitting tons of traffic and taking six and a half hours to get to San Antonio, my hind parts were tender. Over time the seats may break in, but how often do we really spend that much time behind the wheel?

IMG_7891.jpg

I didn’t love the trackpad. Not because it’s an especially bad example of one, but because they’re impractical. My opinion must be the minority though because these things are popping up in everything from Acuras to Aston Martins. I think rather than the distracting trackpad technology which mimics a laptop, manufacturers should implement touch screens within easy reach of the driver.

2019_Acura_RDX_Advance_90.jpg

Under the cargo area, there’s a clever storage arrangement. Sadly, there’s no spare tire, not even a donut. Just an air pump and some good-luck goo. The second row seats can be folded down to create an open cargo space to haul all sorts of stuff.

DRIVE

Under the hood, a turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder churns out 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque and it makes a nice noise doing it. The exhaust note when the V-Tec kicks in is particularly agreeable, so my foot found the floor more than often than a less childish foot would have. It’s not terribly fuel-efficient. In the 800 plus miles I put on the car, it averaged 21 mpg according to the trip computer. Most of these were highway miles, some in excess of 85 mph. I bet this car is capable of better mileage with a different driver. 

SAN ANTONIO

IMG_7889

After arriving in San Antonio the groom lamented to me that the water pump failed in the 60s Ford Galaxie they chose as their getaway car. I immediately volunteered the shiny white Acura.  IMG_78562

After a lovely ceremony and reception my wife, the A-Spec and I had the distinct pleasure of sharing the couple’s first car ride as man and wife. I think white lace sets off the red interior nicely. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Murphy!

IMG_78642.jpg

THE DIRT

In my previous article about the RDX, I concluded that it would be a nice car to buy your mom. Two-row, mid-sized, luxury SUVs are definitely aimed at moms.  I think the newest iteration of the RDX broadens its appeal. I also think it’s the best looking option in its class. This car with these options will set buyers back $46,895. That’s not cheap, but this is a luxury SUV that really ticks all the boxes. Its Honda heritage is bound to make it reliable. The ride and performance are gratifying and the looks are exceptional. All that and you still beat the Lexus RX 350 sticker by nearly $13,000. That’s what I call value.

 

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

imgp0812

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.

imgp0825

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.

imgp0834

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.

imgp0836

EXTERIOR

avalon ext

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.

imgp0785

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

imgp0787

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.

imgp0792

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.

imgp0730

 

2019 Toyota Avalon Touring – A Comfortable, Capable Cruiser

2019 Toyota Avalon Touring – A Comfortable, Capable Cruiser

For 2019, Toyota unveiled the latest generation of their largest sedan. Now in its fifth iteration, the Avalon has grown both in proportion and in refinement.  When I saw a touring badge on the trunk, I knew the only way to review the car properly was to tour it. The decision was made, we would cruise it to the coast.

Incidentally, this would be our first road trip since our son was born a year ago. I used to believe girls packed a lot of stuff to travel. That was before I loaded three bags, a highchair, a pack ‘n play, loads of food and a laundry basket of toys into the trunk. All for a person who only weighs 20 pounds (yes, we forgot the stroller). I know now that 1-year-olds carry the most luggage. So, with our Avalon laiden with more stuff than we’d possibly need, we sallied forth on an Arthurian quest for some saltwater, sand and sunshine.

INTERIOR

int1

photo cred: toyota.com

The front vented and heated seats were comfortable enough for sustained highway driving. Eight-way power adjustment and customizable lumbar support let us dial them in for support where we needed it. There’s plenty of room for heads and legs up front and the armrests are positioned perfectly to receive elbows.

The back seat has room enough for post-beach diaper changes and baby seat anchors come in handy for transporting little ones. Ample rear-seat legroom made it easy to stash our cooler in the footwell. The trunk is roomy too. With some finagling, it swallowed the aforementioned luggage without issue.

int2

photo cred: toyota.com

The 14 speaker stereo, infotainment and navigation are all controlled via a nine inch touch screen built onto the dash rather than into it. This cascades elegantly down into the console. In front of the gear selector a Qi wireless charging pad is stashed in hidden cubby. Almost all the upholstered components are joined with french seams that lend an upmarket feel to the interior. Overall, the cabin space is handsome and functional.

EXTERIOR

frnt 34

The Avalon’s aesthetic can be described in two words, wide and low. It grew in nearly every direction. It’s longer, wider and even a couple hundred pounds heavier. By the looks though, you’d never know it gained weight. It’s a little slipperier too. The redesigned body is slightly more aerodynamic than the last generation.

There are little touches that make it feel special. The the turn indicators have a sci-fi feel that’s sure to make the folks stopped behind you at a redlight salivate with envy. I like the brawny hood and high trunk. Slender A and C pillars frame the elegant arc of the roofline.

frnt

There are gills on either side of the grille that probably don’t do anything, but I don’t care because they look nice. The grille design and the chiseled body lines on the car’s flanks are likely to be divisive . The wheel wells are filled by black 19 inch alloy wheels wrapped in low profile rubber. Pearlescent white paint combined with the blacked out grille, side mirrors and B pillars gave our test car an appealing black-on-white storm trooper look.

back 34

DRIVE

Under the hood is a 3.5 liter V6 that’s good for 301 horsepower. It transmits power to the front wheels through a snappy eight speed automatic. When prodded, the V6 offers nice pull and a surprisingly good sound. The steering is light, and for a big car it changes direction easily. The ride is typically smooth and quiet but feels a little harsh on rougher roads. This is probably a due to the “sport-tuned” suspension.

Our press car came with the optional advanced safety package that includes helpful stuff like bird’s eye view and cross traffic alert. However, the intelligent clearance sonar sets off chimes and bells as the car approaches anything. It’s a little overwhelming during moments that require a driver’s undivided attention. Parallel parking is a cacophony of dings and pings which intensify the closer the car gets to other cars, building tension like a horror movie. All of this can be momentarily silenced by the touch of a button on the wheel, and I bet you could turn it off for good, or at least turn down the sensitivity in the vehicle settings.

Radar cruise control comes in handy on the interstate but even at the closest setting there’s just enough space to invite people merging left from the slow lane to hop in front of you. But weigh that against not having adaptive cruise and it’s a small inconvenience.

THE DIRT

Driving home was as comfortable and uneventful as the drive down. While vacuuming the beach sand and stale Cheerios from the carpet, I had time to reflect on our journey and the Avalon. My offspring was fearless, he attacked the sand and the warm gulf without apprehension. Maybe he’ll grow up to be courageous, and hopefully he’ll learn not to eat the sand.

And as I was sucking up a crumpled parking receipt, I ruminated on how we might be living in a golden age of full-sized family rides. The ’70s saw smog regulations deplete the gains that muscle cars made in the ’60s. In the ’80s, it looked like automotive designers thought the epitome of cool was a slab sided box, bonus points if it was brown. The ’90s saw a warmed over box with the corners rounded off. There’s a reason they’re referred to as malaise cars.

Fast forward 20 years and you can buy a sleek machine stuffed with more technology than you can shake an iPhone at. It has a 300 horsepower engine and manages 30 miles per gallon. It’s got four swinging doors and seats five people. It looks great and it handles too. A base model will set buyers back $33,500. This test car costs $45,292. Not exactly cheap. But when you account for inflation, that’s only five grand more than a new Chrysler Voyager in 1988. I’d pay a few grand more not to drive a beige box.

The Avalon carried me and my little family across the nation’s largest contiguous state, mostly at 80 miles per hour, with poise and efficiency. Thus proving that this Avalon’s badging isn’t just marketing and that maybe, with a sedan this good, you don’t need an SUV to travel.

profile