True confession: I am a beauty addict. Nature, art, music, elegantly designed objects – all inspire a sense of awe in yours truly.
Apart from “I love you,” the three words my wife hears most often from me are “look at that.” It helps that we live in a beautiful place (Northern California), that we’re both passionate about music and art, and that my job brings a steady stream of objects to my driveway – some of which are elegantly designed.
Of those objects in the driveway, the Lexus LC 500 tops them all. In my book, it’s the most beautiful new car you can buy in America today. And it sits very nicely on my list of the great car designs of my lifetime, which include the first-generation Jaguar E-Type, the original 1963 Corvette Sting Ray and the 1965 Buick Riviera (yes, the ’63 and ’64 are the same design, but the hidden headlamps on the ’65 seal the deal for me).
About a year and a half ago, I spent a week with the 2018 Lexus LC 500h, but that’s the 354-horsepower V-6 hybrid version. This time around, it was the LC 500 – without the “h” – which packs a 471-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8.
The power transforms the car. The LC 500 is quicker, thirstier and louder (0-60 in 4.4 versus 4.7 seconds, 16 city/25 highway versus 27 city/35 highway, and your ears will tell you the rest) than the LC 500h. Where the hybrid plays the part of hushed – and occasionally silent, when in electric-motor mode – tourer, the LC 500 is all about muscle.
An even $92,200 is the base price for the 2019 Lexus LC 500, and for that money, you get the aforementioned 471-horsepower V-8 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with magnesium paddle shifters, 20-inch 10-spoke cast alloy wheels, run-flat tires (there is no spare), LED headlamps and daytime running lights, a configurable electroluminescent gauge cluster, dual-zone climate control with pollen filter, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, a 12-speaker audio system and a complete set of electronic safety features (pre-collision warning, pedestrian detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane-keeping assist, steering assist and lane departure alert).
As well-equipped as a base LC 500 is, there are extra-cost options to be had, and our test vehicle had $12,120 of them:
• Convenience Package (intuitive parking assist and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert): $1,000
• Upgraded 21-inch forged wheels: $2,650
• Head-up display (projects speed and other information onto the windshield): $900
• Limited-slip differential: $390
• Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system: $1,220
• Performance Package (Alcantara sport seats with eight-way power adjust, carbon fiber roof, active rear steering, variable gear-ratio steering, speed-activated rear spoiler, Alcantara headliner, carbon fiber door sill): $5,960
With $1,025 delivery, processing and handling fee, the bottom line on the window sticker read $105,345.
If you were asking, “What price beauty?” – now you know.
Inside the wrapper
True confessions, part two: If I were playing with my own money, I’d buy the LC 500h hybrid. It’s every bit as beautiful and very nearly as fast – thanks to the electric motor’s right-now power – and considerably friendlier to the planet and your wallet in terms of fuel consumption.
Yes, the base price for the LC 500h is $96,810 – which is more than the LC 500 ($92,200) – but let’s go back to the one I drove in fall 2017.
The as-tested price was lower because it skipped the $5,960 Performance Package in favor of the $1,790 Touring Package, which includes the Mark Levinson premium surround sound system, so there’s another $1,220 off the tab.
Equipped that way, the more-expensive-to-start LC 500h ended up being nearly $4,000 less expensive than the LC 500 we just drove, at $101,385. There’s been a $300 price increase for 2019, and the delivery, processing and handling fee is $30 higher, so for this year’s model, it would be $101,715.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of taste what’s under the hood. As for the wrapper – look at that.