Choosing Form Over Function (and loving it): The 2019 Lexus LC 500

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Lexus LC 500
The 2019 Lexus LC 500.
True confessions:  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.  It is, in my book, the most beautiful new car you can buy today in America.  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).

Rear 3/4 view of 2019 Lexus LC 500
2019 Lexus LC 500.
About a year and a half ago, I spent a week with the 2018 Lexus LC 500h,  but that's the 354-horsepower V6 hybrid version.  This time around, it was the LC 500 (no "h")---which packs a 471-horsepower 5.0-liter V8.

The power transforms the car.  The LC 500 is quicker, thirstier and louder (0-60 in 4.4 vs. 4.7 seconds, 16 city/25 highway vs. 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 EV mode) tourer, the LC 500 is all about muscle.

Interior view of 2019 Lexus LC 500
2019 Lexus LC 500 interior.
An even $92,200 is the base price for the 2019 Lexus LC 500, and for that money, you get the aforementioned 471-horsepower V8 mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission with magnesium paddle shifters, 20-inch ten-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. 

True confessions, part two:  If I were playing with my own money, I'd buy the LC 500h hybrid.  Every bit as beautiful, very nearly as fast (thanks to the electric motor's rightnow power and considerably friendlier to the earth and your wallet in terms of fuel consumption.

Yes, the base price for the LC 500h is $96,810 to the LC 500's $92,200, but let's go back to the one I drove in the fall of 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 almost four thousand dollars less expensive than the LC 500 we just drove, at $101,385.  There's been a $300 price increase for the 2019 and the delivery, processing and handling fee is $30 higher, so for this year's model, it'd be $101,715.

Ultimately, it's a matter of taste what's under the hood.  As for the wrapper---look at that.