Grand Tour de Force
Getting There––Fast––In Style
LEXUS LC500/500H - Lexus created a bold style statement, bringing breathtaking beauty and performance to a brand associated with vanilla.
During the 1950s, a new category of automobile began to flourish in post-war Europe. The Grand Tourer—GT for short—was luxurious, comfortable, and fast. These stylish vehicles were designed for covering long distances at high speeds while coddling the occupants in luxury. The traditional two-door coupe layout included a powerful front-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive, and a 2+2 seating arrangement. Which meant there was a hint of a backseat. Whether it was actually inhabitable was not important.
The GT also needed to be a head turner. Swoopy, sexy exteriors were designed as much for cheating the wind as for making a grand entrance at your destination. Many of these original GTs shared components with the automaker’s pure sports cars, but with the added weight and cost of luxury features and amenities.
Over the years the GT moniker has been watered down, being slapped on the flanks of everything from hardcore, no-compromise sports cars to homely econo-boxes and SUVs in a futile attempt to add some cachet. However, the true GT seems to be having a bit of a true resurgence, even as car sales slide.
Since the brand launched nearly 30 years ago, Lexus has made a lot of money building reliable, if somewhat boring, luxury sedans and SUVs. Their performance variants have been mildly successful, yet the company has had a difficult time competing with European automakers in attracting the enthusiast buyer. The limited production, $375,000 carbon-fiber LFA supercar was widely acclaimed and hinted at future product. Enter the new LC500. This swoopy, wholly original flagship coupe with its sculpted hips and concept car details, looks too exotic to be a production car. In my week with an Ultra White LC500 press vehicle, the Lexus turned heads everywhere. But the LC is much more than just movie star good looks.
Behind the dazzling hourglass grill and low hood sits a naturally-aspirated 5.0 liter V8 packing 471 hp. The engine delivers crisp acceleration across the entire powerband for spirited back road drives or easy highway passing. Switch to Sport or Sport+ modes and each shift of the ten-speed automatic transmission is accompanied by a lovely exhaust bark while the steering and suspension are firmed up for improved handling.
The LC 500h hybrid version delivers slightly less performance but a big bump in fuel economy while retaining the excellent road manners. Both versions of the LC500 feature an interior no less stunning than the exterior with dramatic shapes and hand-stitched materials surrounding cutting edge technology. The ergonomics are well designed for all-day comfort and ease of use while the Mark Levinson sound system delivers concert hall audio. LC500 is priced at $92,200 while the LC500h is $96,710
Aston Martin DB11
Picture Sean Connery’s iconic James Bond character and you probably have an image of his car as well: a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 from the film Goldfinger. Over the ensuing five decades, Aston Martin has had its ups and downs but they never gave up on the GT.
Their current offerings deliver gorgeous exteriors the company is famous for, but now paired with cutting-edge technology and even some engines from a partnership with Mercedes-AMG. I recently spent a week with a Jet Black 2018 Aston Martin DB11 (somebody had to do it) powered by Aston’s own 5.2-liter twin-turbo V12. The DB11 looks like it could go 200mph, and with the V12, it can.
For the cost conscious, there is also a less expensive and less powerful V8 version.
The car is low, but in Aston fashion, the doors swing up a bit when open to clear curbs. The interior is everything you expect in a British luxury car with gorgeous hand-stitched, two-tone leather covering nearly every surface, including the headliner. The Mercedes-sourced console mounted control and infotainment system works flawlessly. But the real fun begins when you push the start button.
The V12 fires up with a growl that beckons you to hit your favorite stretch of road. Driving the DB11 is a bit daunting at first because the car is wide, low, and expensive. The ride is firm, but not jarring. The DB11 is surprisingly agile for a big GT car. The acceleration is excellent, going from zero to 60 in only 3.8 seconds. But for all its performance, the DB11 is not a pure sports car. It’s designed to get you from point A to point B quickly and comfortably. And get you the best valet spot when you arrive. James Bond would approve. DB11 prices start at about $200,000.
AND COMING SOON Bentley Motors reinvigorated the GT category with the excellent Continental GT back in 2003. An entirely new version of the Continental will hit dealers in early 2019. We can’t wait. (photo right)