Tag Archives: Lexus LC500

The Show Goes On. Again.

23 Jan

Welcome to 2016, and welcome to the first manifestation of my New Year’s resolutions, to wit, the revival of this irregular collection of activity reports, back-in-the-day musings, and irreverent observations. I confess that Swan Drives languished during 2015, which was a very good year for me (and the industry) in terms of new car introductions, major auto shows attended (5 of them), North American Car of the Year, and extra-curricular automotive events (read: 24 Hours of LeMons racing).

Extra-curricular also applies to my ongoing dance with the Devil, better known as squamous cell cancer. The short version: after a third round of pruning by the redoubtable Dr. Yoo—a BMW owner, BTW—a follow-up CT scan last week did not set off any new alarm bells. While this isn’t exactly a cause for hosannahs, it does inspire cautious—very cautious—optimism. And it allows me to focus more fully on resuscitating this column. So this year I vow to do better on all of the fronts.


Detroit’s 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is just about in the books, and aside from the puzzling absence of Jaguar-Land Rover, Bentley, and Mini it was once again an exposition chock-a-block with world premieres, which is how we assess the merit of big-time shows. World premieres and concept vehicles.

I’ll confine myself to a couple of my show favorites, both very sexy, one a concept, the other a production car.

Lexus LC 500

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It’s no secret that Lexus has be working to put some adrenaline in its corporate image. It’s not something that happens overnight. Images are easily acquired, but when they’re undesirable they’re very difficult to alter. Lexus is a powerful case in point. Created as a Japanese rival to German luxury sedans, Lexus drifted into a series of beautifully boring offerings—meticulously assembled, beautifully finished, handsomely furnished, quiet as midnight in a cathedral … and as exciting as tofu. Toyota’s luxury division has been trying to alter this perception with its performance-oriented F models, as well as the LF-A supercar.

And now, closer to the economic realities to at least some of the rest of us (the very limited production LF-A carried a $375,000 pricetag), here’s the LC 500 coupe. Chassis with granitic rigidity, lots of carbon fiber, magnesium, and aluminum. A 467-horsepower V8 feeds power to the rear axle via a 10-speed automatic transmission. And there’s nothing conservative about the styling. It almost makes the trademark spindle grille treatment acceptable. Almost. Look for an MSRP in the vicinity of $100,000, Can’t wait to drive this one.

Buick Avista

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It’s fair to say that Buick has successfully hoisted itself out of near-obscurity with a line of vehicles that appeal to buyers well outside of geriatric ranks. So now the challenge is coming up with designs that go beyond merely attractive to compelling. Buick has had a few of these over the decades—the 1939 Y Job, the 1953 Wildcat, the 1973 Riviera, and now the Avista. I am not alone in thinking this was the hottest concept at the show; it took the EyesOn Design award for design excellence. The Avista is a real car, with a 400-horsepower twin-turbo V6 engine under that long hood. But whether it will get a green light for production is unknown; coupes don’t sell in the kind of volume General Motors marketing people like to see. Maybe if it had four doors…?

As noted, there were many more newbies at Detroit’s Cobo Arena over the show’s two press preview days, 35 of them at least, far too many for me to catalogue here. For a comprehensive rundown, check www.caranddriver.com, where you’ll find all of them in glorious color with detailed info.


The acronym stands for North American Car and Truck of the Year, and by now I’m sure you’re aware that the Honda Civic and Volvo XC90 have been named North American Car and Truck of the Year for 2016.

I was privileged to announce the Honda Civic as 2016 North American Car of the Year.

I was privileged to announce the Honda Civic as 2016 North American Car of the Year.

What you may not know is that both vehicles have won in the past, the Civic in 2006, the XC90 in 2003. But for both winners, those predecessors are ancient history. The state of the art keeps evolving and advancing, and the pace seems to keep accelerating; last year’s wundercar is this year’s old news.

To someone who’s been making a living in connection with wheels for over four decades (hint: that would be me), contemporary vehicles are incredibly sophisticated. My notion of infotainment, for example, dates to cars like my 1954 Mercury, a time when AM radio was as good as it got. KDWB, Minneapolis, Channel 63.

But I digress. The thing that impresses me about the new Civic is not only that it’s the best compact sedan going for model year 2016. It’s that Honda has sustained that nameplate ever since the first Civic made its U.S. debut for 1973. Not all generations were best-in-class, but unlike many domestic nameplates, Honda never gave up on Civic. (The same can be said for Toyota and the Corolla.)

One other Honda note: the sedan is only the first chapter in the new Civic story. Next we’ll see a new coupe—I’ll file a report in early February—followed by a four-door hatchback, a high performance Si, and an even higher performance R version.

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