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    Two Coupes Offering Unique Experiences

    By Philip Ruth–

    Expensive cars must be luxurious. That’s a long-standing American value: Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns and Chryslers kept the assembly lines running with velour, vinyl and fake wood.

    A premium car being something more than an ornate parade float first took root in the U.S. with Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the 1970s. Today, a high-performance model is a signal that, besides producing mainstream coddlers, the brand has what it takes to run with the big dogs.  

    Toyota’s Lexus brand followed that path. It spent much time filling the nation’s gated communities with cushy beige sedans. Then, realizing that BMW was offering chunky Black Forest cake while it had settled on warm flan, Lexus axed its SC 430 coupe—droopy-eyed and floridly contoured, it was an elfin Eldorado—and the brand charted an edgier coupe path.

    This week’s Lexus RC 350 F Sport and LC 500 are the fruits of those labors, and both are true performance cars on many levels. Speed is easy—the new Camry V6 storms around with 301 horsepower—and coupe buyers want the whole experience, from cornering tenacity to interior richness to brazen sexiness.

    That’s a lot for one car to do, and the test cars’ prices reflect that. For 2019, prices start just over $50,000 for the RC 350 F Sport, and the LC 500 slots in close to double that at $92,200. Sedans can be bought unconsciously, but coupes thrive on provocation, and so outfitting one for yourself can feel like a truly personal experience.

    So what experiences do the LC 500 and RC 350 F Sport provide? And does the former give double of the latter, as their prices might indicate?

    The answers: both these coupes come across as something special, and the more expensive one justifies its price by coming across as a bona fide exotic.

    In fact, driving the LC 500 was like walking George Clooney through the Castro, as everyone wanted a closer look. Construction workers stopped and shot photos, and tourists posed next to it. And many questions came, which reinforced to this introvert that this striking car was tailor-made for the talkative among us, because conversations started pretty much whenever I opened the LC 500’s door.

    The RC wasn’t as engaging to others, but it still got lots of looks. All RCs have smoother detailing in 2019, and toning down the vents and grilles of the ‘18 tester makes the RC appear less aggressive, which you may or may not like. But all RCs share the classic long hood/short trunk profile that’s as far from a minivan as one can get.

    As for the driving, think silky for the LC 500 and brawny for the RC 350 F Sport. Their personalities are distinct enough that, if price weren’t an issue, then you’d walk into a Lexus dealer and drive two cutting-edge coupes to select the one that suits you. That’s a long way from the beige sedans that got Lexus up on its feet.  

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant ( www.gaycarguy.com ). Check out his automotive staging service at www.carstaging.com