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    Two Extroverted Cars With Style

    By Philip Ruth–

    “Hey! Sir! HEY!” I had just turned onto Potrero Avenue in the Lexus LC 500 press car when the well-used minivan that had been in my rear-view mirror for a while pulled up in the lane beside. 

    I powered down the passenger window, and the van driver matched my pace as he asked about the car. What year is it? (2023.) What color is that? (Cadmium Orange.) How much does it cost? ($106,885.) 

    He slowed down with me through Potrero’s long series of lights. What was I doing here from Texas? (Plates are keyed to Toyota’s headquarters in Plano.) And then—can you give me a job? Can I give you my number? The Potrero Center on 16th finally appeared, and I slipped off to the left while wishing him well.

    Then there was the road rage incident when approaching the Bay Bridge. I’d dropped the hammer on the LC 500’s 471-horsepower V8 engine, and within a blink, traffic was a good distance back—except for one SUV, the driver of which saw my acceleration as a provocation. When he finally caught up to my speed-limit canter, he screamed and gestured and cut off other cars in a dead-bent mission to get ahead of me. 

    Still rattled from that, I turned into my friend’s Oakland neighborhood, and a man exiting his Buick Park Avenue stopped and called out, “Sir, that is a nice car,” and we did the bro nod. 

    Celebrate or resent it, this LC 500 reminded me how exciting cars can be. A friend and a client wanted their pictures taken with it. It suddenly defined the draw of spending to show out. It was mostly fun.  

    Through it all, the LC 500’s virtues of blistering performance and cozy cruising were undimmed. And despite debuting in 2017, it still looks and feels fresh—though it lacks some up-to-the-minute features, like wireless phone charging. 

    Prior to the LC 500, I drove the re-imagined Toyota Prius Limited. It was also an attention-getter, though the responses were more fact-finding than impassioned. 

    The first thing you notice about this new Prius is its lowness, which is accented by the body’s oblique detailing. It’s like the future somehow time-warped this slippery thing into the slot occupied by the prudish Prius. The lowness is felt most in the rear seat, which would have been comfortable if I’d somehow detached my head and stored it in the spacious 20.3-cubic-foot trunk. Up front is ample enough, and the glassy surroundings give open views of other drivers slowing down to determine just exactly what kind of car you’re driving. 

    There’s a welcome spike in net system horsepower, up to 194 horses from its somnolent predecessor’s 121. So, you’re no longer flooring it to keep up, but the ECVT transmission still blows up the revs when climbing San Francisco’s hills. Legacy Prius drivers will feel at home.  

    And you will feel at home in either of these extroverts if you like attention, as it can come.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

    Published on June 8, 2023