Two days, 500 miles of country roads, and a Lexus LC. This is what grand touring is all about.
The Hudson Quattrocento, Road & Track’s annualfour-day tour through the Hudson Valley, has a few new stops this year. That means a need for a new curated route, which is as good an excuse as any to take a great car to great roads and get to charting.
The great car is a Lexus LC500h. While this variant may not have the V-8 that makes the LC500 so special, it is still a Lexus LC, and a Lexus LC is still among the greatest things money can buy. In the city, it’s a particularly memorable Toyota hybrid, one that is as quiet, efficient, and comfortable as you could hope a car with a custom orange interior could be. Once you take it out onto a more open road, you quickly recognize that it is singularly perfect for ten hour days spent on the back roads of the Hudson Valley.
And the roads get special quickly. While I started in Brooklyn, this year’s Hudson Quattrocento begins in Bear Mountain State Park. I entered the park through the Bear Mountain Bridge, once the longest suspension bridge in the world. Now, it serves as a gateway to mountainside roads along the western bank of the Hudson valley. Those leads to our official starting point, a riverside estate dating back to the 18th century.
From there, the route stretches out far into Connecticut before winding back to the state’s western border. It brings me through the country highways that lead to Lime Rock Park, a track that should be familiar to Road & Track readers.
When the Hudson Quattrocento reaches Lime Rock Park, it will host drivers on both its historic main circuit and its novel infield course. When we drove through, cars were loading in for that weekend’s Grid Life event. Skylines and Stageas filled the parking areas, preparing for a car culture event that brought full course drifting to Lime Rock for the first time ever. Track tie began the next day, but we had to continue on to Saratoga Springs.
This part of Connecticut is at its best in Autumn. In late August, you see the first signs of the season. Roads with dense tree cover mean harsh rays of diagonal sunlight, perfectly backlighting gusts of yellow leaves just beginning to fall. When the Hudson Quattrocento reaches these roads, the season will be at its full power.
The stretch up to Saratoga Springs was the end of day 1 with the car. At this point, I had been in it for hundreds of miles with minimal interruption and had already come to appreciate what it could do as a luxury car. The LC’s exceptional materials and ride already feel a cut above what the company offers elsewhere, but the bright orange leather and suede on this Bespoke Edition add a delightful brightness to the cabin. The hues also add a sense of occasion, a constant feeling that this car is a special place to be. Through hundreds of miles of driving, that sense never faded.
After stopping in Saratoga Springs, I drove back into the Hudson Valley and through to Woodstock. This stretch brought me through open expanses of the sort of upstate townships you’d imagine in the region, complete with 18th century buildings across from drive-through Dunkin’ Donuts. The roads through the Catskills that followed start to get technical, particularly at higher elevations.
On its surface, a Lexus grand tourer could be expected to be a luxury car first and a performance car second. If you’ve just spent a day experiencing what the LC can do as a luxury car, you would be shocked by what this car can do on these technical roads. Despite its size and clear focus on stately design, generously communicative steering revealed a surprising agility perfectly fitting the more narrow roads. In contrast to a car like the Aston Martin DBS, which surrenders some of a GT’s comfort bona fides and lets in a disappointing amount of road noise in as its compromise to come closer to supercar performance, it does this while retaining the level of comfort the driver has suddenly come to expect at speed. Sure, there are cars that may fit these roads better, but few cars are better suited for the trek to out to them from a major city at all, let alone capable of delivering what you want when you get here.
The route from Woodstock to Calicoon Hills took me alongside a half-dozen reservoirs and creeks, through tree canopies and open skies. Every few miles, the scenery seemed to grow in scale and grandeur. It’s the sort of place a car like this belongs. Drives like this are the reason cars like this exist.