Lexus LC 500: This Grand Tourer Is Not Your Father's Lexus
Forget what you know about Lexus. The LC is a proper grand tourer.
Golfers. Lawyers. Wives of the previously mentioned. These are the cliché drivers you think of when Lexus comes to mind. Beige cars with fine materials inside, but little to do with driving impressions. We all have made jokes about Lexus being boring cars for the upper middle class, but when it comes to grand touring, in the form of the LC 500, the premium Japanese marque isn't messing about.
Without any truly direct competition, Lexus sends the LC 500 to market as a premium two-door coupe that employs the only good implementation of its spindle grille treatment, packing an aging yet robust V8, a stylish cockpit, and an exterior appearance that resembles a more refined take on the legendary LFA.
The Key Stats
Like its F models, Lexus stuffs the LC 500 with its long-running 5.0-liter naturally-aspirated V8, which packs 471 horsepower at 7,100 RPM and 398 lb-ft (540 Nm) of torque at 4,800 RPM. Hooked up to a 10-speed automatic and optional limited-slip differential, the LC pushes power through its rear wheels to achieve a 4.4 second 0-60 MPH run and a top track speed of 168 MPH.
At 4,280 pounds (1,935 kg), the LC isn't light, and with dimensions slightly larger than a Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type, it's not exactly small. EPA fuel estimates are 16/25/19 (city/highway/combined) MPG, but even with an Eco mode heavily utilized and a ten-speed 'box keeping the revs low, I only managed 17 MPGs during my week with the LC 500. Lexus provides the LC 500 with a hefty list of standard features at a base price of $92,950, and my Flare Yellow tester rang up an MSRP of $106,954.
Now with more horsepower!
Pros And Cons Of A Daily Driver
As a newer, more tame exterior package than the LFA, the LC 500 still catches plenty of attention from onlookers. The fascia might resemble the Predator, but unlike the rest of the Lexus lineup's styling language, the LC works. A long hood, low roofline, and short tail end give the LC a proper GT profile, and the big optional 21-inch forged alloy wheels look fantastic. Personally I wouldn't opt for the bright yellow paint, but for a press car, I appreciate Lexus ticking the box for an exciting shade.
When you step inside the LC, the cockpit is driver-centric, utilizes some upscale appointments, and has an instrument cluster and magnesium paddle shifters that remind me of the LFA. You feel like you're in a performance car when you slide into the well-bolstered Alcantara sport seats--part of the optional Performance Package--grip the thick-rimmed steering wheel, and settle into a low seat position encompassed by a high belt line and low roof.
With enough sound deadening material to drown out a jackhammer pummeling the sidewalk next to you out a stoplight, even at high speeds on the motorway, you could hear a mouse's flatulence inside the LC 500.
If you care to use your infotainment setup, Lexus loses a ton of brownie points with a system which is far from intuitive, employs use of a strangely delayed touchpad with varied sensitivity to control all the systems, has an unattractive color and font theme, and doesn't have a touchscreen as an option. Even when you're hooked up to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you're forced to make use of that outdated touchpad. I also find it strange there are no physical buttons easily within reach to control the heated and ventilated seats, so you have to go into an infotainment menu using the trackpad each time you want to make any adjustment.
Pulling the gearshift from the Toyota Prius, the LC 500's transmission is controlled by a small lever that auto-centers, and is far from natural in feel and operation. With ten gears on tap, the LC shifts more often than I prefer, and had me controlling gear changes myself on a regular basis to get the most fun out of the car's performance.
Don't try to drive along with more than one adult passenger, as the LC 500's rear seat legroom is hilariously small. If you're taking a road trip in the LC, pack light, as the trunk is tiny, and won't fit more than two carry-on sized roller bags. I'm not sure how Lexus shipped a car that doesn't have enough trunk space for two golf bags to please its target demographic.
Epic Attention To Detail
Lexus loads the cabin with all the fine materials you'd expect, and everything has a quality feel as you run your hands over the combination of leather, meticulous stitching, Alcantara, carbon fiber, and aluminum spread throughout the interior.
Button presses feel perfect. The volume knob has no detent, and has a positive roll like you get on a high-end home theater receiver. Paddle shifts have the just right amount of travel and click. I had a good time focusing on plenty of details inside and out, especially with some cool touches on the outside that most eyes could easily miss.
A Surprising Grand Tourer
Most people would laugh if you told them a big top-level coupe from Lexus was fun on a twisty road, but they'll eat their hat after a good stint in the LC 500. In every mode minus Sport+, the big Lexus is tame, composed, and easy as a daily driver. Reach far ahead to the right side of the steering wheel--one gripe of mine--to engage the fun mode that opens up the exhaust values, frees up the engine mapping, and firms up the steering and suspension. Instantly the LC switches from being a car your dad would use to commute to the office and country club into a proper sports coupe.
The big atmospheric V8 rumbles and revs like a Chevrolet LS block, and smoothly accelerates ahead. With loads of mid-range torque and a reasonably high redline, you have plenty of flexibility to delightfully punch from bend to bend. If you care to have any fun at all in the Lexus LC, make sure to tick the Performance Package option box, which throws in comfortable sport seats, an Alcantara headliner, a speed-activated rear wing, a carbon fiber roof (which lowers the center of gravity while dumping unnecessary weight), a variable-ratio electric steering rack, and an exceptional active rear steering setup.
If you're not trying to storm a race track, and are behaving yourself on public roads, the LC is as compliant and refined as you'd expect from any Lexus. Despite its 4,280-pound curb weight, the LC 500 is shockingly agile in the Sport+ setup, wiping out most of the body roll and understeer-inducing weight transfer you'd expect. Even in the normal and sport modes, the big Lexus coupe is still nimble and sharp. I was shocked how much I enjoyed driving it.
The optional 21-inch wheels and Bridgestone Potenza 5001 tires are pleasantly smooth and quiet for performance rubber, and were not only grippy when tossing the LC 500 around, but were comfortable over bumps around town. Don't be an absolute knob behind the wheel, and you'll never break the tires loose. When you do get too hot running toward a corner, massive six-piston monoblock aluminum calipers with 15.7-in two-piece ventilated discs are equipped up front, and four-piston monoblock aluminum calipers with 14.1-in two-piece ventilated discs are out back to rapidly slow you down.
Equal Parts LFA and LS, In A Great Coupe Package.
Lexus delivers one splendid grand tourer in the LC 500. It's as luxurious and refined as you'd expect from Lexus, but can shift into a proper sports car when you want to have fun. Packing a stout V8 and great brakes and steering, the LC can take long hauls across the country with ease and make detours to storm down fun twisty farm-to-market roads. It's a car that drives and feels like Lexus built a more solid, attractive, and distinguished seventh generation Corvette, with similar driving dynamics. If you want a top-down experience, Lexus recently introduced a fantastic convertible option. I'd rate the LC 500 a 10/10 if it wasn't for the awful infotainment system.
At around $100,000, the Lexus LC 500 has all sorts of performance cars in its tax bracket, but with looks that pay homage to the LFA, levels of comfort you expect in the Lexus flagship LS sedan, and on-road behaviors that rival plenty of much more expensive grand tourers, the LC 500 is one hell of a contender in a segment that is slowly dying off.