Lexus’ exquisite concept car comes to life.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Lexus wowed the world with its insane LFA, which we first saw in production guise in late 2009. It was crazy expensive, sported a carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer body and other technology straight from the race circuit – and a nutty high-revving 552-hp V10. Lexus claimed that all cars produced were sold, but it is common knowledge that unsold samples remained in 2017 – five years after production ended. We had one sitting unsold in our local dealership for a long time. Whether it is considered a sales flop of not, the LFA was never meant to be a volume seller, nor a profit beast.
This new LC is the wildest coupe, or vehicle period, that Lexus has produced since the LFA. And although it isn’t as capable, it is much more accessible in every way.
The spectacular concept car that came to life sports aggressive but smart styling that should age quite gracefully. It’s simple and uncomplicated and it looks amazing from any angle. My review car’s Smoky Granite Mica was a stellar choice. It doesn’t jump out at you like the Infrared colour Lexus usually shows us the LC in, but it looks rich and deep in an understated way.
Love it or hate it, you have to admit that this is the best application of Lexus’ spindle grille to date. Lexus’ swoopy “L” signature lights sling out from the grille to the headlight pods, which house a set of very bright LEDs. Out back are perhaps the greatest tail lights I’ve ever seen. They have the appearance of a mirror reflecting a mirror, so the effect is such that the L-shaped LEDs go on forever with a sense of depth sinking into the car. It’s super cool!
My sample of this broad-shouldered long-wheelbase coupe had an optional carbon fibre roof and massive 21-inch forged alloy rims with staggered tire sizes (245/45s in the front, 275/40s at the rear).
I have never driven a vehicle before that has grabbed as many eyeballs and has hung on to them as long. People do double and triple takes. People will back up at intersections to stop alongside you. People on the sidewalk and on buses constantly snap pictures on their phones. Thumbs-ups everywhere and people came running at the gas station to ask what it is and to have a closer look.
It’s hard to describe the LC’s interior without relying on a stream of cliches and superlatives. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The materials are stunning, as is the quality and craftsmanship throughout. Every little detail makes this cabin feel special, from the ribbed Alcantara door panels to the flawless stitching and exquisite sculpting found everywhere, including on the oh-crap handles.
You can choose from black or red as well, but I’d recommend the Ocher leather and Alcantara my LC had. It is out of this world. Look at those seats – they are heated, cooled, power adjustable, exceptionally comfortable and supportive works of art. In front of you is the steering wheel (with adjustable heating) on a power-adjustable steering column, and behind it a digital dash. It works very well, with tons of driver information options.
The dash is home to a sharp 10.3-inch display which handles all the standard in-car stuff – navigation, phone and directing the incredible 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. Unfortunately it’s controlled using a trackpad-like control with haptic feedback. It essentially requires the driver to look away from the road, and its spastic jumps around the screen are annoying.
You can of course expect a full suite of driver assistance technology – a backup camera, a bang-up heads-up display, pre-collision system, automatic high beams, dynamic cruise control, lane departure alert and assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
In the back are two beautiful and surprisingly comfortable seats – but they’re really not meant to be used a lot because there is very little head and leg room. Even my kids were unhappy back there unless we moved the front seats up a significant amount. There are two sets of LATCH anchors for your child seats though, if you’re going to be moving little ones in the LC.
Space to put your stuff is pretty limited in this relatively snug cabin. There’s one cupholder at the front of the console and a small space under the armrest lid (along with USB, auxiliary and 12V plugs). The 153L trunk is shallow and small but it was usable, and we even did a good grocery run with the LC.
Under the Hood
The rear-wheel drive coupe is motivated by a relative dinosaur. A normally-aspirated 5.0L V8 lurks under the long hood. It puts out 471 HP and 398 lb.ft of torque and is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, a first in the luxury automobile world. If you care, Lexus rates it at 14.7 L/100 km around town and 9.2 L/100 km on the highway. We averaged 14.1 L/100 km after a week of heavy-foot urban driving, with a few freeway runs and no real time on the highway.
Okay, let’s talk sound. Depress the starter button and the LC roars to life with an authoritative bark which (eventually) settles into a deep rumble. It’s surprisingly loud at start-up, and you can make it loud any time you want. Just stab the accelerator and you can access the V8’s rich soundtrack in one of several octaves, pending on where the revs are at. Step on it off the line, and the roar builds quickly, ending with a rapid-fire staccato rasp before a delicious, flatulent snap as it shifts gears. The LC is absolutely one of the best-sounding cars I’ve ever driven in my life – inside and out.
Speaking of stepping on it, there is no shortage of power on tap. It’s fast (0-100 km/h in just over four and a half seconds). But it’s just as happy trundling about town, and it was an excellent commuter car as well. There’s a drive mode selector that allows you choose between Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+, each of these progressively making the LC more aggressive.
The LC’s gear selector – unfortunately – takes its design straight from the Toyota Prius. It’s the old “up and to the left for reverse, down and to the left for drive and a separate button for park” system. It feels unnecessarily complicated and I’m not a fan. You can also pull the selector straight back to put it in manual mode, allowing you to shift gears manually using steering-wheel mounted paddles. The transmission is fast, smooth and intelligent.
Lexus has given this sport coupe a lovely, firm yet compliant ride and they’ve also endowed it with a wealth of technology and engineering to help it negotiate curves with aplomb. There’s an adaptive variable suspension, variable gear ratio electronic steering, a limited slip differential and even 4-wheel active steering. With that said, there is no denying that the LC’s substantial 1935 kg (4280 lb) curb weight can be felt once the LC starts changing directions. But it does handle very well and it would take a very concerted effort to hit this car’s handling limits.
The brakes are fantastic, although I found that they almost always squealed when coming to a stop – which got highly annoying in slow-moving commuting. Although I waxed on about the sounds the LC’s engine and exhaust make, it is otherwise a very quiet car in terms of road and wind noise, regardless of the speed you’re traveling at.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was not as high as I wished it would be. She did love most of the styling and interior, but thought it looked too “mean”. Always the pragmatist, she wasn’t fond of the fact that our whole family couldn’t fit into the LC, and that the trunk wouldn’t cut it for her retail therapy excursions either.
I was excited to drive the LC 500 but I didn’t think I would love it as much as I did. What Lexus has done is made a stunning sport coupe that feels special in every way. Are there cheaper sport coupes? Of course. Are there faster ones? Absolutely. Are there lighter, more athletic competitors? You bet. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that puts together this level of performance with this level of luxury and overall quality into one lust-worthy package. And it is the distillation of all those factors that makes the LC 500 something spectacular – whether you’re standing on the curb watching it drive by or whether you’re the lucky one behind the steering wheel.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lexus Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Pricing: 2018 Lexus LC 500
Base price: $101,600
Options: $13,500 Performance Package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $117,245