2018 Lexus LC 500: Lexus Moves Into the Fast Lane
- Engine: 5.0L 32-valve V8 with direct injection
- Horsepower: 471 @ 7100 RPM
- Torque (lb-ft.): 398 lb.-ft. @ 4,800 – 5,600 RPM
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters
- 0-to-60 Time (secs): 4.4
- Top Speed (mph): 168 mph (electronically limited)
- City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 16/26/19
- Curb Weight (lb): 4,280
- Base Price (USD): $92,000
- Price as Tested (USD): N/A
2018 Lexus LC500
Last year, when Akio Toyoda unveiled the LC 500 in Detroit in front of a room full of jaded automotive journalists, he vowed that the words “Lexus” and “boring” would never be used in the same sentence again.
After spending two days driving the new Lexus LC 500 on the big island of Hawaii, he might just be right. The LC 500 is as luxurious as you would expect a $92,000 Lexus to be. It’s good looking from almost every angle. I still can’t get over the Lexus signature “spindle” grille, but if you like it – and this is the best expression of it to date – then it’s good looking from every angle. The V8 is powerful and sounds fantastic. Its ride and handling lean much more toward sporting than any previous Lexus save the LFA. And, it’s definitely not boring.
At the heart of the LC 500 is the star of this car, a naturally aspirated, fuel injected, 32-valve V8 power plant that spins fast and sounds great. There’s no artificial sound enhancement here, though it does use a resonance tube to amplify the sound in the interior, and the active exhaust opens things up in sport mode to create a throatier, more aggressive sound. At 471 horsepower and 389 lb.-ft. of torque, this engine isn’t a class-leader in output, but it actually feels more impressive because it makes its power higher in the rev range. 0-60 takes just 4.4 seconds, and it pulls hard well into triple digits thanks to a nicely paired 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Did I mention it sounds freaking fantastic?
The LC 500 has a long wheelbase with short short overhangs in front and rear. It’s also very low and wide, giving the 2+2 coupe a very sporting appearance. If you’re planning on taking a friend to the golf course, forget it. There’s only 5.4 cubic feet of trunk space. That’s okay though, because this car was made for driving, not hauling — unless of course, your hauling a$$.
A couple of cool touches on the exterior involve lighting. In front, the auto-sensing headlamps employ three LEDs that adapt as you drive. Say, for instance, you’re driving down a country highway with your high beams on and a car crests the hill from the other direction. The driver side headlamp will dim and lower, while the passenger side headlamp will continue to illuminate the roadside with full brightness. This helps you see any approaching hazards while reducing glare for oncoming traffic. In the rear, the tail lamps use mirrors to create an infinity effect for the lower LED L-shaped running lights.
Inside, they nailed it as long as you’re sitting in the front seat. The back seat is for kids and small dogs only. The interior is driver-centric and features first-rate hand-sewn leathers, nicely draped Alcantara accents, brushed metal, and elegantly finished woods or carbon fiber trim, depending on the package you order. None of that is a surprise given Lexus’ heritage. What did surprise me was how simple and focused the interior is. The interfaces for the infotainment center are clean with just the important functions appearing as buttons on the center stack. Basic HVAC operations are intuitive. And of course a multi-function steering wheel puts many operations right at your fingertips. I’m not a fan of the Lexus touch pad interface, but it gets the job done.
The optional Mark Levinson Audio compares very favorably to the best systems in the business. The 13-speaker premium audio system features Clari-Fi music restoration technology that enhances analyzes and improves the sound quality of compressed, digitized music sources like MP3s and satellite streams.
Lexus also did a lot of work on the driving interfaces. The optional heated and cooled sport seats in my car were comfortable and supportive, with leather bolsters and ventilated Alcantara seating surfaces keeping me firmly in place during the times when I found some clear roads and was able to push the envelope a little bit. The steering wheel is leather wrapped, heated and feels great. The Magnesium alloy, wheel-mounted paddle shifters are right where they need to be should you choose to shift the 10-speed automatic yourself. And the drive mode select knob is easily accessible, extending from the upper right side of the instrument panel, so it can be adjusted without taking your eyes from the road.
All this, of course, comes together to deliver the driving experience. It starts with a chassis that Lexus claims is the stiffest unibody they’ve ever built. This provides a solid foundation for steering and suspension components, which can be adapted using the drive mode select. In normal and comfort mode the feeling is sporty, but smooth. Move to sport and sport plus and the fun really starts. The suspension tightens up and the steering quickens. Throttle mapping is also more responsive and the gear shifts happen higher in the rev range nearer to the top of the powerband. After some particularly hard driving, I felt the transmission held its downshifts a little too long, but overall, the algorithms seem very well done. If you choose to shift it yourself, the torque converter locks up to deliver shifts that feel almost DCT-like.
All in all, the Lexus LC 500 is a nicely balanced, tight handling, and satisfyingly powerful sports coupe that’s a good option as a daily driver or for a couple who like to take weekend jaunts and don’t need to bring much with them. It combines the luxury and comfort of a touring coupe with the handling and trackability of a performance car, which in my mind, makes it a very intriguing option.
Detailed pricing hasn’t been announced, but we were told the base price for the LC 500 is $92,000. My test car was equipped with the Sport+ Package, which includes the carbon fiber roof, 21-inch forged aluminum wheels, active rear steering, variable gear ratio steering, active rear spoiler, Alcantara headliner, as well as the color head-up display, Mark Levinson Audio system, 10.3 inch display screen, limited slip differential, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic cruise control, lane keep assist, intelligent high beam headlamps.
Expect a well equipped model with all the good sports bits, including the dynamic handling system, variable gear ratio steering, and active rear steering to run well north of six figures. There is a hybrid version, the LC 500h, which features a V6 gas engine and multistage electric. Overall that package is much more touring focused and even in sport trim does not have the same dynamics as the LC 500. If you’re in it for the thrills, the V8 is the way to go.