Ride Review: 2018 Lexus LC 500
Did you know that the Lexus LC 500 was once a concept car that made the rounds of the auto show circuit some few years ago?
Given the track record of concept cars, they usually display the imagination of the design team. These expressions of the dreams of designers and engineers are usually sneak peeks of potential new products or a design language to be seen on production vehicles across the range.
Still, no one would expect a concept car to be put into production with almost 100 percent of its design and engineering intact. There would be a change here, a part swap there.
What you saw on the LF-LC concept back in 2012 has been transformed into the grand touring 2+2 coupe you see today.
Lexus really does not need a flagship coupe in its lineup, not when SUVs and crossovers are ruling the market. What they saw in the RC coupe and the F Performance version—the RC F—was that Lexus can make coupes that evoke and provoke emotion and thought. Lexus also knew that this would be a niche product for a specific demographic, where they would look at more expensive grand touring coupes, such as the Maserati Gran Turismo and the Aston Martin DB11.
It puts Lexus in a unique position to pull out all the stops on the LC coupe. You have two choices for almost the same money—the LC 500 with its V8 engine, or the LC 500h with a V6 engine combined with a new version of the Lexus Hybrid System. We chose the V8 for our review. Our reasons will become clear as you read further.
The design is stunning. How the concept translated into a production model is still something to behold. It looks like a concept car, but there are tangible items all around. The door handles are new to Lexus, as they pop out once you unlock the car. The front end offers multiple shapes and angles to challenge the eye. The entire light cluster is in several parts, including the small three-bulb LED headlamp units. The hood is long, as you would expect from a grand tourer. The roofline is low… the taillights are amazing… the shapes continue all around. And who doesn’t love those massive chromed 21-inch wheels?
The eyes are treated to something exotic. Yet, it is somewhat familiar. The badge is where the familiarity starts. If you remove the badge from your field of vision, then you have something truly special and extraordinary. You have something befitting of its target audience.
Equally exotic and luxurious is the 2+2 cabin. The LC 500 offered a leather-Alcantara upholstered interior that is just exquisite. The front seats alone are deeply bolstered, beautifully cushioned, and downright comfortable. Rear seat room is purely a suggestion, as they might accommodate up to an average-sized person in a pinch.
The superb instrument panel offers familiar Lexus elements: the sliding dial/TFT instrument binnacle, the wide infotainment screen, the touchpad controller, and a few switches here and there. However, the steering wheel controls are new to Lexus as is the relocation of the drive mode controller to the side of the instrument binnacle. Even the gear lever has changed to a drive-by-wire design that came from the Lexus CT. However, this one is much better executed with an actual leather-wrapped gear lever instead of a toggle.
One thing to note is that the trunk is very small—5.4 cubic feet that is shallow in depth. You can work around these items if you’re traveling solo or with someone else. The back seat can be used for duffel bags without any hard plastic. You don’t want to ruin the leather-Alcantara upholstery in the back if you can help it.
This tester came with the 13-speaker Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound audio system. The infotainment system offers many options, some through the latest version of the Enform smartphone app, which can connect your Pandora, iHeartRadio, and other streaming accounts, while interfacing with traffic, gas, and other information to your LC 500. Otherwise, there are plenty of other connection and entertainment options available, including an in-car navigation system with Enform’s Destination Assist.
What motivates this grand tourer is a 5.0-liter V8 engine with 471 horsepower on tap. It delivers the goods with a resounding exhaust note and superb acceleration. A 10-speed automatic transmission sends all of this power to the rear wheels. For fuel consumption, we averaged 23.0 MPG. In all, this is a great and powerful driveline.
With most Lexus models, you do have a choice of drive modes to dial up the driving experience of your choice in the 2018 Lexus LC 500. Comfort offers the softest suspension setting, but Eco will add more efficient transmission gearing for better economy. On the other end of the spectrum, Sport S will adapt shifting for better performance and control, while Sport S+ adds heavier steering weight and firmer suspension dampening. Normal is right in the middle of these extremes. You can customize steering suspension and transmission settings for your own kind of driving.
Regardless of setting, the ride quality is very good. While it softens most of the bumps and road imperfections in the softer settings, it continues to be as smooth as it can be, even in the firmer setting. Handling is also superb all around. Cornering is solid with nominal roll and lean through the curves. The LC 500 knows it is a grand touring coupe instead of a track day superstar, thus the overall feel of the suspension befits its role perfectly.
Steering feel is also good. On-center feel is solid, more so in Sport S+ mode. The turning radius is good, thanks to the addition of Active Rear Steering helping to tighten turns even further. The brakes are also solid, with sizable rotors front and rear. Stopping power is good in normal and panic situations.
When you get an LC 500, you expect to have a lot of safety and driver’s assistance features on board. Standard on the LC 500 is an all-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Automatic Braking, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, and Lane Keep Assist. Available through the Convenience Package is Intuitive Parking Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Through your smartphone is a series of Enform Remote apps, including one that monitors the LC 500 and sends mobile alerts if a preset mileage and speed limits were exceeded.
To get an LC 500, pricing starts at $92,000. Our tester came with a sticker price of $105,060. The LC 500h starts from $96,510.
As a grand touring coupe, the 2018 Lexus LC 500 is a great car. It drives superbly and delivers the goods at every turn. Not to mention, it is one of the sharpest looking cars we ever worked with. Every time we drove it, we had people looking at it and loving what they saw. We love the luxurious atmosphere inside, too!
But, is this car for you? If you appreciate superb engineering, design, performance, and driving dynamics, and this fits within your lifestyle, it will be as rewarding as we found it to be.