2018 AUTOMOBILE All-Star: 2018 Lexus LC 500

Putting the LC into GT

When the Lexus LF-LC concept—the car that would become the LC 500—rolled onto the floor of the 2012 North American International Auto Show, the buzz was louder than a beehive after being whacked like a piñata. Sure, Lexus had built the LFA, but that was a V-10-powered, carbon-fiber-clad, relatively unobtainable supercar—and it wasn’t exactly gorgeous.

Styled in Southern California by the company’s Calty studio, the LF-LC presaged a decidedly more attainable flagship coupe wearing what was the most expressive version yet of the brand’s now-ubiquitous spindle grille and L-shaped headlamp styling cues. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda wanted to bring some sexy to Lexus, and the Calty team didn’t disappoint the boss.

Although it took some time for the LC to make it to production, the end result was a dead ringer for the concept on the outside. Not that anyone complained about that, including design editor Robert Cumberford. While he picked some nits with the design as a whole, Cumberford lauded its proportions in our previous issue (“that stance tho,” in today’s parlance).

“Amazing looks that cause everyone to gawk,” remarked features editor Rory Jurnecka of the Infrared-sprayed LC with a carbon-fiber roof we tested. Even those of us who aren’t fans of the Lexus mug begrudgingly gave it some props. “The ugly Lexus nose works on the LC much better than on its other products,” contributor Marc Noordeloos said.

Praise was more universal for its lavishly appointed cabin. “The LC 500’s interior feels like a Gucci by Tom Ford spaceship teleported from the 1970s,” contributor Basem Wasef opined. In typical GT style, you’re not going to fit any adults in the rear seats, but the kiddos would be fine back there, as would some gear for a long weekend. The front seats are eminently comfortable for extended journeys while also being snug enough for more aggressive driving—at least the Alcantara-swathed buckets that were part of the test car’s optional $5,960 Performance package. About the only demerit anyone issued was for the Lexus haptic touchpad and controller setup, which, like the grille, is an acquired taste.

Dynamically, the LC 500 is a car you need to put into context. Again, this is a GT, not a balls-to-the-wall, track-attacking super sports coupe, though we bet an F version could be if Lexus develops one. (LC race cars have already competed and won in Japan’s Super GT series.) Lexus is one of the few carmakers left that offers models with a naturally aspirated V-8, in this case a 5.0-liter unit with 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque hooked up to a 10-speed automatic with magnesium paddle shifters. (A greener LC 500h featuring a 3.5-liter V-6 with 354 total hybrid system horsepower is also available.)

The V-8 won’t send anyone to the chiropractor after you put your foot to the floor, but it’s no slouch cowering in the corner, either. It sounds downright mean at times. Throw it into Sport+ mode, and the LC predictably sharpens up. Its active rear-steer feature (also part of the Performance package) helped keep what is a relatively heavy car lapping pretty well on the track.

“It makes nice noises, especially the blip on downshifts—pure race car,” pro racer Andy Pilgrim said. “Solid, predictable handling on the street, and it’s not bad on the track considering its mass.”

A couple of editors had some issues with the steering feel near its limits, but the open road is where the LC will do most of its roaming and where it does its best work. At 92 large to start, this car will not sell in bulk. Rather, this is a coupe that wears the crown, a car that Mr. Toyoda can point to and say the team nailed the brief.

“The LC 500 is a halo product Lexus should be proud of,” contributor Chris Nelson said. “The grand tourer has animated styling, exemplary fit and finish, and lavish trim with a tactile feel. On the highway, it’s effortless and heavenly.” It’s also a car we’re proud to call a 2018 All-Star.

2018 Lexus LC 500 Specifications

PRICE  $92,995/$105,710 (base/as tested)
ENGINE  5.0L DOHC 32-valve V-8/471 hp @ 7,100 rpm, 398 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION  10-speed automatic
LAYOUT  2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE  19/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H  187.4 x 75.6 x 53.0 in
WHEELBASE  113.0 in
WEIGHT  4,280 lb
0-60 MPH  4.4 sec
TOP SPEED  168 mph