The Lexus LC500 Is Rolling Art That Drives Like It, Too
A former Automobile All-Star, the LC received recent updates that make it even better.
Ah, what a glorious piece. The Lexus LC500 coupe pushes the design envelope in a manner unlike anything the luxury marque has done before, and the result is a sculptural, sensuous stunner. On a recent trip to Nagoya, Japan, I had the opportunity to meet one of the Lexus "takumi" (artisans) responsible for perfecting the curves of the LC's side doors. Bowing outward dramatically, the doors initially proved so difficult to manufacture that Lexus designers almost gave up on the shape. But a new stamping process, combined with hand-finishing by the takumi—who are able to produce tolerances far more precise than is possible using machines alone—finally delivered the artful doors the designers imagined. As handsome as it appears in photos, in the metal the LC500 glides by with true movie-star charisma.
My test car had the optional 21-inch forged wheels ($2,650 and totally worth it), Mark Levison premium audio ($1,220), a limited-slip differential ($390), the Sport package with carbon roof ($2,960), and a few other goodies—pushing the sticker to $102,345. There's not much missing in the base model, though, as standard gear includes Apple CarPlay (new for 2019), Lexus Enform dynamic navigation with voice command, heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats, rich leather trim (with red inserts in my test car), and almost every passive and active safety system you could want.
While a hybrid powertrain is available, my example flaunted the naturally aspirated, twin-cam 5.0-liter V-8. And that made me very happy indeed. The engine, good for 471 horses, is as smooth as butter-cream frosting and makes delicious, racy noises as it revs. (It's a thirsty beast, though, delivering just 16 mpg on the EPA city cycle.) The 10-speed automatic has been improved for 2019, delivering crisper, more refined shifts; it's particularly rewarding to use the manual shift paddles in Sport or Sport+ modes. The LC can scoot to 60 mph in well under five seconds, but this is a fleet-footed grand tourer, not an all-out sporting machine. Despite extensive use of aluminum and that optional carbon roof (which replaces the standard glass panel), the car hits the scales at around 4,400 pounds. It's remarkably lively given such mass, though—eager to turn-in, minimal in roll, the V-8 gunning for the redline with abandon. And if you had an open stretch of autobahn to hammer it on, Lexus claims the LC will reach nearly 170 mph.
The adaptive suspension was also updated for 2019, resulting in a ride that's impressively resilient even in the sportier driving modes. Yep, the car understeers near the limit as you'd expect, but improved steering combined with the suspension enhancements mean the LC is plenty engaging when you're out for a romp. I had a splendid afternoon enjoying the wriggling mountain passes in and around Malibu. The 15.7-inch front discs with six-piston aluminum calipers did a fine job of reining in the merriment, too.
Most buyers, I'd wager, will appreciate the LC most for its dazzling body, exciting sounds, and sumptuous cabin. The seats are excellent, the dash is an elegant mélange of fine materials and flowing lines, and the amenities profuse. The standard electroluminescent gauges are a cinch to read, and my test car also had the optional—and very useful—head-up display ($900). My only gripe centered on the touchpad interface that Lexus has steadily refined over the years but which remains too fussy for easy use, especially on the move. Also, after the car had sat for several hours in the sun, the large chrome rotary knob in the center console got too hot to use (something that could be easily remedied with more mindful parking, of course). On a brighter note, my daughter—she's five feet, seven inches tall—remarked that the rear seats were surprisingly comfortable, though it does take some careful maneuvering to get into them.
The LC500 is a machine that radiates beauty, from the sublime creases of its bodywork to the quality and craftsmanship of its cockpit to the abiding finesse of the driving experience. Take it on a highway cruise and it will whisper along while you soak up the aural splendor of its high-end surround-sound audio system and relax in the convenience of dynamic radar cruise-control and lane-keep assist. Give it the spurs and it will kick up with an electrifying growl as it pins you back in a sophisticated surge of brawn. Or just park it in your driveway. And wait for the neighbors to ask, "Where'd you buy that gorgeous work of modern art?"
2019 Lexus LC500 Specifications
|ENGINE||5.0L DOHC 32-valve V-8; 471 hp @ 7,100 rpm, 398 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2+2 passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||16/25 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||187.4 x 75.6 x 53.0 in|
|WEIGHT||4,400 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH||4.7 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||168 mph (mfr)|