After the initial success of the LS flagship luxury sedan in the early 1990s, Lexus decided to follow it up with a premium coupé known as the SC. Those who remember the SC 300 and SC 400 will also remember their successor, the less-than-attractive SC 430, which was frumpy and bland. Lexus is back though, and their latest grand touring coupé is one of the most beautiful new vehicles to enter the automotive landscape this year. Coming in two configurations, gasoline and hybrid, we opted to test the one with more muscle. This is the 2018 Lexus LC 500, something that boasts the lines of an exotic with the refinement and reliability that the Japanese are known for.
A car that looks like this has to drive well, and the gasoline motor has a completely different personality than its hybrid counterpart. The LC 500 makes use of the same naturally aspirated 5.0L V8 as seen in the GS F (reviewed here), but gets more power and torque. This coupé sees 471 horsepower at 7,100RPM and 398 lb-ft. of torque at 4,800RPM. Factor in features like port and direct fuel injection and a ten-speed automatic transmission (a Lexus first), the LC can sprint to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds.
Starting the engine is almost reminiscent of an Aston Martin V8 motor, with a roar up to 3,000RPM and subtle crackles from the exhaust tips as it simmers down. When the car’s settings are in the right place, the transmission pulls off firm shifts that are complemented by a backfire and sensational roar. The Performance Package adds a Torsen limited-slip differential, variable steering, four wheel active steering, 21” wheels, a carbon fiber roof, an active rear spoiler, and a bit more, for $13,500. It’s not cheap, but the package is a must-have for those who want their grand touring car to have the best sporty bits the Lexus lineup has to offer.
The steel chassis of the LC is very stiff, evoking the dynamics of something from Germany when it’s pushed hard. The body itself is made of a combination of aluminum and composite, but the Performance Package added to this test vehicle tries to lighten the car’s overall weight by a carbon-fiber roof. Standard models get a glass roof, which is very neat from a cosmetic point of view. The LC 500 feels rock solid no matter what environment it’s in, and the 21” forged aluminum wheels keep the ride firm yet composed.
There’s vague evidence of understeer when the car is approaching the limit, but the rear-drive LC is a confident grand tourer that’s capable of cornering with poise. The drive mode selector toggles between many modes, which actually transform the car’s personality dramatically. When left in “Comfort”, the car is a sensational touring car with impeccable smoothness and, well, comfort. Flick the dial into “Sport” or “Sport+”, and the adaptive dampers firm right up, the exhaust baffles are opened, and the steering firms up. The steering ratio also varies from 13.6:1 to a very quick 9.8:1, so in the more athletic settings, the car changes direction eagerly.
Performance numbers from the LC are “okay”, but considering its $100,000+ price tag, it falls short from other rivals that are likely to be cross-shopped. Cars like the BMW 650i (reviewed here) and Jaguar F-Type V8 are worthy competitors that outperform the LC in many ways, and the Porsche 911 Carrera (reviewed here) is within spitting distance. That said, this Lexus isn’t necessarily about performance, and that becomes evident once the doors are opened (using the slick handles that slide out automatically when unlocked).
The interior of the LC 500 is a stunningly delightful place to be. Our test vehicle was finished in an “Ocher” colour scheme, which is almost a light cappuccino brown. Every single trim piece, button, dial, and surface inside this car is high quality and exhibits flawless fit and finish. The Alcantara and leather surfaces are rich and thick, as are the deep-pile floor mats that you almost feel guilty setting your feet on. The shifter is a gorgeous leather-wrapped piece that stems from the center console, and beside it are the brushed aluminum buttons that control major settings within the car. In front of the driver is a TFT instrument cluster that’s similar to the unit in the RC F (reviewed here), which itself was inspired by the LFA supercar.
It may be one of the prettiest places to spend many hours, but the cockpit of the latest Lexus isn’t without its flaws. The large infotainment screen has 10.3” of high-resolution goodness, but the touchpad used to control it is finicky and not exactly precise. Lexus’ previous Remote Touch Interface as seen in the current RX 350 (reviewed here) was much better, but still not ideal. We always love the simplicity of a well-designed interior, but there are too few buttons. Simple tasks like getting to the heated and ventilated seats are difficult – this requires venturing deep into the climate control. Lastly, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity.
Lexus Canada suggests fuel ratings of 14.7L/100km city and 9.2L/100km highway, and an average rating of 12.2L/100km combined. The LC 500 is required to take premium 91-octane fuel, and the tank is surprisingly large, with an 82L capacity. Our test consisted of a lot of highway driving, and approximately a 20% city mix. Average consumption sat right around the 12.8L/100km mark, which isn’t all that bad considering the engine was barely broken in upon receiving the vehicle. Every single car that the LC 500 competes with is either turbocharged or supercharged, so the naturally aspirated V8 of the Lexus is an anomaly with regards to comparatively poorer fuel mileage.
Pricing for this LC 500 with the Performance Package is quite similar to the LC 500h hybrid model. The base LC starts at $101,600, and ours had the aforementioned Performance Package (the only real option available) and an extra $650 charge for the Infrared paint job, bringing the total to $115,750 before freight, PDI, and taxes. The LC 500h starts at $118,750 and has no available options. It also only has six cylinders and a notably different vehicle dynamics – this is pure personal preference.
The 2018 Lexus LC 500 is not only an aesthetic marvel; it’s also a very, very good car that delivers every bit of its promise. This car doesn’t claim fame or to outclass anything it goes up against – it’s on its own and builds on a similar concept as the BMW 6-series and now-defunct Jaguar XK. With striking lines and a visual appeal equivalent to that of a concept car, the LC is by far one of the best new cars on sale today. Unlike almost anything else it will be cross-shopped against, the Lexus is also almost guaranteed to remain reliable in the long run and hold a good chunk of its value for many years to come. This is one where the wait was well worth it – well done Lexus.