Sports coupes with naturally-aspirated V8 engines are an increasingly rare breed as government regulations further tighten the grip on fuel economy standards. The new Lexus LC 500, however, looks to be a modern-day throwback of fun-to-drive grand touring vehicles.
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2018 Lexus LC Overview
What's New for 2018
The LC 500 is an all-new model.
Choosing Your Lexus LC 500
Borrowing heavily from its performance-oriented siblings the GS F sedan and RC F coupe, the LC 500 is powered by the same 5.0-liter V8 engine. Its 471 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque propel the four-seat coupe to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds. And thanks to a special resonance tube connecting the engine intake to the firewall, the V8 sound reverberates throughout the cabin for any enthusiast to enjoy. A standard active exhaust further enhances the LC 500’s performance soundtrack.
Based on an all-new Lexus platform known as Global Architecture-Luxury, the rear-wheel-drive LC 500 features a lower center of gravity, which increases handling and dynamics. Look for the GA-L to be outfitted in future Lexus models, such as the all-new LS sedan.
The standalone transmission is a 10-speed automatic transmission, the first implementation of such in a luxury vehicle. Paddle shifters are standard for those who prefer more engagement. Standard 20-inch wheels sit at each corner while 21-inchers are available. The brake system uses of six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear.
The four-passenger cabin gets ergonomically-placed function buttons and controls, a 10.3-inch multimedia display with a remote touch interface pad, a 12-speaker Pioneer sound system, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, and an 8.0-inch multi-information instrument cluster display. On the exterior, all LC 500 models feature Lexus’s aggressive mesh grille and LED headlights, taillights, turn signals, and cornering lamps.
The LC 500 starts at $92,995 (including the $995 destination fee) and is offered in one trim level with four available package options.
The Touring Package ($4,000) adds 20-inch forged wheels, semi-aniline seats, heated and ventilated front seats, two-way front passenger seat lumbar, blind spot monitoring, parking assist, and a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
The Sport Package ($4,000) offers the same features as the Touring package but adds Alcantara sport seats, a limited-slip differential, and a 12-speaker Lexus premium sound system. For $3,000 more, the Sport package with carbon fiber roof adds its namesake roof and 21-inch forged wheels.
The Performance Package ($10,000) builds upon the Sport Package with the carbon fiber roof and adds active rear steering, variable gear ratios, an active rear spoiler, an Alcantara headliner, and carbon fiber scuff plates.
A Mark Levinson surround audio system, color head-up display, forged wheels, and All-Weather Package are available separately.
EPA numbers are not yet available but Lexus estimates fuel economy to be 16 miles per gallon city, 26 highway, and 19 combined.
Even though there is seating for four, consider the LC 500 more of a comfortable two-seat grand touring coupe as the rear seats are snug for average-sized adults. An LC 500 with the Touring package should satisfy the needs of most consumers. Enthusiasts will benefit from the Sport package, which adds the limited-slip differential and Alcantara trim.
2018 Lexus LC Review
Step into the 2018 Lexus LC and prepare to be captivated by an arresting shape, obsessive chassis engineering, and brilliant V8 performance. But, at over two tons, it's hardly lithe, the back seats and trunk are hilariously small, while the touchpad infotainment interface is one of the most distracting systems we've sampled.
The 2018 Lexus LC is available as either a gas-powered LC 500 or hybrid LC 500h. The 2018 LC 500 has a starting price of $93,025 (including destination) and has an impressive array of standard equipment that includes LED headlights, taillights, turn and cornering lights, and daytime running lights, flush door handles, and heated light-sensitive outside mirrors.
Interior accoutrements include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather front and faux leather back seats, an eight-inch TFT instrument display, aluminum pedals and scuff plates, a deodorizing interior air filter, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, keyless push-button start, a 12-speaker audio system, and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen.
On the safety front, there's the Lexus Safety System Plus that features forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights with high-beam assist, lane keeping assist, and lane departure warning with steering assist.
Given the LC's intended demographic, delving into the options list shouldn't present a problem. We suggest looking closely at the Torsen differential, Touring, and Performance Packages, as all three substantially influence the LC’s handling characteristics.
Here's how we'd build it:
- Model: 2018 Lexus LC 500
- Engine: 5.0-liter V8
- Output: 471 hp / 398 lb-ft
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
- MPG: 16 City / 26 Hwy
- Options: Performance Package ($5,960, carbon fiber roof, four-wheel steering, Variable Gear Ratio Steering, active rear spoiler, eight-way power seats with Alcantara inserts, Alcantara headliner, carbon fiber sill plates), Convenience Package ($1,000, required with Performance Package, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic parking assistant), 21-inch polished wheels ($2,650), Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound Audio System ($1,220), color head-up display ($900), Torsen limited-slip rear differential ($390)
- Base Price: $93,025 (including a $1,025 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $105,145
A true grand tourer, the LC 500 feels equally at home devouring miles of interstate at extreme speeds or surgically carving up back road corners. The 5.0-liter V8 is blessed with astonishing off-the-line acceleration and helps the LC eclipse 60 miles per hour in less than 4.5 seconds – no mean feat for a vehicle that tips the scales between 4,280 and 4,435 pounds. Start it up or put your foot into it and some of the bark from the exhaust is filtered and channeled into the cabin, which is the perfect soundtrack to the LC 500's exhilarating performance.
The 10-speed automatic is equally impressive, refusing to get lost in all those gears and, in Sport+ mode, capable of incredibly fast upshifts. The steering is quick and precise, and the brakes are easy to modulate with a superb initial bite to the pads and enough stopping power to make you forget the rotors are steel, not carbon.
At the same time, the ride is remarkably composed, even when the LC 500 is fitted with mammoth 21-inch polished alloy wheels. The multi-link suspension and adaptive shocks work in concert to absorb everything from minor road imperfections to large potholes – all this courtesy of an extremely stiff body. Lexus claims that the LC's structure, which is composed of high-strength steels, aluminum, and CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced polymer), is torsionally stiffer than the LFA supercar.
On the other hand, in certain situations (quick maneuvers come to mind), the steering can seem almost too quick, while the suspension and steering systems often feel isolated from what's happening up front and underneath the chassis. In addition – not that this will matter to most buyers – we observed a paltry vehicle-measured 18.3 miles per gallon in city driving, which compares to the EPA-estimated 16 mpg city, 26 highway, and 19 combined.
A styling tour-de-force, the LC's stunning shape dips into past greatness with hints of the Jaguar F-Type in back and the Renault Alpine GTA in the side glass. Like all great designs, the devil is in the details: a jet canopy-like roofline, jewel-like LED taillights that jut out from the rear fascia, and flush door handles that glide out on command.
The cabin continues the angular, organic theme in the stunningly crafted cockpit where the console forms a wide, flowing wall between the driver and passenger. Horizontal and vertical surfaces are slathered in beautiful, supple leather and Alcantara suede upholstery. The front seats are supportive and, for the most part, comfortable over long distances, while the optional Mark Levinson system will appeal to audiophiles. The craftsmanship is beautiful and, even at six figures, looks and feels a class above.
But perfection is eluded due to two issues. For one, the vestigial back seat is hilariously small. Given the LC's diminutive trunk – a mere 5.4 cubic feet – eighty-sixing the rear perches (the only viable occupants are small children, who would be better off in a minivan, anyway) would open up some much needed real estate for an additional piece of soft-sided luggage. Secondly, the display screen may look pretty, but the touchpad-controlled navigation system is still finicky and distracting, especially when you consider the cruising speeds the LC is capable of.
The Best and Worst Things
Obsessive chassis engineering melded to a free-breathing V8 – a pairing that shakes off Lexus' performance torpor with an exclamation point – allows drivers to explore the LC's limits without it being so powerful that speed or talent becomes a big issue.
The reasoning behind Lexus insistence on hewing to a finicky, distracting, touchpad-based infotainment system continues to elude us. Technical wizardry for its own sake is rarely the best approach, and this system not only steals too much of the driver’s attention, it can never be as precise or as fast as a simpler, more traditional setup.
Right For? Wrong For?
Stunning good looks and remarkable poise and speed will draw enthusiasts and the style conscious.
But at the risk of pointing out the obvious, the LC is hardly suitable for eco-friendly families.
The Bottom Line
A small back seat and finicky infotainment interface are minor nits. In the 2018 Lexus LC, we have a vehicle that equals the performance with the same emotion and elegance as an Aston Martin that costs twice as much. And compared to similarly priced rivals like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, it feels more inspiring and extraordinary, both from behind the wheel and when parked.