A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Lexus LC 500
I know what you're thinking…
"Oh, great, Randy is reviewing another Lexus! He must be such a fanboy of the brand himself that his journalistic integrity is just dust by now…"
If you think that way, then perhaps you can wait and read my consumer-focused review of this same car in the lifestyle magazine expected to be published in July. That is, if you don't mind the intended demographic of the magazine, some of the editorial content and perhaps a few adverts inside said publication.
Incidentally, said magazine was once the Minnesota Magazine of The Year. In 2016.
However, if you think otherwise…then, read on…
Among the many vehicles I had on my list to work with, this one was the most anticipated of them all. Not that there was less anticipation with every other vehicle out there. It was just that the storyline itself already was the stuff of legend.
In 2012, Lexus brought out a concept called the LF-LC. With most concept cars, it wowed all who set eyes upon it. Yet, there was a bit an anticipated disappointment about this car. Most concepts usually do not make into production with all of the design and engineering created for it. They are either taken apart with some elements put on other production models, or they would change the concept to the point of placating the multitude of laws and regulations for every market it would be sold in.
When the production version of the LC coupe was introduced at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, we were stunned again. They did absolutely little to translate the LF-LC concept into the production model. A few details here and there, but you would need an over-observant mind and perfect vision to pick out the differences between the two.
There is a side story to compliment this back story. In 2015, I reviewed my first RC F. It was the first F Performance model I worked with, having missed the IS F altogether. I came away with the summation that what I drove was a combination of an American muscle car with Japanese engineering and technology fused with a classic coupe design. To me, that I strongly considered my perfect coupe.
From the spirit of the LFA supercar, the IS F, the RC F, and the GS F come to this grand tourer. A 2+2 coupe designed to invite the most discriminating coupe customer to the Lexus brand. The invitation was rooted in a design that was forward thinking with a level of luxury that was both attainable and elusive, with performance that excites the soul.
These are high expectations to put upon the LC coupe. If you consider what has gone before it – and I will throw in the first-generation SC coupe from the 1990s, then these expectations are indeed justified.
The anticipation of working with the Lexus LC began at last year’s Chicago Auto Show. I kept looking at the LC at the Lexus stand wondering if it was for real. A few months later, the LC was available for drives at the Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally at Road America. My conversations with the regional public relations team at Toyota/Lexus turned into the anticipation of actually working with one.
As the calendar went by with the seasons playing a Jedi mind trick on my workflow, I kept on wishing and hoping to bring one in to work with. That turned to a conversation that leads to a choice. Do I want the V8-powered LC 500 or the V6/Hybrid combination of the LC 500h? A few conversations with you lead to the choice of bringing in the V8 model. I agree…the V8 would be a better conversation piece towards maximum engagement.
Almost a year later, the 2018 Lexus LC 500 arrived. This was not Christmas or Hanukkah. There was a lot of work to be done with this car.
The first I had to do prior to its arrival was to clear my mind of all potential comparisons. I should not include any memories of ideas from the RC F or the GS F in any train of thought when I am behind the wheel of the LC 500. I should never bring in other cars in the conversation – such as the Maserati Gran Turismo, the Aston Martin DB11, the Porsche 911, or any other such coupe within its price range – that could match up with the LC 500. This is a good thing since I only drove one of these within the last 24 months.
Of course, you know how well that went.
To approach the LC 500 with fresh eyes and a clear mind is the only way to achieve a distinct evaluation. Every vehicle should be approached as such. Why do I put myself through the pressure of trying to come up with a new perspective on a car that I had a high level of anticipation and expectation for?
First off – and it's a spoiler alert – the LC 500 is pretty good. Great, perhaps? Excellent? Superlatives will come in droves with this coupe because it embodies a lot of them.
Since my first close look at one for the 2017 Chicago Auto Show, I knew this was going to be a winner for Lexus. They simply nailed a car that needed only a few buyers and enthusiasts to truly celebrate it. One look at it draws you into its clutches.
The Lexus LC 500 is a wide-stance machine with equally wide 21-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. One with a low roof, pop-up door handles a tighter spindle grille with a complex set of front lighting and a unique tail lamp design that has never been seen before in production. The shape is classic, but future-proof. The long hood befits the grand touring coupe genre, with a sloping roof and very short deck.
The LC reminded me of a slew of coupes past and present. Yet, it holds its own legacy. It trumpets its own tune. That is what engaged me with this car.
Stepping into the cabin brought another series of extraordinary delights. Perhaps it was the overall instrument panel and center console design. I like how they reconstituted the entire switch set-up by moving the drive mode knob to the side of the instrumentation binnacle and enlarged the remote touchpad for the infotainment system. They also enclosed the wide-screen for the infotainment system, but I have to admit that it was a bit low for my field of vision. I adjusted accordingly, however.
The gear lever for the 10-speed automatic had a familiar pattern. I knew it was a shift-by-wire system, but I was floored when it resembled the one from the now-defunct CT 200h. The set-up in the LC 500 is much better because it is controlled by a leather-wrapped, upright shifter. Believe me, I loved it! Better still, the steering wheel-mounted paddles are larger for better gear control.
The steering wheel also had better controls. I felt there was better logic on preset/track switch, along with the integrated cruise control buttons. No more hanging short stalk off the steering column to set the cruise! Though, I did like that stalk…
In front of the instrument panel is a pair of very supportive seats with heavy bolstering. They are slathered with leather and Alcantara for this tester in Toasted Caramel. It if sounds delicious, it looks delicious! There are two rear seats, but I would not put anyone in them while I’m driving. So, yes, this is a true 2+2 coupe…isn't this what a grand touring car is all about?
Though I read that the trunk capacity was 5.4 cubic feet, you can put some duffel-type bags for a weekend for two somewhere. It is worth repeating, this is a grand touring coupe…
What’s a grand touring coupe without some serious power? I already love the 5.0-liter V8 that Lexus put underneath the hood of the RC F and GS F. For the LC 500, they bumped the horsepower to 471 and the torque to 398 pound-feet. The engine is very responsive to the throttle – which is what I expect from this engine. It also does not feel burdened by the 4,280 pounds it weighs. I would be remised if I did not mention the sound that comes from its exhaust system. Unlike a certain high-performance car I just worked with before the arrival of the LC 500, it makes a sound that strikes fear into the heart of mere motorists. Well done, Lexus!
The 10-speed automatic transmission is smooth and well-matched to the V8. With the aforementioned paddle shifters, you can dial in gearing to match the situation. However, the transmission does a great job managing on its own.
In case you’re wondering – or, care – I averaged 23.0 MPG in the LC 500. If there is a benefit to having 10 gears instead of 8 (in the RC F and GS F), there you go.
With six different drive modes, you can choose your driving experience to suit your ego. I kept it mostly in Normal mode because it offers the right balance for the kind of driving I was doing. It worked well on the highway, as well as around town. With potholes that needed to be filled and pending road work that will be underway around the Twin Cities, the LC 500 never backed down and felt hurt when it approached these hazards. This is with those large chromed 21-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sports shod on them.
Let's just say that driving the LC 500 is an experience that is rewarding to someone like me. However, this is not a car to have "fun" in. This is a very serious grand touring coupe. While it is serious about how it goes about its business, you can play with it to dial in the experience to suit your driving style. Though flexible, it is commanding.
It has to be, considering that this tester came with a sticker price of $105,060. I can only think of two other Lexus models that cost more than that…the previous generation LS 600hL and the LFA. For Lexus to offer something this special, it has to be priced accordingly…right? Also, consider that the three competitors listed earlier in this article – the Maserati, the Aston Martin, and the Porsche – will cost more than the LC 500, once you equip it accordingly.
Let's set aside all these impressions for a moment. The Lexus LC 500 is a crowning achievement for the brand. It went from concept to production with minimal changes. The result is a grand touring coupe that draws attention to even the casual observer while delivering complete joy and satisfaction to the person behind the wheel. The LC 500 does so seriously without gimmicks. While I said that it is not made for "fun," you can have some splendor and joy driving it – whether on a twisty road or a straight piece of Interstate.
I'm happy to have the chance to work with Lexus' halo product. It is too good to leave alone. That is not a summation of a fanboy, folks!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor Sales, USA
All photos by Randy Stern