Lexus coupés have always intrigued me. The first SC 300 and 400 (aka Toyota Soarer) were equal parts elegant and luxurious, with little to do with performance. That is unless someone swapped in a twin-turbo Supra engine, or an LS1 or slapped turbos on the 400’s V8. Then came the SC 430, a car I sadly never got to drive. It was a very old man’s drop top that is, unless it too went under the knife in order to become a massively modified drift car.
The intrigue comes from the extremes that the cars are put through. It looks as though Lexus’ been tempted to move further away from the faithful old-man purchaser with their most recent 2-door coupés. The resulting cars are far different from the previous, without a doubt. The RC’s found some followers in the drifting world but from where I stand, regardless of the version, it has left me mildly repelled with everything about it save for the F’s V8. The LC, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. More precisely, it’s pretty, shockingly cool, desirable and the 500’s V8 is very good.
This thing is as close to a concept a production car could ever be. In fact, the 2018 LC 500 car you can buy right now is practically indistinguishable from the LF-LC concept introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit back in 2012, right down to the massive wheels.
This grand tourer or personal luxury car is a guaranteed show-stopper now, and will be for years and decades to come. So unique is the overall design that if it wasn’t for the giant front spindle grille and logos, one could mistake the car as a concept from any other OEM; one that would likely never be built.
The LC’s proportions are spectacular. The wheelbase is nearly three meters long while the overhangs are practically non-existent. The long downward sloping hood oozes power and thankfully does not suffer the RC’s ridiculous and ugly power-dome.
The wheel arches are powerful and must be filled with the insanely hot 21” wheels – they are standard on the 500h and part of the Performance package on the 500. This car needs colour to be fully appreciated however Atomic Silver blows the mind when light plays within the curvaceous body panels.
Nowhere is the need for colour truer than in the sublime and intense cabin. The tested car cried itself to sleep every night because of its black cabin. Do yourself, and the car, a favour and select Orcher (orange-beige) or Rioja Red leather and bask in craftsmanship akin to what Rolls Royce offers. It’s breathtaking.
The dashboard is epic and busy. Here, I would tear out the stupid moronic touchpad and drop in a simple selector wheel to access and navigate the onboard menus. Interestingly, I could find only a tiny mention of the touchpad on Lexus.com’s website but loads of details on Lexus Enform and that there are voice and steering wheel control options. Perhaps they know how bad the thing is…
Of the two LCs I’ve driven, this 500 and a 500h, both featured the front sport seats. In no uncertain terms, they are wonderful. The LC is a snug affair with little room for humans to occupy the two rear seats. Up front, all is good for most body types.
As for storage, Lexus’ has include some bins up front as well as a larger one the rear, also known as the trunk. With a volume of 153 litres (the hybrid offers 132 litres), you won’t get a golf bag or much more than a weekend’s worth of clothe for two back there.
Space may be at a premium however true comfort can be found thanks the cabin’s opulence and the excellent bespoke chassis’ tuning.
At $101,600, the base LC 500 is a tad more than twice the price of the RC 300 AWD, and it’s more than worth it. The LC is three or four times the car the RC 300 and 350 are, and twice the RC F, which retails for $85,400.
The positives for the F in comparison to the LC is limited to the V8. The LC kills the RC F in every other respect. For the required six figures, the LC 500 is loaded with a Mark Levinson audio system, a large 10.3” screen, navigation, heated and ventilated seats, a lovely full TFT gauge cluster (that moves depending on menus), a battery of active safety features, adaptive suspension and the Farmers Almanac’s worth of more stuff.
My tester’s got the optional $13,500 Performance package which is a must. At this price point, get everything. It includes a Torsen limited slip differential, carbon fiber roof, 4-wheel steering, the sport seats, the 21” wheels and a few other items.
For $115,100, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more exotic and unique looking car. The BMW i8 might be the closest in that respect but it’s $35k more and getting on in age.
Although I like the 500h hybrid, now that I’ve sampled the V8 in this car, I’d no longer consider it. Too good is this chassis to not be exploited by more power and speed. I’ve sampled many V8s in recent years (German, American, Korean and Japanese) and I must say that Lexus’ 5.0-litre might be the creamiest of all.
Refined would be another way to describe this V8. It produces 471 horsepower at 7,100 rpm and 398 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm, more than enough gusto to permit this nearly 4,300 lbs. coupé to reach 100 km/h in only 4.5 seconds. The whole experience is exhilarating, and not at the same time. Blame it on how well put-together the car is and I suspect Lexus was aware of this. This is why the car includes standard active Sound Control for little extra stage presence.
A cold start-up creates a lovely V8 hum which quickly drops off to a whisper. As all the power is higher up in the rev range, the desire to get on it is impossible to resist. The impressively quick and competent 10-speed automatic blasts through gears and is mainly responsible for this car’s blistering ability to go fast. The best drive mode for fun is Sport where the powertrain stays sharp but the ride keeps its cool. Here, digging into the higher portions of the rev-range is immensely enjoyable, and rewarding.
This car’s true gift is its road manners. The RC F is lumbered and clumsy while the LC is agile, stable and confidence-inspiring. The Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) along with the optional 4-wheel steering unite to create a huge sense of control and loads of grip. The massive tires actually communicate something to the driver which I love. What I also appreciate in this car are the enormous front and rear ventilated discs brakes. Pedal response is immediate and speed drops in an instant.
There are many GT coupés to select from in this price range. The BMW 650i xDrive matches the LC 500 in all respects but includes AWD for the price. The Mercedes S 550 coupe is priced like the i8 so it’s out of this comparison. For the interior and overall feel, the LC is difficult to beat even if the 650i is a remarkable car.