The 2018 Lexus LC 500 has always had a way of allowing people to relive their inner most fantasies. When we last met the LC 500, it allowed fellow Car-Revs-Daily writer Ben Lewis to channel his inner Bond Villain while proving itself as an excellent grand touring coupe.
But how does the LC 500 measure up against its elite competition? and is the LC 500 capable of taking its impeccable elegance to other locales? To find out we took the LC 500 to our Metro Detroit outpost to see if a change of scenery allowed it to blossom to its full potential? Or wilt in the face of an ever evolving sports car segment.
The exterior styling of the 2018 Lexus LC 500 is a rolling canvas of beauty, and it highlights the high amount of time, effort, and precision that went into crafting its very svelte suit of clothes.
The front spindle grille (normally a hit or miss item on other Lexus offerings) is very bold and imposing here, and it does an excellent job meshing with the LC's elegant triple LED headlights, which are delightfully underscored by the L-shaped daytime running lights. Much of the LC's exterior styling is derived from the LF-LC concept car, which made its original debut at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. That concept was a stylish masterpiece, and it's quite pleasing to see that the production LC carries over the bulk of these cues nearly intact, something that we wish was the case for other automobiles.
The overall package is enhanced further by our tester's 21-inch forged aluminum wheels, optional carbon fiber roof, as well as other sensual design elements that allow the big Lexus to standout against competitors such as the Porsche 911, and even makes us think of select Ferrari models when it comes to an aesthetic shootout. With such stylish sheet metal, its no surprise that the LC manages to turn heads wherever it goes.
As it turned out, this trait even applied when it was parked, with our tester managing to attract three different visits to our normally quiet cul-de-sac by curious observers an hour after it was initially dropped off. This included a young family and their three children, who gleefully took pictures of the camera friendly LC as they drove by in their minivan.
With Lexus currently in a state of flux when it comes to the success of their current design language, its pleasing to see that the LC 500 truly nails that perfect balance between beauty and grace, and this should please the wealthy few that want a distinctive piece of machinery that symbolizes their elite status in the world.
The interior of the LC is also a visual masterpiece, though it avoids the typical cliches employed by its German competition. Wheras coupes from Mercedes and Porsche choose to mask technology behind layers of heritage and refinement, the LC wears every single one of its electronics like a glistening badge of honor. The cabin does a beautiful job blending carbon fiber, leather, and other materials into an unforgettable oasis of luxury that looks sharp, and is pleasing to the touch.
Unlike other LCs which tend to wield a tan color scheme, our tester featured a vibrant red and black layout, that helped bring more aggression and contrast to the cabin. Looking at some of the finer elements of the interior, it's clear that Lexus's designers were given permission to not only disregard the bean counters that were probably tied up in the closet while this car was made, but also to let loose, and it shows in many ways. The interior door handles for example have a floating look, and they feel very premium and upscale when in use. Meanwhile the LFA inspired gauges have a sci-fi vibe to them, and they actually serve as a compelling visual highlight of this car.
However amid all of the carbon fiber, leather, and other materials that make the interior look like an artistic masterpiece, there are some disappointments that make themselves known when out and about in daily driving. A big one is the sacrifice in ergonomics that exists with this car, with odd button placement and equally bizarre control layouts abound. For example, in order to access the center console storage bin, drivers have to perform a two step procedure that involves pushing down on the button, and then actually sliding the door all the way back to access the USB ports and the auxiliary input jack.
The button that operates this mechanism sometimes pinches your fingers, and the elaborate opening procedure is perhaps Lexus's subtle way of reminding you to stay off your phone while you drive the LC around town.
A more prominent offender is the touch pad controller that operates the infotainment system. While the novel unit is a nice change of pace from the balky and infuriatingly bad mouse style controller that we have regularly torched in other Lexus reviews, this unit has its own share of problems. The pad is too sensitive to inputs, and the cursor has a tendency to erratically shoot off all over the screen, which makes the system virtually impossible to use while the car is moving.
A few minutes of practice allows one to adjust to its quirks, but this is clearly a unit that is best used while in park. We recommend using either the steering wheel controls or voice commands to get around the various menus quickly. Lastly, the rear seats are barely fit for humans to dwell in (trust us we tried,) but they do help the LC avoid the high insurance rates racked by many pure two seaters, and are also the nicest cargo shelves money can buy. The trunk is also on the small side, but it still has room for a light load of groceries, or a picnic for two.
When it comes to the actual task of driving, the LC manages to score a near perfect grade in every aspect, and in the process, transforms into a unique driving machine. Power comes from Lexus's familiar 5.0 liter V8 that's good for a potent 471 horsepower, but all that muscle doesn't necessarily translate into a fast driving experience which is mainly due to the LC's 4,280 lb curb weight. This heft is felt when braking, as well as in tight turns.
While it's not quite as sharp as a Corvette Stingray, the LC is still a good choice for tearing up quiet back roads or soaking up the miles on long road trips. The bolstered leather/Alcantara sport seats do a good job keeping occupants in place, and the surprisingly compact wheel feels great in the hands. The talented tiller also has a solid degree of road feel, though its electric rack can't fully replicate the perfect balance generated by hydraulic units.
The lone blemish here is the 10-speed automatic which has a Jekyll and Hyde personality that can alter the driving experience (for better and for worse.) In everyday driving, the transmission is confused, and in some instances unprepared especially in Normal mode. While upshifts are smooth and agreeable, downshifts are clunky and outright clumsy especially in traffic. In short, the LC hates stop and go traffic, and will shudder about accordingly to show its displeasure at such an act. While we're complaining, we think that offering plastic shift paddles in a car that surpasses $100,000 is a bit too budget conscious for our tastes.
However, shift the transmission into either Sport or Sport + mode, and it awakens an entirely different beast that is eager to please. The transmission holds onto lower gears for longer periods of time, and is less eager to upshift, preferring to wait for you to mash the throttle.
When you do, you are rewarded with an excellent V8 soundtrack that crescendos in higher revs, and really amps up the fun factor at the same time. We we're so entranced by Sport + mode, that it became our preferred experience during the majority of our time with the LC, with Comfort mode only being used in formal city driving. Both of these modes also allows the four wheel steering system to truly be in its element, and its beneficial nature was noticeable, with the LC occasionally surprising us with its steering accuracy.
Pricing for the 2018 Lexus LC 500 starts at $92,000 which is a relative bargain in this elite segment, and allows the LC to stand out not only against the BMW 6-Series, but also other posh GT entries including the equally stylish, but rapidly aging Maserati Gran Turismo. Our heavily optioned tester had a final MSRP of $104,465 which not only allowed it to earn the title of most expensive vehicle to ever visit our Metro Detroit outpost, but also undercut pricier entries like the Aston Martin DB11, Acura NSX, and select flavors of the Jaguar F-Type coupe.
With looks that seduce the soul, and a beefy V8 that allows it to muscle past many of its rivals, the 2018 Lexus LC 500 has the tools necessary to truly stand out in the flagship Grand Touring segment. While the LC also comes in hybrid guise, we highly recommend the V8 to truly achieve the full LC experience. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this sleek two door coupe, especially in F-Sport guise.