Most times, I’m an auto journalist.
Testing and writing about the latest and greatest from manufacturers, and hoping to give you the info you need to know.
But today, I’m a Bond villain.
Well at least I feel that way. I’m in the new Lexus LC500, and it makes such a definitive statement, and takes the brand in a bold new direction. And it does make you feel evil. In a good way.
For your eyes, only….
Let’s start with the looks. While James Bond started with Astons, got sidetracked with Lotus and BMW’s along the way (and the occasional Sunbeam Alpine and Ford Mustang), and now returned to the brand the really owns the franchise, it’s never been easy to be a Bond baddie.
There have been a lot of black 4-door sedans with gun-toting henchman, and occasionally we’ve had some good/bad cars like a Renault R5 Turbo, an AMC Matador (hey, it flew! That ‘s kinda cool), A missile-equipped Jaguar XK8 – even a vintage Aston that Bond wins in a high-stakes card game. The best one must be the prototype Jaguar C-X75 driven by Dave Batista in Spectre. (How he fit in that car, we’ll never know.)
The LC certainly fits in the current trend of gorgeous cars for doers of evil deeds. In fact, to some eyes, it may be better looking than the current Aston Martins. The LC has undeniable presence. It’s a big vehicle, and it looks wide, powerful, and planted to the pavement.
At the front, the massive Lexus spindle grille stands out in 3D boldness, with a bit of chrome trim to accent the whole affair. And if the massive grille isn’t enough, functional venting on both sides add aerodynamic stability and cooling. In the battle of squinty headlights, the LC brings new ultra-compact triple LED headlamps that are stunning, underscored by independent L-shaped daytime running lights.
Large fender flares at front and massive flares with spindle-shape intakes at the rear give a tight-waisted, ultra-muscular look that perfectly frames the huge, optional 21-inch rims. As the lines sweep around the rear wheels, the flares box in, and we get a rear fascia that protrudes out and makes the LC look visually even longer. On top, slim rear taillights look like they’d be perfect weapons, if only they can protrude at speed. (unfortunately, they don’t.)
Perhaps the most breathtaking part is the profile, with a snug fitting roofline, and blacked out pillars to create a floating roof design. While on most LC’s you get a large glass panel, our tester, had the optional carbon fiber reinforced plastic roof that looks trick, but you do lose the sunroof. You decide.
As you can see from the pics, our LC was in a color called Atomic Silver, which carries a fair bit of bronze in it. Combined with the jaw-dropping exterior design, this car didn’t just turn heads, it drew crowds. Part of that is the newness of the LC – you don’t see many of them, even out here, even in L.A. But if you wanted to be a bit more low-key – not all bad guys want the attention – the inky-black Caviar looks especially menacing.
The interior is equally as stunning. You slide in, and drop down – this is a low-slung performance car, that feels like many exotics. The instrumental panel is pure Lexus F Sport, with a large center tachometer, and a digital speedo, all for a quick read. As your eyes scan across, there’s a large 10.3 inch TFT display for navi and media and more.
Accessing this is Lexus’ Remote Touchpad Controller – which looks like it would be perfect for aiming a missile. While it’s a much-improved system, it’s still fiddly to use. Thankfully, redundant controls for audio and the like mean you can avoid it much of the time.
There’s little else to complain about the interior. The front seats are supremely supportive and comfortable, whether you’re chasing down Astons in Italy or piling the miles on your daily commute.
The rear seats are okay for kids, or for squeezing secrets out of adults.
The craftsmanship will wow you. Open the door, and you’ll see the Allen head bolts actually have the word Lexus stamped in them. Few will think to look, but if you do, it will make you smile. The materials used in the interior sets new highs – even for a Lexus.
The door panels wrap around you to create a cozy lair. (Bad guys always need a lair) There’s rich, stitched leather, tactile Alcantara, and little details, like a steering wheel with cross section changes around its circumference to allow variations in grip. For your accomplice, an integrated grab handle in the center console is as artful as it is useful. Even the little leather pad you rest your palm on when using the touchpad is made of a different grade of leather that’s more resistant to wear and tear. Incredible.
Like a poorly-acted villain, all of this would be disappointing if the LC didn’t deliver in the performance department. No worries here. The LC is the real deal. It starts with what is going to be a rarity in the next few years – a normally-aspirated V8. With fuel economy and emissions and packaging pushing cars of this class to turbo V6’s, a V8 is becoming a special treat.
And this one is especially good. The 5.0-liter V8 punches out an impressive 471 hp, and Toyota’s luxury division did a very un-Lexus step and made this engine loud and proud. The quality of sound is tremendous (it does adjust depending on the mode you choose) and it starts with a great “whump” and a quick blip growl that turns heads.
Lean into it, and the muscular V8 sounds as good as anything with an AMG badge, and it moves ahead with authority, thanks to a new 10-speed automatic that snaps off shifts quickly. Or if you prefer, you can pull on the paddle shifters for some manual-mode fun.
Sharing the platform with the new LS, the LC is no lightweight, but it still gets with the program, dispensing 0-60 runs in the mid 4-second range with nonchalant ease.
The heavy platform doesn’t seem to harm the handling either. Lexus was careful to put the majority of the vehicle’s mass behind the front axle, creating a front-midship design, and that helps the big LC turn in surprisingly quickly. The electric power steering is perfectly weighted (not the old Lexus lighty) and full of feel, making it easy to point and shoot those monstrous Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Ride quality is superb – although firm, it never gets close to harsh.
Frankly, though, the LC is a large vehicle, with handling limits so high, you’re not going to get close to seeing what it can do unless you go to the track. On the road, it’s just a superbly satisfying blend of sporty and lux. With a heavier emphasis on the sport. Lexus uncorks European road manners, and makes it look easy. Excellent!
If you do wish to push the limits of the envelope, an available Lexus Dynamic Handling system adds a Variable Gear Ratio Steering and Active Rear Steering.
Do I need a gold finger to buy one?
Pricing our tester is a little tough – a pre-production model, it had an interesting mix of standards and available features. The production LC starts at $92,000. Adding in the performance, luxury and appearance goodies on our tester, we came to an estimate of $96,995. Hopefully, crime pays…
The obvious competitors here would be the Mercedes S-Class Coupe, that starts at $122,750, and BMW’s 6-series, with V8 models starting between $93,000-$120,000. And it’s easy to add $10,000 or more in options on either competitor. So, the LC at close to 100 large comes off as an excellent value.
We think our choice would be the LC. For the looks, the performance, the craftsmanship, and the fact that a Lexus is such a welcome surprise in the bad guy sweepstakes. We can see 007 saying “A Lexus? You expect me to ride around in some big luxury boat?”
No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to drive!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.