After the somewhat disappointing review of the Lexus RCF, looking at the 2019 LC500 I couldn’t grasp how this $100,000 car was surviving in this competitive market of sport, luxury and innovation. With the 2019 Jaguar F-type R and Porsche 911 as competition, what would make someone purchase this car, and how does it separate itself from the rest of the Lexus line?
Starting with the obvious, Lexus out did itself with the exterior styling of the LC500. It looks just like the LF-FC concept car released back in 2012, with the same extreme swooping lines leading to dramatic angular accents and details. The LC500 was unveiled in 2016 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
I cannot say enough about the exterior styling and how much it stands apart from the rest of the Lexus lineup, even with some similar elements such as the signature spindle grille.
Take your eyes off the grille for a second and notice the unmistakable Lexus signature triple-beam LED headlamps with the continued sleek design downwards into the vertical signal lights. With a healthy balance of soft and hard features, this car, finished in Lexus’ signature “Infrared” color, caught the attention of every type of onlooker in almost all age ranges.
My favorite features are the door handles and the unlock/locking procedure. With the key in hand, you simply walk up to the car, push in the dimpled side of handle and the Lexus badged handle pokes out for you to pull. To lock it, again with key in hand, push in the Lexus badged side and the handles return into the door while quietly locking and flashing its hazards to let you know it’s been locked.
Speaking of subtle features, let’s talk about the trunk. While I was a bit disappointed by the lack of a power trunk opener (I may have broken a nail or two trying to open the heavy trunk manually), the hidden trunk button integrated into the rear passenger side tail light made up for it. However, they could have placed the rear camera in a more subtle place as it is a bit distracting directly above the Lexus emblem.
Another distinguishing feature is the “dimensional rear combination LED tail lamps” with the “infinity mirror” look that makes the lamp look endless when you look into it. Also different are the climate and audio controls. They are up-and-down levers, more like those in jet aircraft.
Utilizing a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 pushing out 471 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque (a hybrid version is available utilizing a 3.5-liter but today we are only looking at the 5.0-liter) through a 10-speed automatic transmission on 20-inch wheels paired with six-piston front and four-piston rear brakes, the LC500 seems the perfect luxury grand tourer.
However, due to the large door jams and bucket seats, I would not want to drive it regularly. It takes quite a large step to get in and out, and it’s also work to get settled into the bucket seats. On the other hand, these seats are heated and ventilated.
Enhancing the comfort of the cruise is adaptive variable suspension with 650 levels versus the previous system. When in the “Normal” or “Eco” mode, selected by the LF- inspired Drive Mode Select knob above the steering wheel, the ride is soft, fluid and consistent. But switch to “Sport” or “SportS+” and the suspension reacts more to the road conditions and driver. For the first time, there also is a “Custom” mode so the driver can create his or her own settings (this is a $100,000 car, after all).
From a stop, the transmission seems to dislike gradual acceleration and almost has a delayed take off, especially in auto mode. It also feels sluggish when changing gears, as if the car takes too long to think about which gear it wants. However, throw it into “SportS+” or “SportS” and it responds more quickly. Yet the car wants an excessive amount of throttle, with gear changing more fluid when in higher rpms and clunky in lower rpms.
The saving grace was the steering. A smooth, electronic power steering system of only 2.6 turns lock to lock made the entire driving experience. I was pleasant for a vehicle weighs 4,280 pounds. Steering was light and very responsive, even on 20-inch wheels.
You’ll need this responsive steering when you attempt to throttle out of a corner as the nose likes to fight you while the rear end struggles to keep grip.
That said, I kept the car in “Eco” mode most of the time. But there were times when I was shifting manually in “SportS” and the sound of the exhaust was heavenly, though not at all Lexus like.
Would I ever aspire to buy a Lexus LC500? Listen to the car when it starts up and you’d be saying maybe too. This Lexus sounds and handles like no other Lexus with a very similar feel of a super car. Looking at it from that perspective, it’s a cost-effective super car with luxury elements and the reliability that is Toyota. Just like the RCF however, the LC500 is another Lexus for a Lexus enthusiast.
Now we wait for the “possible” LF C…
2019 Lexus LC500 coupe
Vehicle type: four-passenger, two-door coupe, rear-wheel drive
Base price: $92,200 Price as tested: $105,940
Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 471 horsepower, 398 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic
Wheelbase: 113 inches
Overall length/width: 187.4 inches / 75.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,280 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 16 city / 25 highway / 19 combined
Assembled in: Aichi, Japan