Driven: Is Lexus LC500 style worth the $100k price tag?

Driven: Is Lexus LC500 style worth the $100k price tag?

LC500 almost looks like a LF-FC concept car, but what’s it like to drive?

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?

2019 Lexus LC500 side view
Beautiful body lines keep your eyes on this Lexus

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.

Lexus signature spindle grille
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. 

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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.

2019 Lexus LC500 integrated trunk button in rear passenger taillamp
Integrated trunk button in passenger side tail lamp

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. 

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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.

2019 Lexus LC500 rear end
The rear of the LC500 has most of the concept car similarities

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. 

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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.

Lexus LC500 styling
2019 Lexus LC500 coupe with it’s aggressive styling

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 V8471 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

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12 Comments

  • Norman Spirit
    June 10, 2019, 4:21 PM

    "door jams". That’s "door jambs". " feels sluggish when changing gears" ,hey, what do you want for a $100,000 Japanese car? "car wants an excessive amount of throttle, with gear changing more fluid when in higher rpms " wow, just like a 1964 Dodge super stock Torqueflite – man, that’s progress!

    A laughable arriviste of a vehicle, but since it’s designed for that cohort it’s probably just fine…even at that absolutely Unjustifiable price.

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  • Paul Hillenaar
    June 10, 2019, 4:35 PM

    So you asked the question is it worth 100k and whether it matched the competition
    However you did not answer the question in your opinion
    Is it worth it or not
    If not what would you buy instead
    Thank you

    REPLY
  • Ryan Corman
    June 10, 2019, 5:53 PM

    My daily driver is a built ’04 Pontiac GTO/ Holden Monaro, with a more than 5.7 LS1 and the Tremec 6spd. Not a big fan of computer interference in the driving experience, I have aftermarket solutions.
    But the LC500 wasn’t built for tinkery-touchery guys like me, even given the similarities between the Holden GTO and über tech LC500 (2dr, big V8, performance coupe w/manual or "manual control" over the transmission).
    I suspect that I’ll never have the income to drive, much less flog, the Lexus, but I do understand the mindset behind the purchase of such an inefficient, penis extension sort of machine, cuz I have one.
    For the author: were it mine, it would never be out of "Sport +" or "Sport ++", or "Blow the Da** Thing Up ‘Cuz it Sounds So Good" (my LS1 was built to redline at 7k; I often run it up in the 6’s just to hear it; ya, high school, but So. Much. Fun… and the glorious noise!).
    Tail lamps & sculptural body excesses do define most people’s view of the LC500, and Lexus in general, and that "Predator" mouth grille, well- stop. Just stop. Not a "spindle". And the automotive press needs to call ’em on it, ‘k? It’s a worn ’00’s trope that needs to go- most of those into it could never begin to afford a Lexus, and reliance on the used market seems risky; you wanna spend 100+k on a car with an uglier face than a Prius? The definition of mis-design? Um, do ya? Overall, my eyes on the LC500 glide most smoothly and happily… until the "face". Too much anime, not enough maturity.
    I wonder what the author would make of a week driving my GTO. It sorta rides like a log truck, but at 140+, it tracks as if on rails and turns 9.8 mpg (car computer averaged with pump/odometer calculation). In city traffic, it never exceeds 190°F, and I can’t imagine it overheating- the electric fans are so enthusiastic and the radiator has clean air- without any bodywork/aero trickery to feed it, just efficient design.
    I am left to wonder how a male would rate the LC500. No-one buys an automobile such as this without good, heartfelt, and compelling reason. It’s such an expensive, personal decision that mass-media opinionating really means nothing; I would like to know the author’s past vehicles, and read her opinion on many other things before I decided on the LC500.
    Oh- there’s no computer controlled transmission as abrupt and "clunky" as a human controlled manual with a noobie at the stick. You either can, or cannot. There is no try. Yoda drive a stick- why else would he have said that?
    Peace.
    -R

    REPLY
    • Rebecca Nguyen@Ryan Corman
      June 11, 2019, 11:31 AM

      Ryan, before writing this I drove the GS350 F sport, RCF, GSF, LS500 and the LX570. I made an effort to understand the Lexus owner’s journey and even went as far as interview other Lexus owners of not only the LC500, but the ISF, IS300, and RCF to see if there is something more that I couldn’t get out of a single week with the car that they have come to understand over a long period of time. As far as ownership, you might be disappointed but I’m honest, I have owned my modified Subaru WRX, my daily driver Toyota Tacoma, Toyota MR2, and a Ducati Monster.

      There are so many great points in your comment, 100% would love to do a week of driving your GTO. 100% agree with the “predator” grille, but you have to admit that you automatically know it’s a Lexus when you see it. Too much anime, this got me laughing out loud. 100% agree.

      Would love to chat more about some of the other bullet points, I’ll shoot you an email!

      REPLY
  • Thanh Nguyen
    June 10, 2019, 6:12 PM

    Rebecca, it’s a good car with comfort, styling and safety. It is not a racing car.
    You have to love Lexus brand first then you will appreciate the LC 500.
    Personal opinion.
    2018 LC500 owner
    Thanh Nguyen

    REPLY
    • Dan Dixon@Thanh Nguyen
      June 10, 2019, 9:44 PM

      I purchased a 2007 Lexus LS 460L new back in 2007. It has been a fantastic car. The only reason it has been back to the dealership is for oil changes and a campaign. The car has been almost perfect! This is my 1st Lexus. This was the 1st year for the LS-460. I hear similar comments from other Lexus owners. I know my car is a lot different than this 2 seater. But it is hard to imagine Lexus allowing their other model cars out any less perfect. I have owned several new Cadillacs, a new Ford product, & a new 2018 Volvo. But the Lexus IS the nicest car I have ever owned! As you can guess, I will most likely buy another one in the near future if I can get past that sticker price!

      REPLY
    • Rebecca Nguyen@Thanh Nguyen
      June 11, 2019, 11:17 AM

      I absolutely agree, it is definitely a meant for a Lexus enthusiast

      REPLY
  • Ben van Hout
    June 11, 2019, 4:32 AM

    I can’t think of anything that I would buy instead. So, I bougth one, the special edition in structural blue. It seems to me that you have to look at this car in perspective. It is a luxury GT with a different purpose than a porsche 911. By the way, at $100,000 it is a lot more affordable than a porsche 911. That is: try to configure a 911 to the luxury of the Lexus and you’ll see. The entertainment system is the one thing that may drive you crazy though.

    REPLY
    • Rebecca Nguyen@Ben van Hout
      June 11, 2019, 11:34 AM

      Would love to hear more insight from you Ben, I feel like the relationship with the LC500 is established only by having a solid relationship with Lexus already. I do believe it’s hard to get past the price point if you don’t take the time to truly understand why Lexus built it the way that they did. Also, the entertainment system is definitely better than Mercedes in my opinion and didn’t mind it too much. However, I do have minimal experience with other manufacture’s systems.

      REPLY
      • Ben van Hout@Rebecca Nguyen
        June 13, 2019, 6:49 AM

        The Lexus lc 500 is my first Lexus. Before this I had a Jaguar XK and and a Mercedes CL 500. Before that I’ve also owned a Porsche boxster an Audi TTS and a Lotus Elise.
        I suppose that I’m the kind of guy who Lexus has in mind when producing this car. I don’t want a car which is constantly inviting you to go faster. I like a car with power, with which I can have some fun, but which can get me to work in a relatively relaxed way. Put this care in sport plus mode, change gears yourself and you’ll have fun. Keep it in comfort model and you’ll get to work or any other destination well rested. The head up display works beautifully. The steering wheel heats up. I like the adaptive cruise control (on the right road that is). The mirrors have this funny warning system. There is a lane departure system, just all very nice and quite expensive gadgets on the other alternatives.
        I like the look of it. And I most definitely like my interior, which on the structural blue one is a combination of white, blue and orange. I like walking to it, I like sitting in it and in all honesty, the number of times that I can have fun driving it fast are quite limited. It immediately starts my spotify play list when I start it, it works perfectly with my phone and I don’t miss android-auto or whatever.
        So, I’m not a Lexus fan, but I like the thought that they are relaible. I probably would be most tempted if Jaguar had built a decent follow up to the XK, but they only came with a wannabe porsche boxter/cayman.
        I’m not that happy with the touchpad, which I think doesn’t work as well. The other thing that I don’t like – no not me but the other people on the road – are the headlights. They are too bright and I get a lot of signalling as if I’ve forgotten my main beam.
        Is 100,000 too much? If one can afford to spend this much, given the alternatives, given what you think is important in a car, I think it’s worth it.

        REPLY