NewCarTestDrive

2018 Lexus LC

The Lexus LC is an all-new line of luxury sport coupes that will serve as sporty new flagships for Toyota’s luxury brand. Lexus LC was launched for the 2018 model year as two models, the LC 500 with a V8 and the LC 500h featuring a hybrid gas-electric powertrain.

The Lexus LC makes a strong styling statement, promising luxury and performance. We found the LC 500’s road manners superb, with fluid steering and a resilient ride.

The opposite of a lightweight, the Lexus LC 500 weighs 4,280 pounds, as much as a Porsche Panamera or 900 pounds more than a 911 Carrera. And it’s a big car, built on the rear-wheel-drive platform of the upcoming Lexus LS flagship luxury sedan, and measuring 187 inches long with a 113-inch wheelbase. And it’s wide. Yet there is almost no back seat. The accommodations for the second and third passengers are literally buckets, as with the Porsche 911. Cargo space is small and gets even smaller with the hybrid.

The rear-wheel-drive LC 500 uses an existing Lexus engine, the 5.0-liter V8 that’s in the RC F and GS F. Without turbochargers or a supercharger, it makes 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque, mated to a focused 10-speed automatic transmission with an optional Torsen differential. It can accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, and reach a top speed of 168 mph. It gets 19 miles per gallon Combined EPA city and highway, a few less than the Corvette or Porsche 911.

The LC 500h uses a 3.5-liter V6 with two electric motors driven by a 44-kw lithium-ion battery. It makes a combined 354 horsepower, can hit sixty mph in 4.7 seconds, and reach 155 mph. One motor powers the car at low speeds through three programmable levels of power, while the second motor adds power at higher speeds. It too uses a 10-speed automatic. It can travel four miles on battery power alone, barely far enough for a cruise of a parking lot. It gets 30 combined miles per gallon.

Model Lineup

The 2018 Lexus LC is available in two versions: LC 500 ($92,000), LC 500h ($96,510). Standard equipment includes leather, Bluetooth with audio streaming, LED headlamps, a glass roof, and Pioneer audio. Apple CarPlay or Android Audio are not available.

Options include Mark Levinson audio, 915 watts and 13 speakers; a Torsen limited-slip differential, heated steering wheel, 20- or 21-inch wheels; a Sport bundle with the 21-inch wheels and Torsen differential, as well as a carbon-fiber roof and an active rear spoiler that rises at 50 mph, and retracts at 25 mph.

Exterior

The LC 500 first appeared as a concept car at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It’s hard to believe that its futuristic styling is more than five years old, but the car industry is like that, designers are dreamers. At that time, Lexus had no plans to build the car, but the raves from spectators changed the manufacturer’s mind. Like a lot of show-goers, we think it’s the most beautiful Lexus ever made, a sculptural tour de force. Though there is that big grille.

It’s hard to call any shape original, but there isn’t anything quite like the LC 500. It has a pinched tail that’s slightly erotic like the Jaguar F-Type, and some retro reflections of the Alpine-Renault GTA in the profile and side glass. The roof rides like the canopy of a fighter jet. The LED taillamps are like jewels leaving the scene of a stolen show.

Interior

The cabin’s trim is handsome, the leather stitched like an unfolding blossom. It’s available in brave colors like Rioja Red, or another one that’s a three-tone blue, white and orange. The seats flow in organic waves, actual ribs that add support for the passengers that get cupped into place. Still, we wonder where all the lumbar support went. Maybe the same place as the small storage cubbies. Not the most comfortable driver’s seat.

The feel of the interior is angular, under a glass roof that startles. The horizontal dashboard forms a tall, wide wall that manages to separate the driver from the front passenger and steal knee room. The instrument panel suggests a desire for ultimate control, with many roller wheels, toggles, stalks, and touchpads that steal from any sense of tranquility.

The infotainment interface is dreadful, from the mouse to the display on the 10.3-inch split screen, while the Remote Touch interface is too remote. It’s difficult to use even at low speeds, so reliance on the steering-wheel controls is inevitable. The system is among the least useful and most distracting systems we’ve ever used.

The optional sound system has awesome clarity, by Mark Levinson, 915 watts and 13 speakers. The standard audio system is crisp but lacks the depth that an audiophile desires.

Driving Impressions

Our first impression of the LC 500 on the road is of a large, heavy coupe. It feels heavy while cruising, the 5-liter V8 burbling along, reminding us of a time long ago in a ’71 Mustang with a 351 Cleveland. The throaty bark of the Lexus V8 is amplified and piped into the cabin. The transmission shifts slowly and the drivetrain lacks the crisp responsiveness of a sports car.

The V6/electric LC 500h accelerates nearly as quickly as the V8, but it doesn’t come close to matching the sound, which is artificial, because the hybrid uses a synthetic soundtrack. But it’s unnatural, buzzy and too loud.

The chassis combines steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber to be very stiff, which creates beautifully composed handling. Indeed, the Lexus LC 500 feels taut and precise on curvy roads. The multi-link suspension and adaptive shocks work harmoniously with the electric power steering, the optional staggered-width 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires, and huge disc brakes.

The Lexus LC is no lightweight, weighing 700-800 pounds more than a Chevrolet Corvette or Jaguar F-Type. That substantial mass makes the LC more luxury GT than sports car.

Yet, it’s edginess and sportiness prevents it from being a cushy luxury car. It responds best to an alert, engaged driver.

There are four drive modes, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus.

The suspension is supple, although less so with the 21-inch tires. The electric steering gets two degrees of active rear steering, enabling it to rotate in a corner with the fluency of a Cadillac ATS. The brakes seize the moment, stopping hard and quick.

Final Word

The Lexus LC’s compliant ride allows the powertrains to speak. It can be gentle when it wants to be, and aggressive in corners when you want it to be. It’s fast, smooth, precise. But it’s heavy by sports car standards, edgy by luxury car standards.

Sam Moses contributed to this report; with NCTD editor Mitch McCullough reporting from New Jersey, and staff reports.