2018 Lexus LC 500 Review - Grabbing Attention From All Sides (Wanted Or Otherwise)

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2018 Lexus LC 500

5.0-liter V8, DOHC (471 horsepower @ 5,100 rpm; 398 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm)
Ten-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
16 city / 26 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
14.2 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $92,995 (U.S.)
As Tested: $100,720 (U.S.)
Prices include $995 freight charge.

For several years, outlets around the Web have been alternately asking and telling us about the impending doom facing cars. That “millennials” don’t want cars. That “kids these days” don’t want to learn to drive, as their parents will chauffeur them wherever they need to go.

It’s certainly anecdotal, but in my brief time driving the new 2018 Lexus LC 500, kids and millennials alike were absolutely astonished by it. I’ve never driven anything that attracts so much attention.

The youngster shoving shopping carts at Kroger respectfully asked to photograph the car as I ran in for milk. The twentysomething – in a similarly-stunning G-Body Hurst/Olds, incidentally! – driving down my suburban street turned around and cruised by slowly for another look. The high school football team gawking – “Yo, that’s a Lexus LC 500!” (seriously) – as I negotiated the treacherous speedbumps past the stadium to retrieve my kid from softball practice. These youths were certain that, even if they didn’t know exactly what this car was, they had a primal need to get closer.

It drew a different sort of attention, too. It seems I’m not meant to drive Lexus V8 coupes. Last year, in reviewing the blazing orange RC F, I narrowly avoided rousing the local constabulary at triple-digit speeds. A year later, I did get pulled over in the LC. No ticket, thankfully, but I did drive a bit more cautiously after that encounter.

The styling is at once outrageous and restrained. The LC wears perhaps the best version of Lexus’ signature “spindle” grille, with a magnificent jewel-like texture. The pair of ridges on either side of the hood extend from the grille, evoking an old-school muscle car power bulge. But there are few superfluous details on this beast (the big scoops ahead of the rear wheels are almost subtle), at least on the Smoky Granite of my test car. The optional carbon fiber roof panel doesn’t stand out with this dark grey finish, though the polished spears that run along the rain rails do distract a bit – they remind me of a vestigial roof rack on a crossover, which is completely out of character for this big coupe.

The raucous 471-horsepower 5.0-liter, four-cam V8 positively growls with each trip through the gears, and lets out a menacing bark with each downshift of the 10-speed automatic transmission. I’ll admit that I played the shift paddles a bit more than necessary to encourage the auditory theatrics, and went through more tunnels with the windows lowered than typical.

I need to get the LC 500 on a track to see how it manages the convergence of power and weight. Lexus quotes a curb weight of 4,280 pounds, which seems massive considering how many lightweight materials – such as aluminum and carbon fiber – are used in building this beast. It doesn’t feel quite so ponderous when driving spiritedly, I’ll grant. The weight is felt mostly on the interstate, when expansion joints and potholes transmit a steady kickdrum via the 21-inch alloys shod with short-sidewall Michelin Pilots.

The steering was direct and well weighted – even a touch heavy in parking lot maneuvers. Many cars with such wide tires tend to wander with grooves on the interstate, but I found the LC 500 tracked beautifully at highway speeds. I will note that once the 10-speed automatic got up into the top four overdrive gears, it seemed to hunt for the right ratio a bit more than I like. When in automatic mode, it shifts seamlessly – the only perceptible difference was in engine note and the tachometer itself – but I’d prefer the gearbox pick a gear and let the engine’s torque manage minor variances in terrain while maintaining a steady speed.

I’m not an audiophile, so I can’t pick out the subtle differences in a particular passage of music from one audio system to another, but the optional Mark Levinson system in the LC 500 sounds stellar. It makes the imperfect audio quality on satellite quite good. The red leather and Alcantara seats are perfectly supportive – I only wish I needed to make a long solo trip in my time with the big coupe. The bolsters are firm but not punishing, at least in the front seats.

I can’t imagine many people shopping for a six-figure luxury coupe care much about the rear seating accommodations. That pair of cushions and seat belts are meant more for a couple bags of groceries, or perhaps a pocket dog. However, I believe it’s my duty as a reviewer to use my test cars as a daily driver whenever possible – which means hauling my wife and kids wherever they need to go.

I can assure you that the Lexus LC 500 is decidedly not a family car. My two girls, 11 and 9 years of age, can indeed fit in the rear seats, but if I expect to drive the car, they must fold their legs up crosswise – placing their shoes on the lovely Alcantara. Sorry, Lexus – thankfully, it wasn’t a rainy or snowy week while I reviewed your car. There simply isn’t room for their legs to go between the rear lower cushion and the front seatback. The low roofline compounds the problem for my eldest. When cornering at speed, her head would knock against the swooping C-pillar.

So, forget the kids – the Lexus LC 500 is a high-speed express for solo individuals or couples traveling. Be ready to stop frequently on that journey, however, as this V8 is thirsty. The EPA quotes 16 mpg in the city and 26 mpg highway, but in my city-focused driving, I only managed 14.2 mpg of premium fuel. I’m sure if I laid off the right pedal a bit and stayed out of Sport mode, my mileage (as they say) may have varied, but the V8 is intoxicating.

I’ve yet to drive the typical competitors for the Lexus LC – I’d imagine the BMW M6 and the Aston Martin DB11 would compare quite well. For my imaginary money, however, I’d look hard at this Lexus. Certainly, brand prestige still favors the legacy marques from Europe, but the elegant styling and stellar road manners – not to mention the reputation Lexus has earned – makes the 2018 Lexus LC 500 a forgivable, if not smart, choice.

Just drive safely, and exercise better right-foot judgement than yours truly.

[Images: © 2017 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Dec 14, 2017

    I'm not too smitten with the C-pillar or the automatic transmission, but this is still the best looking car on the market. I just got back from La Jolla, where the streets are filled with the stuff Car and Driver readers touch themselves to. The LC500 cuts a sharp profile in a sea of excess surface excitement. It's so beautiful that it justifies all the shamefully spindled SUVs.

  • 415s30 415s30 on Dec 30, 2017

    It's sexy, poor man's LFA. I want one when they depreciate, hopefully they do...

  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.