Tuesday 23rd April 2019
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Driven: Lexus LC 500. Image by Lexus.

Driven: Lexus LC 500
Lexus' magnificent and gorgeous V8-powered LC 500 is agonisingly close to perfection...

 



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Lexus LC 500

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: stunning exterior, top-notch interior, chassis a fabulous blend of supreme comfort and handling, charismatic drivetrain, smooth ten-speed automatic

Not so good: infuriating infotainment

Key Facts

Model tested: Lexus LC 500 Sport+
Price: LC starts from £76,595; 500 Sport+ from £85,895; car as tested £88,585
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, Sports Direct Shift ten-speed automatic
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 267g/km (VED Band Over 255: £2,070 first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years of ownership, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 24.4mpg
Top speed: 168mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: 477hp at 7,100rpm
Torque: 540Nm at 4,800rpm
Boot space: 197 litres

Our view:

Is there a better-looking new car on sale right now? Has there been a better-looking new car on sale in recent years? We're struggling to think of any. The Lexus LC 500 is utterly breath-taking when you see it in person for the first time. And what marks it out as a piece of genuine aesthetic brilliance is that it is incontrovertibly a Lexus, incontrovertibly Japanese, incontrovertibly like nothing else that you can buy from any other manufacturer - there's nothing derivative about the LC, which makes it all the more alluring.

It's hard to know what to look at first. The marque's massive 'Spindle' grille has never worked better than it does here, while the dramatic light clusters and DRLs framing it give the Lexus just the right expression. Then there are the sculpted flanks and the way the tail of the car's width is emphasised by the tapering glasshouse. The rear end is, if anything, even better than the front, what with those three-arm lamp housings and the neat crease work detailing. There's a wonderfully resolved 'floating' roof. There are some impossibly beautiful, polished 21-inch alloy wheels. There's a car that can carry off Flare Yellow with the same sort of élan, grace and aplomb as it can any number of more sober colours. The LC 500 is, in short, a truly extraordinary-looking contrivance and we couldn't approve of its styling any more if we tried.

Thankfully, you step aboard and are not badly let down by the interior, as you're greeted by one of Lexus' finest cabins yet. The two-tier dashboard is a superb bit of visual theatre, everything is solidly made and thoughtfully laid out, and it's big enough inside to be categorised as a 2+2, although the rear seats are very, erm... cosy. So, what a pity that the only thing which truly annoys us about the LC is to be found in here, which is another of the company's infuriatingly clunky infotainment systems. This one's the 'flat mousepad'-thing, which works no better than any other of Lexus' flawed systems. The sooner this Japanese company bites the bullet and accepts a rotary dial as the main control interface, the better, because you'll be swearing loudly at the LC's system as you try and input even basic satnav instructions. Still, take your mind off that by playing with the LC 500's absolutely brilliant digital instrument cluster, which has a physical, central dial which slides side-to-side in one of the coolest in-car displays we've ever seen.

We say above that the infotainment is our only bugbear about the LC 500, and it really is. Oh sure, you can start nit-picking with the Lexus and go on about its relatively tiny boot (197 litres), or the fact its atmospheric V8 has economy and running numbers that are worse than those of a Mercedes-AMG GT R, a totally track-focused two-seater with another one hundred horsepower to play with, or the fact that the LC 500 is nearly 90 grand with a few options, or the fact it'll 'only' do 168mph (limited), which doesn't seem a lot for pub boasting, now does it?

And we're here to tell you that none of this stuff matters. At all. In the slightest. Lexus has executed this thing to as close to perfection as you could possibly dare to hope, just by looking at the achingly pretty bodywork. The LC 500's raison d'etre is as a big, luxurious GT with a capable chassis, so don't go expecting Porsche 911 GT3-like thrills and spills from it, but do expect one of the most sweetly-balanced performance machines that's currently available.

The 5.0-litre V8 sans forced induction might be an archaic way of going about delivering high speed, but boy, is it big-hearted, charismatic and sensationally responsive. With a properly baritone V8 voice to it, you'll never get tired of listening to the LC 500 and you should never lament the sheer amount of go the Lexus possesses; it's seriously quick, make no mistake. You'll also love the way it actually drives civilly in its softer modes, like Eco and Comfort, without resorting to one of those ghastly, fuzzy throttle pedals.

The V8 finds the perfect partner in the new ten-speed Sports Direct Shift, which gets rid of the stupidly long eight-speed that is used in the smaller RC F, in favour of a 'box that always knows what gear to be in and doesn't spend all its time shuffling/hunting for ratios. If you're thinking that this many gears ought to be reserved for a mountain bike and a mountain bike along, then we'd beg you to reconsider - it's a little peach.

Then there's the ride and refinement - as good as any Lexus we've ever sampled, this side of an LS. While just the right amount of noise from the V8 filters into the cabin to keep occupants interested, you'll be hard-pressed to discern any noticeably elevated tyre roar from the massive 21-inch rubber at each corner, while the slippery form of the LC allows it to cut through the airflow with the minimum of fuss. Variable dampers do a grand job of majoring on ride quality when you have the car in anything below Sport level, and in general it's every inch the peerless GT - long-distance journeys are things to be savoured in the Lexus, rather than suffered. Indeed, we hit bang on the 24.4mpg quoted average across 334 mixed miles in its company, but on the motorways, its unstressed V8 and ten-speed transmission allowed it to return more like 35mpg.

And while the LC 500 isn't exactly hardcore for handling, it is by no means a dynamic mess in the corners. If anything, it's much better than it needs to be, because most owners are very rarely going to try and drive the Lexus on its fancy, fold-out door handles. However, sharp and informative steering, magnificent body and wheel control in Sport/Sport+ modes, and a generally benign, throttle-adjustable chassis make the LC 500 playful and adept in a way few GTs can match. There's plenty of scope here for a tauter 'LC F' model, that's for sure, and if Lexus gets that right, then the 911 might just start getting a serious sweat on...

Ultimately, we adore the Lexus LC 500. It's easily the company's best current product, which is as it should be given its flagship status, but there's very, very little to dislike about this car if you look at it objectively. Indeed, save for the teeth-gnashing repetitiveness of dealing with its obtuse infotainment, we'd be giving the LC 500 full marks. Because, in this kind of exalted marketplace, the image the car portrays and the feelgood factor it gives back to its owner are both more crucial than whether you can easily sync your iPhone to the onboard command system. And as the Lexus looks sublime and turns even the most mundane of journeys into special events, then there's no denying the LC 500 is operating at a level of excellence that few other manufacturers can match. Beauty, in this case, runs far more than skin deep, and the LC is all the better for it.

Alternatives:

BMW 6 Series Coupe: Now out of production, but this is another big GT that majors on comfort first, driving reward second. And it doesn't do anything as well as the Lexus, save for its greater interior space.

Maserati GranTurismo MC: Another stunning 2+2 coupe dominated by an NA V8, the Maser is really starting to show its considerable age now and it's quite a lot more money than the much-more-advanced LC 500.

Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe: Technically a rival to the smaller RC F, the AMG is much more driver-focused than the LC - but not quite as good at the smooth stuff as the Lexus, while also nothing like as attractive to look at. Even with its bristling wheel arches and quad pipes.


Matt Robinson - 21 Aug 2018









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