2019 Lexus LC 500 — Sensuous good looks, grand touring performance

By Jim Prueter

(January 19, 2019) First introduced last year, the LC 500 sports coupe is a new product for Lexus and, in some ways, a new line of business. One could dispute that by citing the now defunct, high-performance 553-horsepower V-10 powered Lexus LFA coupe that debuted back in 2012 with a price starting at $375,875. But since only 500 LFAs were produced, all as a 2012 model, I’m betting most have never heard of the growling, pulsating, tire-ripping LFA and it would be unfair to compare it to the new LC 500.

The rear-wheel drive LC 500 comes standard with a massive 471-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 attached to a 10-speed sport direct shift automatic transmission with paddle shifters and manual shift mode.

If I had $100k to drop on a sports car today, it’d be this magnificently gorgeous, opulently upholstered and appointed grand tourer with optional 21-inch forged wheels, premium Mark Levinson surround sound audio system, optional infrared premium paint and performance package with Alcantara sport seats, carbon fiber roof, active rear steering, and speed-activated rear spoiler.

It’s also available as the LC 500h multistage hybrid drive that delivers instant torque that enables it to reach zero to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds, and adds an additional $4,510 to the base price of the $92,300 LC 500. For the record, both versions of the LC look identical and no one can tell them apart save a small hybrid emblem on the lower body panel just in front of the rear tire.

Still, we recommend you pass on the hybrid, which is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6, paired with dual electric motors and a lithium-ion battery rather than the more enjoyable V-8. Joining the two is a strange transmission combination: a four-speed automatic and an electronically-controlled CVT (continuously variable transmission) that pretend to be a 10-speed like in the LC 500. Sadly it doesn’t do a good job of passing for a real 10-speed.

We absolutely loved the looks and performance of our LC 500 that blends a perfect combination of luxury and muscle with the superior high quality, beautiful craftsmanship Lexus is known for.

While not an all-out brute performance coupe like a Jaguar F-Type R, it’s all the power most would want. The Drive Mode Select feature allows the driver to set the vehicle’s performance responses according to the driving situation. SPORT S+ extracts the most from the powertrain and transmission shifts and also fully opens the baffles in the Active Exhaust under acceleration with almost a musical variety of sweetly flowing, deep, mellifluous notes.

Did I already mention that the LC is gorgeous? While not a huge fan of the signature spindle grille design that adorns every Lexus model, its execution on the 500 is by far the best iteration yet and looks purely aggressive. Stacked triple LED Polaric Ellipsoid System headlamps about the size of a deck of playing cards are the most compact high-density design on any production car to date.

The roof is carbon fiber as are the trunk lid and doorsills. Hood, front fenders and doors are aluminum; rear fenders are steel. But it’s the rear flanks that make this car really stand out, with its cab-rearward monocoque giving way to muscular, flared rear haunches. The LED taillights employ a series of mirrors to create a 3D tunnel-like effect. It is eye candy from any angle.

Inside, the layout of the cabin is less of a cockpit, feels larger than what it is, and emphasizes what Lexus calls Japanese Takumi craftsmanship, including hand-stitched, leather-wrapped appointments, and satin metallic trim and Alcantara, a suede-like material for the seats and door panels. An analog clock that’s become a hallmark of the brand is standard. The front seats are beautifully crafted, extremely comfortable, and not just a bit narrow. There is a rear seat but its diminutive size renders it mostly useless and best used for a package shelf. But it’s no different than other sports coupes in that regard.

The most used operating controls are located on the steering wheel, with redundant controls and expanded operations executed with the console-mounted touchpad that initially seems to be hopeless way of navigating. But, after a few days I did get pretty good at using it. Otherwise, the rest of the layout is creative, audacious and interesting.

To be sure, the LC 500 is a massively over-engineered car where Lexus seems to have thought of everything. Its advanced suspension kinematics and design essentially solves any handling situation you can put the car in. The 21-inch wheels help a lot. It’s also striking to look at and instantly popular, drawing attention everywhere I drove. People absolutely loved it. It stimulates and more than satisfies even the most heightened and refined senses.

With all this goodness, you might think the LC 500 lands in the same class as a Porsche 911 or Jaguar F Type R, but in that regard you would be mistaken. It’s really a terrific grand tourer with a serious bark that falls short when it comes to bite. But that should change when Lexus brings out the LC F — which we’re certain they will. I’m more than good with that.

Vital Stats
Price: $92,300 - $96,810
Price as Tested: $105,940
Powertrain: 5.0-liter 471-horsepower V8 with a 10-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 16-mpg City – 25-mpg Highway – 19-mpg Combined
Seating: 4

Crash Test Safety Ratings: It has not been crash test rated by either the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Where Built: Aichi, Japan

Competes With:
BMW 650i Coupe
Chevrolet Corvette
Jaguar F Type Coupe
Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe

Fab Features:
Celebrity Star good looks
V8 engine sounds fantastic
Exceptionally comfortable grand tourer performance