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

Editor's Note: This review was written earlier this year for the 2019 LC. Little has changed for 2020 and this review has been updated to reflect those changes

By Jim Prueter

(November 13, 2019) First introduced for the 2018 model year, the LC 500 sports coupe is now in its third year of production for Lexus. In some ways it was a new line of business for Lexus if one would discount the now defunct, high-performance 553-horsepower V-10 powered Lexus LFA coupe that debuted back in 2012.

 It had a price starting at $375,875 and 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 LC 500, as they are completely different vehicles.

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

The LC 500 is a 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 $92,950 LC 500. For the record, both versions of the LC look identical save a small hybrid emblem on the lower body panel just in front of the rear tire.

The hybrid version known as the LC 500h 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. Our biggest complaint about the 10-speed is that the gearing between shifts is just way too long. We much prefer a dual-clutch setup with its instantaneous shifting.

 We spent time behind the wheel of both LC models and strongly recommend you skip the hybrid version in favor of the more high performance non-hybrid LC 500.

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. To be sure it’s a stunning piece of artwork that easily can pass for a Lexus concept vehicle.

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.

While not a huge fan of the signature spindle grille design that adorns every Lexus model today, 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 is really 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 can be frustrating to use while driving and a hopeless way of navigating.

We also have major complaints with Lexus’ infotainment system. The graphics are well past their freshness date, they are not rendered beautifully, the console-mounted touchpad is horrendous to try and use while driving. And while Lexus finally includes AppleCarPlay it oddly does not offer Android Auto.

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.

For 2020 we drove a LC 500 coupe finished in a sparkling Flare Yellow finish. This is an exclusive color for 2020 as part of the Lexus Inspiration Series and only 100 will be produced. There’s also an exclusive Nori Green Pearl paint (nori is an edible seaweed usually found wrapping sushi or onigiri) with a tan and amber two-tone interior. As with Flare Yellow Nori Green Pearl is limited to just 100 units. There are no other notable changes for the 2020 model year.

My test LC had a base price of $92,950 and had several options checked including the 21” forged alloy wheels, head up display, limited slip differential, Mark Levinson 13-speaker premium surround sound audio system, parking assist, premium paint, Sport Package with carbon roof and 8-way power seats with Alcantara inserts to help keep you in place, carbon fiber package for the front and rear spoilers, trunk mat and paint protection film on the front of the hood. The total MSRP listed at $108,348.

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.

A few final thoughts: Earlier this year Lexus unveiled a LC Convertible concept vehicle at the 2019 Detroit auto show, that’s actually a drop-top version of the LC coupe. Additionally, rumors are that Lexus may add a twin turbocharged V8 that will put out more than 600-hp.

Finally, if you’re seriously interested in purchasing an LC you might want to consider a very low mileage 2018 or 2019. There’s currently numerous low mileage 2018 models as low as $58,000 with most priced in the mid $60s on car websites like, eBay, Auto Trader and others. Last year Lexus sold 1,548 through the first nine months of the year and that has dropped to just 928 through September of 2019, a 40% decline in sales.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $92,950
Price as Tested: $108,348
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
Porsche 911 Carrera

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