Lexus LC 500 — Luxury eye candy

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It's been nearly eight years since Lexus pulled the plug on the aging SC 430 hardtop convertible coupe. Now Lexus is back in the high-end mid-sized coupe business stronger than ever with a head-turning and heart-pounding entry — the 2018 LC 500. It combines luxury craftsmanship with outstanding performance and ultra-modern styling.

Lexus calls it a concept car that came to life — the production version of the LF-LC concept of 2012, which won several honors including the EyesOn Design award for Concept Cars. The new Lexus flagship coupe points to the brand's new design direction highlighted by an in-your-face rendition of the now familiar spindle grille featuring a unique mesh texture that changes visual tension as it spreads across the front of the car.

Dynamic character lines give the LC 500 a unique, fresh look from the side. 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. Front fenders are nearly non-existent, with 20-inch wheels that nearly breach the dramatically long, wide and low hood. The roof is entirely made of glass; and the optional Sport+ package includes a carbon fiber roof, trunk lid and doorsills. Hood, front fenders and doors are aluminum, rear fenders are steel.

Out back, the cab-rearward monocoque gives 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.

The LC is built on Lexus’s new front engine, rear drive global architecture that has also been used on the all-new LS flagship sedan. It's the heart and soul is a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated 471-horsepower V-8 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels combined with an adjustable suspension that can be dialed into Eco, Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport and Sport+.

Performance, as expected, is fast, instantaneous and, of course, fun. Zero to 60 mpg takes just 4.5 seconds with a quarter mile flying by in 13 seconds at 112 mph. Handling is spectacular especially in the Sport and Sport+ modes. Twisty roads are handled confidently, with poise and assurance. For around-town driving or cruising the interstates, a solid measure of comfort can be dialed into the suspension in Comfort or Normal modes. Stopping is equally impressive, just 105 feet from 60-to-0 mph.

Inside, the LC 500 is gorgeous, with a stitched leather dash and center console, and leather seats with optional hand-sewn Alcantara inserts. The linear dash has a flowing design highlighted by chrome-trimmed controls, horizontal vents and sharp angles. Front seats are luxurious and comfortable. Rear-seat space, however, offers little room for adults. In reality the rear seats are a good place to put cargo that won't fit in the small 5.4 cubic-foot trunk.

There is only one trim level available starting at $92,995, but several packages are worth the extra cost. For that base price you would expect many standard features and you will not be disappointed. They include 20-inch wheels, LED exterior lights, automatic high-beam control, heated and auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, an 8-inch driver information screen, a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated and ventilated leather-upholstered eight-way power front seats, multiple driving modes,  a 10.3-inch central display, a navigation system, and a 12-speaker audio system with two USB ports and HD and satellite radio.

Notable safety features include a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision warning system with automatic braking, and lane departure warning and mitigation.

Our test car came with $7,820 in option packages. They included blind spot monitor with cross traffic alert (an item that should be standard on any car) and intuitive park assist for $1,000; 21-inch forged wheels, $2,650; a 915-watt Mark Levinson premium surround audio system, $1,220; a Sport Package with glass roof, $1,400; and a heads up display, $900. Bottom line was $100,815 including a $995 destination charge.

Lexus is also building a hybrid version called the LC 440h offering a combination of a 3.5-liter gas V-6 and an electric motor mated to a variable automatic transmission that works in conjunction with a traditional four-speed automatic making 354 horsepower. Base price is $97,505, but for the extra $3,500 outlay gas mileage is improved from 16 city/26 highway to 26 mpg city and 35 highway.

Lexus says just 400 units total per month of both versions are available in the U.S. making it likely that dealer lots will never have a glut of these very desirable cars.

Base price: $92,995; as driven, $100,515
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 471 @ 7,100 rpm
Torque: 398 foot-pounds @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 113 inches
Length: 187.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,280 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 5.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 16 city, 26 highway, 19 overall
0-60: 4.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Porsche 911, Mercedes S-Class Coupe, Jaguar F-Type

The Good
• Rapid acceleration
• Outstanding cornering ability
• Long list of stand features
• Cabin is personification of luxury

The Bad
• Very small trunk

The Ugly
• Touchpad controller distracting