Forgive me while I catch my breath. I just spent a week driving, and drooling over, the new Lexus halo car, the LC 500. If looks could kill, we’d all be dead.
Lexus has created the most striking looking car of the decade, and not surprisingly, it’s a treat to drive. Folks call such handsome hot rods with a tiny back seat grand tourers. They’re not officially sports cars with two seats due to that fake seat in back. No one with legs will fit comfortably.
But that takes nothing away from the looks and performance of the LC 500, a rocket of a car with the luxury sensibilities you expect from a Lexus.
First, there’s a massive 5.0-liter V8 under its sensuous hood and behind that giant spindle grille. The engine’s variable valve timing and smooth running at high and low speeds delivers a special performance. That’s aided by a 10-speed automatic tranny that still gives one the sense of purposeful gear shifts, or you can do the shifting yourself with the magnesium paddle shifters just behind the wheel.
Power is a blast and delivers some seat of the pants excitement that you’d expect from a vintage muscle car. But, as with so many cars now, you can choose whether to cruise, or wet your pants. Your choice is thanks to several drive modes selected via a knob up next to the dash’s gauge pod. Settings are Normal/Comfort, Sport/Sport+ and a Custom setting you can program.
Normal and Comfort seemed similar and provide the nicest ride, but slightly decrease steering feel and detune the engine for more moderate launches. Sport is a nice blend of precise handling and increased low-end power. Going all the way, to Sport+ that is, delivers the ultimate oomph when you tromp the accelerator and nets a racer type wheel feel.
The best part of Sport+, to those of us not racing the LC 500, is the tone it creates in that horsy V8 and the crackle that comes from the car’s exhaust as you burst from a stoplight. Wow!
Handling is fantastic too, especially in the sport modes where the wheel feel is so crisp you’re certain you could polish off any turn at Road America and still come out with oodles of grip. Maybe next year!
Handling was aided in the stunning Infrared (bright metallic red and the wisest $595 you’ll ever spend) test car by thick 21-inch RF performance rated tires on forged wheels, a $2,650 option. Also helping were active rear steering and an active rear spoiler, both part of a package, but more on that in a bit.
The test car also added a limited slip differential for $350 to limit wheel spin on the rear-drive Lexus. It’s something you’ll likely want if you’re going to seriously push the car.
Ride naturally falls to the sporty side since the car is shod with the RF tires and a sporty multi-link suspension. Standard are 20-inch tires The downside is a stiffer sports car ride that is exposed on Wisconsin’s crumbling roads. Slip onto some smooth blacktop or a decent stretch of highway and the LC becomes downright silky.
Braking is fabulous with monstrous discs and calipers to allow you to push the car to its limits for hours, if you can find the right road, or a racetrack that will sell you some track time. Front brakes are 15.7-inch six-piston opposed aluminum calipers with high-friction pads. In back are 14.1-inch four-piston opposed aluminum calipers, again with high-friction pads. Serious stopping power here.
A lot to stop too as the LC 500 weighs in at 4250 lbs. or nearly 400 more than last week’s luxury sport sedan, the Lexus GS 350.
Ironically, with all this performance under its gorgeous body the LC 500 is quiet inside, much like a sport sedan. One probably shouldn’t be surprised though once you eyeball all the leather and suede (Alcantara leather) coating the interior.
Seats in the test Lexus were a thick reddish brown leather and the suede headliner only a slightly lighter shade. Everyone who rode in the car commented how awesome this looked, and they all HAD to touch the suede headliner. Smoked chrome trim set it all off nicely too.
All this was part of the $5,960 performance package, which included 8-way power seats, plus a carbon fiber roof and door sills, oh, and that active spoiler and rear wheel steering that aided cornering.
There was more here too – automatic heated and cooled seats and a heated steering wheel. You could adjust these through a complex system, or let them automatically turn on as they saw fit. Weather was hot, so cooling was primarily in order and worked fine. The heated wheel and windshield de-icer and PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) heater cost $250 extra though. The PTC helps heat a car’s interior more quickly than traditional system, so a plus in Wisconsin.
An even bigger plus that’s standard equipment is the LC 500’s 10.25-inch screen mid-dash. That is particularly helpful in seeing the view from the rearview camera, plus in tuning in radio stations and making other comfort adjustments.
Sadly Lexus uses a laptop-style touchpad on the console to adjust that screen. It’s awkward at best, especially while driving. You really shouldn’t futz with it when the car is in motion. Pray that your passenger can figure out the touchy thing while you concentrate on the road.
Another foible is the constant beeping inside the cockpit any time the car is in reverse. That’s particularly disturbing when backing in a crowded parking lot where you are trying to see around giant sport-utes and crossovers as you exit a parking spot.
Granted the test car added the $1,000 package that includes park assist, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. But then I think all that should be standard on a halo car of this price.
Wait for it …. The base is $92,995 and with all the goodies added here, including a high-end Mark Levinson sound system with 13 speakers and 915-watts of power, this one hit $105,060.
There’s also a hybrid model with a 3.5-liter V6 aided by two electric motors. It boasts 354 horsepower and according to Car & Driver magazine is only 0.2 seconds slower than the tested LC 500, which is said to do 0-60 mph in about 4.5 seconds. A hybrid runs $4,500 more than the standard LC 500.
The hybrid’s benefit really is gas mileage. The test car got 21.1 mpg in mostly city driving and 25.2 in about 70% highway driving. The EPA rates the car at 16 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. The hybrid is rated at 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.
Are you buying this beautiful beast to show off your gas mileage though? I think not. It’s an ego massager to be sure and the most stunning automotive eye candy in a while. It’s not hard to put a price on top-end car design now.
FAST STATS: 2018 Lexus LC 500
Hits: Looks, looks, looks, plus power, handling, comfort and beautiful interior. Heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, multiple power modes, big dash screen, complete cast of safety aids.
Misses: Annoying laptop-style console based touchpad for screen adjustments, backup beep anytime car is in reverse.
Made in: Japan
Engine: 5.0-liter VVT-i V8, 471 horsepower
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Weight: 4,280 lbs.
Length: 187.4 in.
Wheelbase: 113.0 in.
MPG: 21.1/25.2 (tested city/mostly highway)
Base Price: $92,995 (includes delivery)
All-weather package (heated steering wheel, windshield de-icer, PTC heater), $250
Convenience package (park assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert), $1,000
21-inch forged wheels, $2,650
Limited slip differential, $390
Mark Levinson premium surround sound system w/13 speakers, 915-watt Reference surround sound system, DVD/CD/MP3 player, Ciari-Fi, $1,220
Premium paint, $595
Performance package (Alcantara sport seats w/8-way power, carbon fiber roof, active rear steering, VCRS, active rear spoiler, Alcantara headliner, carbon fiber door sill), $5,960
Test vehicle: $105,060
Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage