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2018 Lexus LC500
It’s sleek, fun, flirty — and it’s a Lexus? Launched last year, the sporty LC500 aims to confer a halo of excitement and sex appeal around Toyota’s normally staid upscale sister brand. With its exotic curves, formidable performance, and opulent cabin, the sports car makes good on its intentions.
Meant to herald a new chapter for a more visionary Lexus, the rear-wheel-drive LC500 is a beast of a grand touring coupe: 471 horsepower delivered via a 5.0-liter V8 engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Though heavy, the car also feels smooth, quick (0-60 in 4.4 seconds) and even thrilling long before reaching its electronically-limited top track speed of 168 mph. But it also has environmental chops, rare among its brethren. Its hybrid version, the LC500h, runs on a 3.5-liter V6 with two electric motors for a combined 354-horsepower rating. Either version comes with a half-dozen modes — Eco, Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport, and Sport+ — to dial up or down the excitement, depending on driving conditions.
Inside, the four-passenger sports car emphasizes Japanese Takumi craftsmanship, from the hand-stitched, leather-wrapped shift knob and satin metallic trim to the way the Alcantara, a suede-like material, drapes over the door panel. Leather front seats and NuLuxe synthetic leather rear seats are standard, as is the analogue clock that’s become a hallmark of the brand. Lexus’s notoriously clunky Enform infotainment system, the car’s primary shortcoming, is routed through an 8-inch display screen. All models come equipped with Sirius and HD Radio, Siri Eyes Free, two USB ports, and a 12-speaker Pioneer surround sound system.
The LC500 has not been rated by either of the two federal safety agencies, but it comes standard with the customary suite of driver assistance features that compose Lexus Safety System+. It includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency breaking as well as lane departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and intelligent high beams.
The gasoline version delivers 16 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The hybrid gets 26 mpg around town and 30 mpg on the highway.
The 2018 Lexus LC500 starts at $92,000. The hybrid version begins at $96,510.
What the experts are saying
“The Lexus LC500 luxury coupe is one stunning vehicle, low, sleek, with just enough angularity to make it look like business. Plus there’s that angry-vacuum-cleaner grille. The hybrid returns surprising fuel economy, but truth to be told, we’d take the V8. With prices north of $90,000, no one cares about the cost of gasoline, and the hybrid simply has too little battery to do much for power in this large, heavy, snarling performance coupe. Instead, the transition between electric-only and blended power can add a stumble when you want a roar. The LC500 is a stunning car, but it’s an accessory, not a green vehicle. Unless you’re driving it largely around town, the V8 just makes more sense.” – John Voelcker, editor of Green Car Reports
Dropping the gauntlet
“The LC500 represents a massive break from Lexus’ immediate past. It is a gauntlet dropped. The intriguing, if not polarizing, large coupe is a wild styling statement, an admission of a previous dullness that took root and metastasized within the brand. More beguiling than the exterior, however, is the captivating interior. The best in the world? No, but to find a finer cabin you’ll be shopping brands like Mercedes-Benz, Bentley, and Aston Martin. Lexus claims if took 50 iterations to get the seats just right. I don’t doubt it. The sporty chassis was developed with the help of hall of fame racecar driver Randy Pobst, and, despite the big coupe’s big weight (4,350+ pounds), the LC500 drives wonderfully. Well, the 5.0-liter, 471-horsepower V8 version with all-wheel steering and a limited slip differential drives wonderfully. The strange, more expensive but less powerful LC500 hybrid isn’t nearly as desirable to a driving enthusiast. Of note: the two versions look identical, so that no one will be able to tell them apart.” – Jonny Lieberman, senior features editor at Motor Trend
“The Lexus LC is just what Lexus needed, an everyday sports car that has finally arrived. Arguably the best Lexus yet checks all the boxes, rivaling the Porsche 911, Mercedes SL and BMW M6 for thousands of dollars less. With standard features from the Lexus Safety System+, like the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and triple beam headlights, the LC truly is the perfect automobile for speed, safety, comfort and luxury in one sub-$100,000 package.” – George Sarkis, general manager at Herb Chambers Lexus of Hingham