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2018 Lexus LC500

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Lexus’s ongoing plot to develop soul-stirring vehicles appears to be coming together when you first see the stunning 2018 LC500 coupe on the road. Away from the ribbons of Spanish asphalt where we first wheeled it in anger, the LC is even more outrageous to behold. Just know that while the car is IMAX-grade automotive theater, the producers have yet to cast the right engine with a proportional amount of forward thrust—although one is coming.

The gaping spindle grille that gives this car the face of an electric razor doesn’t hinder its curbside magnetism as a snarling, V-8–powered sexpot. The LC is also supremely accommodating, with a sumptuous interior, an excellent driving position, and a nose that still will clear parking blocks.


A Graceful Diva

But while it’s ultra rigid, the steel chassis underpinning a body formed mostly from aluminum and composite panels is onerously heavy: At 4378 pounds, our test car weighed more than a three-row Honda Pilot SUV. The Performance package on our example somewhat countered the excessive weight by replacing the standard glass roof with a carbon-fiber weave. Totaling $10,000, the Performance package also bundles the Convenience package ($1000), huge 21-inch forged-aluminum wheels with run-flat Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires ($2650; 245/40RF-21 in front and 275/35RF-21 out back), a limited-slip differential ($390), active steering on the front axle, rear-wheel steering, body-hugging sport seats, and lots of leather and microsuede.

While the rear steering made our test car feel somewhat aloof at the limit, this sleek wedge can play either a mellow grand tourer or a hunkered-down sports coupe, depending on which of the six driving modes you’ve selected (Eco, Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport, and Sport+). A general sense of understeer reminds you not to push too hard, yet the LC always feels crisp and poised, thanks in part to its adjustable dampers. Even in the firmest setting, the LC soaks up pockmarked pavement while keeping the body level in corners. And the electrically assisted helm is superquick and precise, transmitting a pleasing amount of road texture from the front contact patches. Versus the standard rack’s 13.0:1 ratio, the active setup can relax up to 13.6:1 or quicken to a sharp 9.8:1.

The driving modes also adjust the volume of the 471-hp 5.0-liter V-8’s gripping soundtrack—up to 88 decibels at full whack in Normal mode—as well as how much snap accompanies the 10-speed automatic’s smartly orchestrated shifts, whether carried out by the transmission’s electronic brain or via the satisfyingly hefty magnesium paddles on the steering wheel. Sport mode was our preferred setting for its balance of refinement, noise, and heightened responsiveness. However, subsequent drives in a standard model, on 20-inch wheels and without the active- and rear-steering gear, reveal the base setup to be even better suited to the LC’s overall demeanor. Along with having a slightly more compliant ride, the standard car’s slower steering and lack of rear steering lend it a calmer, more natural handling balance without diminishing its tactile road feel.


Razzie-Worthy Performance

Despite the LC’s visual and auditory drama, our test car’s lateral grip (0.93 g) and 156-foot stop from 70 mph are unexceptional at this price point. And its 13.0-second quarter-mile pass at 112 mph is significantly off the pace of other high-end luxury coupes, such as a comparably priced Jaguar F-type or two-door Mercedes-Benz S-class, not to mention the lesser Lexus RC F. We cruised at a solid 29 mpg on our 200-mile highway loop—3 mpg more than the LC500’s EPA highway estimate—yet averaged only 17 mpg in our day-to-day use.

Slipping behind the wheel of the LC also means coping with the demands of Lexus’s Enform infotainment system and its clumsy Remote Touchpad controller. Improvements over the years have seen it gain several secondary buttons for menu shortcuts, but it remains one of the most distracting systems on the market, meaning that you may miss the stares from adoring onlookers while you fumble to change the radio station.

The LC500’s high-five-figure admission fee ($92,975; the LC500h hybrid is $4510 more) suits its exotic looks, with most of our test car’s $12,120 in options worth the upcharge. Along with standard automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, our example also featured a $900 color head-up display and a $1220 Mark Levinson premium stereo with 13 speakers.

But the LC500 ultimately stumbles on the red carpet when interviewed. Were they our box-office dollars, we might hold out for the higher-powered sequel, the twin-turbo 600-hp LC F that we expect Lexus to premiere later this year.

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