CAR REVIEW | Lexus LC500; big, striking and value for money
★★★★ | Lexus LC500, Lexus Coast to Coast Cruiser
What’s limited to 168mph, does 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, feels like nothing from its sister company and available at a rather affordable OTR price of £87,885? I’m talking about the Lexus LC500.
The LC500, a 2+2 coupe, is the flagship model from Lexus. From a company that celebrates its 30th year in 2019, it seems quite a nice way to join the party and be given the keys to this. Lexus, sort of, came from nowhere. A subsidiary company with humble groundings, they set out to take on the finest from Europe. There was talk that they couldn’t do it. There was laughter from the power houses in mainland Europe. The laughter stopped. Now they are back with another attempt at making a luxury grand tourer.
When I say back I am of course referring to the original 2001-2010 SC300/400 model. A luxury 2+2 with a retractable roof. It had the luxury appointments fit for a Lexus but sadly failed as a grand tourer. Fit for the time, it wasn’t able to take on Europe. The SC was a Boulevard cruiser of American tastes.
With parent company pioneers in the field of hybrid drive systems, it’s pretty much impossible to find anything on their press fleet that doesn’t have that set up so I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat excited to be pointed into the direction of the all petrol LC500. And what a petrol model it is too. A normally aspirated 5 litre V8 packing 458bhp through a 10 speed automatic gearbox to the rear wheels. This has 4 valves per cylinder, 4 high lifting cams, VVT-i and VVT-ie and a redline at 7300rpm. On paper alone, this has almost super car potential.
Add that power to the striking looks that turn as many heads as the super powers from Stuttgart, Ingolstadt and Sant’Agata Bolognese and you’re rubbing shoulders in some high class company. But does the LC500 really have what it takes to mix with this crowd or is it an outsider?
Playing to the Crowd
It’s a bit yes and a bit no. I’ll start with the negatives first because there are plenty of positives. The handling is a mix of comfort and grand tourer. With 21” alloys, it’s surprisingly good in the comfort area but as an all-out sports car it isn’t quite good enough and belies its super car looks.
Its mix of settings from comfort to sport are deceptive and not clearly different. On the one hand, the LC500 and all its power will cosset you on the motorways or entertain you on the fast B roads. Just be careful down those narrower lanes because the LC is wide at almost 2 metres!
That cosseting comfort comes from the quietness of the V8 up front. Depending on how you feel, it can either be quiet and subdued or vocal but never brash. And that vocalisation doesn’t really alter when you select the drive modes, eco, comfort, normal, sport and sport +.
Try using it as an all-out gung-ho sports car and until you switch the traction off (it never truly turns off) it will satisfy. Pulling away with a howl from the V8 engine and some kick out from the rear. The limited slip differential curtailing wheel spin from the loosest wheel. But you won’t use it like this all the time, it just doesn’t engage in this kind of behaviour. And that’s down to the many good things Lexus has bestowed upon it in terms of luxury.
The 10 speed auto box changes gears with frightening smoothness and yet you are never left wondering if the gear selected is the correct one. Easy to use paddles allow quick up and down changes and considering its 399 Ib/ft of torque under 5000rpm, using the paddles allows blasts of power to be released quickly. And thankfully they do come quickly because the gearbox (in most modes) tends to keep the engines relaxed at under 2000.
That’s not really a hardship when the power surge is lag free thanks mainly to being normally aspirated. Where the LC500 does excel is being just that little it fun and cheeky. The limited slip differential does its job well in reducing spin from the wheel with the least grip but that doesn’t stop it from spinning the wheels when the throttle is pressed hard. And all this for a car that indicated 18-28mpg. Not bad in my book for such a large engine.
There Are Some Problems
If there are niggles to be picked at they are purely aesthetically challenging ones and I’m not talking about the design. While the angular grill looks somewhat a bit too much on the long faced SUV range, on the LC it looks just fine. What throws your eyes are the gaudy textured chrome plastic surrounds on the rear lights. It really doesn’t need to be there.
Likewise, carbon fibre and faux carbon fibre used on the door kick plates doesn’t suit the car in its application here. Yes the roof is carbon fibre and I’m OK with that, but not on the inside. Thankfully once you shut the door, you no longer see it.
I like the infotainment system. It contains everything you’ll need and responds quickly. Thankfully it does because it’s all controlled via a finger pad in the centre console. Where it falters is even on the less sensitive setting, it’s just too sensitive and wrong things were selected.
I’m happy to say that the interior is well laid out and the controls ergonomically placed and nicely weighted. There is incredible attention to detail in the fit and finish inside. It’s actually above and beyond anything Lexus has made in the past. The skills and fastidiousness of the Takumi master craftsmen is evident in the cabin even down to the often difficult to cover sharp angles on the door cards. It’s not often apparent unless you go looking for it. Textures and stitch work are seamless.
Night time comfort is exceptional. Complimented by footwell illuminations and lighting effects near the clock on the dashboard, the white neons running through a sculptured curve in the doors heighten a sense of luxury for those up front. Those in the rear are less well catered for. The seats, while generous in the ample size of the seat squab, are somewhat hampered by headroom or rather the lack of it for anyone over 5 foot tall. You do feel that the rear seat might have been better removed and the ample 197 litre sized boot space increased.
There is a lot to like about the LC500. It’s big, it’s striking, it’s expensive but affordable. As a GT it makes such beautiful sense. I’ll leave you with the words of Miki Matsaburu who sums up the car in one of her songs, it’s so creamy.
Serenity of the cabin
Rear seat room
Drive modes difficult to differentiate in normal driving conditions
Infotainment control pad over sensitive
Car – Lexus LC500 Sport + Pack
Price – £87,885 (as tested)
MPG – From 24.4 mpg
Power – 458bhp
0-62mph – 4.7 seconds
Top Speed – 168 mph
Co2 – 265 (g/km)
(C) All Pictures Stuart M Bird