First Drive: The 2018 Lexus LC 500 Doesn’t Want To Be The Perfect One

In its Super Bowl 51 ad, Lexus changed its longstanding marketing tagline. Lexus is no longer, “The Pursuit of Perfection,” but now it wants you to “Experience Amazing.”

I don’t know what that means either. But you can see from first glance how the Lexus LC 500 wants to amaze you. It’s been years in the making, supercars aside, but the LC is the boldest attempt from Lexus to strike “boring” from any reference and inspire emotion the way its century-old rivals have done.

Thing is, “Perfection” perfectly explained what Lexus wanted ever since 1989 when its first car was shown. Has it been sidelined here?

Strike it up

To my eyes, the LC is the best adaptation of the L-Finesse design language that’s given us the imposing spindle grilles on Lexus models for years now.

Admittedly, that’s slightly damning with faint praise, because while the new coupe is certainly striking, it’s far from the cleanest design. Big, expensive coupes tend to promote grace and with its intricate grille detailing and slashes everywhere, the Lexus is comparatively gimmicky. There’s a lot of chrome going on, too, especially on the wheels.

That said, it still looks very much like the LF-LC concept. Concept car looks aren’t hyperbolic on this Lexus. Cynical auto journalist eyes who tire of seeing spindled F Sports may be jarred by it, but among the visitors and residents of Kona-Kohala coast in Hawaii, the LC attracted numerous gasps, stares, waves and “hang loose” gestures.

Which I still have a hard time making with my left hand.

The traditional Lexus values shine, with lots of standard equipment and
little to make you question its quality. Even the window switches no
longer look as if they’ve come off of a Camry.


In stitches

Those “concept car looks” extend to the inside of the LC. And they’re right, although obvious concessions from both form and function departments were made to get here.

Still, this is style central. And Lexus’ people like to boast about handmade-ness of the LC 500’s interior. Pretty much everything you see or touch is swathed in leathers that are beautifully stitched together Stick with the seats that come standard. With the Sport Package – which, admittedly, comes with plenty of stuff you might want like the concept-style 21-inch wheels and a limited-slip diff – you get tight racing-style seats that are nice in the corners, but a little confining everywhere else.

Spend enough time with all of the adjustments, however, and the LC 500 is a nice place to sit, for two people anyway. Here is where the traditional Lexus values shine, with lots of standard equipment and little to make you question its quality. Even the window switches no longer look as if they’ve come off of a Camry.

There are issues. The upholstered lumps behind the rear seats are supposedly seats, but should really be considered as comfortable resting spaces for tote bags. As far as I can tell, there is no pass-through for long items because of where a large speaker for the optional 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio system rests between those perches. The trunk, while long and likely able to manage a couple of suitcases, is pretty shallow.

Then there’s the Lexus infotainment system. The big news about its appearance in the LC is apparently a revised trackpad that supposedly learned from its disastrous debut on the NX and more resistant to fingerprints. It’s true, it’s harder to smudge it, but that’s the best thing that can be said about it. The navigation graphics are bad, but that’s easy to overlook when you’re trying to figure out how to turn up the seat ventilation function. It’s so finicky to use while driving that it’s almost dangerous. Not being the most dexterous person in the universe, I thought pulling over would be the best thing for all parties involved. It’s still a pain to use when stationary.

At least there are physical controls for the audio functions. They sit just ahead of the trackpad on the center console and look vaguely like the driving mode selector on other Lexuses. Which made me think they designed this beautiful interior and then realized there was no room for a volume knob. 

This is a new kind of Lexus.

Heart-stopping scenery #lexus #lexuslc #hawaii #badvalentinesdaypuns

A post shared by Zac Estrada (@zacestrada) on Feb 14, 2017 at 2:55pm PST


Firm finesse

God save the naturally aspirated V8.

While twin-turbo’d eight-cylinders are thunderously powerful these days in even comfort-oriented luxury cars, there’s a purity to this unboosted V8 in the LC 500 that wants to dial us back from the future.

Again, that grandeur its exterior defies but interior suggests comes in again. Well, at least after startup. The trick exhaust valves Lexus threw in ensure the LC 500 barks to life in an Italian sort of way that your neighbors will undoubtedly enjoy at 6 AM.

This 5.0-liter V8 also does duty in the RC F and GS F models, but makes all of four more horsepower in the LC for a grand total of 471 horsepower and 398 lb.-ft. of torque and always routed through a 10-speed automatic. While it’s able to run in Atkinson cycle at low revs to boost fuel economy, this is about as traditional of a V8 as you can find these days. Perhaps because its engine is so old-school in philosophy, but the LC 500 never feels as fast as its numbers suggest. Even in its more sporting settings, this automatic likes to live in its higher gears, prompting the driver to pull the column-mounted paddle on the left numerous times to get pushed back in his or her seat. Lexus may try to pass it off as “deceptively quick,” but my backside concluded it lacks bite.

Handling, however, is a different story. It’s a big car, for sure, but the LC keeps itself together on some of the more twisting Hawaii roads. Not a track star, but not a couch potato, either. Some of this came down to the optional Performance Package fitted to the test car, which also included a carbon fiber roof in place of the standard fixed glass one. But active rear steering also likely helped the Lexus slim down while going quickly through tight corners.

If anything, though, the LC with the Performance Package represents something of a confused animal when driving modestly. It’s too hard to be a comfortable cruiser, but the engine lacks the low-down urgency to provide smirk-inducing power off the line. On a closed course, getting the engine to 7,100 rpm to access all the power might be possible. But those who want to feel fast all of the time should stick with their turbo’d Ms and AMGs.

It’s also best to stick with the LC 500’s standard 20-inch wheels (also run-flats) and dial the speed back a bit. You might even want the LC 500h hybrid instead, but that’s a different story. But it’s here that the LC reveals how far-reaching it wants to be and what it’s actually able to grasp.


Hot pursuit

You’ll need at least $92,000 to get into an LC 500 when it goes on sale in May. Prices rise up to $102,000, although Lexus officials said most dealers are stocking ones optioned up to slightly below $100,000.

That’s quite close to a BMW 650i or Jaguar F-Type, although a bargain compared to a Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe, all of which are named as prime rivals to the LC. Think of the Lexus as more of an F-Type rival, however, since even the less sporting version lacks the softness of the BMW or Mercedes and especially the grandeur of the Benz.

In addition to the Sport Package, the Performance Pack as on my test car adds active rear steering, active rear spoiler and variable-ratio steering. All of these options, after seat time, detracted from the appeal of the LC 500, and even Lexus officials admit the base car is likely the way to go. When you’re not egging it on or fussing with the driving modes, the LC 500 is a content cruiser. One that turns lots of heads, at that.

But that’s what I can’t get over. Lexus was really good at making plush luxury cars that were largely faultless, if sterile in terms of feel. Objectively, they were pretty close to perfect. That hasn’t been the case lately, with their lineup of vehicles sporting ludicrously complex controls and muddled personas. In return, the LC does manage to inspire that previously elusive emotion that the Europeans have done so well. It’s like Lexus wanted a few Bs on its report card to show it could be cool.

The LC 500 is not perfection. It isn’t amazing, either. But it is relentless in its pursuit of providing an experience.

Photos: Dewhurst Photography/Lexus

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  • Kax

    Smh. Everything should just be boring to please these dumb blog writers.

    • Ary Wisesa

      Agree with you. Maybe years of testing Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis has made their expectations and “taste” grew really high for ALL and EVERY car. They tend to think like they already have a fleet of supercars and/ultra luxurious cars in their garages, but in reality they can’t even afford this Lexus.

      • Can’t wait until you let me know what I should think about the VW Golf!

      • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

        Lexus’ are pretty affordable. Even in this sub $100k range.

  • mccarluvr123

    I would buy it just to look at.

  • ediotsavant

    Closest to having sex with a supermodel.
    But the interior needs reworking. Too much flat surfaces. Needs an additional color tone to break up the boring look.

    • Mynameis Taylor

      It’s fascinating how people like different things. I prefer the interior to the exterior. I really don’t like the back or hind quarters of the car

  • annon

    they seriously f***ed up the instrument cluster with those “shrek ear” knob dials on either side…like really…there was nowhere else to put them???

    • Nordschleife

      I think it gives the dash a cool 80’s vibe. I just wish the one on the left was for the headlights.

      • Leo76

        Do you remember Honda Prelude from 1980´ ?

      • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

        “Cool 80’s vibe” yup that’s a good way of excusing it. Haha. For some reason it does remind me of an 80’s Cadillac.

  • ErnieB

    The interior looks vintage? Nah it looks old as fudge! I like the exterior , but the competion is strong.. Lexus needs to fire the designers already!!

  • alexxx

    japanese design at its best….
    beautiful,inside aut….

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      JDM Garbage.

      • alexxx

        Guess Lada is your favorite car…

        • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

          Toyota Lexus was at one point, now it’s American Honda. 😉

  • This car is perfect and amazing!

  • Nordschleife

    I think they should have kept the Pursuit of Perfection. It still gives you leeway when you don’t achieve it. With that being said, the LC is indeed amazing….looking.

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      Amazingly weird. And amazingly overhyped Toyota.

  • Honda NSX-R

    Stunning.

  • Six_Tymes

    hmmm, not so sure about the interior. maybe it will grow on me

  • Mark S

    The spindle grille works here. Gorgeous interior. I would like to see a Terga version of this..

    • Six Thousand Times

      G*R*I*L*L*E. Your car has a grille and you cook on a grill.

      • Mark S

        Maybe I cook on both…

        • Six Thousand Times

          Then use the exhaust manifold like a civilised person!

      • Skye

        this Grille is so huge (and ugly) it has many uses, like to please people who like Transformer looking type cars and they can also use it to Grill on at tailgating parties.

        • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

          It’s a gaping hole in the front always nice and ready to be dominated good. Lol!

  • TheBelltower

    Okay, I really do like how the entire interior has been wrapped in leather. It isn’t a great design, but the details look like money. The exterior…. uh, makes me want to hurl. The grille looks like an air conditioner that’s been dropped out of a 3rd story window. The rear end is an a$$ that only the mother of Alice Cooper could love.

  • getoffme

    I do not think this random idiot actually drove the car. I can clearly see a volume knob and physical switches for the HVAC.

    • Hi, random idiot here. There is a volume knob and physical climate controls, I used them both. But my point was that the seat heating/cooling controls are in the infotainment system and the position of the audio control moves the driving mode switch to a different place.

      But do tell more, if you’ve driven the car as I have.

      • Six Thousand Times

        You don’t have to take that, tell him you’re a targeted idiot… 😉

  • Six Thousand Times

    I love it because it’s outrageous. I don’t think every car should look like this but I’m glad one does. I will keep calling it the punk E-Type.

    • Belthronding Tinuviel

      punk e type? hımm,i think i like it. 🙂

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      Punk e-type? Nah. More like the retired supervisor or casino employee type. lol.

      • Six Thousand Times

        Can’t take you seriously with that name.

        • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

          Really? No way!😋

          • Six Thousand Times

            Way. And look at the little smiley face there. Sad!

          • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

            You know you’re digging it. And nothing you say will take away the hurt. Just saying though. 😋

            Enjoy!😁

          • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

            I struck another nerve. 😌

            You mean Imojee? Okay my little “smiley face” is “sad”.

            Yet again nothing is more “sad” than being financially limited where the most you can afford is an overhyped penciled Toyota.

            Stay😡 Angry.

            Enjoy😋😋😋

  • javier

    hmm f type or this steaming heap

  • Sammy Kumar

    Does the roof tilt at all? I assume panaromic is just see thru while cf is just for exterior looks?

  • Mynameis Taylor

    I really like the interior. But while I’m not a fan of the exterior ( particarly the rear), I still think Lexus did a better job than Audi and Bmw. That being said, I think the Mercedes coupe (both the C & E class) is the best looking car in it’s segment.

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      Besides Mercedes, Audi and BMW look far better than this imho. The LC is too over done, and over exaggerated especially in the performance and styling department. It certainly doesn’t play the part it looks, but then again they are known for that.

  • Tumbi Mtika

    F-Type. But this is drop-dead sexy.

  • thunder bolt

    what? no cup holder? that’s a deal breaker for me.

  • Bo Hanan

    Style-wise, another lesson to Merc and BMW, as the SC400/SC300 were 28 years ago. Well done Lexus.
    And I bet the hybrid version of this V8 engine will satisfy the critics.

    • KidRed

      The interior looks like it was designed 28 years ago. Fail.

      • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

        That just amazes me. What could they have been smoking over at Toyota??? Lol.

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      It’s too hideous looking with that signature gaping hole in the front to teach other brands a “lesson” much less BMW and Mercedes. SC300 and 400 were to bulky, heavy, and over designed (Camry Coupe like) they had nothing on other car brands much less Mercedes or BMW.

  • antbee

    I wholeheartedly admit, that I love this car, every bit of it! I am glad to see Lexus do another bold design, after giving the world that beautiful LF-A. I’ll never forget that commercial it had, where it featured all of its cars, then this yellow streak comes flying from the back, and you know it could only be the LF-A! Superb!
    The LC 500 may not have the sportiness one would desire, from a car with such a bold design, but it sure as hell will get you where you’re going in incredible style.

  • Enter Ranting

    Its mascara is running.

  • SteersUright

    This car is beautiful to look at and the engine makes plenty of power. The inexcusable faults are the ridiculously heavy weight for a brand new sports car just being launched as well as using an standard 8-speed slush box. Imagine what this engine could do in a 3000lb package? How and why does Lexus, with the might of Toyota engineering behind it who was first to “weave” together a supercar (LFA), not using lighter more exotic materials in this $100k car? And where is their world-class, lightning fast dual-clutch trans to match or beat the best in the game (Porsche PDK for example)? Lexus’ 8-speed auto is notoriously old-tech, dim-witted, slow shifting, and “confused” most of the time in my GSF and likely this car as well. Lastly, this reviewer is spot on regarding Lexus’ infotainment system which is truly terrible and in need of a complete dump and replacement. Lexus shouldn’t even bother upgrading it.

    This car isn’t luxurious or large enough inside to be any sort of a challenge to the stately (and more expensive) S-class coupes. This is much more of Lexus’ answer to the BMW 6-series, which are also heavy semi-sports cars that ride firmly. I love the bold looks of this Lexus. But the corners they cut in other critical areas are hard to accept and I dont expect this car to sell very well overall, much less unseat too many 911, 6-series, or other $100k car buyers outside of those early-adopters who just want to have the newest, and maybe best looking car on the block.

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      I beg to differ.

      1)Toyota does not bare anymore might than say Ford, GM or Hyundai. The LFA was a failure (Mr. Toyoda acknowledged this) it was ultimately beat by every other super car and the dealers just couldn’t sell them. Though I do understand the marketing ploy behind that project and obviously due to lagging sales ToyoLexus figured that demonstrating the brands abilities to also copy and imitate more exotic super cars that consumers and critics would take the brand more seriously. However in the end they were too clumsy, didn’t make the car affordable for their customer base, and it certainly didn’t help when that lfa was totalled by a nothing more than a 3-series.

      Clearly the lfa was made using more substandard materials than better quality.

      2)”Lighting fast dual clutch”?
      Ford also makes one and beats anything churned out (copied) by ToyoLexus.

      So your claim/theory that it “could match or beat anything in the game” is arguable and likely pure fiction.

      Furthermore someone attempting to hint that it will match or beat Porsche’s PDK only shows how misinformed or dilussional that person really is. Or maybe they sell ToyoLexus, in that case understandable.

      3)ToyoLexus is in no position to unseat any car in the $100k range much less a Porsche 911. Though I can totally see it unseating an Acura NSX. (Chuckles)

      4)A Lexus being the best looking car on the block? That all depends on what “block” you are on. Certainly won’t get noticed on a block lined with the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and even Cadillac. Then again most Lexus buyers being simpletons live on a block where every other car is a Camry, Accord, Taurus, etc. etc.

      By the way hinting any similarities between that LC thing and a 911 is really just a failed attempt at…..

  • Jackham

    Not unanimous but close. Outside gorgeous. Interior…..back to the drawing board.

  • baofe

    for 60 grand sure, for 70k maybe, but asking 100k for that? I don’t think so.

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      Agreed! Won’t happen. You can go try and I’m sure you’ll get the discount as everyone else will.

  • Belthronding Tinuviel

    very unique and well designed car with japanese style. anyway,it is good to see different luxury GTs than than germans.
    very welldone lexus!

  • My understanding of the shift from “The Pursuit of Perfection,” to “Experience Amazing.” is that Lexus understood that in a post-modern era all that matters is what the customer is going through when experiencing their brand and not what the brand has achieved.

    It’s a shift in the way we think brands and not solely car brand.

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      The relentless pursuit was a failure 20 years in the making.

      They are now doing what they should have done in the beginning, make a decent product and present it with some humbleness not copy and imitate others and get credit for doing so. Lol.

  • KidRed

    No thanks to that 20 year old retro interior. The exterior is odd and has several unattractive angles. No thanks to this overhyped car.

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      Not to worry they have their bread and butter wanbabe rich customers that will scoop one after they demand $10,000 or more off the sticker. When I sold Lexus’ it was like that all day long. “Why would I spend that much when I can just buy an Audi, BMW, Benz, or Jaguar etc.” If they didn’t have their old Lexus to trade in you can believe they were getting the massive discount, it’s just the only way we were going to move the inventory.

  • ed

    I think it looks stunning…went to the dealer and say it in Satin Black wrap on showroom floor…awesome looking

    But for me in that range I want performance and a driver’s car…

    F-TYPE all day!!

    • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

      Agreed!

  • Dexterbarnes+MinoreeTee =GAYYY

    Yawn. Faux rich, gray haired GT performance, a design that is both too loud and too funky coupled with generic performance.

    Anti-social retirees and the “faux rich” will sure line up for one.