New Car Review

2018 Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h: First Drive Review

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
$41,000
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
$41,290
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Lexus RX Models FWD
Used 2017 Lexus RX Models
$35,756
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models Premium
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
$41,995
RELATED READING
See all Lexus any articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Jason Fogelson January 2017

Lexus has crafted a fine reputation as a luxury brand. The 2018 Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h don't want you to forget that, but they also want you to look at Lexus in a whole new way. This new way isn't casual, cushy, comfortable luxury; this new way is assertive, athletic, active luxury. This is Grand Touring with a capital G and T. And it points toward a whole new direction for the Lexus brand.

Two Variants

The LC is all-new, the first production vehicle to ride on Lexus's new Global Architecture – Luxury (GA-L) platform, which will underlie the upcoming LS sedan and other vehicles. The front-engine/rear-wheel-drive platform is set up in this case to support a 2-door hardtop coupe with a tiny second row for a 2+2 layout. There are two versions of the LC: the LC 500 and LC 500h. The primary difference between the two LCs is the powertrain. The LC 500 gets a 5.0-liter V8 gasoline-only engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission, while the LC 500h comes with a hybrid gasoline/electric powertrain with a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 and two electric motors running in a series/parallel system, connected to a multistage continuously variable automatic transmission. Other than subtle exterior badging, the two variants are identical.

Swooping Exterior

The LC is drop-dead gorgeous. The long low hood meets a new version of Lexus's spindle grille, and signature arrow LED daytime running lights underline sharp expressive LED headlights that are inset into the corners. The hood is so low that Lexus engineers had to devise a way for it to pop up to protect pedestrians in a collision. The windshield sweeps back from the hood to the low roofline, which continues in fastback style to the trunk lid. The long side doors tuck in at the waist, and the rear fenders bulge out athletically. Front and rear overhangs are very small, so the wheels are very near the corners of the vehicle. The rear elevation is also striking, with high horizontal tail lights, big trapezoidal dual exhaust ports and a sculpted integrated tail spoiler. Unlike Lexus's rectilinear supercar, the LFA, the LC is organic and curvy, sexy and a little slinky. It's built at Lexus's Motomachi plant in Japan, the same place where the LFA was born, and the build and paint quality is exemplary, further enhancing the LC's beauty. During our drive in the new coupe, we attracted attention from fellow drivers, eliciting stares, waves and thumbs-up signs wherever we went.

Multilayer Interior

Inside the LC's cabin, a similar level of elegance and assertive design prevails. Decidedly driver-centric, the dash is smartly arranged. A big rectangular 12-inch navigation screen is inset horizontally in the center of the dash on the top level, close to the driver's line of sight out of the big windshield. In a nod to Lexus heritage, a round analog clock is set into the dash to the right of the screen. A section of audio and HVAC controls are grouped in the next level of the center stack below the screen. The center console houses the gear selector on the left flanked by a large control knob and telematics controls on the right. A big armrest conceals a storage compartment, and a pair of cup holders live beneath a hinged cover.

The beefy steering wheel houses the usual array of controls and switches. Paddle shifters are attached to the steering column. The drive mode selector (Comfort, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus) is within close reach on the dash. A thin-film transistor (TFT) instrument panel lives beneath a binnacle behind the wheel.

The front passenger has a good view out of the windshield over an unadorned multilayer dash. A grab handle is integrated into the center console, with a matching grip on the door. The dash is covered in hand-stitched leather and is inlaid with carbon fiber, metal and real wood, depending on which interior design scheme is chosen. Heated and ventilated leather seats support the driver and front passenger nicely, with comfortable bolstering on the standard seats and firmer bolstering on the optional sport versions.

The second row is tiny, in classic GT 2+2 style. There's not enough room for adult passengers to ride comfortably, nor is access easy. Consider the LC a 2-seater for all practical purposes.

V8 Engine and Transmission

LC 500 comes with a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated (nonturbocharged) V8 engine that's tuned to produce 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. The engine has four valves per cylinder (32 total) with variable valve timing and uses direct gasoline injection to squeeze maximum power from each drop of fuel. A newly developed 10-speed automatic transmission sends the juice to the rear wheels. Bucking current trends, the transmission is conventionally geared with one gearshaft, as opposed to the dual-clutch automatics that are proliferating in performance cars these days. Lexus's engineers state they've developed a very fast gear-change mechanism they deem better suited to performance. The rhythm of shifting has been carefully calibrated so that the gear ratios are even from gears two through five, emulating the feel of a manual transmission. The throttle automatically blips to match revs on downshifting, a thrilling sound and feel while driving. The whole package is smooth and harmonious, with a great exhaust note that gets more intense upon acceleration.

Hybrid Engine, Motors and Transmission

The LC 500h's 3.5-liter V6 engine teams with a pair of electric motors for hybrid gasoline-electric operation. Unlike typical hybrid setups that aim mainly at fuel economy by using the Atkinson Cycle, the LC 500h's engine and motor run in a new Multi-Stage Hybrid system designed for performance. One electric motor acts as a starter motor and generator, while the other sends power to the rear wheels and handles the energy from regenerative braking. In purely simplistic terms, the transmission allows the electric motor to add boost to the gas engine's output, increasing drive power when accelerating. The transmission is a continuously variable automatic (CVT) that operates in four stages to emulate the feel of a conventionally geared 10-speed automatic, avoiding the drone that can characterize a CVT in some vehicles. Electric power is stored in an 84-cell lithium-ion battery array set between the rear seats and the luggage compartment, taking up about 1 cu ft. of the LC's cargo capacity, which is 4.6 cu ft. in the LC 500h compared to 5.4 cu ft. in the LC 500.

Suspension and Handling

The LC's chassis is constructed of multiple materials, including steel, high-strength steel and ultra-high-strength steel, for a balance of rigidity and light weight. The body is made of steel and aluminum, with Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) in some areas. Front and rear multilink suspension components have been tuned for run-flat tires. Electric power steering operates with a power assisted rack-and-pinion design, delivering a speed-sensitive feel. The LC has a very low center of gravity and handles turn-in very well, with very little body roll and a precise feel.

Driving Experience

We had the opportunity to drive both the LC 500 and LC 500h on a variety of public roads, from congested urban traffic to open highways to curvy mountain roads and even on a closed road course with pro drivers in the right seat.

The V8-powered LC 500 is the winner of the pair, hands down. The exhilarating exhaust note encourages assertive driving, and great brakes give the confidence to dive deeply into corners while carrying speed. Lexus quotes a 0-to-60 time for the LC 500 at 4.4 seconds, which is fast enough to get the blood rushing. A top speed of 168 mph is electronically limited. The transmission works like a dream, displaying the rhythm and smooth rush of power the engineers worked so hard to achieve. This is one fun ride, unlike any Lexus you've ever driven.

The hybrid LC 500h delivers a satisfactory driving experience, if a slightly muted one compared to that of the V8. Zero to 60 mph comes a little slower, at 4.7 seconds, and top speed is limited to 155 mph. The regenerative braking system doesn't have the great feel of the conventional brakes. The CVT does a good job of delivering power, and the V6 sounds that reach the cabin are lusty and well-tuned.

The Competition Begins

Lexus hasn't announced pricing on the LC yet -- that will come closer to the vehicle's arrival in North America in late spring of 2017. It did identify a broad competitive set that includes vehicles that start in the $70Ks and run up to the $120Ks: the BMW 6 Series, Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and even the Porsche 911; quite a wide range.

Lexus wouldn't confirm a rumored F-Sport edition or all-wheel-drive variants of the LC, though we can hope it takes the next step with this GT coupe. Right now, the 2018 Lexus LC 500 and 500h represent an exciting new direction for the automaker and an aspirational new entry into its lineup.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
$41,000
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
$41,290
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Lexus RX Models FWD
Used 2017 Lexus RX Models
$35,756
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models Premium
Used 2017 Lexus GX Models
$41,995
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h: First Drive Review - Autotrader