If the 2018 Lexus LC 500 represents the pinnacle of what we can expect from this brand moving forward, then we have a lot to be excited about. The LC is every bit as thrilling and lustworthy as past Lexus models have been mundane and conservative. It manages to be both involving to drive on a winding road and shockingly comfortable on road trips and broken pavement. Its available engines offer a choice of old-fashioned, high-revving muscle and futuristic, high-tech wizardry. Even its styling, which is usually a point of controversy with Lexus, draws attention to itself for all the right reasons.
Honestly, the LC is one of the best cars we drove this year, and although it costs nearly $100,000, everything about it would seem to indicate that it should cost considerably more. Sure, the Audi R8 and Mercedes-AMG GT may offer more power and visceral thrills, the Mercedes SL 550 offers the versatility of a convertible roof and the Acura NSX and BMW i8 provide more advanced eco-friendly sports car concepts, but are they really worth tens of thousands more? We can’t see how, which means those are either overpriced, or the LC is somehow a $100,000 bargain. Plus, given how comfortable, practical and easy to drive it is, you could legitimately get your money’s worth every day of the week.
What’s New for 2018?
The LC is an all-new model for 2018.
What We Like
A relative bargain considering cars of comparable quality, performance and desirability; impeccably crafted cabin; impressive powertrain options; shockingly good ride
What We Don’t
Infuriating Remote Touch tech interface; some may prefer a sharper-edged sports car
The 2018 LC 500 is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 good for 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. It’s mounted up front and connected to the rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s estimated to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds. Fuel economy is estimated to be 16 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
The 2018 LC 500h has a new hybrid powertrain consisting of a 3.5-liter V6 engine, a pair of electric motors, a lithium-ion battery pack and a unique transmission that essentially combines a 4-speed automatic and electronically controlled continuously variable automatic (e-CVT). Total system output is 354 hp. It’ll hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Fuel economy is greatly improved at 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Lexus LC is available as the V8-powered LC 500 ($92,000) and hybrid-powered LC 500h ($96,500), but both are essentially equally equipped.
Standard equipment includes 20-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights and high beams, auto-dimming mirrors, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, lane-keep assist, proximity entry and push-button start, leather-upholstered 8-way power seats, NuLuxe premium vinyl upholstered rear seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, Lexus Enform remote and emergency communications services, the Remote Touch tech interface (10.3-in display, center console touchpad), two USB ports, a 12-speaker sound system with satellite and HD radio and a media player interface.
The Touring package adds 20-in forged alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, parking sensors, semi-aniline leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and a Mark Levinson sound system. The Sport package is similar, but gets a limited-slip differential, Alcantara-trimmed sport seats and the standard audio system. The Performance package adds to the Sport items 21-in forged wheels, variable gear ratio steering, active rear steering, an automatically deploying rear spoiler, Alcantara headliner and a carbon fiber composite roof (can be added separately to the Sport package).
The Mark Levinson sound system, the limited-slip differential, the 20- and 21-in forged wheels and a head-up display can be added separately. The Cold Area package adds a heated steering wheel and a windshield de-icer.
Standard equipment includes front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and a rearview camera. Also included is Lexus Enform Safety Connect, which includes automatic collision notification, an emergency assist button and a stolen vehicle locator.
The LC has not been crash tested by a third party.
Behind the Wheel
If you’re looking for the visceral thrill of an exotic sports car, look elsewhere. There are sharper driving tools than the Lexus LC. Instead, it’s a GT car — one that is thoroughly engaging and fun on a winding back road, but also comfortable and practical enough to tackle a week-long road trip. And indeed, with that goal in mind, the LC is a masterpiece. The steering is sensational. The handling is beautifully balanced. The adaptive suspension sops up bumps with remarkable poise. The beautifully crafted cabin looks fantastic, there’s more than enough storage space, and the front seats manage to keep you in place around corners and support you on long drives. It’s just a shame that the Remote Touch interface, which controls everything from the radio to the heated seats, is so genuinely infuriating to use.
Now, there are two versions of the LC: the V8-powered LC 500 and the hybrid-powered LC 500h. Pleasantly, virtually everything said above applies to both, which is especially impressive for a hybrid. Its trick transmission and the addition of actual gears eliminates the elastic band quality of typical e-CVT hybrids. Honestly, it really doesn’t feel like a hybrid when driven aggressively apart from the slightest hint of smooth, friction-free electric thrust when easing into the throttle. It’s subtle, and not a bad thing. The warbling exhaust adds a thrill, and gets louder in the Sport modes, but the V6 doesn’t come close to matching the V8 for spine-tingling audible enjoyment. If anything, the exhaust is over compensating. Around town, you definitely do notice the hybrid powertrain, where it behaves more akin to a traditional Lexus/Toyota hybrid. It disengages and re-engages the engine at similar times. The trick transmission eliminates the typical droning associated with hybrid engines, but it does sap some of the day-to-day enjoyment out of the car.
As for the 5.0-liter V8, it provides more of an effortless, indulgent thrust one expects from a GT. Plus, since it’s naturally aspirated rather than turbocharged — like so many other high-powered cars these days — it’s a particular joy to feel and listen to it race up toward its redline. Though you’ll certainly save money at the pump with the hybrid, the LC 500 is ultimately the more compelling LC.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Porsche 911 — The 911 is one of the best at toeing the line between sports car and GT. With its engine in the back and its styling comparatively subdued, it’s a different animal to be sure, but you’d be smart to check it out.
2018 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class — The SL is a convertible, and far more luxury-focused than the LC, but it’s also one of the few GT cars in this price range of comparable quality.
2018 Jaguar F-Type — Though starting at a lower price point and boasting only two seats, the F-Type is another GT car with gorgeous styling that’ll provide an unforgettable driving experience.
2018 Mercedes-AMG GT — The GT is costlier than the LC and comes out with two seats, but its front-engine, rear-drive GT concept is similar. Indeed, it is literally called GT.
Used Bentley Continental GT — The Lexus is so beautifully crafted and well-engineered that we think the LC can be realistically compared to a new Bentley (or an Aston Martin, for that matter). Nevertheless, the Continental is far more expensive, so a used version would need to be considered at this price point.
The LC 500h and its hybrid powertrain is an impressive engineering feat, and there’s certainly something to be said for its superior fuel economy. However, the LC 500 is the more thrilling and memorable car, and isn’t that the point of a car like the LC in the first place? Opting for the Touring package is recommended.