I recently had the chance to drive the all-new Lexus LC 500, which virtually all of my car enthusiast friends have never heard of. "I’m driving the new Lexus LC this weekend," I told them. Their reply, consistently, has been: "The new Lexus what?" This conversation has repeated itself, time and time again, over the past week.
Then it carried over to social media. I posted a picture of the LC 500 I drove on my Facebook and Instagram pages, and the comments were, to say the least, mixed. Some people knew the car, and they commented on how beautiful it was. Others responded with things like "What am I looking at?" and "What is this?" Mind you, these questions are being asked by car enthusiasts who are specifically following a page for a car enthusiast.
Needless to say, this is uncharted territory for Lexus.
So let me give you a brief overview before diving in. I borrowed this LC 500 from McDermott Lexus in East Haven, Connecticut, and I spent the afternoon with it. The dealer was very excited about the LC 500, but it’s clear their sales aren’t quite there yet: The dealer told me the RX crossover is still flying off the shelves, but buyers haven’t exactly been lining up in droves to purchase a $100,000 Lexus sports coupe. Mainly, that’s because it’s a $100,000 Lexus sports coupe.
The LC 500 is offered in two versions. There’s a hybrid model, the LC 500h, that starts around $97,000 and uses a hybrid V6. And then there’s the one I drove, the LC 500, which uses a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 with 471 horsepower and a 10-speed automatic transmission. It starts around $93,000, but virtually every one I’ve seen — including the one I drove — has a sticker price of just over $100,000. For a Lexus sports coupe.
Now, before I go drive all the cars I review, I try not to read any other reviews of them, mainly because I don’t want other reviews to cloud my judgment. So I went into this thinking the LC 500 would be a Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-TYPE competitor; a snarling, high-powered coupe with ample track capabilities and a stripped-down interior. Not so. As it turns out, the LC is more of a luxury coupe; a competitor to the (now defunct) Jaguar XK, the BMW 6 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe. It’s equal parts luxury and performance.
The reason I made the assumption I did regarding the LC’s sporty status is its styling. The styling will find praise and criticism, but I personally thought it was gorgeous — and sharp, tight, exciting, almost otherworldly. It is, and I mean this sincerely, one of the coolest cars I’ve seen this year — something I think we can all agree on, even if you don’t think it’s "beautiful." The rear three-quarters, especially, gives it the look of a concept car.
But then you get inside, and it’s pure Lexus. By this I mean that there are no crazy lines or bizarre styling details for the sake of styling details; instead, everything is tremendously well done, free from squeaks or rattles or jiggles, and highly functional — especially for a sporty car. The lock button isn’t on the ceiling, like it is in a Ferrari 488; you don’t have to lift up a cover to push the starter like in the Lamborghini Huracan. Instead, this car’s interior is logical, intuitive and gorgeous.
More importantly, though, you’re probably wondering how it drives. And the answer is: It depends what you’re expecting.
I spent the first 10 minutes of my drive on some back roads, carrying a little disappointment. This thing isn’t as fast as a 911. It’s not as loud as an F-TYPE. It doesn’t carve corners like a Ferrari California or an Aston Martin DB11. It’s not as sporty as the sportiest cars in this segment.
But then we got on the highway, and we got into some traffic, and the LC 500 started to come into its own. The sound is good. The acceleration is good. But more importantly, here’s a car that can be driven comfortably on a daily basis, giving drivers the option to choose between a reasonably sporty experience and one that’s far more cocooned, comfortable and relaxed than what you’d get in a 911 or an F-TYPE. When you drive around in an F-TYPE, the exhaust is so loud that people stare at you — and, in some cases, they yell angrily. When you drive around in a 911, you feel the road bumps. When you drive around in an LC 500, you’re transporting yourself in a comfortable, relaxed, concept car cruiser.
Of course, some drivers won’t want that. Many people will decry the LC 500 and its owners, saying they "could’ve had" a 911 or a GT-R for the same price. But that’s missing the point of the LC 500, which provides much of the same thrill as any other sport coupe, but tilted more toward "luxury" than "performance." And, objectively, I think it’s just as good as any rival — if not better. Lexus’s problem with the LC 500 won’t be in the construction of this car, or the styling, or the performance, or the comfort. It’s got all that down just fine.
Instead, Lexus’s problems will come from two other areas. For one, there’s a reason the Jaguar XK is defunct and BMW recently cancelled the 6 Series Coupe: The big luxury coupe just isn’t very popular anymore. Car shoppers who want a vehicle in this segment should absolutely check out the LC 500 — and, in my opinion, they should probably buy it. I’m just not sure how many car shoppers actually want a vehicle in this segment.
The other problem, of course, is that "it’s a Lexus." In the world of Mercedes, and BMW, and Porsche, and Jaguar, most shoppers will have trouble forking over $100,000 for a vehicle made by a brand best known for quality and reliability rather than excitement and performance. Get past that, though, and I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the LC. Find a Lexus LC 500 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.