Auto review: 2018 Lexus LC 500 is both beauty and beastChicago Tribune — By Robert Duffer Chicago Tribune
Oct. 10-- With the 2018 LC 500, Lexus now has a thrilling sports coupe.
Yet the market is jaded. The question I heard most from people was: Who needs another $100,000 sports coupe? Lexus does.
The RC F and GS F, from which the V-8 engine is derived, are fun, powerful cars, but they don't turn heads and make people wonder what it is and, more importantly, who makes it?
The LC 500 is visceral, by sight and sound. If Lexus wants to redefine itself as being more than a maker of well-heeled but boring sedans and crossovers, it can't rely on marketing alone. It needed a mainstream, more affordable and accessible psuedo-successor to the LFA supercar.
The LC 500 is stunning. It's low and long with short overhangs, and in glinting Infrared paint it looks dangerous and gorgeous all at once. Bunched under the buff wheel arches are 21-inch forged wheels ($2,650), and the tall and wide Lexus spindle grille does not look out of place here. It draws the eyes up over the hood, the carbon fiber roof, then down the sides to the sleek vents between the pinched doors and flexed rear wheels. The rear is really where the LC 500 sticks out. Curved and muscular, it's wider than the rest of the car, as if it spends as much time at the gym as it does on the track.
Execution of the aesthetic carries over to the inside. Soft beige headliner makes it feel as if you're ensconced in a suede slipper at a spa. The low height and center make it a squeeze getting in, even with the seat in its lowest position. We comfortably fit two adults up front and wedged two tweens in back for an extended outing, though a wide tunnel divides the 2+2 seating position.
The driver's seat is where it's at, of course. Designed to place the driver in the center of everything, the LC 500 feels right. Unfortunately, the infotainment system is still confusing. The belt buckle mouse controller is gone, finally, and the touch pad is better to use while the car is in motion. It's not as effective and easy as a controller dial. The layout of the wide screen with large lower icons takes getting used to and overall there is too much going on. The confusion can be summarized with the four different ways to change the radio stations, including a tuner dial by the pad, the pad itself, steering wheel controls, and the vehicle info display. In trying to please everyone, Lexus might end up confusing everyone. Like the RC F, the LC 500 has a tachometer that shifts over to the right so a menu can appear on the left. It's really cool, and keeps the emphasis on driving.
Oh, yes, the driving. The 471-horsepower V-8 mated to a 10-speed transmission hits 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, according to Lexus. There are other six-figure rear-wheel drive coupes that are quicker, but few with a naturally aspirated V-8. The contained rumble of the free-breathing V-8 engine is what made me fall in love at first sound on a rainy day at the track. It sounds as good as it looks. But it has to deliver. It throws you back in your seat, simultaneously lifting up and back as 398 pound-feet of torque hits the rear wheels. In turns and under full throttle, the rear slides as loose as last call dancing at the club. Thanks in part to four-wheel steering, that temperamental looseness provides an ever-present reminder of understeer and its consequence: the spin out. It's a thrilling reminder that sport mode demands the driver to actually drive.
For RWD free-breathing purists, the Corvette does it better, and with a whole lot less weight than the 4,280-pound LC. That's as much as a midsize SUV. There are lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber elements, but the stiff chassis with active dampers and all the engineering wizardry make it a grand tourer meant for both performance and easy highway cruising.
The cruising is comfy even with the sport seats, and the 10-speed transmission as well as variable valve timing helped us to get 25.6 mpg in eco mode on one mostly highway commute; on the outbound trip in similar conditions, sport mode got us about 19 mpg.
When it comes to the rarefied space of six-figure sports coupes, first impressions make lasting impressions. The LC 500 looks different than anything else out there, and that is a good thing for Lexus.
2018 Lexus LC 500 at a glance
Vehicle type: sports coupe
Base price: $92,000
As tested: $104,065 (excluding $995 delivery)
Mpg: 16 city, 26 highway
Engine: 471-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Parting shot: A beautiful thing is never perfect.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Robert Duffer is the editor of the Chicago's Tribune's auto section. Readers may contact him at Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Fourth Floor, Chicago IL 60611 or email@example.com
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