How Does The Lexus LC 500 Coupe Measure Up?
Back in 1991, Lexus launched its first coupe, the SC 400, for the American market. Ten years later, the Japanese marque followed up with the introduction of the SC 430, which had gone a long time without a successor. This explains why Lexus is hardly associated with luxury coupes—until today that is, as Lexus returns to the luxury coupe market with the good‑looking LC 500.
The LC 500 revisits the original theme of the 1991 flagship V8 coupe and has been developed into a sporty grand tourer. It is a large, luxurious coupe derived from the same platform that underpins the new flagship Lexus LS limousine. The first thing you notice is the controversial spindle grille, and we have to admit that this is the first time we actually think that this oversized grille suits a Lexus styling, as it is provocative and wonderfully similar to the concept car it was based on.
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Enhancing the looks of the LC 500 are its huge 21-inch wheels. While these and the accompanying run-flat tyres may not offer a ride that is as cushy as the car’s sibling, the LS sedan, it is comfortable enough for a sports coupe. On the inside, the car oozes the same modern vibe as its exterior. The cabin is also well appointed, though noticeably more commodious for front passengers. The rear seats are better suited for small children as leg and headroom are not particularly generous.
The icing on the cake for the LC 500 is its naturally aspirated V8 engine, which has been slowly evolving since Yamaha specially tuned it for use in Lexus’ IS F sports sedan in 2009. It may not be the most powerful V8 around, seeing how it has an engine displacement of 5.0L, but it is one of the most tuneful. In terms of audio impact, the engine would be considered brash by Lexus standards, but more polite than what the Italians are used to. However, because of the car’s highly effective cabin insulation, you would have to roll down the window to fully enjoy its roar.
With a 10-speed automatic transmission, the car’s modest 470hp output is put to optimum use. The first few gears are deliberately chosen with lower gearing for more rapid acceleration, while the top few gears are so tall that at a speed of 90km/h, the engine barely has to spin much above idling speed, thus reducing fuel consumption. The car may not be getting any green awards, but is decently frugal on fuel, needing just 11.6L/100km when it is driven sanely.
The car’s acceleration needs no special launching procedure; just stomp down hard on the accelerator and 100km/h flashes by in just 4.7sec, which is good for a large coupe that weighs nearly two tonnes and has a top speed of 270km/h.
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The LC 500 is a hefty coupe, but when you are helming it, you will be none the wiser. The power delivery is so spirited and the huge grippy tyres turn the car so obediently that it feels much lighter that it actually is. To reduce the effort of stopping, Lexus has fitted a brake-by-wire system that can dramatically increase the braking effectiveness when it thinks you are performing an emergency stop. This might take some acclimatising to avoid unintended emergency stops.
For keen drivers, the Sport mode is the optimum, because that is when its engine and chassis behave in unison—they are well-controlled but responsive. Other modes include Sport Plus, which may be a tad too stiff for daily use; Comfort mode, which is best reserved for that slow unruffled drive to a gala dinner; and Normal mode, which is perhaps the best compromise for daily city driving.
The LC 500’s sleek sporty looks suggest that it might do well on the track, however from my experience, I would say it fares best as a grand tourer that can effortlessly cover long distances and cruise the boulevards. Its greatest appeal is its fabulous styling, which will garner as many admiring stares as any Italian supercar.
I also greatly appreciate its charismatic V8 engine for its rich, melodious soundtrack, but also for the fact that it might well be the last natural aspirated V8 engine that Lexus will ever offer before the marque fully embraces turbocharged engines. Lexus has spent many years trying to regain its mojo, and we believe that it has finally found it with the LC 500.