Whenever the name Lexus comes up, it is sometimes difficult to determine where it fits within the motoring fraternity. With the odd exception, Lexus has always had a very strait-laced, short back and sides image, until recently.
In recent years Lexus has undergone a significant change and is now armed with a range to challenge the premium segment’s accepted norms. Nothing does more to illustrate this point than the 2018 Lexus LC500, it’s the car that makes motoring enthusiasts rethink what Lexus is all about.
Now the LC500 is a car we are familiar with, last year we were fortunate enough to drive the hybrid version, the LC500h. A brilliant car in its own right with an efficient and refined powertrain. However, swap the hybrid for a naturally-aspirated V8 and we are presented with a different beast.
Walking towards the LC500 just makes you smile, it’s achingly beautiful. Regardless of the exterior colour, it hits the emotional notes. It also has the long, low and wide stance that gives it some presence on the road. It puts those who shape European sheet metal on notice.
Although the exterior nails the design brief, it’s the interior that pushes all the chips to the centre of the table and raises the stakes. Lexus consistently delivers luxurious interiors, but the LC500 takes things a little further. It’s elegant and functional with a focus on the small details that challenge the interiors of exotics costing much more.
Every button, switch and stalk deliver a sublime tactile experience. The placement of each control has obviously been debated in a lengthy series of meetings. One such example is the two control stalks that protrude from the instrument cluster, at first they resemble the horns of a bull and seem out of place, yet they bring some character and flair to the layout.
Material choices are first class, the leather and plastic both look and feel premium. There are no shiny surfaces, everything has a lovely matte finish that doesn’t show dust or fingerprints.
The interior’s primary foible is the infotainment system, it just isn't as intuitive as it could be. This could begin to be rectified by adding smartphone mirroring software.
Then there are the rear seats, even with average sized adults up front, room in the back row is tight in every direction.
What sets this car apart is the engine. The naturally-aspirated V8 makes the LC500 something unique in an age where turbocharging now rules. Lexus also offers a V8 powerplant in the RC F coupe and GS F sedan, so they are doing their bit to keep the traditionalists appeased. Nostalgia aside, it’s a brilliant engine, full of personality and gives the car a level of individuality not often found in a Japanese model.
The mood is perfectly set from the moment the start button is pressed and the engine roars to life. Lexus has finally nailed the soundtrack, the engine noise and exhaust note are beautifully judged. Lexus engineers have produced a chorus that is the motoring equivalent of Lennon and McCartney’s finest work and does the LC500 justice.
With its 5.0-litre capacity, the engine breathes freely, never sounding under duress. The throttle response is immediate, however, to access the 540Nm of torque requires 4800rpm. The LC500 isn't really portrayed as a performance car despite the 4.7 second 0 to 100km/h time. The car does feel faster than the official time. Nevertheless, the LC500 is fast enough to satisfy the majority of enthusiasts.
Lexus has paired the big V8 with a 10-speed automatic transmission, the ratios are set closely together which keeps everything smooth. Turn the dial to select Sport+ mode and the changes become more aggressive.
If you want to tackle some corners the LC500 has you covered. The GA-L platform that forms the LC500’s foundation allows for a low centre of gravity meaning the car is stable when pressed in the bends. The handling of the LC500 is also aided by a near perfect distribution of weight over the front and rear axles and a limited-slip differential.
When it comes to steering, it’s precise with a good level of feedback and a natural feel, there’s nothing artificial to be felt here. Everything is as sharp as a freshly stropped straight razor.
The LC500 is a playful car, one that will even allow novice drivers to exploit its capabilities. It’s not as demanding as some may expect.
Corner carving to one side, the LC500 can legitimately be characterised as a grand tourer. It’s a fabulous car to hammer through a long highway stint. The LC500 is a refined long-distance cruiser that’s virtually without peer.
On the embarrassingly poor roads of country Victoria, the LC500’s suspension did a stellar job of absorbing the litany of bumps. This feat is quite impressive considering the LC500 rides on 21-inch wheels wrapped with run-flat tyres.
During the week of this review, we covered 832 kilometres of both city and highway driving. Without paying much attention to economical driving techniques we were able to average 12.3L/100km. This is a much better result than we were originally expecting.
Fresh oil is required every 12 months/15,000km. Unfortunately, Lexus doesn’t currently offer a capped price service program, however, when it comes to customer service, the brand has an excellent reputation. Owners do get access to a loan car while their car is serviced. Alternatively, for those close enough to a dealer, the vehicle can be collected from home or work and returned after the maintenance is completed.
All Lexus models are backed by a four year/100,000km warranty, it’s above average for the class trumping premium rivals with an extra year.
After experiencing both variants of the LC500, the V8 is the superior choice. The additional character provided by the bruising engine easily eclipses the consumption advantage of the hybrid. Both variants are priced from $190,000 plus on-road costs.
There is an enhancement pack available which adds dynamic rear steering, variable gear ratio steering, Alcantara interior, 10-way electronic sports front seats, carbon fibre roof, carbon fibre scuff plates and an active rear wing for an additional $15,780. It’s debatable how much these nice, but largely unnecessary options add to the overall ownership experience.
It is hard to identify the LC500’s competitors, in looking for another apple to compare with this one, a slightly smaller 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 powers the Maserati GranTurismo which is a similarly sized coupe, however, it requires an additional $105,000 to get behind the wheel.
What Lexus has done is make a car so beautifully sculpted it could be attributed to the hands of Michelangelo himself, ironically, it can be parked next to any Italian and hold its own. Both the exterior and interior offer class and sophistication with plenty of attention seeking ability.
But it’s the engine that serves as the sweetest cherry. The naturally aspirated V8 is a cracker and its deployment here is hopefully one for the long term. Driving the LC500 with this engine will be an emotional experience for V8 fans, it’s hard to escape the thought that this is one of the last naturally aspirated engines of this size. It’s the kind of engine my grandfather would have sold his organs for just to have it parked in his driveway. It has a unique character that genuinely stands out in the era of forced induction. When it is no longer, it will be missed.
Importantly, the LC500 brings an emotional element to the Lexus badge. The LC500 is the hero car Lexus needed to finalise its move from sensible to desirable. This coupe will act as a lighthouse that steers buyers into Lexus showrooms to consider their other models. The LC500 brings additional credibility to other Lexus models by elevating the brand to a new space.
2018 Lexus LC500 Specifications
Price from $190,000 plus on-road costs Engine 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated V8 petrol Power 351kW @ 7100rpm Torque 540Nm @ 4800rpm Transmission 10-speed automatic Performance 0 to 100km/h 4.7 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 11.6L/100km Tank Capacity 82L Length 4770mm Width 1920mm Height 1345mm Wheelbase 2870mm Turning Circle 10.8m Kerb Weight 1970kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty four year/100,000 kilometre
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