Lexus LC500 review: A rare and wonderful GT | Apps news
It was back in 2015 that Lexus showed-off its LF-FC concept; a car which represented a vision of the marque’s future in a striking design that, well, you’d never expect to see pootling about the UK’s streets alongside a Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-Type.
Yet just two years on from that unveil – and in relatively faithful design form to its concept original – the Lexus LC500 arrives, kicking and screaming in a perfectly restrained Japanese kind of way, as a car that demands everyone’s attention. Indeed, if there was ever a head-turner, this is it.
Not only does the Lexus LC500 look stunning and sound tremendous – the latter thanks to a naturally aspirated V8 engine under the hood – few people will know what the heck it is, nor how riotously fast and fun it is to drive. And it’s this rarity that makes this Japanese beast that much more of a beauty to drive than a typical Porsche or Jag…
A new era of design
As the first Lexus to ever be built on the company’s front engine, rear wheel drive platform, the LC500 is a landmark car for the company. Now, that setup isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination: it’s indicative of most sports cars and GTs really, whether the higher-end Aston Martin DB11 or more affordable Fiat 124 Spider.
But while we can name obvious GT competitors, we’ve never seen anything that looks quite as radical as the LC500. It’s a wonderful piece of design – simple yet complex; attacking yet restrained; attractive yet challenging – that’s a rare sight to behold.
The LC500’s front has this huge, flowing metal grille (sadly not quite as massive as that on the LF-FC concept), while the rear has these pointy, stylised lights that wouldn’t look out of place on the Batmobile.
And people could not stop looking. Drive around London in a Porsche and you’re one of a herd of sheep. Get in a Lamborghini and you’re more the black sheep. But behind the wheel of the LC500 you’re some new, undiscovered breed.
Interior: Comfort and practicality
The LC500’s futuristic feel starts from the moment you hit the key’s unlock button. The car’s door handles, which are hidden flush into the body, pop out like an extended hand inviting you in. As a passenger, simply tapping the handle will assist it in popping out so you can get inside.
As a classic 2+2 setup, the LC500 could theoretically seat four people: two up front, two in the back. But the rear passengers will probably have to be contortionists. We wouldn’t miss these seats if they vanished, more akin to an Audi R8 V10 design, and can’t imagine that any owner will likely ever seat anyone back here. We just used it as a space to chuck bags rather than bothering to pop open the boot every time.
The main ticket is up front, however, where the LC500 is a wonderfully comfortable place to sit. Plush seats with all manner of electric adjustments (standard in the Sport+ model, as reviewed) make it possible to seat yourself in the ideal position. Even the steering wheel stays out of your way, electronically moving itself into driving position after you’re sat down and switch the engine on.
Some classic buttons make it easy to adjust the in-cabin temperature using the air conditioning, which is separate for driver and passenger. However, in the hot UK summer weather we would have liked cooled seats in addition to the heated ones. Can’t have it all, eh?
Engine options: V8 monster or hybrid V6
The headline feature of the LC500 Sport+ is its naturally aspirated V8 engine under the hood. It delivers 471bhp through those rear wheels, making it quite a beast. With a top speed of 168mph, it’s got plenty of get-up-and-go, too.
Thankfully Lexus doesn’t do gimmickry. There’s no pumped-in noise here, as per the Audi RS5. There’s no turbo to be found either. Just the roaring sound of those eight cylinders, mated with a 10-speed auto gearbox that’s quick off the mark, yet smooth in its transitions and works the revs for a great aural experience.
Twist the dial into Sport or Sport+ mode and the LC500 really comes alive, holding super high revs in the latter mode, kicking and spluttering with exhaust pops as you level off the power around corners. It holds itself well, but if you’re a true mad-person then switching off the traction control opens up new, loonier possibilities. If only we’d had the time to take it to a track…
But where the LC500 shows its refinement is in balancing its abilities. Yes, it can kick off from lights at great pace – many a VW Golf R or GTi looked perplexed as we sailed on by – but when crusing along at pace down a motorway, this Lexus is just so, so smooth. At 70mph it feels like 30mph, the sound dampened from outside, yet with acceleration still available at the tap of the pedal.
While its this petrol V8 that really makes the LC500, it’s not the only option: there’s also a revolutionary V6 hybrid option, combining electric motor with six cylinder petrol engine, which is a first of its kind. Not only is that a smidgen better for mileage and the environment (although not by much), it should also aid your tax bill. But if you’re going to spend £90K on a car then, well, the V8 is hard to ignore – and a rare thing in many UK cars.
Tech shortcomings that irk
So it’s got the looks, the comfort, the speed, the sound, the control. Surely it’s got the latest tech smarts too, right?
Well, not quite. While the LF-FC showed off a bold dashboard-wide display, the LC500 has just a 10.25-inch screen tucked away, controlled using a trackpad-like interface that simply lacks intuition. It’s not the vision of the future in this regard.
There are other problems too. The standard sat nav is approaching unusable; it’s hard to read, not possible to simply enter a post code into and get going, and the voice volume is tucked away behind layers of menus. This set-up saw us using Google maps on our phone, planted in the drinks cup holder. It’s 2018, that just shouldn’t be the way things are. And there’s no Android Auto/Apple CarPlay or even USB ports to plug into.
Add a DVD/CD player and the Lexus shows its outdated nature yet more. Maybe there’s a market for DVD-A and SACD in Japan, but what the car is crying out for is a more intuitive setup. Especially as, in this Sport+ model, we had the Mark Levinson 13-speaker Reference Product audio system fitted – which sounds great and has ample bass/mid/treble adjustment to suit personal tastes. Crank up the volume and enjoy the drive and there’s no doubt you’ll have a broad grin on your face.
Ultimately, Lexus needs a significant change in its in-car tech suite options. It could go drastic and push forth with majority touchscreen options – just like Audi has in its Q8, A8 and others – or merge a mix of touch and dials in a more intuitive way, like the Range Rover Velar.
Yes, it’s possible to add a Head-Up Display (£995) for line-of-sight info displayed right on the windscreen, but it’s other more fundamental features that we’re looking for. Currently, the LC500’s lack of a class-leading tech implementation is the thing that costs it most dear. Fix that, offer more options and Lexus is onto a true winner.
The Lexus LC500 is a remarkable car in almost every way. Its distinctive looks will turn heads aplenty, as will the wonderful sound from that no-gimmicks naturally aspirated V8 engine. As GT options go, the sheer rarity and excitement of its altogether different offering are what makes the LC500 feel truly special. It’s a wonderfully balanced car, combining raw power and comfort in equal measure.
So what’s the issue? The tech. The integrated interface is hard to use, the sat nav is outdated and problematic, there aren’t enough easy-to-use features, and as a day-to-day car we’d feel sad to be missing out to the competitions’ stronger solutions. Well, we would for a minute, but then we’d get lost down some wide country B-road, open up that engine in Sport mode, and drive around with a grin bigger than a Cheshire Cat…