There’s been a lot of debate among the Roadshow staff about where the 2018 Lexus LC 500 fits into the automotive world. Overall performance is darn good, with a brilliant V8 churning away under the hood and excellent cornering abilities, but a curb weight of 4,300 pounds means it’s not a full-fledged sports car. The 2+2 coupe layout adds some practicality, but a tight backseat, small 5.4 cubic-feet trunk and firm ride manners means that it’s not a , either.
Once behind the wheel, I don’t allow myself to get too caught up in figuring out which car group the LC fits into, especially given the opportunity to flog it around GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Mich. Down straights, the naturally aspirated eight-cylinder engine belts out beautiful noises as it spins toward its 7,100-rpm redline, with satisfying power to boot. The engine is the same naturally aspirated V8 I love so much in the GS F, and here it makes 471 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque.
Are those output figures anything to write home about in today’s performance landscape? Not really. 500-horsepower monsters are the norm nowadays, and yet, I highly doubt many people will get out of an LC 500 and say it needs more power. Would more be nice? Well, of course, but perhaps that’ll come in a future LC F.
Working with the 5.0-liter is a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which some will see as another factor keeping the LC from qualifying as a pure sports car. But before writing off the torque-converter gearbox, I suggest giving it a chance, because around GingerMan, manual shift response using the paddles proves nearly immediate. No, it’s not quite dual-clutch quick, but it’s still good for a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds.
Through the corners of this road course, the LC’s super-stiff platform impresses, as does its suspension. Ripping through the track’s fast right-left transition between Turn 8 and Turn 9 is done in complete confidence, and body roll is almost nonexistent.
Initial turn-in is sharp on the 21-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport performance tires, while high grip levels make easy work of medium- and high-speed corners thanks in no small part to the optional rear steering and limited-slip differential. Steering feel itself is weighty and offers lots of feedback through the wheel, a welcome trait that’s finally becoming more common in Lexus’ latest vehicles.
It isn’t until a tight hairpin turn that the LC’s portlier curb weight can no longer be masked by its platform, steering and optional go-faster parts. The aluminum-bodied LC understeers here, but in all other areas on the track, the coupe is an impressive performer. High-speed stability, behavior under braking and driver engagement is all very good.
Street capable, too
The LC also happens to be a stunning head tuner with instant street cred. A low and wide stance, menacing spindle grille, long hood, sleek profile and aggressive light treatments remind me an awful lot of the dearly departed LFA supercar, albeit at a fraction of the price. If you want a car that’ll blend in with the crowd, this Lexus isn’t for you. The LC garners a lot of attention in neighborhoods, parking lots and at gas stations.
LFA inspiration continues inside, as evidenced by the LC’s dash layout, as well as its generous slathering of soft leather, carbon fiber and Alcantara trim. Front seats are supremely comfortable, with support in all the right places, while the there’s enough side bolstering to hold occupants tight on a racetrack. The cabin really is a nice place to be, with its exceptional build quality, materials and decent space for folks in front.
Those looking for a backseat capable of carrying adults likely will see the LC fall off their shopping lists. The aforementioned tight rear quarters are best left for transporting small kiddos, or shuttling around adults that you really don’t like. Ingress and egress to the back also requires contortionist-like flexibility.