Lexus LC 500 coupe (2017 - ) review
Lexus’ big coupe takes aim at rivals from the Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type, through to the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe.
Interested in buying Lexus LC 500?
How good does it look?
The styling of the LC is one of its big selling points, and represents Lexus waving a big flag about the look of its future cars. Safe is out, and outlandish is here to stay. Some will hate it, but others will love that the LC looks very different to anything else out there. Three trim levels are available; Luxury, Sport and Sport+. Luxury comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, a glass roof and LED front and rear lights, while the Sport model adds a carbon fibre roof and 21-inch wheels, and the Sport+ model has a retractable rear spoiler.
What's the interior like?
Lexus has a deserved reputation for great quality interiors, and the LC upholds it in fine style. The materials used, including leather and faux-suede, are of a high quality, and everything is screwed together superbly. The driving position is suitably low for a car with sporting intent, with the driver’s hips almost on the floor. We’ve only tried Sport and Sport+ models so far, which come with upgraded sports seats that are both comfortable and supportive for more enthusiastic cornering. The only major fly in the ointment is the infotainment system, which is controlled by a trackpad in between the front seats. It's very fiddly to use, not to mention distracting when driving.
How practical is it?
The LC is pitched as a grand tourer, meaning it should be able to cover continents with ease and have enough space inside for associated supplies. It just about fulfils that brief, with plenty of space up front, but the two rear seats are really for children or bags only. The boot will just about swallow a golf bag, but if you’ve got several big suitcases for a week away, you’ll struggle. Up front, there are shallow door pockets, a couple of cupholders and storage space under the armrest, although annoyingly – in the left-hand drive cars we’ve tried so far – the hinge only allows access from the driver’s side, making life difficult if the passenger wants to dig around in there.
What's it like to drive?
We’ve only tried cars equipped with large 21-inch wheels so far, and have driven them on largely well-maintained roads in Germany, Switzerland and Italy. While the car stays reasonably comfortable, the ride quality is not quite as smooth as with rivals like the BMW 6 Series or Porsche Panamera. We can’t help thinking that the big wheels and low-profile, run-flat tyres have something to do with this, as even on relatively smooth surfaces, there’s more chatter and fidgeting coming up through the car than we’d like. This doesn’t bode particularly well for the varied road surfaces found in the UK. On the other hand, the handling is really impressive for a car that isn’t exactly a lightweight, with nicely weighted steering and solid body control through the corners. Sport+ models come as standard with Lexus’ Dynamic Handling system, which includes rear-wheel steering. The result is a sharp, nimble machine that can whip round tight corners neatly, although the front wheels will quickly protest if you try and lean on them into a corner.
How powerful is it?
The LC’s performance varies dramatically depending on which version you choose. The LC 500h uses a hybrid system, mixing a 3.5-litre V6 with an electric motor to generate 359PS, which is enough for rapid, if not scintillating progress. It’s connected to a very clever gearbox that mixes four normal gears with two electric generators to create, in effect, a ten-speed automatic gearbox. During cruising and motorway driving, it’s almost seamless. But try and push the car on fun roads, and it doesn’t make for an entertaining experience, jumping around between gears with the merest flex of your accelerator foot.
Thankfully, the story is very different in the LC 500, which houses a 5.0-litre V8 pushing out 477PS. It’s a wonderful engine, with lots of torque and a great sound that’s amplified inside the cabin thanks to some acoustic engineering. The V8 also uses a ten-speed automatic gearbox, but it’s an entirely different system to that found in the hybrid, and works much better. Most of the grunt work is done between gears two and five, with the higher speeds reserved for cruising, and it’s very fast and smooth to respond in both auto and manual modes.
How much will it cost me?
Lexus hopes customers for the LC will be drawn from sports cars like the Porsche 911, as well as other GTs like the BMW 6 Series. Comparing a top-spec LC 500 Sport+ (which is likely to be the biggest seller) to those rivals reflects well on Lexus. It costs several grand more to buy than a BMW 650i M Sport, but thanks to strong resale values will cost about the same to run over three years. It’ll also hold its value much better than higher end coupes that customers may consider, such as the Mercedes-Benz S500 Coupe, which is much more expensive to buy.
A Porsche 911 Carrera S with auto gearbox is also slightly pricier, and although you’ll save a lot in fuel with the Porsche, the resale values of the Lexus make it cheaper to run long-term. It’s a similar story with the LC 500h, which is priced exactly the same as the V8 car. There aren’t any other hybrids of this type, and its very strong resale values mean it’s cheaper to run long-term than a BMW 640d M Sport, even though the entry-level LC 500h is several thousand pounds more expensive to buy.
How reliable is it?
The LC is a new model for Lexus, and it’s not based on any other car in the range, so there’s no reliability data available yet. Lexus as a brand has an excellent reputation for reliability, though, sitting near the top of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, which ranks manufacturers. We’ve no reason to think the LC will change that reputation. Should anything go wrong, Lexus offers a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty on all new cars, and a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty on hybrid components and batteries.
How safe is it?
The LC isn’t likely to get a crash test from safety organisation EuroNCAP, as it’ll be produced in such small numbers. However, Lexus has scored a maximum five-star rating on all its recent cars, so it’s fair to say the company knows how to build a safe car. Impressively, all models get a generous roster of safety equipment, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning systems and Automatic Emergency Braking. Eight airbags are standard, as are two Isofix child seat mounting points in the rear seats. For an extra charge, you can opt for a head-up display system, which projects driving information onto the windscreen, reducing the need to glance away from the road.
How much equipment do I get?
Lexus wants the LC to have a luxury image, so standard kit is plentiful. All models get a full sat-nav-equipped infotainment system, a 12-speaker Pioneer sound system and leather upholstery. Sport models get upgraded front seats and Alcantara (faux-suede) upholstery, while the Sport+ models get carbon fibre sill protectors There are only three things on the options list: a head-up display; a Mark Levinson stereo, and metallic paint.
There are better luxury GT cars than the Lexus LC, but there aren’t many that offer such distinctive styling and high quality, allied to such strong running costs. There aren’t any hybrid rivals, either, and for some, that technology will be very attractive. From a driving excitement point of view, though, the V8-powered LC 500 is the one to go for.