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2018 Lexus LC Review

2018 Lexus LC Review
Lexus aims in a completely new direction with its 2018 LC 500 Coupe—and it’s an exciting one.

If you remember the very first days of Lexus, you remember the clever ads: the champagne glasses on the hood of the car, the ball bearing rolling down its hood, the "relentless pursuit of perfection."

Forget it all. Now Lexus is chasing after world-class luxury and performance with big power, great handling, and outrageous styling. It doesn’t ever want to be called boring again.

It earns a 7.4 on our overall scale, but it's deceptively low—for now. Crash data doesn't exist right now (and likely won't anytime soon), and its supreme interior luxury is hopelessly selfish, back seats take a back seat. Our rating system penalizes small spaces—no matter what they're upholstered in.

The abrupt about-face starts with the most extroverted Lexus you’ve ever seen, the 2018 Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h. A gorgeous car with unbelievably good road manners, the LC is the most convincing show of courage from Lexus since the 1990 LS.

The LC’s show-stopping body isn’t forgotten easily, if at all. It’s the best car they’ve ever drawn, from its shrink-wrapped skin to its lotus-like leather stitching. Its performance is nearly unforgettable too. The LC needs to be reminded it weighs as much as an SUV, so fluid is its steering, so resilient its ride.

The cockpit carves out just enough space for two and pretty much ignores anything you shove in back. Safety scores are unavailable (and probably will remain so), and fuel economy is low on V-8 LCs. Hybrids score as high as the 911, though they depend on a hugely complex drivetrain.

Lexus fits one of the industry’s worst infotainment systems to the LC, but lavishes the cabin with beautiful trim, a glass roof, and an ethereally clear high-end sound system.

With the LC, Lexus fills the slot left behind by the former SC convertible. The LC’s mission is entirely different. It’s a flagship for Lexus, one that’s far more emotional and focused. The price isn’t a surprise, then: the LC 500 starts from $92,995, the LC 500h from $97,405.

The LC strikes a brilliant sports-car pose. It’s Lexus’ best styling ever.

Lexus says it had no plan to build the LF-LC concept shown at the 2012 Detroit auto show. When that concept drew rave reviews, it changed its mind.

We’re glad they did. The LC drops Lexus’ usual party manners. It’s a stunning shape, one that deserves to be seen outside car shows and design studios.

The LC drives a sharp counterpoint to the most recent Lexus sports car, the $375,000 LFA. It outlines an entirely original shape that has more in common with consumer electronics than with time-honored sports cars. There’s some of the pinched-tail eroticism of a Jaguar F-Type, some echoes of the old Renault Alpine GTA in the side glass. It’s a sculptural tour de force that’s identical, gas or hybrid power.

The details deserve a long study. The roof sits like a jet canopy. The LED taillights stick to the rear end like jeweled hat pins. The door handles pop out to attention. It commits to a flagship coupe mission, and checks it off: mission accomplished.

The cabin wears organic flourishes on its angular foundation. Lexus stitches the leather to unfold like a blossom. The dash walls off the passenger from the driver space. It’s organized on clear horizontals but warmed up with lovely naked door handles and daring color themes like a brave Rioja red, or an Adidas-style white, blue, and orange combo.

The faults are few. The infotainment interface is dreadful, from mouse UI to visual UI. The LC’s a control freak: it has roller wheels, toggles, stalks, and touchpads, and they conspire against its tranquility.

The 2018 LC shakes off Lexus’ performance torpor with excellent steering and raucous acceleration.

The LC vaults Lexus into real sports-car territory. It’s no lightweight, but it’s hashtag-blessed with raucous acceleration, excellent steering, and room to grow into a truly spectacular LC F.

The LC 500 thunders with V-8 grunt, while the LC 500h spins out unexpected gas-electric glee.

LC 500: Gas or hybrid

The first LC to come to mind is the LC 500. It adopts the 5.0-liter V-8 from the RC F and GS F, and puts it to its highest and best use.

The naturally aspirated V-8 cranks out 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. It already would have sounded great, even if Lexus hadn’t channeled and filtered some of its exhaust sounds into the cabin. This car revels in the ripe bark of its V-8; those amplified V-8 sounds hit just the right note.

With a 10-speed automatic that refuses to get lost in all those gears, the LC sends its power rearward through an available Torsen differential. The LC 500 punts 0-60 mph runs in 4.4 seconds, and runs to a 168-mph top speed.

With the LC 500h, a 3.5-liter V-6 hooks up with two electric motors, a 44-kw lithium-ion battery, and a 4-speed automatic transmission. One motor moves the car at low speeds through three set power-level outputs, while the second motor adds power at a wider and higher range of speeds. With one gear reserved for overdrive, the LC’s hybrid transmission nets out with 10 forward speeds.

Power output hits 354 hp, and 0-60 mph times of 4.7 seconds. Top speed reaches 155 mph. The performance nearly equals the V-8’s, but the aural excitement doesn’t come close. Lexus creates the hybrid’s synthetic soundtrack, and it’s loud and artificially buzzy. It can drive for 4 miles on battery power alone.

Handling and ride
Lexus builds the LC on a new platform shared with an upcoming LS sedan. Steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber combined for a very stiff body that abets beautifully composed handling—but it’s no lightweight.

The LC weighs from 4,280 to 4,435 pounds, as much as a Porsche Cayenne. It doesn’t affect its handling as much as it does its fuel economy (that’s discussed below). The multi-link suspension and adaptive shocks work in lovely concert with electric power steering, huge staggered-width 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires, and huge disc brakes.

Push its drive-mode button from Eco through Comfort, to Sport and Sport+, and the Lexus LC comes alive. The mechanicals meld in an elusive way. Let’s call it harmony. The suspension has supple responses to the road, even when the 21-inch tires don’t. The electric steering is electric, and with the help of two degrees of active rear steering, it winds and unwinds into corners with the fluency of a Cadillac ATS. The brakes seize the moment, stopping hard and quick, no carbon-ceramics required.

The result: The LC’s compliant ride lets its powertrains speak for themselves. It’s a hushed cruiser when it wants to be, and a high-wattage apex-clipper when you want it to be. It’s smooth, precise. and very comfortable in its tautly wrapped skin.

Comfort & Quality
The Lexus LC showers attention on front passengers, and all but ignores those in back.

Luxury coupes like the Lexus LC don’t really have big back seats on their priority lists. Panache is big, big is out.

In other words, don’t make too much of the LC’s score of 5 out of 10 for comfort. It earns points for excellent front seats and beautiful craftsmanship, but gives them up entirely in rear-seat space.

Lexus styled the LC cockpit to look like an unfolding blossom. The organic waves that follow through the seats aren’t just design, they’re ribs that enhance the seat support. Front passengers get cupped firmly in place, but more lumbar support would be welcome. More knee room, too, since the dash forms a tall, wide wall that separates the driver from the passenger.
At 187 inches long and with its 113-inch wheelbase, the LC could have plenty of back-seat space. It doesn’t. The space shifts forward, leaving Porsche 911-style butt buckets for whomever dares to slip in back. The LC doesn’t lavish space on small items, either, and the 5.4-cubic-foot trunk shrinks even more on the hybrid.

Stay tuned for LC crash-test scores and ratings.

Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the Lexus LC yet, it's too new and too expensive to throw into a wall.

We’ve left its safety score absent until we see data.

All versions come with a safety bundle that includes adaptive cruise control, active lane control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and a rearview camera.

Lexus doesn’t offer surround-view cameras, and it makes blind-spot monitors an option, along with a head-up display and automatic parking assist.

The LC’s Remote Touch interface is too remote; its high-end audio brings the concert close.

Lexus ladles on the gear with its new luxury coupe, but saddles it with a kludgy, no-alternative infotainment system.

Prices start from $92,995 for the LC 500, and rise to $97,405 for the LC 500h hybrid. Both models have power features, leather, Bluetooth with audio streaming, LED headlights, a glass roof, and a Pioneer audio system. Lexus offers no support for Apple CarPlay or Android Audio.

A Mark Levinson audio system can be fitted from the options list. It has 915 watts of power and 13 speakers and renders music in scintillating detail.

Other options include a limited-slip differential, a heated steering wheel, 20- or 21-inch wheels, and a Sport bundle with the 21-inch wheels and Torsen differential, as well as a carbon-fiber roof and an active rear spoiler that rises at 50 mph, and retracts at 25 mph.

Instead, the Lexus Remote Touch system with its 10.3-inch split screen and touchpad offer infotainment input that's difficult to use at even low speeds. The good intentions of a computer-like mouse interface force drivers to rely almost entirely on steering-wheel buttons once it’s out of Park. It’s among the least useful, most distracting systems we’ve sampled.

Fuel Economy
The LC hybrid turns in excellent gas mileage, but V-8 coupes are below par.

Fuel economy opens a huge gulf between the two LC coupes. We give it a 6 out of 10, as an average between them.

The V-8 LC 500 coupes earn an EPA rating of 16 mpg city, 26 highway, 19 combined. Those run-of-the-mill numbers fall far below the efficiency kings in this niche—the Corvette and the 911, two names you almost never hear in this context.

The most efficient ‘Vette can turn in 29 mpg highway; the 911, 30 mpg.

The LC 500h soars beyond those with its exceedingly complex battery-motor-engine powertrain. It’s rated at 26/35/30 mpg.

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