Building a car that manages to look dashing both inside and out while delivering an exciting and responsive driving experience, all in exceptional comfort, and not costing a million or so, does seem nigh on impossible. However, the 2019 Lexus LC500 Limited Edition proves otherwise.
Over a period of seven days, we had the opportunity to discover what the LC500 is all about and can say that it is easily the best performance car the Japanese automaker currently builds.
Concept car looks
The LC500 was first unveiled a few years ago as a road-going version of the stunning LF-LC Concept. Typically, concept vehicles as eye-catching as the LF-LC only ever make their way to dealerships with drastically watered down looks. In this case, though, Lexus was able to largely retain the same styling as the concept. As a result, the finished product really is a sight to behold.
Sure, styling is a subjective thing but we were unable to find a single person who didn’t love the exterior and interior design of Lexus’ premiere grand tourer. This thing turns heads like a supercar, attracts off-the-cuff comments from people passing by, and puts a smile on the faces of everyone that sees it. The car we tested was the new LC500 Zinnia Yellow Limited Edition, first unveiled for the UK market back in October last year and soon also introduced to Australia. To say this thing turns heads would be an understatement. It drops jaws.
Distinguishing the LC500 Limited Edition from the rest is a unique Zinnia Yellow paint scheme which has been paired with a set of huge chrome and black 21-inch wheels with 245/40 and 275/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires at the front and rear respectively.
A comfortable tech-fest
Apart from the look-at-me paint scheme, it also comes standard with the usually-optional Enhancement Pack. This means occupants enjoy four-wheel steering, variable gear ratio steering, a Torsen limited-slip differential, carbon fiber roof, heated and ventilated seats with 12-way electric adjustment, an active rear spoiler, and carbon fiber scuff plates. Lexus has also gone to town on the cabin of the Limited Edition, fitting it exclusively with white leather seats, yellow Alcantara on the doors panels, and black leather virtually everywhere else.
Before we get into what the LC500 is like to drive, it’s worth discussing that interior in a little more detail. It is an absolutely beautiful place to spend time in and is certainly one of the best in this class occupied by the likes of the Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-Benz SL500, old BMW 6-Series models, and the even entry-level Mercedes-AMG GT. All of the surfaces are beautifully finished and the cabin is well-thought out. The yellow Alcantara on the door panels triggered audible gasps from anyone that saw it and the steering wheel is also a joy to use.
As with other Lexus models, the LC uses the company’s maligned touch-pad controller to operate the infotainment system. For what it’s worth, this touchpad has been updated for the LC and is much nicer to use than in other applications, such as the RC. It is far from perfect, but it gets the job done.
Taking a deep dive into the infotainment system , it’s clear that it isn’t that well thought-out. There is an excessive number of menus and sub-menus and, infuriatingly, you cannot use most of the controls unless you’re actually stationary. The navigation system is good but not great as I was never able to work out how to cancel a destination.
Infotainment system aside, it’s hard to think of anything Lexus could have done better in the cabin. The LFA-inspired digital instrument cluster is a true show-stopper, particularly when it glows white when Sport+ is enabled. The Head-Up display works a treat, the front seats are exceptionally comfortable, and the car has surprisingly good visibility. At the rear, you will find two small seats but they are absolutely tiny and really only fit for children or not-that-tall adults. Or family members you hold a grudge against…
Supercar sounds with grand tourer comfort
Whereas the exterior design of the LC500 shouts ‘I’m a supercar,’ the comfortable interior reminds you this is a Grand Tourer – and that becomes immediately apparent when you drive the thing.
Step on the brake pedal, press the engine Start/Stop button and the LC500 fires into life with an intoxicating rev of the engine. It is the same naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 found in a handful of other Lexus models, including the GS F and RC F, and delivers 471 hp and 540 Nm (398 lb-ft) of torque. These certainly aren’t earth-shattering numbers but they are more than adequate.
The V8 is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox provides silky-smooth gearshifts when you’re cruising around and is almost on par with some dual-clutch systems, as well as a significant improvement over the eight-speed auto of the GS F and RC F.
Behind the wheel, it is obvious that this is a special piece of machinery. There are a number of different driving modes available, including Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Sport+, but the last is really the only one you need. Switched into Sport+, the transmission put in manual mode, and the traction control system turned off, the LC500 is exceptional fun to drive.
Pin the throttle and BANG, the transmission produces a visceral sound akin to a cracking whip as you shift between the gears. Approach the corner and again, the transmission and exhaust come to life, revving up the engine and, on occasion, delivering an intoxicating pop. The four-wheel steering provides excellent turn-in and mid-corner grip is impressive, but if you’re over-zealous, the LC500 can be pushed into a bit of understeer. That can be easily corrected with a dab of the brakes or a touch of the throttle, however.
During a series of drives in the LC500 through winding countryside and exciting roads slicing their way through forests, I was left dizzy with excitement as if I’d taken a couple shots of tequila. The Lexus seems to melt around you as you drive, responding instantly to every input and reminding you that it can do this all day long. The brakes never felt stressed despite the 1,950 kg (4300 lbs) weight and always delivered great feel.
Shout it out loud
Then comes the exhaust. Lexus clearly spent a lot of time and money ensuring that the LC500 would sound good and have ended up creating one of the best-sounding cars on the market. It’s actually hard to believe that the GS F and RC F feature the same engine, as they sound nothing alike. What’s even harder to believe is that this is a Lexus and not an Aston Martin or a Mercedes-AMG which you may typically associate with the finest sounding V8s on the market. There are no excessive crackles and burbles from the exhaust as you get in cars like V8-powered Jaguar F-Type models. The LC500 sounds animalistic but at the same time refined.
If we did have one criticism of the auditory experience, it would be the lack of sound from the engine itself. The automaker appears to have spent so much time making the exhaust sound good that sounds from the rear-end frequently drown out the deep bellow from up-front.
Lexus says the LC500 will hit 100 km/h (62 mph) from a standstill in 4.7 seconds. While that’s respectable, it’s not spectacular – though not much of a surprise for a car which weighs so much. What’s more important is how the car accelerates in gear and while flowing between corners, and in our experience, it feels like it has just the right amount of power.
Fuel consumption sits at a claimed 11.6-liters per 100 km (20 U.S. mpg) and while you could achieve that figure on the highway, it’s not realistic in everyday driving. We rarely saw it gulping down less than 17 liters per 100 km (13.83 U.S. mpg) during our 1,200-odd km (754 miles) with the car. At least the huge 82-liter fuel tank (21.6 gallon) petrol tank does mean you don’t have to virtually live at fuel stations like many other performance cars.
The Lexus LC500 Limited Edition costs a cool $205,000 in Australia and while this Zinnia Yellow model isn’t offered in the U.S., an LC500 can still be picked up stateside from $93,325. Consider it money well spent for what could very possibly be the best looking sports car right now – and one that offers the whole package as well.