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Test Drive: Lexus LC 500

We get behind the wheel of the auto brand's new flagship coupe

by Evan Orensten
on 21 February 2017

The Lexus LC 500 is the production version of the LF-LC (Lexus Future-Luxury Coupe) concept unveiled in 2012, and it looks even better (and still fresh) in street-ready form, busting out of any previously held design stereotypes. Striking outside and in, it’s one of the best looking cars Lexus has put on the road. Leaps beyond any previous models, the LC 500’s interior demonstrates the high stakes competition in the luxury space, with brand after brand turning out the kinds of details, materials, fits and finishes that used to be found only in the highest end of the market. Lexus has earned its seat at the table. Nearly every surface you see and touch in the car’s hushed cabin is leather, Alcantara or metal, creating a luxurious cocoon to swaddle you. From its immense geometric grille to its "Battlestar Galactica" Viper-esque taillights, it delivers on Akio Toyoda’s (Toyota’s president) mandate that the LC 500 be anything but boring.

Luxury coupes represent an increasingly small percentage of the marketplace as consumers continue their SUV love affair, and four-door “coupes” deliver the sensibility of a coupe in a more practical package. The LC 500 has some pretty stiff competition in the category, with the Jaguar F Type, Mercedes-Benz S Coupe and the BMW 650i squarely in its sights. For its bold looks alone it deserves attention; with its performance and interior, it demands it.

Drivers can choose the naturally aspirated 5-l V8 (the same in the GS F and RC F, though tuned for the LC 500), delivering 471 hp and 398 lb.-ft of torque and a smooth 10-speed transmission or the LC 500h with a 3.5l V6 delivering 354 hp with its Lexus “Multi-Stage Hybrid drive.” Either gets you from 0 to 60 quickly enough—4.5 seconds in the 500 and 4.7 in the 500h. Those seeking enhanced performance can opt for the optional Lexus Dynamic Handling system which includes active rear-wheel steering among other features.

The LF-LC concept couldn’t be built on an existing platform. In flagship spirit creating it mandated a new platform (the car’s structural and mechanical framework) one with an unprecedented collaboration between Lexus’s design and engineering teams. The result, the GA-L (Global Architecture—Luxury) also supports the all-new LS sedan (coming as a 2018 model) as well as future front engine, rear-wheel drive models. This new platform, with its lower center of gravity, enabled the design team to deliver the concept’s stunning lines in a production environment.

We were fortunate to spend a day driving around Hawaii (the Big Island as it's commonly called), from its beaches to its mountains, putting the LC 500 through its paces. This grand touring coupe’s adaptive suspension delivers comfort when desired and aggressive performance when needed. A simple leather-wrapped knob on the dash changes drive modes. Comfort mode delivers a smooth and easy yet firm ride, where Sport+ brings the car’s sportiness to life. Don’t confuse this for a thrill-seeking track machine; there are other cars that are born that way. It’s also not the most luxurious lounger (though you’ll have a hard time doing better at this price). The LC is, however, a true Grand Tourer, an increasingly rare breed. Designed and engineered to engage your driving and style sensibilities on comfortable road trips and bearable commutes, it’s a modern return to some of motoring’s finest moments.

The Lexus LC 500 hits US dealers in May 2017, with a starting price of $92,000; the LC 500h starts at $96,510.

Photos by Evan Orensten

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