Car reviews - Lexus - LC - 500
Styling, engine, transmission, handling, driving position, ride, quality, dripping with character
Room for improvement
Still only two settings for ESC system, redundant head-up display, obvious Toyota systems sourcing
Lexus has makes “10 dynamic engineering improvements” to LC500, have they worked?
14 Jan 2021
EARLIER this year, Lexus announced it updated its flagship LC500 coupe with “10 dynamic engineering improvements” to make the big two-door more dynamic and better to drive.
The 10 changes consisted of a reworked transmission tune, extra instrument cowl bracing, new front control arms, altered shock-absorber length, stronger front and rear coils with enhanced spring rates, new stabiliser bars front and rear, lighter rear alloy wheels (21-inch), Yamaha-developed rear performance dampers on the LC500 and Active Cornering Assist.
Inevitably, the upgrades have driven the price up by around $5000 with the V8-powered LC500 checking in at a cool $194,747 plus on-roads while the LC500h V6 hybrid brandishes a $195,165 sticker price.
Unlike other upgrades, the 2020 tweaks to the LC500 were not included as part of a radical facelift – there is literally no visual difference between the updated version and the outgoing one, which in our opinion is a wonderful thing because this is one of the best-looking cars on the road.
Does it have the chops to match though?
In a word, yes.
Not only is the LC500 one of the best-looking cars on the road, it is easily one of the best sounding with its sonorous naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 revving out to 7200rpm.
Peak power and torque are still rated at 351kW and 540Nm respectively, the latter of which isn’t developed until a peaky 4800rpm – not all that much by modern standards, but still more than enough to obliterate your licence in a matter of seconds.
Outright performance however isn’t the name of the LC500’s game and this is somewhat reflected by its 4.4-second 0-100km/h time and 270km/h top speed.
What the LC500 is, especially the V8, is a bonafide GT car – something powerful and fast that is capable of transporting you and one passenger across vast distances in comfort and style with a sporty edge to exploit the good bits of road along the way.
This grand touring intent is reflected almost everywhere throughout the styling and the cabin with the basic silhouette following that classic cab-back style while the interior remains driver-oriented and supremely well put together.
The seats are comfortable with plenty of adjustment, especially so in the driver’s case with the steering wheel being electronically adjustable for both reach and tilt, making it a breeze to dial in your preferred seating position.
Nothing about the cabin or its layout has been changed as part of the update which is fine by us for the most part, however a few shortcomings that haven’t been attended to can soon be singled out, chief among which is the infotainment system which can only be operated by a centre console-mounted track pad.
Not only is the system fiddly and hard to operate when on the move, there are very few shortcuts to the key functions with everything seemingly buried in a mass of sub-menus.
This not only becomes frustrating, but also dangerous as you are forced to take your eyes off the road for longer.
Equally disappointing are the graphics and interfaces themselves which look to have been taken straight out of a mainstream Toyota, as has the voice-command system.
Our final gripe with the interior is the head-up display which proves totally redundant for anyone even vaguely tall.
However, all is forgiven when that atmo 5.0-litre V8 fires up and you get underway.
Despite rolling on 21-inch wheels shod with sticky Michelin Super Sport tyres so thin they could have been painted on, the LC500 handles Australia’s less-than-perfect roads with a surprising level of comfort and compliance.
Comfort mode is by far and away the best setting for day-to-day use, gifting the occupants the softest suspension setting while still providing enough firepower and engine response to see off most other vehicles.
Eco mode is on hand for those who want to minimise their fuel use however we can’t help but feel this is something of a waste of time given what is under the bonnet and the fact it dulls the response from the engine and transmission to the point of boredom.
Speaking of the transmission, the 10-speed torque converter automatic paired to the V8 is a gem, seamlessly shuffling up and down the gears in a smooth and controlled manner around town and in traffic.
Head for your favourite piece of twisty road and dial up Sport or Sport+ however and the big cruiser quickly turns up the wick and reminds you and everyone in the immediate vicinity just what it is capable of.
Gear changes are fired off with impressive precision and intuitiveness, the steering is almost telepathically direct and the engine produces one of the best soundtracks of any car on the road right now, made even better if you opt to change gears yourself via the paddle shifters.
Attack any kind of bend and the nose of the car instantly sniffs out the apex with those sticky Michelins doing their job well and gluing the car to the tarmac without any hint of understeer.
Feed in the power too soon however and the rear end will start to become a little livelier but there is plenty of feedback from the chassis and steering to let you know when the limit is near.
Ignore the warning signs and the ESC system will not hesitate to intervene which is fantastic on the road but not ideal when on the track – as we found at the LC500’s launch – where the only other setting is completely off.
Not only is it virtually impossible to exploit all of this car’s potential on road, but also very illegal and so we would still love to see Lexus fit at least a three or four-way adjustable system.
While the LC500 is undoubtedly a scream in the bends and would remind even the most cynical motorist why they like driving – and rear-wheel-drive and naturally aspirated engines, especially V8s – it would probably struggle to keep up with a few of the current hot hatch and sportscar benchmarks on particularly tight and windy stretches of road purely due to its size and more specifically, its weight.
At 1935kg, the LC500 is no lightweight and eventually that mass combined with its considerable dimensions begin to make their presence known, but you have to be seriously pushing on a particularly tight stretch of road to notice.
It never feels unwieldly or cumbersome though and for the most part defies its on-paper weight.
When push comes to shove, it seems the LC500 is still without a direct rival given it significantly undercuts all versions of the BMW 8 Series on price and isn’t really in the same league – power or price – as the Aston Martin DB11 or Bentley Continental GT.
Really, its stiffest competition in terms of price and power comes from Mercedes-AMG in the form of the C63 S Coupe which asks almost $24,000 less but offers an extra 24kW/160Nm for the money.
However while the Merc may well be cheaper, more powerful and more usable every day – more room in the back and a bigger boot – it doesn’t have that same GT car image or exclusivity exuded by the Lexus, being more of a super-sedan-come-muscle car.
The LC500 continues on then as one of the most affordable and likeable premium GT cars on the market, made even better by the revisions to its suspension and transmission, but still lacks a few premium touches here and there.
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