by Roger Biermann
Design. It's the Lexus LC's USP. Where other luxury sports coupes like the Porsche 911 have built their reputation on things like handling feel and outright performance, the Lexus LC is incomparably striking in looks, bringing the concept car flourishes usually reserved for auto shows to our real-world streets. And where everyone else has begrudgingly embraced turbocharging, the people at Lexus have doggedly stood fast, endowing the LC with a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8. 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque is sent to the rear wheels via a ten-speed automatic gearbox, with no manual option available. Despite no assistance from boost, the LC manages an impressive 4.4 seconds in the sprint from 0-60 mph, although you may want to drive at a more leisurely pace to take in the admiring gaze of onlookers, many of whom will be convinced that this is either a concept car or an alien spacecraft.
Not too much has changed for 2020, but one notable addition to the LC offering is a new Inspiration Series, a trim that will be limited to just 100 examples. Exclusively available with a new Nori Green Pearl paint and Saddle Tan aniline leather, this $103,080 LC 500 is utterly gorgeous. The regular LC has also received a minor upgrade, now offering blind-spot monitoring as standard and Flare Yellow as a new color choice. Other changes are minimal and include a change in the tone you hear when selecting reverse gear, as well as a Check Fuel Cap light in the cluster.
Achingly beautiful, the LC takes all the best bits introduced by the LFA supercar and adds more drama and modern-day flair. The chrome trim that helps frame the semi-floating roof (which can be constructed of glass or carbon fiber) is intended to resemble a Samurai's sword, while the individual LED strips at the front of the car are sharp enough to help this car stand out in a crowd. The controversial Spindle Grille returns and looks brilliant, while the rear taillights are unlike any others, extending in three directions. Vents between the 20-inch wheels and twin exit exhaust at the rear round off the look, while the limited-edition Inspiration Series model with its Nori Green paint gets 21s as standard.
The LC is a little heavy for a sports car, with a curb weight of 4,280 lbs. This does affect the acceleration and performance of the LC somewhat, but with near-perfect 54/46 front/rear weight distribution, it's still a blast to drive. Lengthwise, the LC measures 187.4 inches with a wheelbase between each hub of 113 inches. Width is 75.6 inches, which is 2.7 inches wider than a Porsche 911, while height measures 53 inches, around 1.8 inches taller than the average Porker.
Nine colors are available, with Ultra White, Liquid Platinum, Atomic Silver, Smoky Granite Mica, Caviar, Obsidian, and Nightfall Mica among the choices. These options cost nothing on top of your base price, but if you don't mind spending a little more, Infrared and the new-for-2020 Flare Yellow colors are available. These will add $595 to your build price, and both are absolutely mesmerizing in the metal, but the latter is a nice nod to the LFA, so we'd be happy with that. If you were lucky enough to put your name down for one of the 100 Inspiration Series models, exclusive Nori Green Pearl paint would be your only option. If you're more keen on keeping the price down and are a fan of the Black Panther film's hero car, the blue of Nightfall Mica may be more up your alley.
The LC is stubbornly fitted with a turbo- and supercharger-free naturally-aspirated V8. The 5.0-liter powerplant produces 471 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque, all of which is sent to the rear wheels through a ten-speed shiftable automatic with paddles. This allows it to get from 0-60 mph in a respectable 4.4 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 168 mph. A base Porsche 911 Carrera S manages the 0-60 sprint a little quicker, at 3.3 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, and tops out considerably later, with a max speed of 191 mph. The LC is a truly unique offering these days, in a world where even Ferrari - whose founder famously claimed that turbocharging is for people who don't know how to build engines - has adopted boost as a means of increasing output and lowering emissions. Thus, although the LC may not be the fastest car in its class, it's certainly one of the most sensational. Where turbo cars give you a big wallop of torque from low down, the LC's heart delivers a wave that builds throughout the rev range, reaching a beautiful crescendo at 7,300 rpm. Its soundtrack is a sonorous ode to the gods of aural pleasure, which is not surprising when you consider that the LFA's engine was developed with Yamaha, not only for their ability to make engines rev to a ridiculously high level, but more for their experience with tuning musical instruments. And that is exactly what the LC is - an instrument that brings delight and joy to all who see and hear it.
The LC is available with a V6 hybrid, which we review separately, but the main LC, the 500, is the one that gets a gearhead's heart pumping copious amounts of oil and gasoline. With 5.0 liters of displacement, the naturally aspirated V8 offers a wide range of usability but also encourages you to treat it like a red-headed stepchild every so often. Although you won't ever be able to deny its weight, the 471-hp engine (along with 398 lb-ft) does a good job of disguising the car's reluctance to get going. Once you're on the move, chasing the next gear is an engaging experience, and you start looking for reasons to drop a gear and overtake everything in your way. The gearbox shifts crisply and quickly, yet manages to be refined when you're potting around town too. That said, some reviewers have noted a less than perfect shift sequence when you're not in Sport mode. Keep it there, and you'll never be disappointed. Despite being compared to rivals like the Porsche, and despite its concept-car styling, this is a car that you could drive every day without being frustrated. Every time you stab the loud pedal, it's an experience to be savored, but taking it easy is something the LC won't punish you for either.
Lexus makes a big deal of the LC 500's almost-perfect 54/46 weight distribution, and in a relatively heavy coupe, it's a good thing that the balance is so finely tuned. Although the LC is engineered to be more of a GT car than a track racer, the chassis is brilliantly adapted to the powertrain, keeping you planted in the corners. Taking bends feels almost instinctive, with the car wrapped around you and your hands keeping the LC pointed exactly right. The long hood doesn't extend so far ahead that you feel the need to turn-in before you arrive at a corner, and thanks to available variable-ratio steering and active rear-wheel steering, as well as a limited-slip diff, the LC handles brilliantly. The experience is a little unusual, as one would expect such a big and heavy vehicle to suffer in the corners, but the level of precision achieved, although not quite as sharp as in a 911, is astonishingly addictive. Despite this, it still manages to be comfortable and compliant when you encounter some rougher tarmac and absorbs bumps with ease. There is a hint of body roll, but not enough to diminish your confidence or scare you. It is possible to make this thing drift, but overall, the LC brings to mind the thought of an over-achieving GT car rather than an underwhelming blunt instrument in the bends.
The LC coupe is available as a hybrid, but the regular LC 500 is not terribly uneconomical if you take it easy in Eco mode, with some real-world reports showing mixed figures with restrained driving of around 30 mpg. Official figures from the EPA show that the LC returns 16/25/19 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. A Carrera S, with its turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder, does predictably better, with figures of 18/24/20 mpg on the same cycles. With a 16.9-gallon gas tank, the Porsche will manage 338 miles with mixed driving, while the LC and its 21.7-gallon tank will return around 412.3 miles.
The LC 500 doesn't let the futuristic styling and crazy curves stop with the exterior. Instead, the cabin shows off infinite levels of detail and beautifully sculpted surfaces. The central instrument cluster looks fighter-jet like, although F16s don't usually have this much leather and perfect stitching. Contributing to the interior's appearance of spaciousness is a horizontally-mounted 10.3-inch color display, blended into a glass-like black fascia, splitting the dash into two sections. Basic ergonomics take a second-place to style and artistic expression, with the door handles sitting a bit out of reach - but that can be forgiven based on the craftsmanship and quality of construction. In addition, the heated and ventilated front seats have plenty of range for adjustment, allowing for a great driving position and accommodation of all body types.
True to its GT style, the LC 500 is equipped with four seats. True to its sports car design, fitting anyone bigger than a toddler in the rear seats is literally impossible. The front seats are the only ones that matter, though, and fortunately, they have been well designed, with a wide range of adjustment and a comfortable shape that hugs the body without being overly confining. A touring package is available and adds more comfy seats, and if you want more lateral support, a sport package can be specced instead, with slightly racier but still lux front chairs. Getting in and out is easy, and once seated, visibility is good and the cabin feels airier than that of a 911, something that once more enhances the GT thought process that must have been prevalent when designing this car.
Perforated leather is standard on the seats, with the dash, door panels, and center console being lavishly appointed with the solid cow-hide. Satin metallic trim accents are dotted around most of the cabin to break up the leather. The doors also feature exquisite Alcantara, with all materials in black as standard. You can also have your leather in Toasted Caramel with matching Alcantara for no additional cost, or a mix of Rioja Red and black leather. However, this option means you can't have a charged paint choice on the exterior, only a factory shade. The final interior option requires you to add the $500 parking assist option, and changes the seats to white leather with splashes of terracotta leather and Alcantara breaking up a predominantly blue leather interior. This is the most striking, but we'd rather have the Rioja or plain black upholstery.
The LC 500 is very much like a supercar in one respect - practicality. The trunk is a truly claustrophobic 5.4 cubic feet, and you will barely fit a pair of carry-on cases in there. The back seats will have to double as additional storage space if you intend to use this car for longer than a weekend at a time.
The cabin is similarly unaccommodating in terms of small-item storage, with one cupholder readily accessible and a second one hidden beneath the center armrest cover. The door pockets are particularly shallow but could fit wallets and the like, but the center console doesn't really have a convenient spot for your phone. The glovebox is also tiny, with barely enough space for the encyclopedia-like owner's manual.
The LC 500 has an impressive feature list as standard, with ambient interior lighting and front seats that feature both heating and ventilation. The wing mirrors feature auto-dimming glass and are heated too. A dash-mounted analog clock, app-controlled remote start, and dual-zone climate control are also included. Safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, LED cornering lamps, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. Adaptive suspension and an active sports exhaust are standard too, while options include a head-up display, lane-keep assist, parking assist, variable-ratio steering, active rear steering, and a speed-activated deployable rear wing.
The infotainment system utilizes a 10.3-inch color screen in the center of the dash and features navigation and a 12-speaker sound system. Android Auto is not included, but you do get both Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa. Voice control, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Wi-Fi are included, too. A 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio upgrade is also available. However, despite the LC 500's many positive attributes, the infotainment system is a huge letdown in this car, especially considering the LC starts at almost $100k. Rather than a traditional touchscreen, the LC uses a touchpad in the center console to manage its functions. While this may seem like a good idea, trying to operate a laptop-like mouse pad while driving is not easy at all and requires you to take your eyes off the road far too frequently. In an otherwise exemplary cabin, we'd have expected a much better interface.
J.D. Power has not yet rated the Lexus LC for quality and reliability, and there have been no recalls for the 2020 model thus far. However, the mechanically identical 2019 model did suffer a recall in July 2019 for a faulty stability control and brake assist system. No further issues have since been reported.
In the event of an issue, Lexus covers the LC 500 with a limited warranty for four years/50,000 miles and also provides a powertrain warranty for six years/70,000 miles. Maintenance is covered for the first year or 10,000 miles, too.
The 2020 Lexus LC has not been rated by either the NHTSA nor the IIHS, although this is not uncommon for vehicles in this price bracket. However, thanks to a number of standard safety features, the LC should be able to protect occupants in the event of a mishap on the road.
The Lexus LC is well-equipped from the factory, with the 2020 model earning blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert as standard - something that was previously optional on 2019 models. Also included with the new LC are LED cornering headlamps, adaptive high beams, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with auto emergency braking, and eight standard airbags, including dual front, side, curtain, and knee airbags. Seatbelt pretensioners are also included. Available options are lane-keep assist and parking assist.
Based on its breathtaking design alone, the LC 500 is arguably the best luxury sport coupe you can buy if you value admiring glances and gazes of wonderment. Literally, nothing else on the road throws such a big middle finger to restrained conventional design as this car does. Whether that is truly a good or a bad thing is up to the individual beholder, as not everyone is a fan of attention-grabbing bodywork and outlandish headlight and taillight arrangements. For us, it's all brilliant. As a direct rival for "proper" sports cars like the Porsche 911, however, the LC is nowhere near as visceral (engine tone notwithstanding) nor as dynamic as most vehicles in this segment can be. It lacks the finesse and deftness of ability that makes a sports car addictive to drive, but makes up for it with that intoxicating engine and a brilliant gearbox. So overall, the LC is nowhere near as lithe or dynamic in terms of outright performance as a 911, but it has character and buckets of it. The infotainment system is infuriating to use and could be a dealbreaker for most, but if you can look past it, the howling V8 and complex design should be more than satisfactory.
Pricing starts at a not inconsiderable $92,950 before the $1,025 destination charge and other fees and taxes. We hit the Lexus online configurator and specced the LC 500 with active rear steering, a speed-activated rear wing, carbon fiber scuff plate, a carbon roof, carbon front lower valance, and a carbon trunk spoiler. We also added a heated steering wheel, 21-inch wheels, and a 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio upgrade. A color head-up display, parking assist, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, and sport seats were also added, bringing the LC 500 to a fully-loaded price of almost $109,000 including destination and delivery.
Just one trim level is available for the Lexus LC at present, with the hardcore LC-F still not surfacing and the convertible version on its way shortly. You can have a hybrid, dubbed the LC 500h, but that is a different enough car to be reviewed separately. For now, we will make do with just the LC 500. This model comes standard with perforated leather upholstery on all four seats, with the front ones also enjoying heating and ventilation. You also get LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights, along with heated auto-dimming wing mirrors, ambient interior lighting, and adjustable suspension. A 10.3-inch display displays your infotainment inputs, with the system supporting Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa. Satellite radio and WiFi are also included, with a 12-speaker audio system as standard and a 13-speaker Mark Levinson upgrade available. Dual-zone climate control and remote start are also included. Safety features include forward-collision warning with auto emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive headlights, auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, and optional park assist and lane-keep assist. A speed-activated rear wing, rear-wheel steering, and an LSD can also be added for more high-speed dynamism.
5.0-liter V8 Gas
The all-weather package is a pretty cheap upgrade that you can add to your LC to make it more comfortable in the winter. For $250, this adds a heated steering wheel and a windscreen de-icer. The Performance package is considerably pricier at $5,960. This adds active rear steering, variable gear-ratio steering, a speed-activated rear wing, eight-way power-adjustable front sport seats, a carbon fiber roof, and an Alcantara headliner. The package also requires you to spend an additional $2,650 on 21-inch staggered-width wheels with gloss black accents, park-assist for $500, and the Torsen LSD at $390. Other add-ons include the Mark Levinson audio package for $1,220, and the head-up display for $900.
Since there's only one trim level available and it's well-equipped from the factory, we'd keep things relatively simple with the options. The Performance package at $5,960 adds a lot of extra athleticism to the LC 500 and is worth considering. However, you can't just have the package on its own and have to add bigger wheels, park assist, and an LSD. The standard 12-speaker sound system is more than powerful enough, so avoiding the upgrade will save some cash. Instead, spend $900 on the head-up display. All in, you're looking at $104,375 worth of beauty - including the destination fee.
If you want to spend over $100k on a luxury sports car, you don't necessarily have to tick any options to do it. The 2020 Carrera S arrives with a sticker price north of $113,300 before you've even picked your paint. However, this does mean a more spritely 0-60 mph time of 3.3 seconds (when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package). You also get Porsche's legendary handling capabilities and brilliant steering. It's the Porsche's outstanding ability in the corners that makes it a true icon, with almost nothing being as deft and as precise. On the inside, you get much of the same equipment that you'll find in the LC, including navigation, dual-zone climate control, and W-iFi. However, where the Porsche is focused more on ergonomics, precision, and unbeatable handling, the LC wipes the floor with it for visual presence, flair, and extravagance. If you want a proper sports car that you can abuse hard and push limits with, the 911 is still the best. But for a more comfortable and visually arresting automobile that makes an occasion out of every drive, the LC 500 is truly in a class of its own.
If you like the idea of a naturally-aspirated V8, radical design cues, and Lexus build quality, you may want to consider the more hardcore RC F. This performance version of the small Lexus coupe is a rival to the BMW M4, and although only one hp more powerful than the LC 500, it's almost 380 lbs lighter. Although being a little shorter from end to end as well as a little thinner, it has almost double the cargo space of the LC, with 10.1 cubes compared to the LC's 5.4. You also pay less for a base variant, with the starting price coming in at under $65,000 and the all-out Track Edition costing just under $97,000. However, this does mean a much more Manga-esque body comes with it. Where the LC 500 looks perfectly sculpted and worthy of a museum, the RC F just looks insane with wings and vents sprouting from all over the car. So which is better? Well, the RC F is far stiffer and therefore less comfortable, but it's also more competitive and dynamic. Do you want a cruiser or a track weapon? Given the choice, we'd stick with the LC 500 and all its GT essence.