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2018 Lexus LC Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

Lexus LC 500 front quarter view low
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Introduction

Lexus has been wanting people to think of its cars as exciting and (to use a word of which the German manufacturers are overly fond) dynamic. But as long as their cars remained much the same, their words seemed like little more than words, claims to be doing something rather than just doing it. Sure, they took an aesthetic risk with the "spindle grille," but who likes it?

Now they've created the LC coupe. It's certainly stylish, a concept car you can buy. But does it really represent a departure for Lexus? Should we start thinking about the brand differently?

A challenge for me: what to compare the Lexus LC to? Compared to the Nissan GT-R, a hardcore track-oriented coupe, the LC is much prettier and much more luxurious. The Jaguar XK is gone, while the Jaguar F-Type is a much lighter, more compact two-seater. The BMW 6 Series comes closer, but is about to be replaced by a new 8 Series. If I'd driven the LC 500h hybrid, then I might have compared it to the BMW i8, another concept car you can buy with styling that breaks with its brand's history. But, not sadly, I drove the LC 500 with a conventional 471-horsepower V8 engine.

Given the lack of direct competitors, I'll focus more than usual on just the Lexus LC itself, but draw comparisons to the F-Type, 6 Series, and i8 where this seems appropriate.

LC Reviews: Lexus LC 500 front quarter view low

A complex shape, yet also lean and clean, without extraneous details. more LC photos

LC Reviews: Lexus LC 500 interior

Racy interior to match racy exterior. Performance Pkg. includes synth suede and carbon fiber trim.

Tested: 2018 Lexus LC

2dr Coupe 471-horsepower 5.0L V8 10-speed shiftable automatic RWD

Compared: 2016 Jaguar F-Type

2dr Hatch supercharged 550hp 5.0L V8 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Why the 2018 Lexus LC?

  Compared to the F-Type
Exterior styling
Exterior styling: About the same Better Worse

The #1 reason to buy the Lexus LC? Its exterior styling. Even if you have roughly $100,000 to spend, you can't buy many cars with the dramatic, styling-above-all-else curves and surfaces of a concept car. The spindle grille even works with this shape. People notice this car--in a good way. If you want to blend in, the LC isn't for you. Plus, while the LC's exterior isn't busy, there's a lot going on here. The longer you look the more you'll find. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the complex shape of this car.

The BMW 6 Series appears bloated and boring in comparison. The Jaguar F-Type? Very pretty, but very conventional. The i8 is arguably even more striking than the LC, but to my eye the BMW is trying too hard and isn't nearly as attractive. The LC's design is far cleaner and its proportions are more athletic.


Interior styling
Interior styling: Better Better Worse

Striking, futuristic styling continues inside the Lexus LC. I especially like the pleated synthetic suede door panels with their cleanly integrated handles (no trim surrounds). Like those in other recent performance-oriented cars from Lexus, the LC's instruments mimic those in the LFA supercar.

This said, the analog clock to the right of the infotainment display looks like a tacked-on afterthought, something included because Lexus cars usually have one.


LC Reviews: Lexus LC 500

Complex surfaces are apparent in this shot. Maybe the tail lights are a bit much?

LC Reviews: Lexus LC 500 instrument panel

Awful control design. Looks and feels good, though.

Reliability & durability
Reliability & durability: Much better Better Worse

Well, I made it to the third slot before giving in to the obvious: the Lexus LC will likely prove much more reliable as it ages than European competitors.

You might have read elsewhere that Lexus's initial quality has fallen to below the industry average. Well, that survey (not ours) includes usability in its definition of quality. We'll get to this.


Quietness
Quietness: Much better Better Worse

The Lexus LC is very much a Lexus in that it is far quieter inside than a Jaguar F-Type, Nissan GT-R, or BMW i8. (You might not be able to hear the i8's powertrain in EV mode, but you will hear its tires roar on some surfaces.) The BMW 6 Series is in the same ballpark as the LC--except its tires can clomp loudly over minor road imperfections. The tires on the Lexus don't. Even when driving on a 70-mph highway (at a semi-reasonable amount over the limit) there's so little sensation of speed that frequent speedometer checks are a must. If you want to avoid a ticket it's best to set the cruise control.

One note to the contrary: the LC 500 starts with a brief roar. In some situations, this can be embarrassing. "What's that guy think he's doing?" Ford added a "quiet mode" to the optional active exhaust of the 2018 Mustang GT for those who don't want to wake the neighbors when starting their car early in the morning. Lexus should consider doing the same.


Ride smoothness
Ride smoothness: Much better Better Worse

The Lexus LC's ride quality also won't harm the brand's stereotype. For a high-performance coupe the LC rides very smoothly--even in its sport mode. A Jaguar F-Type in particular will beat you up far more. To use the car as owners might, Gayla and I toured some wineries in Michigan's Leelanau peninsula. (Our new favorite wine maker: Nathaniel Rose.) The LC made the 470-mile round trip effortless. Despite its racy styling and performance potential the Lexus coupe can be driven all day without fatigue.


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Why Not the 2018 Lexus LC?

  Compared to the F-Type
Controls and instruments
Controls and instruments: Much worse Better Worse

If anyone has been wondering how Lexus could have fallen below average in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Survey (IQS), they can stop wondering. The IQS includes usability problems, and the controls in the LC can be frustratingly difficult to use. Not to put too fine a spin on it, they're awful. There aren't many physical buttons. Instead, a touchpad and knob on the console linked to a large display must be used for many things. The menus could be more intuitive. Even toward the end of the week I was still figuring some things. I never did figure out the point of the button just aft of the touchpad. Sometimes it brought up a helpful menu. Other times it did nothing but provoke a beep.

Even if you know where to go in the menus to do what you want to do, many operations require far too much swiping and tapping. These even include the heated and ventilated seats and the heated steering wheel, features many people will use frequently. These can be set to automatically come on when the temperature seems to call for them, and Lexus apparently expects most owners to rely on this setting.

In some cars, voice recognition systems make up for poorly designed infotainment interfaces. Not in the LC. Even entering an address into the nav via voice proved far more difficult than in most current systems.

Not all of the controls are badly designed. Drive modes are selected using knobs mounted close to the steering wheel. This makes it easy to select sport mode on the fly. But does snow mode require such a prominent location?


Front seat room
Front seat room: Worse Better Worse

If you like room to stretch out, you won't like driving the Lexus LC, and you'll enjoy riding shotgun even less. Prominent "o-shizz" grab handles flanking the front passenger seat might be welcome at times, but the space between them is barely wider than the seat itself. Gayla liked riding there anyway. She likes interiors that seem tailored around her. But is this a common preference?

The cockpit of the smaller Jaguar F-Type feels far more open and spacious.

The Lexus LC's front seats acceptable levels of lateral support and comfort, but given the class of the car they have surprisingly few adjustments. The lumbar support adjusts only in-and-out, not up and down. The side bolsters cannot be adjusted at all.


LC Reviews: Lexus LC 500 front angle view low

Steeply sloping hood, broad haunches, athletic stance.

LC Reviews: Lexus LC 500 rear seat

Hope you weren't expecting a usable rear seat within such a dramatic shape.

Rear seat room & comfort  

The Lexus LC's rear seat makes the front seats seem roomy, but this is to be expected in a high-performance coupe. If you're over 5-4, there won't be enough room for your legs or your head. In a pinch, the rear seat will do, but hardly anyone will use it regularly.


Cargo capacity
Cargo capacity: Worse Better Worse

Even by coupe standards there's not much space in the trunk, either. Giving styling such a high priority has a price.


Feature availability
Feature availability: Much worse Better Worse

Want a convertible, a manual transmission, AWD, or a second set of doors? You can get these with competitors, but not with the Lexus LC. If what you want is a rear-wheel-drive coupe with an automatic transmission, then this isn't a problem. But you still might wish for more adjustable seats.


Other features of the 2018 Lexus LC

  Compared to the F-Type
Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: Worse Better Worse

Lexus V8s have been smooth-revving, sweet-sounding engines since the first, in the 1990 LS sedan. The LC 500's 5.0-liter V8 engine continues this fine tradition, plus (as in Lexus F models that have used variants of this V8 before) adds some much sportier notes. Lift off the throttle at an elevated rpm and (as in a Jaguar, if not as much) the exhaust crackles and pops.

Despite the extensive use of aluminum as well as a smattering of carbon fiber, the LC weighs about 4,300 pounds even in non-hybrid form--it's a heavy car. Pit the V8's 471 horsepower against this mass, and 60 mph can be attained from a dead stop in under five seconds, the rear end squirming as it struggles to manage the torque being shunted through it. Pretty quick. But V8-powered competitors, with superchargers or turbochargers to plump up their power curves, can do the same in under four seconds. They're brutally quick, and the porky LC 500 can't keep up.

The LC 500 doesn't feel as quick as it is thanks to all of the sound insulation I've already praised. The engine and exhaust noises, though they can seem overly loud when starting the car, sound like they're happening at a distance once underway. A BMW is much the same way, but a Jaguar F-Type immerses you much more thoroughly in the driving experience.

And the new ten-speed automatic? It shifts smoothly and quickly, making the most of the V8 without excessive hunting or otherwise calling attention to itself.


Fuel economy
Fuel economy: Better Better Worse

The Lexus LC 500 earns fuel economy ratings of 16 mpg city and 26 mpg highway from the EPA, not bad for a car with its performance. Too thirsty? The LC 500h hybrid scores 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway.

In my suburban driving the LC 500's trip computer reported averages as high as 22, but the upper teens were more common. On our highway trip, with a speed limit of 70 mph, the LC 500 averaged 27 mpg going and 26 mpg on the return, spot on the EPA rating.


Handling
Handling: About the same Better Worse

By any objective measure the LC 500 handles with a level of skill well beyond that expected from a Lexus, or even from any car that weighs about 4,300 pounds. A $5,960 Performance Package includes active front and rear steering. The last time I experienced such quick steering in a car this size I was driving a Ferrari FF (which had crazy quick steering for such a wide car; the Lexus isn't quite in that league). Despite this readiness to change directions, in curves the Lexus feels sure-footed and stable. An ultra-rigid mixed-materials body structure (check out the cast aluminum front strut towers in the engine bay photos) contributes to precise, predictable handling. When truly under load (i.e. not often in typical driving) the steering firms up and communicates fairly well. Find somewhere you can push the LC hard and and it can be fun.

Unfortanately (from my perspective at least), the LC's character is much more BMW 6 Series than Jaguar F-Type. While it can be fun if and when you have the opportunity to really explore what it can do, you won't often have this opportunity on public roads in populated areas. A Jaguar doesn't handle as well in objective terms, but is far more engaging and involving in typical driving. Though I certainly tried, I never quite connected with the LC. Still, I came closer than I did in the BMW 6 series, which has less communicative steering and feels larger and more massive. Though sedate compared to a Jaguar, the new Lexus LC is more fun to drive than the comparable BMW. Who saw this coming?

And the BMW i8? Driving one feels like driving the future. Though the Lexus pushes the envelope in a few areas, especially styling, driving one feels much more like driving a regular car.


Price or payments
Price or payments: Better Better Worse

The Lexus LC 500 starts at $92,995. Load it up like the tested car, and the bottom line swells to $104,465. Far too much? Then get a Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, or even Lexus's own RC F (which has the same engine in a somewhat more compact, more conventional package). You'll give up the LC's advanced construction and high-end interior, but you'll give up nothing in straight-line performance.

Just a bit too much? You might find you can do without the $2,650 upgrade from cast 20-inch wheels to forged 21s and the $5,960 Performance Package (synthetic suede sport seats, synthetic suede headliner, carbon fiber door sill trim, carbon fiber roof, active rear spoiler, active steering, active rear steering). But if you want the latter you're required to also pay for the former.

Usually Lexus cars cost less than their European equivalents. If the BMW 6 Series can be considered an equivalent car--it's not nearly as exotic in styling or construction--then the rule doesn't hold in this case. When both are loaded up, and LC 500 costs $4,370 more than a 2017 650i. Plus the BMW has about $2,300 in additional content.

Then again, the 8 Series that will soon replace the 6 Series will likely cost much more than either. After all, it will be an 8, not a 6.

Other price comparisons are more favorable. The LC 500 costs over $10,000 less than a Jaguar F-Type R. In the latter's defense, it does have nearly 80 additional horsepower. Moving over to hybrids, the LC 500h costs $4,500 more than the LC 500, but over $40,000 less than the BMW i8. If the BMW's defense, it's even more concepty than the LC 500h and, if plugged in beforehand, can travel about 15 miles on electricity alone. You have to put gas in the LC 500h.

But what about the RC F with the same engine as the LC 500, and on the same showroom floor? It's over $20,000 less--but not nearly as special a car.


Conclusion

So, does the new LC warrant that we change our perceptions of Lexus? In some ways yes, in other ways no--and this isn't a bad thing. Based especially on how it looks but also on how it performs and handles, the LC will never bore you. It's an exciting car that would lower the average age of Lexus buyers considerably--if many drivers under 40 could afford one. On the other hand, the LC is very much a Lexus in that it rides smoothly and quietly and should prove reliable. While I'd personally prefer less insulation and more engagement, the LC delivers a combination of comfort, performance, and style that many of those spending about $100,000 on a coupe should find appealing.

LC Reviews: Lexus LC 500 engine uncovered

Smooth, sonorous 471-hp V8 flanked by cast aluminum strut towers.

LC Reviews: Lexus LC 500 trunk

Not much trunk space remains after the swoopy styling and huge wheels take their cuts, either.

See more 2018 Lexus LC photos

Lexus, Jaguar, and BMW each provided an insured car for a week with a tank of gas. I also drive a BMW i8 and a Jaguar F-Type R at a regional media association event.

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2018 Lexus LC pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2018 Lexus LC. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.

Response from bdickey66

5:16 pm January 28, 2018

Nice, detailed review of a car I was in lust with. But, I'm closer to the average Lexus owner's age with lower than their net worth.

PS: The aluminum strut tower castings are the kind of bits that get me in financial trouble!

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