These are my musings of the new Lexus flagship coupe based on a 3 minute test drive at the Scottsdale Cars and Coffee last weekend.
This got a bit wordy so I decided to put the numbers stuff up here.
Stated Price: $92k
Stated HP: 471
Bang for buck: 7/10
TL;DR - comfortable, quick, and EXTREMELY NICE, but possesses no exemplary ‘wow’ feature.
Having provided a valid driver’s license and some contact information (joke’s on them, I already get all their emails about Lexus specials) I managed to wrangle just a touch of seat time in the Lexus LC500. This 471 HP coupe is supposed to be the current sporty coupe flagship that should compete with... someone? BMW 650i? Mercedes AMG C63? I suppose anything that has two doors and is priced somewhere around the 90-100k range could be a contender.
In real life, the front looks better than in pictures, and the back looks a little worse - techy and swoopy without being really inspiring. The looks are polarizing enough that everyone’s going to have their own opinion, so I won’t go too much into it here. The design certainly looks more at home here than on the IS or the GS.
The interior is bespoke Lexus, and it’s very nice, but for some reason it didn’t really jump out at me vs the other Lexuses I have sat in for this modern generation of the lineup.
Since I don’t care much for spoilers and readers tend to be impatient, I’ll just tell you now which one is the LC interior. It’s the last one - the fully tan one. But I mean, if you didn’t see them side to side, how much of it would you really notice unless you genuinely had an interest in Lexus interiors?
The seat bolsters were supportive but not uncooperative, even though I have gained a bit of weight since the last time I sat in an unfamiliar car. I had two children of average size with me, one 10 and on 12, who managed to get into the back and get comfortable without much fuss.
One nice touch that the LC does is without any kind of lever or force, the front seats will push forward and incline automatically after the driver gets out so that the rear passengers can also disembark. I will say, however, that the process took several seconds, while we awkwardly stood there. I mused whether or not if I bolted to my car during that time if my children would be able to catch up with me by the time the seats pulled forward all the way.
The shifter was one of those that you had to push the stick down on before moving it laterally to select a different mode, and I found out that my definition of down wasn’t their definition of down as I struggled a bit to get it out of park. You push the stick slightly INTO the console, and then move it in the direction you want to, like an old school game joystick. I get what they are trying to do, and it certainly is more compact and harder to accidentally shift into something you didn’t mean to than your average auto shifter, but I didn’t like it. At that moment I suddenly had a yearning for a good old six-speed manual.
Shaking the feeling off, we (me driving, the Lexus Rep in the passenger seat, and the two children in tow in the backseats) pootled out of the Cars and Coffee parking lot and onto the street. Since the car had been on all day being driven by other morons like yours truly, I didn’t have to worry about engine temp or anything like that. I am a RTFM kind of guy - before I head off anywhere I twist all the knobs, read all the pamphlets, push all the buttons, fiddle with the mirrors and so on and so forth. This time, I only had a few minutes and I was averse to messing with anything I didn’t really understand so I don’t have much to say about the interior.
Front visibility was good. The normally extremely chunky A pillars full of airbags didn’t quite get in my way as they do in nearly all cars I sit in once my seat is in my preferred position. The steering wheel was slightly smaller than the one in my IS, and was weighted reasonably well. Since I tend to stare through the windshield at the objects coming up in front of me, I didn’t get to fiddle with the dashboard or the speedo/tach combination with the dozens of buttons that were on the dash or the steering wheel. The Lexus rep helped out some, showing me various bits and bobs and answering my inane questions.
One of my first questions was how much it weighed. She replied “4200 pounds.” 4200?!?! I started in my chair a bit and at precisely that moment we went over a rough patch of road. I believe at the time we were in normal mode (not sport or comfort) and I remember feeling a push and hearing a jarring thud. It was harder than my 2010 IS-F on that one bump, which is saying something, as IS-F suspensions pre-2011 are notoriously firm. It was a little surprising as the rest of the time the car wafted gently into and out of lanes during transitions. Still, 4200 lbs, I thought. At least it wears it well. The car certainly did not drive like it was over 2 tons.
I started out with the drive shifting up and down with the paddles, and I found that the shifts were brisk and imperceptible. The 10 speed transmission appears to have been mostly comprised of buttercream instead of gear ratios, and it was unbelievably smooth. It was worlds better than my Aisin 8 speed and shifted quicker to boot - by the end of the drive, I was content to let the car make its own shifting decisions, and for the first time in an automatic, I was OK with that.
I messed with the sportiness knob to little impact. There was enough traffic on a Saturday morning and we went over reasonably maintained roads that there wasn’t much opportunity to test things at the limits. I did however power through a few stoplights after they turned green and acceleration was brisk. I certainly believe that it can do a 4.4 second 0-60 if you really push it, but it didn’t seem particularly focused on whether or not that happened. I have found that, once you start driving around in 400+ hp cars, if a car can’t get to 60 in under 4 seconds, it feels like it’s holding something back. I believe the LC’s weight was the key factor here. You don’t expect a runner to run his swiftest carrying a barrel full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You’ll get your speed, but it won’t make anyone who is able to afford this car to write home about it at all. The acceleration pedal was clearly drive by wire - it had about as much travel range to the floor as the transmission shifter did, but did respond in a relatively linear way. I recall being in Power Wheels where the pedals had about the same amount of travel - it was different, but not necessarily bad. We took a few rights into some quiet streets and then up a highway onramp in order to get right back off again, to give some opportunity to use those 471 horses. I was held up by several cars who didn’t understand that the speed limit on the freeway was 65 and that you were supposed to be at 65 BEFORE you merged in. C’est la vie.
The engine sounds nice, at least.
It was about at this time that I asked how much this particular car was. With options, I had assumed that MSRP would be floating somewhere around $110k, and she responded that it was $92,000. I was pleasantly surprised. I did an IndyCar experience as a gift from my wife one year, and it was so loud that I couldn’t hear the driving coach in the headset in my ear at maximum volume. The LC500 drives exactly the opposite of that - everything is quiet enough that you have to really rev the shit out of the engine to hear it, and NVH was probably the lowest I had experienced outside of a library, or a Lexus dealership at 7am before the majority of their customers show up.
We pulled up back to the parking lot and I felt pretty good. The kids seemed to enjoy it, too, although the boy had been complaining endlessly about the heat from standing in the sun earlier and lack of coffee to drink, so I wasn’t sure if it was the highly effective A/C influencing his opinion. The other child later quietly confessed to me that she liked it when I drove fast, which honestly was the high point of my day.
As I got out and waited the 8.5 hours for the front seats to incline and scoot forward, I mused about the impressions of the car. The inside is nice. The ride is firm but mostly nice. The engine is nice. The handling seems nice. The dash was nice. The A/C was nice. I realized right then that there was nothing inside the car that screamed “This is it. This is the one!” As the kids clambered out, I concluded that there was no X-factor at work here. This is an eminently capable machine - shifts better than I do, handles well, and like a bouncer keeps all the riffraff of the road out effectively, and manages its interior cabin space with aplomb. (I did find out later the trunk is a tad on the small side.)
The problem was that like an Olympic decathlete there wasn’t anything you could point to as a significant flaw. It did everything superbly, but it didn’t do any one thing so astoundingly well you would have to sit down and write about it immediately, or put a poster of it up in a room somewhere. It’s nice to sit and think about, like taking time out in the holidays to watch the original Star Wars Trilogy, or drinking a perfectly made cup of coffee out of your favourite coffee mug. But this Lexus wasn’t the crazy stripper from that one time in Vegas when she threw your shoes off the 18th story window and then accidentally put one of her Benjamins in the garbage disposal while high on drugs. It was an elegant and masterful fluffing, but despite all those gymnastics at the end there wasn’t anything strong enough to seal the deal.
I walked away fondly but not in love. I’m not going to dream about this car. I’m not going to write fond love letters to it and I’m not going to even discuss it much with my friends. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad car or even a bad buy, and I’m glad Lexus brought it to market. But only Lexus diehards need apply.
As for me, I’ll be waiting for the 600 HP one that’s coming later on. We’ll see who gets their rocks off then.