2018 Lexus LC500 Coupe: Pulling out all the stops?
Price: $105,614. Base price, $92,000. $1,000 for Convenience Package; more is mentioned below.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver says it has a "sultry design, hell's-bells exhaust," and is "eminently refined," but it "needs a serious diet," and costs "big bucks for modest thrust."
Marketer's pitch: "More than a car. A feeling."
Reality: Almost all the fun of a McLaren, with twice the seats and half the price. But, as Toyota used to say, oh, what a feeling.
What's new: If you're looking for sports-car fun with room-ish for four-ish, look no further than the LC500.
The LC series debuted for the 2018 model year, offering a line of performance coupes that prove that Lexus has completely lost its mind. What used to be a trusted brand that could drive you luxuriously through a nuclear holocaust is now a trusted brand that can outrace the warhead as it came in for a landing.
I've seen it called a "touring car," but this is some low-to-the-ground, reclined, snug touring.
Up to speed: The 5.0-liter V-8 engine provides 471 horsepower, and gets to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, according to Motor Trend. That's a little more than $20,000/second.
Shifty: The LC500 comes with a Prius-ish gear selector. Pull down and to the left for Drive, up and to the left for Reverse, and pull straight back for Manual. I caught Neutral more times than I care to count.
Shifting comes through the paddle shifter only. I'd trade all of it for a normal gear selector and the ability to shift it, even if 10 gears becomes tiring.
On the road: Not at all tiring are the cornering and handling. Drivers can pull some real Steve McQueen Bullitt moves in the LC500, and the car wants to straighten right out, although not as easily as the Alfa Romeo Giulia. A limited-slip differential costs $1,220.
Inside: Lexus offers beautiful interiors, and the LC500 goes even a bit further. The burgundy suede on the door panels reminded me of some cafes I'd seen in Paris, but the silver handles and other trim pieces added even more elegance.
But at a price: $5,960 for the Performance Package, which include Alcantara sport seats and headliner, and carbon-fiber door sills.
The LC500 also showcases the wisdom of McLaren's dihedral doors. Tight spaces are problematic in the Lexus because of the long doors.
And I'm not a big guy, but the LC500 cuts corners – literally – so don't lean your head to the left to look for controls. Ow.
Driver's Seat: Comfort and support reign supreme, although it's not as adjustable as some seats in the price range. Do not let anything slide out of your pockets; there's no room even for a hand underneath. But, ooohhh, comfy.
Outside: Lexus is also known for sharp exterior lights, and the LC500 continues the anger management problem look. The taillights look straight off the Prius.
Outside in: But, oh, that exhaust note. Lexus has perfected the cat growl of a Corvette, and it's heaven. And – bonus – it goes away when shifted out of Sport mode, because some days one needs peace and quiet from one's $100,000 machine.
Friends and stuff: There's a backseat, but the interior proportions of the LC500 make it all but impossible for even the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat to do any more than cross the township. With her feet up. And she bumped her head on the ceiling more than a few times.
Consider that the rear floor mat is about 5 inches front to back. Cargo space is a laughable 5.4 cubic feet with no fold-down seat. I'm not sure we could stuff as much as we did into the McLaren back in the spring.
Play some tunes: The Lexus stereo system – Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound ($1,220) – is awesome. Despite 13 speakers, though, it's a little on the trebly side, but sound is clear and enjoyable.
Controls feature nice roller dials for tuning, a knob for volume, buttons for moving from source to source – plus an infuriating touchpad that works like playing the banjo with boxing gloves on.
Big wheel: The LC500 tested came with 21-inch wheels ($2,650), and these often don't face weather well. But some torrential downpours proved the LC500's wet-weather mettle.
Fuel economy: I averaged about 17.5 mpg in some highly spirited driving. You'll feed the LC500 premium, and you'll like it.
Where it's built: Aichi, Japan
How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts 4 out of 5 for reliability, but confesses to not much data.