Let me say this now before I get into everything else: I love the Lexus LC. That’s not to say that this is a faultless vehicle. But this beautiful machine is Lexus at its best.
(Full disclosure: Lexus loaned me this LC 500 with a full tank of gas. I put nearly 1,000 miles on the car, testing it in all sorts of environments and driving conditions.)
The LC is the unofficial flagship of the Lexus lineup — the face of the brand and its aspirational halo model. It’s a spiritual replacement for the SC, and the modern embodiment of Lexus grand touring.
Previewed as a concept way back in 2012, the LC debuted in 2016 for the 2017 model year looking almost identical to the show car. The LC shares a platform with the LS sedan, as well as the Toyota Crown and Mirai, all of which are built on Toyota’s TNA-GL rear-drive architecture.
You can have your LC with one of two drivetrains. The LC 500, which I drove, is powered by the familiar 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 used in every one of Lexus’s F-brand performance models, and currently in use in the RC F and IS 500 F Sport Performance. For some reason, the LC is down exactly one horsepower compared to those F cars, making 471 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque.
The other drivetrain option comes in the strangely named LC 500h. Showing that alphanumeric naming doesn’t mean anything anymore, the hybrid version of the LC gets a 3.5-liter V6 paired with electric motors for 354 total system horsepower. It also gets 34 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA, which is pretty impressive. A 10-speed automatic is the only gearbox available.
Pricing starts at $94,225 for the LC500. But what you see here is known as the LC Bespoke Build, part of the automaker’s new personalization program. This particular car sports over $15,000 in customization options:
- Base Price: $94,225
- Bespoke Build Package With Bespoke Build Badge and Certificate Of Authenticity: $4,150
- Alcantara Seating in Manhattanhenge (I’ll explain this color name later): $3,600
- Head-Up Display: $900
- Mark Levinson 13 Speaker Surround Sound Audio System: $1,220
- Carbon Fiber Rear Spoiler: $2,750
- Carbon Fiber Scuff Places: $600
- Carbon Fiber Roof: $2,400
- Total price plus destination: $109,845
“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life. This car is strikingly beautiful.” Those were the words of my 84-year-old grandmother when I brought the LC to her house. She’s not wrong — just look at it. It’s rolling art, a concept car put into production.
And I have to admit, to my eye, this is the only current Lexus where the spindle “Predator” grille actually works.
Every line on the body is gorgeous, from the luxuriously long hood to the sci-fi laser-pistol taillights. Everywhere I went, the car got looks and questions, from a cop knocking on my window to ask about it to an SUV with a whole family in it gushing over the car.
The interior is just as good. The color scheme you see here is called Manhattanhenge, and it’s only available in Bespoke Build models. This is how Lexus describes the color:
Twice a year, the setting sun perfectly aligns with the west-facing streets of New York City’s Manhattan borough, bathing the north and south sides of the surrounding buildings in a vibrant, intense orange glow. And this spectacular phenomenon, known as Manhattanhenge, inspired the exclusive interior offered in the LC Bespoke Build.
A hell of a thing to be inspired by. Even if the interior wasn’t covered in this two-tone leather and Alcantara suede, it would still look great. From the metal accents to the subtle LED lighting at night, everything inside is just as sculpted and detailed as the exterior. This Lexus also has some of the best ventilated seats I’ve ever encountered.
My son loved it too.
I’m not usually a fan of huge infotainment screens, but the big, wide 10.3-inch LCD in the LC 500's dash is just the right size, and looks great. It’s especially good when you’re using Apple CarPlay (which is standard, thank goodness). I also geeked out of the fact that the LC has cornering lamps, a favorite forgotten item in car design.
That 5.0-liter V8 is a gem. The sound under acceleration would make any American muscle car fan proud. Open it up in Sport or Sport+, and this Lexus sounds just as good as any Hemi V8. Lexus says 60 mph comes in 4.4 seconds, but it feels slightly quicker than even that. In general, I believe that 10 gears is too many for an automatic transmission, but the LC’s gearbox is great in aggressive driving, holding a lower gear in corners and keeping the revs high. Manual mode with the paddle shifters is fun to play with, but the car does well even when it’s shifting for itself.
Speaking of corners, the LC is big. It measures over 15 feet long, but it doesn’t drive that way. While there are Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ driving modes, the LC also allows you to customize how you want the suspension and steering to feel. I drove the car with the steering and suspension in their performance settings. Even then, the ride wasn’t harsh — it was Lexus smooth, but firm enough to handle the twisties of local canyon roads. Turn-in is excellent with hardly any body roll.
When you just drive the LC as the nice luxurious grand tourer that it is, it really shines. It’s quiet and comfortable, enough so that you almost forget this thing can be pretty sporting when you haul it. And when you’re not whipping it? It’s so comfy, my son fell asleep on every long ride.
I have to admit something. I actually got used to Lexus’s much-maligned trackpad in the LC. It got familiar enough that changing settings became almost second nature. Don’t get me wrong, though: I’m not saying the trackpad is good. It’s not. Lexus’s insistence on using a laptop-style mousepad instead of a touchscreen is annoying, and feels backwards. But the interior was designed with the trackpad in mind: Even if the dashboard screen was touch-sensitive, you probably couldn’t reach it anyway.
The automatic high-beam, which brightens and dims the headlights depending on oncoming pedestrians or traffic, is kind of cool at first but quickly gets distracting. Especially if you’re in a busier area like Southern California, where the lights are constantly going bright then dim then bright again. It probably works best on the open highway or less-populated roads. But if you’re in an urban or suburban setting, turn it off.
And that 10-speed transmission gets a bit rough in the sporty modes. Downshifts come hard, with an audible thunk and a kick in the seat. This might be by design, to make the car feel sportier and more mechanically engaging in its high-performance modes. Regardless of the mode, with 10 gears, this thing is constantly shifting.
Also, while I’m griping, the A/C in this car kind of sucked. I don’t know if it was just this specific vehicle, but it took awhile to blow ice-cold, and only did so after a bit of driving.
In what seems to be a staple among luxury brands, the gear selector is unnecessarily complex: Reverse is left and up; Drive is left and down; Neutral is just left, and Park is a separate button. This shift pattern is standard across a lot of Toyota models, but it’s tough to get used to, especially coming out of a car with a conventional PRNDL shifter.
Finally, some of the dashboard controls don’t work well in direct sunlight. In particular, the climate controls: the tiny LCD readouts for fan speed and temperature are useless in direct sunlight, and worse if you have sunglasses on.
The LC is part of an endangered species of luxury GTs. Something you, your significant other and two of your friends could comfortably take to dinner or on a weekend trip. As consumer tastes have changed, people have come to prefer crossovers over vehicles like this. That’s why, in my time with the LC, hardly anybody knew what it was. It doesn’t help that Lexus only sold 2,782 LCs in 2021. Just 153 found homes in March 2022.
It’s a shame, really, as the LC is the ideal embodiment of what a Lexus should be: beautiful, powerful and comfortable. If a grand tourer is something your life needs, buy one while you still can.