Driven: 2018 Lexus LC500

Lexus, you’re winning me over.

Colder temperatures aren’t really a surprise to me any more. Most of my life I’d been living in the outskirts of what’s barely considered “Chicagoland” for the better part of three decades. I stubbornly brace for the onset of disgusting road-side dirty snow, and a nose which will inevitably run a marathon after spending only 20 seconds outside. It gets worse. Travelling anywhere means you get to deal with freezing your tush off, all while permanently marring your car’s paint with a snowbrush, and scraping your windows with an ice scraper… only to find out your door still won’t even open because you have frameless windows, which are frozen shut.

There is humor, of course. All-wheel-drive vehicles instill a sense of invincibility, however, they are the first to find the nearest ditch. And so long as no one gets hurt, bald-treaded Nissan Altimas’s are great fun to watch as they slide their way through intersections. Both of these instances, and a lot of other winter-travel related troubles, are all fixed by snow tires. This LC500 is still on high-performance summer rubber.

It is the 3rd week of December.

Oh boy.

Lexus, as a company, has always confused me a bit. The IS series I like quite a bit, the ES not so much. The CT is being cancelled (for the better, I think), the NX was a shockingly lovable crossover, and the RX is a competent, albeit under-powered SUV. Lexus, therefore, is a coin toss as to where my opinions will fall. This is further proven by my absolute love for the RC F (I fell so deeply in love with it that I named it Sophy), and the distant feeling I got from the GS F, which didn’t quite warm up to me in nearly the same way. The more frustrating part is, I can not figure out why. The LC? That was an easy win for Lexus.

Looks are extremely subjective, but everyone who says this car is ugly is flat-out wrong. Prior editions of Lexus cars made me think angles and creases were there for the sake of angles and creases, but here, everything works. More impressively, the scoops and vents you see aren’t there to serve a pleasing purpose to your eyes, but rather, they properly move air about. What the LC also possesses is some incredible presence. Infrared paint color may have been part of it, but there was more attention attracted to this car than I have ever experienced in a car before. You could watch people take out their phones to take a picture. While it’s not the prettiest car I’ve ever seen, it is very striking. A pay raise needs to be given to the designer of this car immediately.

Even though they also look good, normally I’d scoff at the size of the wheels: 21 inches front and back. There’s simply not enough sidewall for a tire like that to be comfortable, or so I thought. Given that there’s only one setting for the suspension, I thought it was going to lean toward the side of sportiness, but, alas, I was wrong again. The car works great on roads, with a supple ride that’s not jarring, but not isolated either. Steering was surprisingly darty (in a good way) and even though it had the tiniest hints of being alive, it was still lacking overall in feel. With salt already down on the roads, grip levels were lower than usual and it was still not really easy to tell when the front end did, or didn’t have bite, unless instinctively driving with your back side.

As usual with Lexus, the engine is a complete peach. A grand total of 471 horsepower is dispatched through a 10 speed automatic gearbox. A gearbox which can play any role you ask it to play. Slotting into manual allows you to play with the paddle shifters, but just as easily, it’ll select the best gears for economy if you happen to switch to that more frugal “eco” mode. I do wish the engine had a bit more snap to it, though. These days it’s quite easy to make an engine bark and pop between gear changes and that’s something just slightly lacking on the overall excitement scale of the LC500. It could even be something programmed to only to happen in “sport” mode, but for this car, you’ll get just about the same noises regardless of how aggressively you choose to drive.

But aggressive driving isn’t really this car’s ethos. It prefers – and knows – it is made to be a GT car. What you give up for performance beyond that final 15% of pushing the limit, it makes up for in excellent driver coddling. While I personally wouldn’t have picked the tan interior, I do enjoy the layout. Mark Levinson is one of my favorite things to see on the stereo of a Lexus, and per usual, this system gets better the louder you crank it. It also remembers the settings you have for heated seat and steering wheel, so when you hop into a chilly car as I did several times, things get comfy rather quickly.

That’s something that I think makes the LC500 stand out a bit. In no known literature is a quote from a lap time around the Nurburgring, or any track for that matter. Why? Because it’s not supposed to be that kind of car. Instead it is very confident in its identity as a GT car. While I would have preferred some more feel from the steering (and it wouldn’t have sullied my point), I still feel this car is very clear in its purpose. It doesn’t want you to increase your adrenaline flow. It wants you to relax. And that’s something it does extremely well.

STATS
Engine: 5.0 V8 DOHC
Horsepower: 471
Torque: 398 lb/ft
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
MPG cty/hwy/comb: 16/26/19
Base price: $92,000
As Tested: $105,060

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