The Rolling Stones always make me drive fast – honest, officer – except in a Lexus.
Not even “The Last Time” or “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” can push me to rhythmically rash behavior if I’m piloting a strange RX 350 or a staid ES 300 or the aquatic NX 200t.
I mean, what would be the point? I generally don’t drink beer before church, either.
Then a wine-red 2018 Lexus LC 500 rolled onto my driveway recently, a slinky, futuristic coupe that instantly gave conservative Lexus one seriously sultry cruiser.
Even with the engine off, the LC 500 looked like a rowdy Saturday night in 2021, a polished, low-slung rumbler that could probably contain Mick and Keith – for awhile.
I was pretty stunned – and glad it packed an 800-watt Mark Levinson stereo.
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As you may know, the LC shares a stiff new platform with the large, rear-wheel-drive LS sedan, but gets one of the automaker’s rare 5-liter V-8s beneath its shapely hood.
It doesn’t look or sound like any of Lexi’s previous slow-selling coupes.
Low, wide and radiant, the LC actually had more curves and subtle definition than harsh lines – a possible Lexus first.
Sure, it wears one of Lexi’s tiresome oversized spindle grilles – it will hold six burgers and a dozen dogs, I’m told -- but even that seemed minimized by a long, chiseled hood that curved gracefully down to the grille.
Ultra-contemporary headlamps added more spice to the modern mix up front, which featured extremely short overhangs and muscular front fenders.
Though the sides of the LC were smooth and curved, a large diagonal vent of sorts in front of the flared rear wheels gave them some slashing, linear contrast.
Meanwhile, a slick, chopped-down top with a carbon-fiber insert slid into a short trunk and thick – albeit stylized – rear end saved by wild wrap-around taillamps.
Lexus didn’t pull any punches with the rolling stock, either – nor should it, considering the car’s $103,000 window-sticker.
Meaty 245/40 tires up front and 275/35s in back were stretched over 21-inch multi-spoke wheels.
The ambitious 168-mph LC might need them. (Incidentally, it doesn’t stand tall alone at whispering Lexus. The GS-F and RC-F, while nowhere near as special-looking as the LC, are pretty stormy performers, too.)
All share a stout 5-liter V-8 that avoids turbos and superchargers in favor of pure normally aspirated power – and consequently bristle with a kind of Detroit big-block personality.
Although not as fast or powerful as its German turbocharged competitors, the LC offers crisper throttle response and the instant, satisfying rush of 471 horsepower.
Surprisingly loud, the 5-liter V-8 pulls hard with a throaty snarl to 6,000 rpm, sprinting to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver, and snapping off tight shifts with a well-sorted 10-speed automatic.
Of course, it also squeezes out a truck-like 16 miles per gallon in town and a somewhat better 26 mpg on the highway.
Just think of it as a refined grand tourer with the soul of a muscle car.
Despite its porky 4,300 pounds of weight, the LC turned into semi-fast corners pretty aggressively, keeping its body flat and under control.
While the steering felt a bit murky, it was quick and nicely weighted with occasional reassuring twitches from the road.
More important probably to LC buyers, the big coupe rode with firm sophistication, soaking up bumps with a polite, well-controlled thunk rather than an unseemly bounce.
Actually, they might not even notice. Clearly, a good portion of my car’s six-figure window-sticker got spent on its impressive black interior.
A relatively shallow, flat dashboard in pliable plastic, for example, topped an elegantly curved, recessed mid-dash dominated by a 10.25-inch display screen.
Clean and artistically spare, the mid-dash area was shaded some by the overhang of the main dash, making it easier to see – and be distracted by -- the giant display screen.
Somewhere in there also were a bunch of safety features such as “dynamic radar” cruise control and lane-departure alert.
Naturally, considering its luxury credentials, the LC had a typically terrible electric shifter that never once went smoothly and directly from park to reverse.
So, how is that a step up?
Of more interest to me, frankly, were the car’s great door-panels with their sweeping, etched centers and simple silver door handles that looked like Swedish sculpture.
The black leather seats also were highly inviting with their nicely sculpted bolsters and perforated centers.
Ignore the tiny back “seat,” which was useful in my bachelor world only as a well-upholstered package-shelf.
Like all luxury vehicles, the LC hauled a lot of heavy options, including the 21-inch forged wheels ($2,650); the glass-cracking Mark Levinson stereo ($1,220); and the sports package with sport seats and carbon-fiber roof ($2,960).
Set all those big numbers aside for a moment, though. With its proportions, super-stylish presence and smile-inducing performance, the LC proves – finally – that Lexus can build more than reserved, elegantly assembled sedans.
Let’s hope the coupe’s fresh momentum keeps pushing all new Lexis.
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2018 Lexus LC 500
- What I liked most: For once, on a Lexus, just about everything.
- What I would change: I’d toss the awful electric shifter and replace it with a slick, manually actuated unit like the one on the “pedestrian” Toyota Camry.
- MSRP: Base price, $92,000; as equipped, $102,890.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 16 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway and 19 mpg overall with filler on the left.
- Official color: Infrared.
- Odometer reading when tested: 7,308 miles.
- Weight: Approximately 4,300 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 187.4 inches long/75.6 inches wide/53 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 21.7 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- Spare tire: Run-flat tires with tire-pressure monitor.
- 2018 Lexus LC 500 in a few words: A major style and personality achievement for white-glove, nuts-and-bolts Lexus.
- Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile basic warranty and six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Aichi, Japan.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.lexus.com
- E-mail me at email@example.com