Lexus LC Coupe Review
Lexus made its name building very capable, well-built luxury saloons and SUVs, usually powered by some kind of hybrid powertrain. But every now and then, this Japanese symbol of well-heeled sensible-ness likes to let its hair down. But it turns out the bonkers LFA hypercar and bruising RC F coupe were just a prelude to this: the LC Coupe.
A bona-fide luxury grand tourer with some of the most beautiful bodywork on the road, the LC is here to give the BMW 8 Series a chopstick in the eye. Japan’s answer to the European coupes is far from perfect, but stunning looks and a fabulous V8 engine go a long way to making up for those. It seems destined to be a left-field choice in this market, but it still deserves its place at the top table.
Select's rating score* - 3.8 / 5
You’ll want more than just a glance at the LC. This is one of the best-looking new cars around, even with that oversized grille Lexus seems to love so much. The lines are fantastic, but they aren’t the only thing that’s great about this big coupe.
Available with a V6 hybrid powertrain and a distinctly un-hybrid V8, the LC has power in abundance. But it isn’t an out-and-out sports car. It’s bigger and softer than a Porsche 911, and it exists solely to cross continents in comfort and style. It doesn’t want to be driven at more than about 80% of its abilities.
Keep it within that range and you’ll love it. The beautifully built cabin has plenty of plush leather and just the right amount of technology, which means it feels more like a business jet than a PlayStation. The ride is arguably a little too firm, but if you unleash that fabulous V8 and point the long bonnet at the horizon, such criticisms suddenly look like nit-picking.
Key to the LC’s appeal will be the looks and the hybrid powertrain, both of which mark the Lexus out from its rivals. There are very few cars this side of the £100,000 mark that look this good, and that 3.5-litre V6 hybrid powertrain doesn’t just offer economy and refinement – it’s also a bit of a lunatic.
But for us, it’s the LC’s cabin that makes it so good at what it does. You can sit in those beautifully sculpted seats for hours without any issue, and you’re surrounded by equally gorgeous craftsmanship. The door handles are particularly stunning, and they feel fantastically engineered.
Sure, there are issues with the LC’s on-board technology, but the design is exquisite and the addition of the chunky analogue clock only adds to the impression of class. And somehow, despite the low roof and the shallow windows, the designers have managed to make the front seats feel spacious. It’s light and airy in there, particularly with the glass roof.
The LC’s character is largely dependent on which engine you choose. Whether you opt for the high-tech hybrid ‘500h’ V6 or the deliciously old-school ‘500’ V8, you get plenty of power, but the delivery is very different.
Choose the 500h hybrid and you get a Jekyll-and-Hyde kind of experience. The engine is incredibly smooth and it spends a surprising amount of its time in eco-friendly electric mode, which makes it feel very serene and approachable. But if you poke the bear, you might be in for a very rude awakening.
Suddenly, the V6 engine will howl, the ultra-complex 10-speed automatic gearbox will kick down and the combination of petrol and electrons will deliver 359hp instantly. One minute you’re simply wafting along, the next you’re being pulverised by a fleet of angry Japanese horses. It’s unexpectedly brutal. More so than the five-second 0-62mph time suggests.
Opt for the 500 V8 and things are somewhat different. The 5.0-litre engine is straight from the American old school, so it feels effortless and luxurious at all times. Again, if you stamp on the accelerator, the deep woofle of the engine becomes a vicious snarl and the world becomes a little more blurry, but the delivery is much smoother than in the hybrid. It’s even faster off the line, though, with 464hp taking you to 62mph in 4.7 seconds.
The performance figures sound great, but the LC doesn’t really reward those who want to rag it. Instead, this is a great long-distance, high-speed cruiser, perfectly suited to the flowing bends of coast roads and the vast expanses of German motorway.
Of course, you can drive it like a lunatic. The steering is well weighted and the balance is impressive, but the car will always feel heavier and less agile than proper sports cars like the Porsche 911. Alongside the likes of the BMW 8 Series and Bentley Continental GT V8, it seems much more at home.
The only problem is the BMW and the Bentley are both more comfortable. The Lexus rides well in its own right, but the European alternatives are incredibly smooth, which makes them more pleasant around town and on uneven surfaces. We’re talking about small margins, but they’re still tangible differences.
Where the LC roars ahead of its rivals is on the economy front. That 500h hybrid powertrain will return about 35mpg on the official economy test, and you’ll get well over 30mpg in the real world. Okay, it isn’t as impressive as the BMW 840d diesel, but diesel isn’t as popular as it once was, and the Lexus sounds better. It’s also more refined around town.
If you go for the V8, your running costs will be high. This is an old-school engine with no turbocharger to keep economy down. It just pours petrol and air in, then rewards you with noise and power. Simple. And thirsty. Realistically, you’re looking at around 25mpg. But then nobody leases a big GT car to save money; this is all about luxuriating in speed, style and opulence.
Happily, the LC boasts all those things in abundance. The cabin is as crisp and as cool as the exterior, with smooth lines, high-quality materials and the sort of build quality we’ve come to expect from Lexus. Everything fits together perfectly, and every switch or handle feels wonderfully engineered.
So it’s all good on the quality and design fronts, but the LC has a few issues when it comes to technology. The semi-digital instrument cluster is not the problem. That particular item does exactly what it should and it looks good, but the same can’t be said for the central infotainment screen.
Instead of fitting a touchscreen like you might find in a Porsche or a Bentley, Lexus has equipped the LC with a laptop-style touchpad controller with which to manipulate the on-board gadgets. At best, the system is a bit clunky – at worst it’s almost impossible to use. The satellite navigation is fiddly, the radio is impenetrable and the climate control system menus seem to have a mind of their own. Certainly, the inputs you provide don’t seem to have much impact on what happens on the screen.
Fortunately, the fitment of the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration systems gives you some slightly more logical screens to navigate. But because the system still only heeds instructions from the touchpad, using the systems is less intuitive than it should be. Particularly when you’re on the move.
If you want a practical Lexus, the LC probably isn’t for you. Yes, it does have genuine rear seats with seatbelts and everything, but they aren’t much use. Not only will legroom be an issue if those in the front are over around 5ft6in, but the tight roofline will prevent anybody sizeable occupying the rear. Kids might get away with it, but the rear seats are effectively just a glorified parcel shelf. Not that that’s a complaint. You can fit plenty of luggage or shopping back there to supplement the boot, and the situation is much the same in any of the LC’s rivals.
Speaking of the boot, the LC’s luggage bay is cramped, but not pathetic. The V8 comes with around 200 litres of space, while the hybrid cuts that to 172 litres. But that’s still more than you get in a Toyota Aygo hatchback, so it isn’t completely useless. Add in the space on the back seats and you can easily carry enough luggage for a couple to have a weekend away.
The LC is built in relatively small volumes, and Euro NCAP hasn’t yet tested the big coupe in its laboratory. However, the indications suggest the LC would sail through with flying colours. Lexus generally produces incredibly safe vehicles, so much so that every new Lexus tested by Euro NCAP since 2011 has received five stars. That’s a pretty impressive record.
To add to the LC’s credentials, Lexus has fitted a host of safety gadgets designed to prevent accidents happening in the first place. Lane-keeping assistance is standard, along with adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance to the car in front. The car also comes with blind-spot monitoring and two Isofix child seat mounts, not to mention the usual safety gubbins. ABS, traction control and vehicle stability control are all standard, along with the conventional array of airbags.
Customers essentially get a choice of three different trims, with each adding a little more equipment and style. The ‘basic’ car comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, a 10.3-inch navigation system and a digital instrument cluster, as well as a glass roof, a reversing camera and smooth leather upholstery.
Moving up the range to the Sport Pack gets you larger 21-inch alloy wheels, sports seats with part-Alcantara upholstery and a carbon-fibre roof. You also get eight-way electrically adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation.
Finally, the Sport+ Pack gets you all the goodies of the Sport Pack, but it adds performance-orientated features including a Torsen limited-slip differential and rear-wheel steering. Those features are designed to improve the handling and power delivery of the car, making it more responsive on the road.
The options list is quite long, and it gives customers the chance to further enhance their car’s specification. The head-up display is well worth the money, as is the 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, which provides crystal clear audio.
You also get to choose from a glorious selection of paint colours, including the classy Deep Blue, the more outlandish Terrane Khaki and the really out-there Blazing Carnelian. The lustrous Sonic Red and incredibly bright Naples Yellow are hardly for shrinking violets, either. If none of those take your fancy, try the more subdued range of whites, blacks and greys.
The LC’s biggest rivals come from Europe, where the BMW 8 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe reign supreme. Both are slightly more comfortable than the Lexus, but neither is quite as good to look at. The BMW is the driver’s choice, though, with fantastic steering, incredible balance and surprising agility.
But if sportiness is what you’re after, what exactly was wrong with the Porsche 911, which is one of the best driver’s cars of all time? Or, indeed, the Jaguar F-Type, which is another stunning coupe that comes with a fire-spitting V8 engine. The Aston Martin Vantage is well worth a look, too.
If you value luxury and style above all else, meanwhile, you could push the boat out and have the beautiful Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid or the even more luxurious Bentley Continental. And if you just want loud engines and power, head outside Europe and look at the Ford Mustang or the Nissan GT-R, although both those cars feel more plasticky and cheaper than the Lexus. That said, the GT-R is an absolutely astounding car to drive, with ungodly amounts of grip and breathtaking performance. The Mustang is a little more agricultural to drive, but it shares the LC 500’s relaxed, American attitude.
The LC is not the best car in its class – that accolade falls to the BMW 8 Series – but it is one of the most beautiful. And it has more soul than the BMW. It’s different, it turns heads and it makes you feel slightly more special when you’re behind the wheel. And when you’re spending this much money, that’s by far the most important thing a car can do.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Lexus LC Coupe.
**Correct as of 25/08/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £9,315.61 - Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.