2021 Lexus LC 500 Coupe Review: Exquisite Express

Thank you Lexus for sticking to the naturally aspirated V8.

In the time of horsepower wars, making things go really fast around the Nurburgring and GT track specials, one automaker stands apart from the crowd. While automakers like BMW and Mercedes are churning out GT cars with smaller engines and bigger turbos Lexus adamantly sticks to a large capacity naturally aspirated V8.

The Lexus LC 500 is a unique car. While everyone else is busy appeasing the god of speed, the LC looks to offer the best driving experience imaginable. Yes, it is far from a new car and some of its aspects are, let’s just say less than desirable. But it still looks like it just drove off a motor show floor and like nothing else on the road or even in Lexus’ own lineup. Another aspect that sets it apart is that it’s not about scalpel-like handling or hot laps around a racetrack. It’s about getting from A to B via the longest route possible.

What’s New?

The powertrain carries over as is but Lexus has made minor adjustments. For 2021, the LC 500 gets 22 lb (10 kg) lighter thanks to aluminum lower links, stabilizers, and high-strength material used for the coil springs. It also features a better rebound rate and stiffer rear stabilizers for better corner stability. Lexus has also added Active Cornering Assist that brakes the inner wheels for a sharper turning radius. The transmission too has been retuned for better shift times and efficiency.

As for the more visible changes, three new exterior paint colors are now available. Together, Flare Yellow, Liquid Platinum, and Nori Green Pearl–the one we have here–bring the total colors available to ten. A set of new 20-inch alloys are also available and lastly, Android Auto will finally be available along with Apple CarPlay.

Sculpture on wheels

At the risk of being repetitive, it looks like it just came off a motor show floor where it was shown off as a concept. Despite its ornate grille and generous helpings of chrome, it looks as elegant as Charlize Theron in a ballroom gown. Those rear haunches coupled with a clean design and a swept-back look make us go weak in the knees.

The triangular headlamps, the way the roofline melts into the shapely tail is a work of art. There isn’t a single angle that the LC 500 doesn’t look gorgeous from. When you’re not driving it, you can just sit on your porch and look at it as your coffee sits forgotten.

What’s the inside story?

In a word, exquisite. Officially called the Toasted Caramel, the tan brown cabin is finished in the finest leather and Alcantara. The hood of the instrument panel is finished in the softest suede. And there are tasteful touches of brushed aluminum all around. It feels bespoke, even the door handles are unique to the LC.

Strangely though there is no sign of wood open pore for or otherwise anywhere which is a bit, unlike Lexus. But you do get carbon fiber on the door sills and a carbon-fiber roof but no wood. The seats are finished in the softest leather and are possibly the best set of seats I have ever parked myself in.

There are no extendable squabs or umpteem different settings for side bolstering or headrest here. The reason is simple, you don’t need them. Admittedly, it takes about 30 minutes to get used to their snugness but you can spend the entire day in them and head for a game of tennis straightaway.

Leather and Alcantara adorn the rear seats too which are as useful as a leg-less table, for adults anyway. Children can use the rear seats but they need to be younger than four. Our four-year-old had me almost against the steering every time he was in the back (I exaggerate but you get the idea). Also, getting a child seat back there is another challenge, ironically, fastening it isn’t.

The trunk space too at 5.4 cu-ft (152 liters) is tiny but enough if you can carry everything in two medium-sized duffle bags. Grocery shopping for a month, however, is not a good idea.

The Bane

Now, while the cabin is exquisite and luxurious with just the right amount of sporty touches, the 10.2-inch infotainment system is by far the most infuriating piece of tech I have come across in a car. Mercifully, Lexus now also offers Android Auto along with Apple CarPlay as standard on the LC. But they are optimized for touchscreen interfaces so operating via the trackpad gets frustrating. But it’s not the phone projection nor the trackpad operated seat climate that pushes your buttons

The most infuriating thing by far is that the infotainment has a second protective screen before it that catches all the sun glare rendering the screen pretty much unreadable. So you can barely see the map or the reverse camera feed, which makes reversing into tight spots quite perilous.

Having said that, ironically, as infuriating as the infotainment system is, it’s hard to hold it against the LC because the rest of the car is just so good.

Organic Monster

Under the bonnet resides a 5.0-liter V8 engine making 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. For a 5.0-liter V8, those numbers are admittedly relatively conservative. But as we mentioned at the start, the LC isn’t about horsepower measuring contest. It is about pure driving pleasure with minimal fuss and that is something the engine manages wonderfully.

It is quiet and refined. Even though it gets loud at higher revs, it never feels angry, only beautifully sonorous. But don’t get me wrong. It’s not like the LC is lethargic or easygoing. Each tap of the throttle is met with an almost instantaneous response. It is absolutely amazing in the way the engine responds. Since there are no turbos, there is no lag and the power delivery is linear and predictable. Plus, that beautiful induction noise makes the experience even more enjoyable. I’ll go as far as to say this is the best sounding V8 on the planet. And one of the critical reasons is that the sound is one hundred percent organic. The adage “they don’t make them like this anymore” holds true here.

While everyone migrates towards forced induction, Toyota has our utmost respect for sticking to the big au naturel V8. 

SEE ALSO: 2021 Lexus LC Convertible Review: A Future Classic

The 10-speed automatic transmission suits the engine perfectly. Left to its own devices, you’ll be hard-pressed to notice it shuffling through the gear. Take manual control, however, and you tick it off a bit. In normal mode, if you shift around 3,000 rpm, there is a prominent jerk from first to second and second to third. That’s probably the gearbox complaining to you for stealing its job.

Start wringing it out however and it all falls into place. Shifting at redline is possibly one of the most satisfying things you’ll do from behind a steering wheel. The shifts are quick–not for an automatic but quick overall–and the overrun from the exhaust is organic and sharp. You will smile every single time. At slow speeds, let it do its own thing.

Comfortably capable

Driving the LC 500, in a word, is satisfying. While other performance cars need to be whipped and prodded to be enjoyed, driving the LC is gratifying regardless of where and how you drive it. It is as enjoyable as a daily ride as it is roaring down a B-road. There are distinct differences between the driving modes with Sport+ being the sharpest. But even at its most extreme setting, the LC never ceases to feel friendly.

The ride quality is impeccable be it in the city or out on the highway. It rides almost like an LS. No matter what the road throws at the LC it soaks it up like a champion regardless of the mode you’re in. You would expect it to stiffen up like a rock in Sport+ but the increase in sharpness of the throttle and steering doesn’t transfer to the suspension. Lexus wants you to remember that this is a grand tourer, not a track tool and we are thankful for it.

The suspension is set up impeccably for GT driving and the optional four-wheel steering makes the LC predictable and enjoyable in the corners. But do not expect to take the innermost line on clover leaves. Sure it is not a corner carver but go for an on-rails driving style and you will not be disappointed. The braking too is progressive and predictable. While you can slide this RWD art on wheels, it’s best enjoyed soaking up the scenery while your tunes play on the impeccable Mark Levinson sound system with the V8 rumble as the background score.

Verdict: 2021 Lexus LC 500 Coupe

The LC 500 is the absolute worst at top trumps. It’s neither the fastest nor the most powerful, it’s not even the most expensive. It starts from $94,125 ($105,645 CAD) and the one we have here with the Alcantara liner, seats, rear LSD, rear-wheel steering, and the 21-inch wheels tips the pricing scales at $103,695 ($119,145 CAD) thanks to the Dynamic Handling package which adds $9,570 ($13,500 CAD), called the performance package in Canada. So, for bragging rights, the LC isn’t the right car either. Plus, while you can slide it around a corner given its sporty bits, it’s not exactly a track tool either.

But it is beautiful. It is also incredibly rare and will hold its value much better than its German rivals and might even be a collector’s car in the future. Most importantly, however, it is the most comfortable way to drive cross-country in an envelope of opulence and a naturally aspirated V8 rumble.

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