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When Lexus rolled out the LC 500, I was astounded to see it was mostly unchanged from the futuristic concept car. With its massive grille, neatly curved rear and massive wheels, it truly looked like the company had managed to turn an ambitious design exercise into a street-legal production car costing around $100,000.
I borrowed one for a weekend to see if it delivered on the promises the dramatic bodywork made, and it didn't disappoint.
As I come around the corner in an old industrial sector of Albany, I'm greeted by a long, empty stretch of road with gentle curves and room to let the LC 500 stretch. A few clicks of the left paddle, and the LC 500's 10-speed automatic swaps cogs and drops me into second gear.
A roar from the engine signals that it's ready to go, and with a dab on the throttle the LC 500 fires itself downrange .Revs climb steadily, with the 5.0-liter, naturally-aspirated V8 singing louder and louder until snap, the 10-speed grabs another gear and the fun starts over again.
In the driver's seat, I'm grinning like an idiot. This thing is not, by any stretch, the fastest vehicle on the road. It's not even the fastest car available at its $105,614 price point. But few cars on sale can match it for drama, as the lack of turbochargers means that the LC 500 basically begs you to rev it to the limiter in every gear. If you do, you'll be rewarded with a fantastic soundtrack and deft handling.
It may weigh 4,280 pounds, but it'll trick you into thinking it's a smaller, lighter car. Part of that is the low center of gravity, part of it is genuinely great chassis tuning, and part of it is due to the LC 500's four-wheel steering system that's included in the performance package.
But just as importantly for a super-coupe, the LC 500 is a comfortable and quiet long-haul cruiser. The fantastic exterior design may get all of the attention, but it seems like Lexus spent just as much time on the luscious cabin. It's trimmed in a combination of soft leathers, aluminum and Alcantara that's more than befitting of a six-figure grand tourer.
Plus, neat details like floating door handles and a center gauge that physically move help make the LC 500 feel truly special. As per usual with Lexus, the Mark Levinson audio system on offer is fantastic, offering clarity and high-volume fidelity that most premium audio systems can't approach.
And while $105,614 is a lot of money, it's hard to see the LC 500 as anything but a good value. It's extraordinarily comfortable for long trips, extremely exciting for back-road blasts and comes with head-turning looks that you usually only get with supercars.
Lexus says the LC 500 has four seats. You'd be forgiven for thinking that you could put four adults in it, but you can't. It's not quite as tight as some so-called four seaters, but it's still not a place you want to stick people for long. The back is more fitting as a secondary cargo area, as the 5.4 cubic-foot trunk doesn't really get the job done.
The infotainment system is also woefully inept. This is a common complaint for every Lexus I've driven, but there was a glimmer of hope that the brilliant LC 500 would receive an improved interface to make it less irritating. Nope, it's still using a terrible trackpad-based system.
I mostly left the system on "Bluetooth audio" and tried not to fiddle too much with the rest, but Lexus has moved key functions like controls for your heated and ventilated seats into sub-menus on the display. You can set those to auto and mostly forget about them, though.
Finally, it's worth noting that the LC 500 truly can't match its rivals when it comes to overall speed. While it's ridiculous to describe 471 horsepower as anything but a lot, we live in a time where you can get 621 horsepower in a Mercedes coupe. The lack of turbochargers means that the Lexus offers just 398 pound-feet of torque, taking 4.4 seconds to reach 60. Far from slow, but Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW will all sell you quicker coupes if you're willing to drop more cash.
The Lexus LC 500 starts at $93,025 with destination charges. There's also a hybrid model with a V6, but we haven't had the chance to test that one. "Infrared" paint is $595, but every other color is a no-cost option.
The performance package is $5,960, but skipping it allows you to get a glass roof that helps make the LC 500 an even more pleasant grand tourer. That "sport package with glass roof" costs $1,400, but requires the $1,000 convenience package, the $2,650 21-inch wheels and the $390 limited-slip differential, all of which you'd want anyway.
$1,220 buys you the excellent Mark Levinson premium audio system, while $900 gets you a head-up display. That brings our total as-configured price to a cool $100,585.
Look, it's hard to call anything with a six-figure price tag a "value option." But nothing else for $100,000 offers so much excitement, comfort and style in one neat package.
More than that, though, the naturally-aspirated performance motor is a dying breed. With emissions regulations always getting stricter, it's just hard to make a non-turbocharged mill with a lot of power. These high-revving, screaming V8s are on their way out.
Which is why the LC 500 is so lovable. It looks like it was sent from the future, but it still has the charms of the past. It's quick, it handles sharply, looks great and does all of this with a tremendous amount of character. It's not the fastest or the most expensive super coupe, but it's definitely my favorite.
Driving Experience: 5
Price as tested: $105,614