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Driven: 2023 Lexus LC500 – V8 Star Power

The Lexus LC500 sounds good. Like, rev-it-in-the-parking-garage-every-time good. So good, you’ll find yourself defending nearly any critique leveled at it. Really, the LC500 makes you ask yourself just what you’re willing to do without for that motor. No manual? You’ll be telling yourself 471 horsepower is too much for a stick shift anyway. Small trunk? Well, that lovely-sounding exhaust must be taking up room. That’s ok. Vroom vroom.
Lexus LC500 46 photos
Photo: Chase Bierenkoven/autoevolution
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This happens from time to time. I’ll drive something solely defined by a single characteristic. The GR Corolla was almost wholly defined by its crazy three-cylinder engine. The Dodge Challenger, it’s V8, the Mazda Miata its back-to-basics experience. The LC is certainly one of those cars, and whether or not it’s for you is entirely dependent on whether you like your cars to be so singular in their ways.

The competition is also significantly more multi-faceted. The BMW M850i has got bigger back seats, a much bigger trunk, sensible all-wheel drive, and an infotainment system that, frankly, makes the Lexus’ look like the back room of a Radio Shack. But, the “W” in BMW stands for weight, and the $103,000 850 is carrying about 300 pounds more. But its V8 is nowhere near as charming, or as intoxicating, as the LC 500’s. And there we go, justifying the LC because of its engine.

Design Evaluation

Of course, there’s a few caveats to this way of thinking. The design, for example, is a real stand-out. In fact, the LC is one of the prettiest cars ever penned. It only gets better when you see it in three dimensions. The car looks like it’s worth all $95,600 (MSRP) and then some. Front to back, there isn’t a bad angle on this car.

The Lexus grille has gotten some flak over the years, but it is beautifully integrated here, blending with the lights and hood in a way that makes other big-faced cars jealous (again, turning to BMW). The hood sweeps down so low you wonder how they fit the engine there, and the mirrors and greenhouse recall the LFA.

Lexus LC500
Photo: Chase Bierenkoven/autoevolution
Hell, much of this car’s general vibe makes me think of the LFA - for better and worse. View the LC in profile, and it’s obvious there is a direct relationship between this car’s styling language and the LFA’s.

The decklid is high at the rear, and combined with the low hood, it gives the car a raked appearance, accented in places by flashes of brightwork. Plus, the lights look like infinity mirrors, which is super cool in a very childish and whimsical way. I love it. I want all cars to look this good.

Interior Assessment

The LC500’s interior is more of a mixed bag.

Let’s start with the highs. First: Lexus hasn’t moved climate controls behind a screen. Second, the LC500’s infotainment is now updated (though not on the car pictured) to include touch-screen capability with phone projection, at last remedying the car’s Achilles’ Heel.

Finally, the Mark-Levinson sound system is one of the best of any car at any price point, second only to the Naim system I’ve heard in the Bentley Bentayga EWB. The quality is pretty up there too, with any Toyota switchgear well-hidden. What you do touch is leather or Alcantara, and the good stuff at that. In short, much of the interior is what Lexus does best: quality but at a reasonable price point.

Now the bad. I heard opinions that the center tunnel is too high, a complaint I’ve heard before, but not one I have myself, so it merits a quick mention. The LC doesn’t have very many places to put things inside, with a singular cup holder that blocks the climate controls the only real storage aside from a small glove box.

The drive selector should honestly just be a button to make some room at this point, and the center console storage is pretty weak as well. I also wish Lexus offered more color and patterning options- for such a beautiful interior, the LC isn’t very colorful inside.

Lexus LC500
Photo: Chase Bierenkoven/autoevolution

Driving Take

Remember when I said, “this car’s general vibe makes me think of the LFA- for better and worse”? The transmission falls into the latter category, but only when held to its competitors. The M850i’s is much better, and if you step up to a 911, you’d best just forget about it. But I have a feeling that the LFA would be viewed in a different light if it's automatic performed as well as this one does.

It won’t deny you a shift, and honestly, the majority of people won’t notice nor care that the shifts aren’t as quick as the BMW’s. Critically, it doesn’t prevent you from enjoying this car’s greatest aspect: that V8.

V8s almost always sound cool, but the LC stands apart because it doesn’t dilute the experience with forced induction. Rather than being gut-punched by a wave of turbo torque, the 4.7-liter unit builds power in an extremely linear fashion, and the engineers at Lexus clearly cared deeply about how the car sounds both inside and out.

The traditional V8 rumble quickly fades to a metallic rasp as the RPMs climb, and shifts up and down the ratios are punctuated by cracks that don’t feel faked- like so many other performance cars tend to do.

Really, this aural experience is why you’re here, as I’ve said, and the chassis almost seems engineered to fade into the background. The LC500 is no sports car, and it shows. There’s a little body roll, and even in the most sporty settings, the car feels soft. It fits with the GT nature of the car but doesn’t hold you back.

Do make sure to opt for the limited-slip differential if you order one, though, as it does feel like the traction could be less than desirable without one.

The point remains: the reason you buy this car instead of an M850i or spend quite a lot more on a 911 is because of the engine- something you can’t find in any competitor of the LC500’s, and something well worth experiencing.

Lexus LC500
Photo: Chase Bierenkoven/autoevolution

Everyday Living

It’s pretty obvious that fuel economy aside, you could use an LC500 as a car and be quite happy with it. Yes, the trunk is paltry compared to the BMW’s, which is three times larger (5 cu.ft to 15 cu.ft), but it’s still large enough for a weekend away or some shopping. The ride around town is as nice as any $100,000-ish car I’ve driven, too.

However, the fact that the back seats are essentially useless to anyone with legs is a drag, and some more storage options inside could help out on the day-to-day.

There’s another small issue: parking. The LC comes with all manner of cameras and sensors, but thanks to that gorgeous roofline and silhouette, the visibility out the sides isn’t great, which makes parking a little stressful. Still, there isn’t much here that would stop me from just driving an LC500 to run my errands. There’s even a “Snow” setting for the traction control.

Lexus LC500
Photo: Chase Bierenkoven/autoevolution

Test Drive Roundup

As it turns out, you really don’t have to make a load of concessions to enjoy the Lexus LC500’s incredible engine. The car is gorgeous, relatively easy to live with, and holds up well at speed. It doesn’t feel so overpowered that you can’t enjoy the engine, and the automatic transmission isn’t even that bad.

It’s hard to argue with a special engine, and when a car is able to back that up with stellar looks and a decent chassis, it’s even harder to say no.

Pros

  • V8
  • V8 noise
  • When that gets boring, listen to the sound system
  • A design for the ages
Cons
  • Not as usable as competitors
  • Tight cabin
  • “Meh” handling and chassis
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About the author: Chase Bierenkoven
Chase Bierenkoven profile photo

Chase's first word was "truck," so it's no wonder he's been getting paid to write about cars for several years now. In his free time, Chase enjoys Colorado's great outdoors in a broken German sports car of some variety.
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