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2019 Lexus LC 500 - The Howling Grand Tourer - Review by Rob Eckaus - It's E15 Approved

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2019 Lexus LC 500

It was fun as hell!

By Rob Eckaus
San Francisco Bureau

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2019 Lexus LC 500
I’m not sure what category the Lexus LC 500 falls under, but all I know is that I liked driving it, a lot. Running through the gears and hearing the exhaust, which I did often, it reminded me of a Mustang GT350. Thinking back when I tracked the Lexus LC 500 a couple years ago at Laguna Seca, and hearing that glorious sound, the low driving position, I realized it also brought back memories of the Audi R8 V-8. This one is $105,345 alternative to the now departed mid-engine exotic with roughly the same performance capability.

All I know is, whether it’s a muscle car, an exotic or simply a Grand Tourer, it was fun as hell and is already missed. It really impressed on the track among the journalists several years ago. Lexus lists the weight at 4280lbs, but turning or braking, one would guess far less. The excellent driving position and low center of gravity works wonders for driving feel. It felt neutral and confidence inspiring. But that exhaust sound! It just stays with you for days, even weeks after.

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2019 Lexus LC 500
Looking at my notes, there are multiple entries of how good it sounds. The revs have to build in the 5.0 liter, 471 horsepower, naturally aspirated V-8 to feel the power, but they rise to a guttural, exotic scream. Hold 4000rpm or higher and it yowls down the road. Surely its intentional that the volume control down button is perfectly placed for left thumb activation while downshifting the paddle. Upshifts occur in .12 of a second. Tap your stopwatch start/stop as quick as you can, it will be about .12 of a second. I did .11 to .13 on my iPhone. The transmission response with the adaptive learning makes for a very satisfying driving experience.

Tire spin isn’t felt like you’re used to, with shaking, vibration and such. No, this is so refined its more of a slight detection of loss of adhesion, a faint feeling of incompatible throttle position, engine and exhaust sound not matching the rate of acceleration.

Besides all that aural excellence and fun acceleration, it’s a great cruiser. It’s very quiet at high speed and a mixed driving road trip of about 240 miles saw 26mpg. When really getting on the throttle, I saw 19mpg indicated. But during the commute, the limitation of adaptive cruise control comes into play. Granted the shortest allowed following distance is selected, but these systems don’t “see” brake lights nor do the “see” the beginning of a car merging into your lane. Then the brake application is abrupt as opposed to a human driver that has already lifted off the throttle and possibly gently applied the brakes. The lane keeping system wandered too much, it was really more of an assist as opposed to an autonomous mode.

A bad pothole will be noisy and harsh, but the suspension otherwise is compliant, bumps felt and heard, but the compromise of a sports car doesn’t come to mind. What is noticed is the sharp handling aided by the rear wheel steering and feel of the variable ratio steering. Lexus also says the double-joint multi-link rear suspension is unique. And the die-cast aluminum shock towers are also a Lexus first.

Other development and technology incorporated includes LED projector beam headlights that are among the thinnest in production. The interior features a 915 watt Mark Levinson sound system which wasn’t utilized much because the engine and exhaust had a mega-watt soundtrack. Besides Apple CarPlay, Lexus offers an Amazon Alexa app, with the abilities such as audiobooks, Amazon Music, making lists, and smart-home capability along with Navigation sync.

The Lexus Enform app offers more connectivity with smart watch, smartphone, etc. allowing for remote start and other abilities. The touchpad is widely criticized, and it did require some careful manipulation at times, but it wasn’t a show stopper. The sliding gauge display changes color depending upon the drive mode selected, included a g-force meter and more.

Other complaints are very minor. The sun visors are too small, the interior needs one more cupholder, the center console hinge action seems less-than-Lexus level. There was some driveline shock when clumsily messing with the transmission and heavy throttle application but didn’t cause any issues.

The styling is captivating, perhaps the color and vehicle width distracted from or matched the polarizing Lexus grill. The LC 500 has lots of shapes and features. Curvy hips, the low, optional carbon fiber roofline, the touches of chrome and the unique A-pillar to hoodline crease, along with the dripping metal taillight trim at the rear corners made for a compelling photographic subject. When the taillights are illuminated, they have a cool glow with 80 LEDs on each side that Lexus modeled after the afterburner of a jet. Flush door handles that pop out was another nice touch.

It was somewhat popular at the excellent Folsom Cars and Coffee, as rarely seen cars usually are. Comments varied from “Too much going on visually.” Which it does have a lot, but that contributes to its uniqueness. Others pointed out the unique body lines, especially the A-pillar crease. Another mentioned this is one car where the controversial grill works. Other comments during the week I drove it included:

    “Sounds really good!” (From a fellow driver in the evening commute while I rowed the gears.)

    “Haven’t seen one on the road before.”

    “Wow it’s a Lexus.”

    “I really like it. Looks futuristic.”

It reminds me of a concept car or a modern interpretation of custom coachwork from “back in the day”. Perhaps the Jaguar F-Type is a competitor but the Lexus has a back seat but it isn’t really for passengers, more like snack bags, backpack and hats for the road trip. Also it doesn’t appear as visually low and wide as the Lexus, yet the Lexus is slightly taller.

Between the styling, sound, performance and great driving position, it’s one of those cars that makes you want to drive it, take pictures, absorb and meld with its essence, and make it part of you. I’d say whatever category it falls under, no matter what the track numbers are, that’s really what counts.