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Lexus LC500: Performance Car of the Year 2018 9th Place

By Tim Robson | Photos: Ellen Dewar & Nathan Jacobs, 20 Feb 2018 Performance COTY

More style than substance – but what style!

Lexus LC500 Performance Car of the Year 2018 9th review

When you’ve got a 5.0-litre V8, rear-wheel drive and more attitude than Mariah Carey in an airport queue, you’d naturally equate that to something with the chutzpah to back it up, right? Well…

As far as looks go, the Lexus LC500 has got it shot to bits. People are – quite literally – falling over to get a better look at this escapee from a designer’s online fantasy league death match. But – and it’s a big but – the 500’s 351kW and 540Nm is irrevocably blunted by an almost two-tonne curb weight.

It’s an uphill battle. The Lexus is last but one to both 0-100km/h and 400m, and equal last between 80-120km/h too – not to mention its relatively tardy 1:38.6 lap time. The weird thing is that it simply doesn’t feel this slow.

Behind the wheel on the track, it’s all fire and brimstone with a soundtrack that, as Editor Dylan puts it, is nabbed straight from NASCAR. “Every single person here should be made to pluck at least two gears at full throttle in it. It’s that good,” Dylan said. And who are we to disagree?

The power of the atmo eight doesn’t overwhelm the chassis, though, and it steers with aplomb around little Winton, despite its girth. The digital gauge smacks its marks right in your eyeline, but the traction control light is almost as busy, despite switching into the sportiest mode.

The rear end is a bit underdamped, sure, but ultimately the engine doesn’t have the torque to overcome the combination of grip and 1935kg, so the traction control lockdown could ease up a little, for sure.

Follow the Performance Car of the Year 2018

Find the secret code to switch stability and traction control all the way off, though (hint – bring the car to a complete stop), and the LC500 comes to life, especially out on the road. This trick serves me well as I… err, meander gently back up our hill loop, with the long-throw throttle and beautifully linear power delivery playing to the strengths of the vault-stiff chassis.

Without those way-too-conservative chassis electronics getting in the way, the LC500 flows like mercury from corner to corner, the V8’s sonorous howl curling neck hairs for days.

Ultimately, the LC500 is an astonishing achievement. It’s beautiful to look at and beautiful to sit in, even though the ergonomics can border on the obtuse – try and find the seat heaters in less than 10 minutes – and the gear shifter design is truly awful. Some reckon it’s still got too much Toyota left in it, too.

Geek Speak: Lexus' 10-speed auto

At the end of the day, the stopwatch told most of the tale of the LC: it’s not that quick, even though it feels like it.

2018 LEXUS LC500 SPECS:
Body: 2-door, 2+2-seat coupe
Drive: rear-wheel 
Engine: 4969cc V8, DOHC, 32v
Bore/Stroke: 94.0 x 89.5mm
Compression ratio: 12.3:1
Power: 351kW @ 7100rpm 
Torque: 540Nm @ 4800rpm 
Power/Weight: 181kW/tonne
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1935kg
Suspension: struts, double-jointed multi-links, adaptive dampers (f); multi-links, coil springs, adaptive dampers anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes: 338mm ventilated discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 308mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers (r)
Wheels: 21.0 x 9.5-inch (f); 21 x 10.0-inch (r)
Tyres Sizes: 245/40 RF21 (f); 275/35 RF21 (r)
Tyres: Michelin Pilot Super Sport
Price: $190,000

0-100km/h: 5.18sec (9th)
0-400m: 13.23sec @ 178.73km/h (9th)

JUDGES' RANK

Morley – 9th
Let’s enjoy the LC500 for what it is, not can it for what it isn’t.

Campbell – =8th
I’d drive it through tunnels and to work but would have another car to scratch the itch.

Newman – 9th
Love the looks and noise, but exposed by other contenders.

Robson – 6th
What an amazing design achievement. Weight hurts pace, but F will be astonishing.

Reynolds – 9th
Looks spacey, engine sounds good, an older person car.

JUDGES' SCOREBOARD

  Campbell Morley Newman Reynolds Robson Total
Performance 7 5 7 7 7 33
Dynamics 7 6 6 6 7 32
Accessibility 8 5 8 6 8 35
Liveability 6.5 5 6 7 7 31.5
Value 4.5 5 6 4 6 25.5
X-Factor 8 8 8 5 8 37
Total 41 34 41 35 43 194