2UR-GSE. Nope, this isn’t some random insurance code or the human gene that causes swollen feet in hot weather. It’s the internal designation of an engine built by Toyota. And it’s a real dandy.Â
Of the V8 configuration with 5.0 liters of piston-swept area, it’s the beating heart that powers a range of performance-bred Lexus models, including the brand’s high-style LC 500. Looking like a concept car plucked right off an auto show turntable, this sultry coupe is a breathtaking piece of automotive design work with more drama than a live performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Patrick Stewart playing the eponymous lead.Â
This naturally aspirated engine revs with enthusiasm, delivering an impressive if not awe-inspiring 471 horsepower in the process. Torque clocks in at 2 pound-feet shy of 400. These figures are more than enough to get the job done, though, for instance, the decidedly more workaday Ford Mustang Bullitt delivers 480 ponies and 420 lb-ft of twist from the same displacement, cylinder count and induction format. Perhaps engineers could have pushed for just a little more in the LC 500.
Nevertheless, Lexus’ powerplant perfectly typifies the V8 breed. It’s incredibly smooth running, zippy and symphonic to boot, giving the driver 7,300 rpm to play with. Its high, 12.3:1 compression ratio improves efficiency, as does the inclusion of both port and direct injection. Having two distinct fuel-delivery systems allows the engine to operate quietly and efficiently in a broad range of conditions. Another ingenious, efficiency-bolstering trick, this V8 can run on either the traditional Otto cycle for maximum performance or it can seamlessly switch to the Atkinson cycle during lighter loads for reduced consumption.
The LC 500 is rated at 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. Combined, it should be able to travel 19 miles on a gallon of petroleum distillates. These figures are partly enabled by a quick-shifting, if not quite perfectly refined 10-speed automatic transmission. Luxury and performance are almost always antithetical to efficiency, but if you want a more responsible version of this car, Lexus offers the LC 500h, which is essentially the same thing with a hybridized powertrain built around a V6 engine. According to the US EPA, the LC 500h should average 30 mpg combined, though it doesn’t have eight cylinders of fury and it’s saddled with a somewhat wonky transmission arrangement.
As for performance, according to the automaker, the V8-powered LC 500 can hit 60 mph in as little as 4.4 seconds. Its top speed is electronically limited to 168 mph.
This is where the magic happens.
Better than an LFAâ€¦ in one way, at least
LC models are based on the GA-L platform, a foundation they share with the LS sedan. Thanks to a melange of fancy materials including high-strength steel, aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (that’s CFRP for short), this coupe supposedly has the stiffest unibody structure ever created by Lexus, one that’s more resistant to twisting forces than even the brand’s legendary LFA supercar, which was made largely of carbon fiber and built in amazingly low volume.
Keeping mass in check and helping provide near 50-50 weight distribution, the LC 500’s hood, front fenders and door skins are made of aluminum. Its drivetrain is also mounted aft of the front-axle centerline to further improve balance. The inner supports for the trunk lid and doors are fabricated of sheet-molded CFRP.Â
Along with things like Alcantara-trimmed seats, active rear-wheel steering and a deployable spoiler, the available $5,960 Performance Package throws a carbon-fiber roof into the mix. This provides an exotic look and likely a small reduction in weight. The chrome-plated moldings that run along the edges of this panel are designed to look like the blade of a samurai sword.Â
The LC 500’s front lights are, perhaps, its most striking design element.
From hub to hub, the LC 500’s wheelbase measures 113 inches, while its overall length is 187.4. Among its chief competitors, this car is slightly smaller than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, though larger than an Aston Martin Vantage. One rival that’s roughly the same size is BMW’s driver-focused 8 Series.
With all that mechanical minutiae out of the way, let’s turn to some of the LC 500’s more emotional elements. At nearly any angle, this car reaches out and grabs your attention. From its massive spindle grille filled in with a basket-weave texture to the slash-like daytime-running lamps underneath its triple-element headlights; from my test car’s 21-inch, forged-aluminum wheels (a $2,650 option) to the afterburner-inspired tail lamps, there’s nothing quiet about the LC 500’s looks.Â
Dramatic it may be, there’s just a bit too much going on with this car; my tastes are decidedly more restrained. Keeping pace with the buttoned-down Germans, white, a couple shades of both silver and gray, as well as black are all on the exterior paint palette, but Lexus also offers some downright exuberant hues. A bright red is available, ditto for one called flare yellow, the color my test car was sprayed. Either of these adds $595 to the sticker price. Looking like it was smothered in atomic hollandaise sauce, this paint makes an already hard-to-miss car even more arresting.
And since this piece of rolling sculpture is a Toyota at heart, it’s practically guaranteed to be as reliable as a blacksmith’s anvil. Japanese attention to detail abounds, from the body-panel gaps that are thinner than a machinist’s scale to the perfect stitching inside to the flawless paint job, nothing is out of place or haphazardly assembled. Peerless craftsmanship is exactly what you’d expect from Lexus.
Even the smallest details matter, like these chrome accents on the exterior mirror housings.Â
A lovely but flawed interior
One thing that might surprise you about the LC 500 is its artful interior. Generally known for being about as conservative as the Alabama state legislature, Lexus designers were seemingly set free when creating this machine’s cabin. Soup to nuts, it’s even prettier than the car’s exterior.
The dashboard has a visually interesting tiered layout and the instruments are housed in sort of a nacelle-like pod. Buttercream-soft leather, and suede trim abound. Designers even went overboard creating the steering wheel, altering its cross-sectional shape at different point around the rim’s circumference to better accommodate various hand placements. Talk about obsessive attention to detail.
The LC 500’s front bucket seats are supportive and comfortable, with the driver’s chair power adjusting in eight different directions when you spring for the Performance Package. There is a backseat, but in name only. It’s so impossibly tight I didn’t even attempt clambering back there. Really, all that matters are the two front buckets — after all, you don’t buy a six-figure-expensive luxury coupe to haul the kids to school every day.
The LC 500’s cabin is beautifully designed and flawlessly constructed.Â
Another area of this car that’s disappointingly low on space is the trunk. At just 5.4 cubic feet, its cargo hold is minuscule. The Hybrid model’s boot is even smaller at just 4.7 cubes. Likewise, the LC has a dearth of interior storage. The tiny glove box is mostly filled by its Bible-thick owner’s manual. There’s also a limited amount of room in the center bin and just one cupholder, ONE!Â
Another interior complaint centers on the visors. When pivoted to the side, they don’t extend to cover all the window glass. Taller drivers, with the seat moved farther back, get blinded by the sun when it’s shining in from the side. C’mon, guys! Spend the extra $12 on extending visors, the kind that come standard on something like a base Honda Civic.
What about the tech?
The LC 500’s interior is stylish and beautifully made, but it does have a few flaws, the most significant of which I haven’t even mentioned yet. But now’s as good a time as any to talk about this car’s deal-breaking fault. I won’t mince words; the infotainment system is a hateful piece of work. From general usability to the interface design, it’s simply awful. Yes, the 10.3-inch, high-resolution display is crisp and mounted in an easy-to-view location, but everything else about it is a train wreck, like, a locomotive that happened to be carrying boxcars full of radioactive waste that got hurled into a major city’s water supply. Yes, that kind of bad.
This system’s layout and menu structure are labyrinthine, but making things even worse, you have to use a laptop-style touchpad to interact with nearly everything. Some of the climate controls and common radio functions do have hardware buttons, but for nearly everything else you need to poke at the touch panel. Honestly, a command-line interface would probably be less distracting to use while driving.
This right here is what ruins the entire experience. The LC 500’s infotainment system is just the worst.
Thank goodness Apple CarPlay is supported. It provides something that’s familiar and simple to understand. If you’re a Google enthusiast, I have bad news. Android Auto is not currently offered, and the company has no plans to, either. Siri, Alexa integration, Spotify, Audible and other services are supported. Providing even more functionality, the Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0 gives drivers access to things like NPR One, iHeartRadio, Slacker and Yelp.
As for safety equipment, every LC is fitted with automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and plenty of other advanced driver aids. Items like a head-up display, limited-slip differential and parking assist are all optional.
A thrilling powertrain, a decent drive
Since I started this review off with a deep dive into the LC 500’s powertrain, you’ve probably guessed it’s pretty good. That 5.0-liter V8 is a masterpiece of engineering, smooth, powerful and an aural delight, especially when the active-exhaust system is uncorked. Tip into the throttle, which is annoyingly soft in the normal driving mode, and at about 3,500 rpm the engine comes alive, emitting a throaty rumble that will send shivers up the spine of anyone with gasoline coursing through their circulatory system.Â
No, this Lexus is not rocketship quick, but it provides ample thrust. In fact, the car is so refined and composed,Â it always feels like you’re going about half the speed you actually are. It’s unnervingly easy to be traveling 55 mph in a 35 zone and not even realize it.Â
This car was fitted with optional wheels spanning 21 inches in diameter.
The standard, 10-speed automatic transmission swaps ratios with the immediacy of a dual-clutch unit, though it has none of the judders sometimes associated with gearboxes of that design. Its performance is mostly praiseworthy, though on several occasions I did notice some disconcertingly jerky upshifts, however they only seemed to happen in the normal drive mode. Switching to Sport S or Sport S+ appeared to eliminate the issue.
Thanks to its super-stiff structure and favorable weight distribution, the LC 500 feels incredibly balanced and confidence inspiring. Toss it into a turn and it’s as if you’re sitting dead in the middle of the car, like your butt is the fulcrum between each end. It provides an exceedingly natural, and neutral driving experience.Â
The car’s Adaptive Variable Suspension helps smooth out the ride without sacrificing handling. Damping force can adjust on the fly to compensate for rough roads or, when steering into corners, the dampers can be stiffened to help control body roll. Likewise, a Variable Gear-Ratio Steering system is included in the Performance Package. It automatically alters the steering ratio for enhanced maneuverability at low speed and greater stability while running down the highway.Â
What a lovely, lovely coupe.
The 2020 Lexus LC 500 is a beautifully styled and painstakingly crafted luxury coupe. Its powertrain is dynamite, and cabin rendered in ultra-premium materials. Given this car’s rarified set of attributes, it’s understandably pricey.
An option-free example starts at right around $93,000, but the model evaluated here stickered for $106,440, including $1,025 in delivery fees. Options like the all-weather package ($250), a Mark Levinson sound system with 13 speakers ($1,220), premium paint ($595) and the Performance Package ($5,960) all padded that base price.Â
If you can look past this car’s limited practicality and its infotainment system — and that’s a big thing to make peace with — there’s quite a lot to like. I certainly recognize its benefits, but unfortunately, I’m not so sure I’d pick the LC 500 over some of its primary rivals, even though the V8 brawn and show-car beauty make a strong argument.Â