- The Lexus LC500 is two things: unspeakably great and woefully underappreciated.
- A four-seat coupe that can comfortably seat two, the LC500 starts at $92,950. Extra options put this model at $106,954.
- Lexus sold just over 1,200 LC500s in 2019, making the car a rare sight on the road. Given how great it is, that’s a real shame.
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The Lexus LC500 isn’t a car you think about all day and all night. It doesn’t shout in your face, and it doesn’t adorn your kids’ walls in the form of a dog-eared poster held on by the three spare tacks. It sells in minuscule numbers, making it feel like an alien on the streets of Earth.
The LC500 isn’t the alien. It’s the spaceship, blasting by your wide eyes before they’ve even processed what they’re seeing.
The LC500 is a $100,000 — in this case, $106,954 — four-seat coupe. The “LC” literally stands for “Luxury Coupe,” just like the “LS” in Lexus LS models stands for “Luxury Sedan” and the “RX” in Lexus RX models stands for “Radiant Crossover.” Good thing these folks specialize in cars, not words.
The LC500 is more spacecraft than it is car, though, and its cockpit is more fighter pilot than it is driver’s seat. Its yellow paint job is shimmery yet tame for a vehicle with such disregard for its own excessiveness, and its girth is so, well, girthy that you’ll second guess your skills you did every time you park it.
Getting acquainted with the LC500 is a funny thing. When someone first sees it and you ask how much they think it costs, they’ll guess $50,000. Sixty-five thousand? Eighty. It’s just a yellow Lexus!
Then you’ll show them the sticker, they’ll gasp like they’ve been hit in the chest by a tetherball, and you’ll invite them for a drive on a curvy road.
“Oh,” they’ll say. “That’s why.”
Lexus made the LC500 bigger than any car of its nature has a right to be, but size doesn’t translate to usability. The hulking front end houses a 471-horsepower V8, while the hulking back end houses a trunk barely bigger than that of the Mazda Miata, which would look like a pebble next to the Lexus. The hulking middle portion of the car houses its two back seats that are more fit for purse dogs than people, and the other hulking parts of it house areas you’ll never find, because the space just disappears.
Size is about opulence here, not practicality. The LC500 is big because it makes the people who can’t afford it stare, not because you need to use the space. Four people can’t fit in it very easily, but that’s because four people aren’t really supposed to fit in it. The rear seats are there because they can be, not because you’re expected to cram yourself into them. Lexus didn’t even bother putting lights back there.
Lexus packed the interior of the LC500 with the details you expect from a car the price of a house. The driver and passenger are fully separated, wrapped in their own buckets of Alcantara — a brand synonymous with upscale, suede-like interior material, whose capital “A” looks a lot fancier on the spec sheet than just regular old “suede.”
Lightning-bolt patterns cover a large portion of the dashboard, encased by a thick clear slab that tells everyone inside to look, not touch, because this is a museum display of how to best use your exorbitant wealth.
Behind that slab also sits an analog clock with a silver Lexus logo. Like any overpriced watch on someone’s wrist, the analog clock simply acts as an ostentatious display of wealth — not anything its owner actually plans to use to tell the time. Alcantara reaches all the way across the headliner, because in a car this extravagant, you can’t skimp out as soon as you move above eye level.
When the car starts up, purple-blue stars burst across the black background of the infotainment screen, reminding you that in a Lexus LC500, you are, in fact, the center of the universe.
The LC500 isn’t the fastest car out there, because it’s not trying to be. It’s a luxury car that happens to be fast, not a fast car that happens to be luxurious. It’s a grand tourer, with emphasis on the “grand.” In that context, it is very, very fast. Its performance is a dream: aggressive on the gas, glued to the corners, yet perfectly comfortable — no, luxurious — for long trips.
Flipping the car into its more aggressive “sport” driving modes will make the LC500 wail like a monster tearing down a skyline — it’s the only thing you hear, and it’s about to eat your world alive.
Part of the reason this nearly 500-horsepower car isn’t as fast as it could be is because if you put it on a seesaw opposite of Clifford the Big Red Dog, Clifford would get shot into space. Its curb weight comes to about 4,400 pounds, or nearly twice that of the Miata whose trunk space isn’t that much smaller. It also comes with a $6,000 package that slaps carbon fiber, a material often used to make performance cars lighter, on the roof and in the door wells. But putting a rhino on a $6,000 diet doesn’t make it less of a rhino. You don’t need to splurge.
Then again, this car isn’t about need. Like the LC500 itself, it’s about buying things because you can.
The LC500 is a rare sight on the roads, and a rare experience for drivers. Lexus sold just 1,219 LC models in the US in all of 2019, about 100 per month — meaning your chances of seeing one are low, and your chances of recognizing what it is are even lower.
“Is that an LFA?” one person at the gas station yelled, referencing another deeply underappreciated Lexus model from the early 2010s. Perhaps we as a population don’t give Lexus enough credit, because we’re too busy associating it with all of those Radiant Crossovers.
For the few who do experience the LC500, there’s not much to say, because it’s more of a feeling than anything you can put into words. The LC500 just gets it, and driving the LC500 means that you get it, too. Everyone else just goes on about their lives without getting the greatness that happens to be sharing its streets with them.
That’s the entire point of the LC500, and grand tourers of its nature. It’s not supposed to make you think, it’s supposed to make you feel. It’s not supposed to be practical, it’s supposed to make you think it could be in a pinch. It’s not supposed to focus on sportiness, it’s supposed to make you, the outsider, think it does.
Because you see, the LC500 might look like an alien spaceship to you, a person who’s never been able to look past their generic fondness of the Lamborghinis, McLarens, and BMWs of the world and see that the perfect car is right there on the lot, waiting to be bought by a few handfuls of people across the US every week.
But, in fact, you’re the outsider — because these are the LC500’s roads, and you’re just lucky to be driving on them.