by Frank A. Aukofer

The Italians are rightly famous for delivering high style in high-performance cars, but they have serious challenges on both fronts from the all-new 2018 Lexus LC 500 Coupe.

This is a stunner stylistically, one that turns heads parked or speeding down the highway. In fact, it looks as if it’s speeding even when it’s parked. The sparkly black execution of the Lexus “spindle” grille gets right in your face and its rear fenders look like the muscular haunches of a champion Percheron draft horse.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_009_F90DA0EA5041232810CA8F2535C6F5079E8B4CD6Moreover, the LC 500, from the luxury division of Japan’s Toyota, does have the performance, along with the promise of legendary Lexus reliability, to entice a specialized cadre of buyers — people who can afford to buy outright, finance or lease a car with a $105,614 price tag.

That’s the as-delivered sticker on the LC 500 tested for this review. The base price, $92,995, is almost as daunting. But it comes with a potpourri of performance engineering and luxury enhancements.

Start with the power train: a 471-hp 5.0-liter V8 engine that delivers 398 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode via magnesium paddles on the steering wheel.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_002_945A15CD4E154A5966F73069FF08CADB1D3E8897It is enough to propel the 4,280-lb coupe to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds, depending on the skill of the driver. Top speed, as published by Lexus, is governed at 168 mph.

The LC 500 is purpose-built for behind-the-wheel thrills, so it has little in the way of practicality. The shallow trunk has only five cubic feet of volume.

A two-door, four-passenger coupe, it is what used to be called a “Two-Plus-Two,” which means it has two nearly unusable seats in back. Moreover, the designers have not even made the effort to make them easily accessible. The front seats move only so far forward, requiring gymnastic contortions into the back row, where there’s little space anyway.

Lexus_LC_500_001_BB74131E8F47AC977ECD592DA05B448D1C339096Up front is another story. Comfortable seats, upholstered in heated and ventilated alcantara cloth trimmed with leather, deliver superb support for hustling around mountain curves and comfort for long-distance cruising. The alcantara cloth is also used for the headliner.

Even at that, however, entry and exit through the front doors takes a bit of effort. Drivers with big feet will be challenged to swing in the left foot unless the door is fully open. Once there, thankfully, you are cosseted deep in luxury sports car surroundings.

As part of a $5,960 performance package — as if it needed one — you are treated to active rear-wheel steering, carbon-fiber roof and door sills and an active rear spoiler. Other options get you 21-inch forged wheels, a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a stratospheric 915-watt Mark Levinson audio system.

Lexus_LC_500_003_449D1F74A5CE595FA4B157BDFEE94E59A1D86566But that’s frosting on a tasty morsel with ingredients that include  dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping detection and assist, and automatic headlights.

With all its safety and luxury touches, the LC 500’s strong suit is the driving experience, long on excitement and short on anxiety. Like all such performance and super cars, however, it can be frustrating because there’s nowhere you can legally drive this machine anywhere near its designed potential. Without a race track, the best you can do is enjoy it in short bursts.

There are six driver-selectable driving modes, starting with Eco. Why that would be important on a car like this is a puzzle, although there also is a separate Snow setting for easier acceleration on slippery surfaces. Others are Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport and Sport Plus. The former settings allow you to drive the LC 500 as a smooth boulevardier with a relatively decent ride and imperceptible shifts.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_005_75D9A1BB914CA638376189130D18FAC72CDFABDBBut select Sport Plus, everything tightens up. The ride gets choppy and the throttle acts like a hair-trigger. Shifts happen instantly and with crackling intensity from the V8 engine. There’s automatic engine rev-matching on downshifts, regardless of whether you’re in automatic or the manual-shift mode.

A readable touch screen in the center of the dash conveys information about navigation, audio and other infotainment functions. However, it is controlled by a touch pad on the console similar to the one on your laptop computer.

But don’t try playing with it while underway. Even changing radio stations requires you to focus on the screen while manipulating the touch pad. Pull over, get set up and then move out for joyful driving.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_020_31EEE1647DBF7700C27423642604F218D2918566Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Lexus LC 500 two-door, four-passenger coupe.
  • Engine:0-liter V8, 471 hp, 398 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 81/5 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,280 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/26/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $92,995.
  • Price as tested: $105,614.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_022_419939A8D6E5F708B232BF01C5D98524601D27DAPhotos (c) Lexus.