By Jim Powell
There is nothing like the rumble of a well-built V-8 engine! Yes! We live in times when we must all consider our stewardship of the earth and its climate. Yes! We have suffered through a pandemic and gained some valuable knowledge about the air quality improvements due to auto emission reductions worldwide. And yes! Most of the next generation of drivers might not want to drive a car at all. Nonetheless, Lexus has built a stunning coupe with a magnificent V-8 that produces a symphonic, yet viral, rumble that satisfies the soul (of a gearhead).
So let us start with the 2020 Lexus LC-500 engine. Lexus uses this relatively new 5.0-liter aluminum, DOHC, 32-valve engine in other applications, such as the LS-500 sedan, but the intake and exhaust must have been inspired by the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) team. Internally labeled the 2UR-GSE, this 303.2 cc, naturally-aspirated V8 engine uses their dual variable-valve intake and combusts at a higher compression ratio of 12.3:1 for awesome low-end grunt. It reminds me of the best push-rod engines like the General Motor LT series, but with overhead cam refinement.
Horsepower climbs to 471 HP as the engine freely spins up to 7,100 rpm. Redline is north of 8,000 rpm, and here is where this 5.0-liter powerplant leaves the older small-block competition behind. The engine revs quickly and uses the pulling power (torque) continuously- before the peak at 4,800 rpm (398 lb.-ft.). Compare this with the last generation Corvette naturally-aspirated LT1 6.2-liter V-8 OHV engine producing 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. The Lexus engine is a surge down the tarmac while the push-rod V-8 is more of a launch into space.
Toyota’s new D-4S (Direct injection 4-stroke gasoline Superior) and premium fuel add to the equation to make this one exhilarating drive. The power delivery is intoxicating, and the front engine: rear wheel drive balance is a familiar feeling for the muscle car lovers out there (54% front: 46% rear weight distribution).
As for the environment, let us compare the 2020 Lexus LS-500 to most of the SUV’s on the road today. The gorgeous sounding quad-exhaust emits a respectable LEV III-ULEV 70 emission rating. The smooth 10-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission quickly promotes the coupe and eventually ends up in 10th gear with a ratio of 0.598. Most city driving happens in 1st to 8th gear. Translation? The drivetrain provides greater performance with even greater fuel efficiency.
I drove our test LC-500 with a commitment on the famous Highway 2 through Southern California mountains with some extra speed in Sport+ mode. I also drove it for hundreds of miles through Los Angeles traffic, across the deserts, and around city streets. But I never drove our LC-500 in Eco mode, although that is another option, and averaged 24.7 mpg. We surpassed the fuel mileage ratings of 16-City/25-Hwy/19-Combined without really trying.
One can literally dial in the electronic suspension, steering input, throttle response, shift points, and exhaust note according to personal preferences, and save it all under the Custom mode. The ride is firm, even in Comfort mode, but livable. The change of attitudes is noticeable in all 6 settings, propelling the LC-500 into GT-Coupe status. I would not hesitate to take a 4,000 mile trip in the Lexus LC-500. However, Lexus might want their car back sooner than I could return it. At 4,280 pounds, this coupe feels pretty agile and yet does not dance around in the high winds, uneven roads, or at velocities over the speed limit (so I hear).
There are careful design elements that make this a true Grand Touring 2+2 Coupe that one can enjoy during everyday driving. For example, the LC-500 moves across driveways and uneven shoulders without scraping the front air dam -no frontend suspension adjustment needed. The rear hatch is a little heavy, but the trunk space is flat and squared-off, with room for 2 carry-on suitcases and 3 large backpacks. The sport seats are very comfortable while holding the occupant in place during sporty driving. Yet, getting into and out of this car is possible, even in a dress. (Ask my wife, who loved traveling in this Lexus.)
The 2020 Lexus LC 500 is not an inexpensive coupe. However, compared to most luxury coupes and hyper-performance cars with 4.4 seconds 0-60 mph times, it is somewhat of a bargain- starting at $92K. If the buyer wants to load up the LC 500 with all the options, it will quickly climb over $106K.
Ours included all the factory packages, e.g., the Convenience Package with automatic parking assist and Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA). These should be standard fare in a vehicle with limited rear visibility. The All-Weather Package is worth the extra costs with a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, windshield wiper de-icer, and electronic heater (LC500). Consideration for nice things like the semi-aniline leather-trimmed front seats and an Alcantara® headliner are luxurious. Audiophiles will like the Mark Levinson® 13-speaker, 915-watt audio system, but I would rather soak in the V-8 trumpeted rumble.
Our press car came with optional 21” wheels, which took a small toll on the ride quality. The carbon fiber grill insert and rear spoiler cost an extra $2,398. However, I would not skip the Flare Yellow brilliant paint job ($595) or the $900 heads-up display (HUD). Finally, I would definitely pay for the $390 TORSEN® limited-slip rear differential, which grips the road with tenacity.
In conclusion, the Lexus LC-500 is one of the most beautiful cars on the road today! Even if this is debatable, the pure joy of driving this car is undeniable. The clear 10.3-inch center screen and the digital readout and clever binnacle display may be attractive, but all eyes should be on the road- which will pass quickly. One can even overlook the fussy touchpad that Lexus insists on using instead of a touchscreen. No matter. As on the old bumper sticker, my suggestion is, “Get in, Shut Up, and Hold On!”