Its Infrared body lines beckoned in a covered space outside Orlando’s airport. Shoulders as wide as a country, wheels so grand an NBA All-Star would be wanting them. But this car was mine for almost a week’s worth of joy. It was mine to drive hard, to put away wet, to use all of its infotainment toys, to be comforted, coddled and confirmed as someone who had the goods.
The 2019 Lexus LC500 coupe is a majestic creature, rising from its car show roots to production little more than five years ago. This coupe hasn’t changed much since it was a show car; it hasn’t needed to change. When you get the design cues right from the get-go, when you’ve applied some of the best mechanical magic one can conjure, you just rest on those laurels and allow the public (that can afford to buy this vehicle) the opportunity to drive and thrive.
Profoundly fine vehicles aren’t cheap. It takes voluminous funding to design and construct as beautiful a coupe as this 2019 Lexus LC500. From a base of $93,225 including freight, the price tag rose to a crescendo of $105,940. Of course there are options here: a convenience package including intuitive park assist, 21-inch forged wheels, a head-up display, limited slip differential, Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio, premium paint, a performance package of Alcantara sport seats with eight-way power adjust, a carbon fiber roof, active rear steering, speed activated rear spoiler, Alcantara headliner and carbon fiber door sills.
The package is elegant; the package is powerful. With a 5-liter V8 engine that has 471 horsepower and 398 ft-lbs of torque, the quartet of exhausts at the rear sing their way through the application of 10 speeds of sport-direct shifting, applied through magnesium paddles or by manual shifting on the floor. Redline occurs just past 5,000 rpm and the crisp, refined manner in which the LC500 shifts is delectable, particularly when one moves the drive mode from normal to Sport or Sport+.
The reason for this trip was to work the 58th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona, the traditional start to the IMSA season and, in essence, the beginning of major motor sport for the calendar year. Lexus graciously loaned this gorgeous red vehicle to me; I decided to enjoy and employ every bit of the amenities this 4,280-pound grand tourer offers.
With its multilink independent sport suspensions front and rear, the LC500 defies its mass with agility, including using only 2.6 turns lock to lock from its electric power steering. Massive disc brakes with aluminum calipers do the job quickly and efficiently. Lexus fits Bridgestone Potenza rubber on the LC500, with 245/40R front and 275/35R rear 21-inch tires riding on twinned, polished- and gray-painted rims.
Inside the cabin, greeted by the scent of leather and the sight of a camel-colored grouping of Alcantara sport seats, tunnel area with carpeting, interior door covers and dashboard coverings, the immediate thought is business at hand. Setting the seats and steering wheel, syncing the phone, accessing Apple CarPlay for entertainment and stashing gear in the 5.4-cubic-foot trunk (that holds more than you’d think). There was only one issue – the car had been set in valet mode, so a button needed to be accessed to gain entry to the trunk. Okay, now, on our way.
While this vehicle had nearly 8,500 miles on the odometer at pickup and, despite its use by [most] journalists who think every car is theirs to trash, the 2019 Lexus LC500 felt barely broken in and as tight as it should have been. The windows dipped on entry, the mirrors folded on departure. There was carbon fiber everywhere. The burble of the exhausts, even when barely touching the throttle, thrust us forward through traffic that seemed to give way every time we approached.
The comfort of the seats, with three memories for the driver, was exceptional. Rubber-tipped pedals allowed reliable tipping of the foot to both throttle and brake. The gorgeous, grippy steering wheel offered trip info, phone usage and volume controls on the left, while the right side has cruise control, following distance, audio mode and lane departure controls. Lexus’ standard infotainment pad lies between the two front seats and accessing information was facile, especially since this was not a first experience with the touchpad.
LED lighting abounds inside and out and visibility is terrific, day or night. Gauges are large and easy to read, even in direct sunlight and Lexus’ Enform safety connect, together with its almost simplistic navigation system makes driving chores superb and easily achieved. There is Amazon Alexa integration, along with WiFi (4GB). I enjoyed the heads up display that allows one’s eyes never to leave the road ahead; it was filled with useful info, duplicating the gauge cluster’s digital speedometer along with road-going information like cruise info, compass, current speed limit.
The rear seats are accessed through moving the fronts forward; they revert to prior settings when the backrest is placed in its original position. The rear seats are comfortable and supportive, even for someone of “normal” height. The front-seat passenger enjoys the same settings as the driver. The only thing missing from this vehicle is a wireless charger, but who knows where it could be placed in an interior that employs all its space so vitally.
The Mark Levinson audio system has a single CD player, something not often seen these days in such an upmarket car. Its 12 speakers around the cabin allow music to immerse all occupants . There are two USB ports, along with a single auxiliary and single 12-volt. While it’s not easy to see from the driver’s seat, the rear wing comes up at about 40mph and keeps what is already a very stable coupe planted to the ground.
I didn’t put a lot of miles on the LC500 as we were staying close to Daytona International Speedway and didn’t leave the track once the 24-hour race began. For that reason we never needed to add premium fuel to the 21.7-gallon tank, which carries federal fuel economy listings of 16/25/19 mpg. I’d venture to say those figures are likely accurate. However, I likely destroyed those figures when challenged by an IMSA/INDYCAR owner as we exited the track after a day of work and met at a stoplight en route to our respective homes for the weekend – I won that drag race against a rental car.
Leaving the silent track late on Sunday afternoon for the blast back to Orlando was somewhat melancholy. It’s awful to have such a fun car, to enjoy it so much and then to have to return it. There aren’t many Lexus LC500 models out there as the company has limited distribution of its halo car and doesn’t import the coupe in large numbers. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this one takes the cake.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit