2021 Lexus LC500 performance review

The Lexus LC500 looks as good as it sounds, but its skew to grand touring and luxurious comfort means it's not much of a track weapon.

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Chris Atkinson
Chris Atkinson
Performance Editor
PROS
  • Perfect seats
  • Engine note is as good as it gets
  • Drifts better than most
CONS
  • Brakes offer inconsistent feedback
  • Suspension is very soft for track work
  • Disconnected road feel

Overall Road Performance

The Lexus LC500 fits perfectly into its grand touring shoes. It flows on the road so effortlessly, blocking out any unwanted bumps or sounds, just letting in the rumble of that naturally-aspirated V8.

It lacks the dynamics to fully attack a series of corners, but still makes the experience of driving them with some enthusiasm an absolute pleasure.

Overall Track Performance

The LC500 is one of the best looking and sounding cars we have had on the CarExpert test track, but the track isn’t its natural habitat. 

With all the luxury and comfort dialled into this package, it is hard maximise it on the track.

The LC500 is missing the connection and precision to be an all-out track weapon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of positives to this vehicle.

Engine

The naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 is almost identical to the Lexus RC F we tested last year. Power is the same with 351kW at 7100 rpm, but torque is slightly higher with 540Nm at 4800rpm.

The big difference between the two cars is the sound, with the LC500 taking the already fantastic exhaust note to another level.

The performance the LC500 is far from underwhelming, but if you want to take it up a notch, it either needs more torque, less weight or a combination of the two. It’s far from ‘slow’, but to get the momentum going you really rely on the lower-end of the engine’s power and torque band, and that’s not where this motor shines.

Once the car and engine are up to speed, there’s no issues at all. The sound is amazing and the engine loves to rev, making that part of the experience so much better than some its turbocharged peers.

Braking

I found the braking to be inconsistent and difficult to build confidence with. The issue is more with the brake pedal rather than the brakes themselves, the variation in pedal travel and feedback was massive.

Also, the input didn’t always relate directly to the outcome. Sometimes a light brush of the brake pedal would result in sharp deceleration, which would completely destroy the desired result.

The challenges I faced under braking really made it a difficult to put together a good lap. I had to under-drive in places just to ensure I actually put the lap together.

Chassis

The chassis was decent, but it was hard to get a good feeling from it because of the comfort levels that have been dialled in, which was compounded by the LC500’s 1970kg weight. 

You can see that although the car fits into a sports car category, the levels of luxury and comfort have been maintained much more than many of its competitors – it’s more of a GT. 

It’s almost difficult to go into too much detail about the chassis because you feel so separated from it. All the movements are very delayed, and you have to predict where the car will end up following your input.

This is really noticeable with quick changes of direction and you can easily miss the apex if you’re not careful. 

It’s funny that despite the amount of movement, I actually still enjoyed throwing the car around and was able to execute some of the best drifts of the year!

Fundamentally, I don’t think there are any major issues with the chassis and I am sure Lexus could really dial it in with some suspension changes.

Transmission and Differentials

As with the Lexus RC F, I found the Lexus LC500’s differential to be a little bit inconsistent. I think for driving at 90 per cent it works completely fine.

It’s just when you need a quick reaction to slip across the axle, I found it a little bit slow.

As proven by some epic drifts, the overall locking is more than enough, but I feel earlier locking would make the car feel more together. The problem with this is it might hurt the day-to-day feeling of the car.

With a 10-speed auto, the LC500 certainly isn’t lacking in gears. To be honest it didn’t make a lot of sense on the track as you still needed to be in exactly the right gear for the engine to perform at its best.

Upshifts were smooth and fast, though the occasional downshift didn’t react as I wanted.

Suspension

As you may have already gathered, the Lexus LC500 is geared as much towards comfort as any sports car out there. It’s interesting that most of the movement was coming from the front end and most of my issues were under braking and entry. 

The rear end had quite a bit of support and if anything was a little bit nervous. The issue with this front-to-rear difference in damping, is that they didn’t work in harmony when I was pushing at the limit.

The front end being so soft in compression would mean you would get a large shift in weight towards the rear from mid-corner to exit. This shift would obviously be related to the vertical position of the front end at that time and would cause different levels of shock to the rear end.

The rebound control – i.e. the control of the outward movement of the damper – was actually pretty good, but it still wasn’t good enough to counteract the reaction. 

If it wasn’t too drastic a movement, the rear suspension could manage it. But if it was a larger shift, then you could get some interesting oversteer moments and I would have liked the rear to squat a little more to manage this.

When I controlled these shifts in weight it worked fine, but I was always unsure of what the outcome would be. 

The positive to this is that when I wanted to send it into oversteer for the camera, it obliged very nicely and you could quite easily enter some drift competitions with a stock LC500, but I don’t think that’s the target market.

Steering

The steering felt so disconnected and I lacked any sense of what was occurring between the rubber and the tarmac.

It’s a similar experience to the Lexus RC F, but at another level again.

With such soft suspension and everything focused on the driver being insulated from external inputs, you really miss the connection from a purist’s point of view.

Wheels and Tyres

I wish I had more to say about the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, but I felt so disconnected from them that it was hard to get a clear impression.

For the hard time that I gave them on the track, they did hold up really well and I was able to still do fast laps on later runs.

Driver Aids (Electronics)

I tried to do laps with both traction control and stability control on and off, but because the rear was so nervous, the traction control was constantly intervening and it was impossible to do a good time with it on.

Cockpit (Ergonomics)

I absolutely loved the seating position and the driver’s seat. It’s comfortable but also offers really good support and great adjustment so you’re able to get the perfect angle and height. 

The steering wheel was excellent and the gear shift paddle placement was spot on. I liked that the paddles were a bit longer than many of the cars we test, and that really encourages you to use them.

The dash was simple and modern yet had everything you needed for the track. The tachometer and selected gear were displayed nice and clearly in the centre of the dash.

Lap Time

I really wanted to match the time I did in the Lexus RC F, but I couldn’t quite do it. The best time I achieved was 60.34 seconds.

With almost identical engines, more weight and softer suspension, I am not really surprised by the result. But there is so much more to the Lexus LC500 than lap times and if you never track this car, that is completely understandable.

Where it fits in, is as a grand tourer. It combines luxury and refinement with a performance edge, sounding and looking amazing while doing it.

Atko’s 3

  1. Take care on the braking and entry, it’s easy to over commit
  2. You have to be in the right gear and positioned well to get a good exit
  3. Enjoy it for what it is, a comfortable grand tourer

Click the images for the full gallery

MORE: Lexus LC500 news and reviews
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Chris Atkinson
Chris Atkinson
Chris Atkinson is the Performance Editor at CarExpert.
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Top Line Specs
11.6L
351kW
267g
Not tested
View all specifications

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