The Lexus LC500 has always been a very easy car to like - its engine, design, and quality saw to that. But it wasn't emphatically brilliant, with an unsettled ride chiefly to blame. The foundations were there for a superb sports GT, yet it never quite hit the spot as we all hoped it would.
Now the LC has been updated for 2021, with a very Lexus set of revisions. As in most remain unseen, and are largely to the benefit of the driving experience than showroom appeal. So there's still an infotainment system that'll drive you to distraction and not quite as much room as might be expected. But it still looks sensational, so never mind.
Underneath though you get new forged suspension components - in a car like this! - said to save 10kg, alongside redone dampers, bump stops, springs and anti-roll bars. The promise is "smoother performance with less disturbance from fluctuations in the road surface", not to mention "promoting a sense of unity between car and driver." There are also tweaks to the 10-speed automatic, new brake pads, additional chassis bracing (to increase steering support rigidity) and software tweaks for the steering itself. This is no trifling facelift. That's the last thing the LC would need.
Among other things that haven't changed one jot is the 5.0-litre V8 engine. Always an LC selling point and never more charming than in 2021, it remains as joyous as ever. And still jarringly mismatched to the LC. Like a sprinter forced to run in a tux, this V8 is ferociously sharp and endlessly eager - but stymied by the extra weight it's asked to carry around. It makes peak power at 7,100rpm and maximum torque at 4,800rpm; even by the standard of naturally aspirated engines that's quite high, probably attributable to a short stroke (89.5mm) compared to its bore (94mm). When there is an opportunity to rev it, the LC is utterly glorious, snorting and snarling with incredible energy, but it's impossible not to think what this captivating motor could achieve with less than two tonnes to work against. Still, any V8 is to be appreciated at the moment, and this one - much like a lot of the car - won't fail to raise a smile.
The 10-speed sidekick is improved this time around, if still a little way short of perfect. In docile driving it's as seamless and as unassuming as might be expected for an automatic Lexus, shuffling up to tenth almost imperceptibly. Ask for a sudden burst of acceleration, however, and it still gets a tad flustered, lacking the decisiveness of a dual-clutch when it comes to selecting a lower ratio. Manual control can be a tad cumbersome, too, albeit much more satisfying when driven more aggressively. Use some throttle and some revs and the upshifts snap through; click the left paddle early and a glorious flare of revs compels you to go again. Good job there are 10 gears, really...
Happily this LC is a decisively better riding one than before. At any speed it's comfier and smoother, less brittle than the original and better suited to its GT remit. Nevertheless, the car still feels a tad conflicted; for all its improvements there's still an edge to the ride that implies a sportier side, but without the steely body control - even once wound up to Sport and Sport+ - that would mark it out as a rival for something like a BMW M850i. Certainly it's better to drive than before, though - the steering revisions delivering a better sense of connection, and the compromise between ride and handling much better struck. The balance that marked the 2,000kg LC out before remains, as does imperious refinement. The latter might be improved, in fact. There isn't a trip that wouldn't be an absolute pleasure in an LC500, helped by that less intrusive ride.
And even if it's the worst journey in the world, the driver will be ensconced in the LC interior, and that remains superb - maddening infotainment notwithstanding. Every single element inside feels like it'll last a century, and it's seldom you experience quality like that. From gearshift paddle to volume dial and door handle to console button, there's a satisfying weight to all the controls, like each and every one has been tested and tested and tested again, just to be sure they feel spot on. In a world that tends to prioritise style over substance, to have both for less than £100,000 is a rare treat.
Combine all those attributes and the result is a Lexus that it's hard not to be completely enamoured with. Maybe it still isn't quite as comprehensively talented as some rivals, but the LC more than compensates with its own idiosyncratic charm. Thanks to the updates, this goes beyond the great engine, stunning looks label, too; what was always a likeable car is now more recommendable than ever with a few of the rougher edges smoothed off. Those intrigued by the Lexus flagship previously will love it now, and find the affection easier to justify. For anyone who hasn't considered an LC500 since 2017, there's never been a better time.
SPECIFICATION | 2021 LEXUS LC500
Engine: 4,969cc, V8
Transmission: 10-speed sports direct shift automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 464@7,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 398@4,800rpm
Top speed: 168mph
MPG: 24.3 (WLTP)
Price: £80,170 OTR (for LC500; LC500 Sport Pack £85,370 and Sport Plus Pack £91,020)
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