The 2018 Lexus LC500 looks exotic in any light (image: Bill Visnic).

What we’re driving: 2018 Lexus LC500

I don’t think anybody’s going to argue that Lexus designers walked the walk when transitioning the LC500 from the sharkish LF-LC concept car to the production LC coupe. I found it tough to take my eyes off the thing and the LC500 attracts exotic-car attention in any surroundings.

The LC500’s 5.0-L DOHC V-8 is a brilliant synthesis of brawn and refinement and its 7,100-rpm redline is just high enough to telegraph there’s heavy performance intention, while the 471 hp and 398 lb·ft (540 N·m) output figures are sufficiently premium to avoid direct comparison with V-8-packing Mustangs and Camaros and such. Particularly impressive is the engineering of the V8’s exhaust: at full throttle, you’d swear that howling engine is not up front, but right behind your shoulder.

This coupe is sufficiently quick to generate a thrill whenever the urge hits you, but there’s always the sense that you’re not quite getting at the power and it’s because the otherwise brilliant 10-speed automatic transmission appears to have been geared more for long-legged, high-efficiency high-speed cruising than low- and even midrange performance. The final three ratios are overdrive and the first seven don’t feel stacked to properly extract the most from the Lexus’ liters. I’d like to see Ford’s 10-speed automatic team get a crack at this gearbox.

The chassis will supply plenty of grip for most drivers, but the LC cannot be mistaken for an outright track-day GT: high-speed entry to a corner invariably elicits understeer and the LC almost always wants to run wider through a corner than you might prefer. Our test car didn’t have the optional rear-wheel steering, which might improve the LC’s chassis responsiveness.

I’m surprised by a couple of odd details in the LC’s luscious interior. For all the tactile glory of the knurled-metal radio-tuning dial and drive-mode control, there’s an inexplicably hollow feel to the turn-signal stalk. And the way-too-distracting Remote Touch Interface touchpad HMI remains a driver-interface fail with a capital “F.”

But I don’t much care about the LC’s foibles or whether it's got the all-out dynamics of a Porsche 911. This is exactly what I would expect—and want—a Lexus grand-touring coupe to be: sneaky fast, deliciously designed and masterfully crafted.

2018 Lexus LC500 Sport

  • Base price:       $92,995
  • As tested:         $100,895
  • Highs:              Magnificent V-8; exotic sheetmetal; gorgeously-trimmed cabin
  • Lows:               Torpid gearing; brazenly understeery
  • The takeaway: Epic GT coupe with a few fixable flaws
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