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Unwrapped and Unleashed: 2019 Lexus LC 500 Test Drive Review

When it’s your birthday, you have the perfect excuse to treat yourself. Go to your favorite restaurant. Surround yourself with all of the people you love and care about. You can forget about your diet for a few hours. No one will hold it against you if you have a piece of your own birthday cake (it would be rude not to).

If you have the means, you can even get yourself that new car you’ve had your eye on. That’s what I did for my 35th birthday. Sort of. I knew I was going to celebrate it with my girlfriend, Eli, her parents, and her grandmother in Glendale, Arizona, so I reached out to the media fleet company that services the local area and they left a treat for me at the Phoenix airport: the 2019 Lexus LC 500.

Lexus introduced its LC 500h hybrid and V8-powered LC 500 flagship coupes for the 2018 model year, but just one year into their production run, Lexus has made a number of upgrades to them. The 2019 models feature several improvements, including refinements to the 10-speed automatic, steering, and suspension. Standard equipment includes Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, navigation, and Wi-Fi.

I fell in love with the LC 500h when I drove it early last year. It was just as impressive to drive as it was to look at. Aside from a few test laps in the LC 500 around a track during the Texas Auto Writers Association’s 2018 Auto Roundup (where it was named the Car of Texas), I had not spent a significant amount of time in it. After I got behind the wheel of the LC 500 in Phoenix, I gave myself the gift of putting more than 350 miles on it.

2019 Lexus LC 500 Exterior

Eli’s grandmother (we call her Busia, a Polish-American word for grandmother) was born in 1925. Many people know that Packard used to be an American automaker, but she knows what it was like to work in its factory – way back in the first half the 20th century. I told Eli that when we pulled up to her parents’ house, Busia was going to think we had arrived in a spaceship. She didn’t use that particular word, but she was stunned by the LC 500’s dazzling Infrared paint and dramatic lines.

I could see why. Lexus did what few automakers have done and largely converted the design of a concept car (the LF-LC that Lexus presented at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show) into a production vehicle. Almost all of the LF-LC’s design, including its sharply styled front end, semi-floating roof, flared hips, and Y-shaped taillights, made it into the street car.

Eli couldn’t help but look at the LC 500, either. She was proud of the snapshots she took of the brilliant triple-beam LED headlamps that flanked the signature Lexus spindle grille. The Convenience Package’s 21-inch forged wheels were also eye-catching, but I paid more attention to the LC 500’s roof. I nerded out over the fact that it was made out of carbon fiber. It just one part of the Performance Package Lexus fitted to my test car. That also included Alcantara sport seats, rear steering, variable-rate steering, and a rear spoiler that would pop up at certain speeds – or with the press of a button in front of the shifter (guess how I know).

Eli and I packed light for our trip, but I still had my concerns about our luggage fitting in the LC 500’s trunk. I figured if that wasn’t big enough, we could throw whatever was left over into the small back seat. I was pleasantly surprised when we started loading the trunk. It had more than enough space for our suitcase and duffel bag and my camera bag and briefcase.

2019 Lexus LC 500 Interior

The more time we spent in the LC 500, the more I realized how great a grand touring car it was. It looked fast and racy on the outside, but on the inside, it was as comfortable as I would expect any Lexus to be. My test car’s sport seats fit me perfectly. Most importantly, they offered three levels of cooling, something Eli and I greatly appreciated when the temperature climbed into the low 90s.

When it was time to take photos of the LC 500, I wanted to get out of the suburbs and find some spots where I could use the desert’s natural beauty as a backdrop. I decided to venture out to the White Tank Mountain Regional Park and South Mountain Park/Preserve. Navigating to those places gave me the chance to use the LC 500’s high-resolution 10.3-inch display and Apple CarPlay compatibility.

2019 Lexus LC 500 Performance

I spent a lot of time in the LC 500 driving the city and suburban streets of Glendale and Phoenix. Occasionally, the pavement would turn rough and uneven. With a quick turn of a dial on the dashboard, I could put the LC 500 into its well-named Comfort mode, which relaxed the throttle response and softened the Adaptive Variable Suspension.

In its Normal setting, the LC 500 offered a lovable blend of comfort and performance. Its 10-speed automatic didn’t miss a beat. The further I put my right foot down, the better its naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 sounded. At low RPMs, the variable Active Exhaust let out a low, throaty muscle car-like roar. As the tach needle swung further to the right and I dug deeper into the LC 500’s 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque, that sound turned into a soul-pleasing, angry mechanical howl. The steering was just as remarkable. It was perfectly weighted and always let me know what the front end of the LC 500 was doing. In fact, it reminded me of the wonderfully tuned steering in the 2019 Toyota 86. The LC 500’s ventilated 15.7-inch front and 14.1-inch rear brakes did an excellent job of cutting speed smoothly and progressively.

The seemingly endless curves in the roads that wound through South Mountain Park/Preserve gave me the perfect excuse to engage the Sport S and Sport S+ driving modes. Both quickened the LC 500’s reflexes and stiffened its suspension. That little + sign added up to a major difference. In Sport S+ mode, the LC 500 became even more tactile and communicative. It may be a comfortable highway cruiser, but it can definitely put a smile on your face when the road starts to bend.

2019 Lexus LC 500 Safety

I loved the LC 500, but the best present I’ve ever received, Eli, was frequently next to me when I drove it, so it was good to know the LC 500 was packed with safety features. A pre-collision system that could detect pedestrians, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, a lane keeping system with steering correction, and a lane departure alert function were bundled into the standard Lexus Safety System + package. An array of airbags, including a pair designed to protect the driver’s and front passenger’s knees, added another layer of security. The optional head-up display allowed me to keep my eyes on the LC 500’s speed and revs, and the road ahead, all at the same time.

2019 Lexus LC 500 Overall

If you’re thinking of treating yourself for your birthday with a new car, go to an AutoNation Lexus dealership and sample the 2019 Lexus LC 500. Prices start at $92,300.* Don’t be surprised if you wind up taking it home. It’s that good, especially when it’s equipped like my $105,940 press car.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

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