Every year, we get to drive a rather large portion of vehicles for sale, both commonplace as well as luxurious and even exotic. Turns out that there are so many good ones out there and a surprising number of great ones. But at the end of every year, we only get to choose one Car of the Year. This year, the field of cars we thoroughly enjoyed was crowded, but one did rise to the top in heroic fashion. Though we anticipated something good, we were not prepared to love it as much as we did. This year's winner for Car of The Year is the Lexus LC 500. Introduced in 2017 as a 2018 model, it's now the Lexus flagship and one that's rightly situated in that position for all the right reasons.
Note: We base our choice of Car of the Year on real-world cars, not exotics or cars that are way out of reach. The pool of cars we choose from are only selected from cars we've actually driven and reviewed, so we have first-hand experience with them. Our staff discusses the 10 best cars we've reviewed over the past twelve months and narrows them down to three, and then an overall winner. Cars are evaluated based on style, comfort, driving experience, safety, technology, efficiency, materials quality, build quality, amenities, brand significance, and segment impact.
THE LEXUS LC 500: Japanese Grand Touring Excellence
Exterior Styling: It captivates from literally every angle
When you first set your eyes on the radical LC 500 ($92,000 base MSRP), you think it's driven off the car show floor since it's barely changed from the 2013 LF LC on which it's based. Just when you thought you drew your conclusions about the new Lexus design language that pervades their lineup, you take one look at the LC 500, and you're an instant believer. Walk around the vehicle, and you'll find what we call "interesting" styling cues like the busy headlights, the massive cheese-grater grille, and the wild taillights, but they all work together beautifully, resulting in a car that looks fantastic from every angle and unlike any other vehicle on the road today. It's fresh, original, and arresting. Everyone you meet wants to take a closer look.
The Cabin: How to meld retro and futuristic in one superb package
Last year's winner was the excellent Volvo S90, and it won more because of the interior than the exterior, which can easily be said for the LC 500. And just like Volvo, Lexus threw convention out the window to design an interior so appealing, you never want to step out. The rich leather and suede is so slickly shaped on the dash and center console, that it easily qualifies as an artful expression of the car interior that's less determined by function and more by pure design.
The single instrument binnacle is so well-crafted that it belongs on a luxury private plane, and the twin protruding stalks are just brilliant. Why didn't anyone think of this before? Move to the dash and infotainment screen in one big swath of electronics and leather, and the resulting depth is simply stunning. Even the climate control system's buttons are addictive to the touch with thick metal buttons that actuate perfectly. Rich suede on the seats and door panels are sumptuous, and the aluminum-lined leather grab handle that rises to the dash actually makes you want to move your hand off the steering wheel. The uniform tan coloring gives it a jazz lounge look that's just the right amount of old school, too.
The Driving Experience: Naturally-aspirated and all the better for it
When you dole out six figures for a car that looks like this, you'd think you would get a sports car experience, but that's actually not what the LC 500 is about. It's much more of a super-capable grand tourer that can eat up high speed and cruising miles without batting an eye. Don't get us wrong. The ample 471 horsepower from the booming naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8 engine launches the LC 500 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, and you feel all of it. It's a big, heavy car, but the LC 500 moves with authority, surging smoothly but powerfully at highway speeds without effort. And the ride is as smooth as butter, perfectly balanced between firm and comfortable.
The fact that Lexus didn't shoehorn a six-cylinder turbo mill in the LC is testament to the car's greatness, with that unmistakable full and deep growl that only a non-forced induction mill can make. Only V8s and V12s are proper for a truly great grand touring car, and Lexus chose wisely.
We love the fact that you can fully outfit the LC 500, and the price lightly crests $100,000. Whereas you could opt for something like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, which starts at $122K. Though the LC is not a cheap car by any means, we think it's a bargain for class-leading styling and build quality, stratospheric comfort, and reliability that's at the top of the heap.
The LC 500 is a car that Lexus did right in so many ways. The only thing we can ding it on is really the infotainment system. It looks and feels spectacular, but the control touch pad is difficult to use while driving, and the system still operates on the clunky side. Other than that, the LC 500 is simply magnificent to drive, look at, and sit in. Whether or not it's iconic enough to be a classic down the road remains to be seen, but right now Lexus has the car that stirs us the most in so many facets of the automotive experience.
The Runners Up
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
The Germans can now vomit up their Wienerschnitzel because the Italians have delivered the most thrilling sports sedan this year in the form of the absolutely intoxicating Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadifoglio. It's simply superb to drive with rapier-like steering and a chassis that just won't quit. The 505 horsepower, twin-turbo V6 engine moves this sucker like stink, too. Couple that with styling that's both aggressive and sophisticated, along with a truly comfortable interior and easy-to-use infotainment, and you have a recipe for one of the best cars of the year. We didn't want to give it back. In all honesty, this car almost beat out the LC 500 as our favorite. It's just that good. - Amos Kwon
Genesis G80 Sport
The Genesis G80 Sport shows that Hyundai’s luxury brand is no joke. The car boasts ample power that’s easy to manage, fantastic ergonomics, top-notch technology, and beautiful interior and exterior styling. The car is long, sleek, and contemporary from all angles, and Genesis designers obviously took pains to make sure this car doesn’t look too derivative. The G80 Sport can be driven hard without disappointing, but it can also be a joy in everyday traffic. It’s a comfortable, luxury sedan with a sport-minded ethos. It’s not the fastest, lightest, or most fun to drive luxury sports sedan on the market right now, but in terms of an overall package, the car delivers much more than its price tag suggests. - Wade Thiel