It’s often suggested that Lexus lacks drama. I think that’s unfair and a line of cars like the IS F, RC F, GS F and the phenomenal LFA supercar would also beg to differ.
The latest in Lexus series of cars you may not expect is the LC, styled to look more like a concept car than a showroom reality, Lexus has coined a dramatic flagship loaded to the hilt with inescapable styling and a rev-happy V8 engine.
Like it or loathe it, you simply can’t ignore it. On paper Lexus puts up a fair fight for a broad cross-section of Sports, Luxury, and GT coupes but does the wild styling translate into an equally involving drive? TMR hit the road in the LC500 to find out.
Vehicle Style: Luxury coupe
Price: $190,000 plus on-road costs,
Engine/trans: 351kW/540Nm 5.0-litre 8cyl petrol | 10spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 11.6 l/100km | Tested: 14.3 l/100km
The LC range comprises two models, both with the same $190,000 plus on-road cost entry price. The least popular of the two is expected to be the V6 hybrid LC500h, but the non-hybrid V8-powered LC500 tested here is sure to generate plenty of interest.
It’s a rare beast, thanks to a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 where competitors have turned to forced induction and downsized engines. That decision works in its favour and gives enthusiasts something to celebrate.
Then there’s the impossible to ignore looks. Based on the 2012 LF-LC concept it seemed impossible to think that Lexus would deliver anything so low, so wide, so dramatically proportioned if the LF-LC were to reach production.
Not only did the LC reach production, but it did so with the concept’s incredible proportions and most of the fastidious details still intact. Lexus certainly isn’t fooling around with this car.
- Standard Equipment: Semi-aniline leather trim, 12-way power front seats with heating and ventilation, keyless entry with push-button start, 8.0-inch digital instrument display, adaptive cruise control, powered steering column, LED headlights, 21-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 10.3-inch colour screen, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, DVD player, satellite navigation, 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio
- Cargo Volume: 197 litres
Like the exterior, Lexus set out to create an interior that was different from anything else in its range, and memorable for all the right reasons.
Although there’s still some familiar elements, you won’t confuse this one with your neighbour’s run-of-the-mill Lexus SUV on the inside thanks to a dramatic design and highly detailed touches.
Aside from the basic black picture here, Lexus will also let you tick the box for a black and burgundy two-tone interior, or a bold multi-hued light brown trim (officially called Ochre) in combination with any of the available eleven exterior colours.
The cabin offers four seats in a 2+2 configuration, and as you’d expect the rear seat might be the right place to buckle in a suitable small pet, or particularly short passenger, but won’t do the job for long hauls or full-sized adults.
There’s no escaping Lexus’ attention to detail. There’s beautifully hand-finished leather liberally applied to the dash, doors, and console with a flowing design that enhances the cockpit-like interior’s feeling of speed.
It’s perhaps a little odd then to find that the two silver panels on the dash; one on front of the passenger and one surrounding the climate controls, are formed with two different silver tones.
Same goes for the climate display itself, which looks like a Toyota parts-bin cost-cut thanks to its seven-segment LCD display. There’s other dull details too, like the plain black plastic surround on the outboard dash vents, an off-centre seat belt warning light recess above the analogue clock that looks like a last-minute afterthought, and stitching details that are contrasted in some areas, but colour-matched in others with no real rhyme or reason.
By far the biggest interior crime has to be Lexus choice of infotainment interface. While most German competitors use click-wheel type controllers in concert with touchpads or touchscreens, Lexus perseveres with a laptop-style mouse pad - a perfectly fine solution in a stationary vehicle, but a nearly impossible to use solution on-the-go.
Befitting it’s driver-centric focus the LC500 puts a crisp TFT instrument panel ahead of the driver, with changing graphics that match the selected drive mode, as well as a bright and easy to read heap-up display.
Controls for both drive mode and stability control are also, somewhat unusually, mounted either side of the instrument surround giving an intriguing aircraft-inspired layout to the dash.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 5.0-litre petrol V8, 351kW @7100rpm, 540Nm @4800rpm
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Four-wheel independent suspension with adaptive dampers
- Brakes: 338mm vented front discs six-piston calipers, 308mm vented rear discs four-piston calipers
- Steering: Electric power steering, 10.8m turning circle
In what can only be described as a match made in heaven, the long and low nose of the LC 500 plays host to a free-revving 5.0-litre V8 which produces a rich and creamy soundtrack that signifies everything good about V8 engines.
A quick stat-check unveils 351kW and a wicked 7100rpm redline, while torque measures 540Nm at 4800rpm - revability that turbocharged V8 engines in rivals can’t match, even if outputs are scaled back as a result.
Because Lexus insists the LC is more of a grand tourer than a genuine sportscar the 4.7-second 0-100 km/h claim is forgivable, and truth be told, with the accelerator flattened to the floor there doesn’t seem to be much call for anything swifter.
A rather portly 1935kg kerb weight may well be a weight on your mind though. While the LC500 can string together a set of corners with surprising enthusiasm, it doesn’t quite have the agility or finely honed feel that you might find in something like a Jaguar F-Type thanks to the added weight pulling it down.
There’s no hiding the massive 21-inch wheels either, shod with wide, low profile rubber (245/40 R21 up front, 275/35 R21 at the rear) which tend to amplify some of the LC’s rougher ride characteristics.
The suspension is only just gentle enough to wear the luxury tag, feeling more aggressive than the rest of the car’s systems and creating a blemish for buyers who might simply buy the LC to be seen in rather than punted hard.
Lexus has also introduced a 10-speed automatic transmission on the LC500, a technological feat on paper, but one that loses some of its sparkle on the road, constantly cycling through gears every couple of seconds in the ebb and flow of city traffic, or shuffling down one or two gears at a time on even the mildest of inlines on the open road.
Slot the auto selector into its manual detent however, and the LC does something no previous Lexus automatic has done before, actually obeying the majority of driver demands and holding onto gears hard against the redline.
Couple that with a devious throttle-blip on downshift and a wholloping crack from full-noise upshifts and the LC500 engages in a way no previous Lexus apart from the LFA supercar has.
There’s a dynamism to the LC that feels new and fresh for Lexus, from steering that responds quickly, to a stability control system that won’t clamp down on gentle exploration of the dynamic limits the big coupe treads new territory for the brand. But in a way that will still be familiar to previous owners of less exciting models.
That’s good news for future owners of lesser Lexus models too, with future rear-driven product to adopt the same all-new platform, and related electronics systems, as used under the LC - starting with the new LS sedan later this year.
ANCAP Rating: The Lexus LC has yet to be rated by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Standard safety equipment includes eight airbags (dual front, driver and passenger knee, curtain, and front seat side), electronic stability and traction control, pre-collision alert and braking (autonomous emergency braking), lane keeping assist with steering assist, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring, pedestrian-protecting pop-up bonnet, and reversing camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Four years/100,000km
Servicing: Lexus does not offer capped-price or prepaid service contracts to private buyers, though corporate programme aftercare is available to business customers. Service prices may vary, consult your Lexus dealer for a quote.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With sensuous styling and an intimate two-seat cabin the Jaguar F-Type is about as close as you can get to the LC, You may not be able to get into a V8 for the same money, but there’s a brilliant supercharged V6 available and the option of a convertible if you’d prefer.
Part coupe, part roadster thanks to a folding hard top, the Mercedes-Benz SL does grand touring beautifully. You’ll pay a little more for the heritage that comes with the badge but what you’ll get is sure to impress all-round.
Think of elite sportscars and your mind will probably stick on the Porsche 911. An icon thanks to finely-honed dynamics and looks that are unique in the sector, driven by a mechanical layout that’s equally as rare.
Stocks will be limited as the current BMW 6 Series prepares to give way to a new generation car, but for that you’ll still have a choice of torque-monster turbocharged straight six or V8 engines. The 6 Series may not be as rare or polarising as the LC is sure to be, but that doesn’t diminish its appeal.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
As much as Lexus appears to have made a play for new customers who might have otherwise considered something more exotic, after time behind the wheel it’s clear that Lexus has created a next-step for existing Lexus owners.
The tingling ultra-agile feel of cars like the Jaguar F-Type or absolute muscular bruatility of a twin-turbo BMW or Benz are missing from the LC500. This car may offer supermodel good looks, but delivers librarian levels of driving thrills.
There’s change afoot with Lexus, and the LC500 drives with clarity and conviction that’s refreshing to see. Perhaps if Lexus can find a way to fix the recurring nightmare that is its infotainment system the brand would actually stand a chance of toppling pedigree sports cars.
Until then leave the radio off and the windows down and drink in one of the last uninterrupted V8 soundtracks available - it’s good enough on its own to justify the LC’s existence.