Lexus LC 500: Japan's GT muscle car a significant turning point
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No model better symbolises Toyota Motor Corporation’s ambition to be taken seriously as an exciting carmaker than the Lexus LC 500.
You have only to glance at this long, elegant and futuristic two-door GT coupe to realise this isn’t a Lexus to poke fun at. Quite the opposite. It’s a car that draws you in and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a car that stirs desire for a company determined to “build more emotion into the Lexus brand”.
Produced in the same factory as the limited LFA V10 supercar, and built on the same platform as the LS four-door sedan, the $215,000 LC 500 sits atop Toyota Motor Corporation’s vehicle line-up as the billion dollar conglomerate’s flagship luxury coupe.
The LC’s silhouette has a sweeping roofline and chrome mouldings along the side, said to mimic the lines of a Samurai sword. The low bonnet line is paired with thin front headlights and the rear L-shaped tail lights produce a multi-refection effect using a one-way mirror.
The LC’s interior is equally striking, finished with Lexus’ finest materials and latest technology. The cabin is awash with leather, alcantara, aluminium, magnesium and carbon fibre surfaces. The drivers’ instrument cluster is fully digital with a speedometer that moves as you navigate menus and drive modes through buttons on the steering wheel.
The infotainment system features a 10.3in display that can be controlled using buttons or touch pad, which responds to movement, tapping or flicking. The LC range can be ordered in Touring, Sport, or Performance packages which adjusts interior materials accordingly.
As well as looking and feeling luxurious, the LC’s ergonomics are superb. The driver’s seat is low, fully adjustable and comfortable for long journeys. And thanks to thin A-pillars, blind spot monitoring and rear-wheel steering, driving the 4.7m long and 1.9m wide GT in tight spaces is much easier than it might appear.
It’s smart too, with autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control and front and rear clearance sensors fitted as standard.
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The modern facade of its styling contrasts with the grumble of a high revving V8 the moment the engine fires into life. While the LC 500h hybrid features a forward-thinking, environmentally friendly power unit, the naturally aspirated LC 500 is, at its heart, a modern Japanese muscle car.
Powered by an updated version of the engine found in the RC F coupe and GS F sedan, the 5-litre quad-cam V8 now produces 351kW of power at over 7000rpm and 540Nm of torque at 4800rpm.
Mated to a new 10-speed close ratio automatic transmission, the 2.3-tonne LC 500 can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.7 sec and onto an electronically limited top speed of 270km/h.
While those figures will do little to scare the LC’s European rivals, the fact Lexus was brave enough to launch a MY18 GT with an N/A V8 gives the LC an advantage few can match when it comes to noise.
Not only does it sound great at cruising speed, once you find space to move through the rev range, the engine note changes from a rumble to a low-pitched roar as the aluminum V8 comes on and off cam. The noise can be enhanced thanks to the exhaust which features flaps that open and close depending on drive mode.
The LC is also the most torsional rigid model Lexus has made, stronger even than the LFA supercar. Sitting on 21in wheels and newly designed multi-link suspension with rear-wheel steering, the LC 500 can handle itself on New Zealand back roads, with grip on hand from the 245 front and 275 rear tyres.
But the LC’s strength is the way it eats miles on the motorway. The LC is a true GT. At 100km/h the engine is barely turning over at 1000rpm in top gear, and when you need to overtake, a kick in the backside is only a few clicks away on the magnesium gear leavers.
However, if you’re going away for the weekend you’ll have to pack lightly as the 150-litre boot struggles to fit more than two full-sized suitcases. And the LC is only fit for two front seat occupants, as even children will struggle to get into the rear row.
Yet once you hit the road those downsides disappear as the LC 500 wins you over with a package of comfort, performance and luxury.
And best of all, the LC 500 isn’t a mere flash in the pan for Lexus, it marks a significant turning point. In the words of the company's president, Akio Toyoda: “The LC is what a more emotional Lexus looks like to me ... and this is just the beginning.”
Lexus LC 500
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 (351kW, 540Nm), 10-speed Automatic
Pro: Looks inside and out, build quality and soulful V8 engine
Con: Pointless rear row. A few more kW and less weight would be good, too