Lexus is ready to hit the road with a new flagship model — the elite grand touring performance coupe LC 500, a production version of the concepts (dating back to 2012 as the LF-LC concept) that have been making auto show rounds for a couple years.
Not only did Toyota Motor Corp. president Akio Toyoda call for the development of a production version of a flagship using the spirit of the LFA supercar, but he also had a hand in the fine-tuning and shakedown of the production car
The LC coupe is based on a new vehicle architecture (Global Architecture – Luxury, or GA-L, which is also used on the new LS sedan), and promises to deliver not just the stunning good looks and premium craftsmanship that has already won its concepts multiple design awards, but also scintillating performance and the long-distance driving comfort of a grand-tourer.
The production model debuted at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this past January, and it’s rolling into showrooms this spring as the 471-hp LC 500 and the LC 500h, with a new version of the Toyota’s multi-stage hybrid powertrain.
The spindle grille and distinct lines immediately identify it as a Lexus, though it has adapted the signature cues for a unique character. Among them, a grille with a unique mesh patter the company says changes tension as it stretches across the nose, L-shaped running lights beneath ultra-compact triple-LED headlights, and a floating roof design from the large glass panel (optionally replaced by a carbon fibre panel to lessen weight) and blacked out rear pillars.
The sure-footedness and muscularity of the coupe are emphasized by rear quarter panels that flare out from the cabin, and doors that pinch in. The car tails off in a mimic of the front end, with slim distinctive light bezels in the shape of the F-Performance-badge, accented with the signature Lexus LED swoop, and creases that create the Lexus spindle from the grille. The rear is topped off with a spoiler that looks integrated into the rear deck but then rises to the occasion (at 80 km/h) when high-speed stability is desired.
The LC 500 uses a 5.0-litre V-8 that makes 471 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. Using a 10-speed automatic (which is actually smaller and lighter than some 8-speed units) sending power to the rear wheels, the LC 500 sprints to 100 km/h in about 4.5 seconds with the aid of magnesium shift paddles.
Shift paddles are also used on the LC 500h, which takes the Hybrid Synergy Drive to a new level with the addition of a 4-speed automatic to the usual continuously variable transmission. It creates a combined gearset of 10 steps with which to control the 2-motor assisted 3.5-litre V-6’s 354-hp net output. The car can operate on electric power up to speeds of 140 km/h.
The compact, lightweight lithium-ion battery fits neatly between the rear seatback and the luggage compartment, which we take to mean that there’s no pass-through between cabin and trunk.
Both cars ride on 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels shod with run-flat tires, mostly to lighten weight by doing away with an onboard spare. Extensive use of aluminum and carbon-fibre contribute a lightweight overall package. The only steel body panels are the rear fenders.
Inside, the driver’s hip point is close to the vehicle centre of gravity for optimum driving feedback. The instrument panel is also low slung, as is the hood, so the drivers don’t feel like they’re sitting low in the tub in the well bolstered sport seats.
New colour schemes have been introduced, including Bespoke White and Toasted Caramel, and the sharp interior features the latest in audio, navigation and connectivity, using the latest Lexus Remote Touch Interface touchpad on the centre console. A new Pioneer 12-speaker surround sound system is standard, with the option to move up to a 13-speaker Mark Levinson system.
And, of course, there’s the Lexus Safety System array of safety features and driving aids, including pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist and vehicle sway warning, and intelligent high-beam headlights.