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2017 Lexus LC 500 Review – A Week With The Flagship Coupe




I want to start off with the looks of the new Lexus LC. Or rather, the Lexus LF-LC concept car from the 2012 Detroit Auto Show that inspired the production LC we see here today. The LF-LC was a jackpot for Lexus, in terms of design. It was a stunner, the kind that doesn’t happen very often. Unlike the LFA super car that was released two years prior, which looked more exuberant than beautiful, the LF-LC was the opposite.

The general sentiment at the LF-LC premiere was “Lexus is never going to build this”, “It will be watered down”, “It’s impossible to engineer”…

To everyone’s surprise, Lexus has not only transformed the LF-LC show car into a production reality, but in the process made the real deal look even better. The new LC is the best looking car Lexus has ever produced, and also one of the most stunning, striking and beautiful grand tourers available today.

Walking toward the Zinnia Yellow LC 500 after being handed the keys at Lexus’ headquarters, I can’t stop but admire the car for a full 30 minutes. There is just so much to take in. The bonnet is impossibly low and the rear haunches are so wide you can land an aeroplane on them. The sweeping roof line tapers gracefully down to the rear deck and floats just above it, reducing visual mass.

I find what appear to be darkened tear drops pouring down the headlights a little weird looking but they are surely distinctive. Speaking of headlights, the new triple LED headlamp is specially designed for the LC and utilise one of the industry’s thinnest projectors to enable that low bonnet with a short front overhang.

OK, on to the controversial Spindle Grille – the subject of much criticism in the brand’s other models. In the case of the LC though, Lexus has finally nailed it. It works beautifully, pinching the front wide and pulling the nose right down for a properly imposing and aggressive look. For added visual treat, the grille features a radical new 3D mesh design that varies its visual tension through varying density of the mesh from top to bottom – the kind of details that you only get from Lexus.

At the rear, the slim tail lamp makes use of an infinity illusion mirror to produce a very cool, sequential ‘L’ motif lighting effect that resembles that of a fighter jet’s afterburner. And I simply can’t get enough of this.

The LC rides on eye-catching 21-inch, forged aluminium wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres measuring 245/40 RF21 front, and 275/35 RF21 rear.

Climbing into the 2+2 LC 500, I’m blown away by the interior. It is simply gorgeous. It feels truly exotic, and is certainly not something you’d expect at the LC’s price point – at $200k it’s no doubt expensive but the cabin feels more like something twice that price.

The design is very organic, very original. It’s good to see Lexus applying something of their own and not trying to be European. Everything is built to an exceptionally high standard, from the quality of the leather and Alcantara to the delicate feedback of the buttons and the minuscule gap between panels. And being a Lexus, everything feels like it will last decades.

The seats are the best in the business. It’s snug and contoured perfectly to your body. Lexus claims they went through 50 different seat designs to find the best one. The effort certainly has paid off.

The LFA-esque dashboard wraps around the driver, giving a sense of oneness with the car. The driving position is also spot on, you sit low and tight, with the steering wheel at chest level and excellent forward visibility through the vast front windscreen.

As the new Lexus halo, the LC plays against the likes of BMW 6 Series Coupe, Mercedes-Benz SL, Porsche 911 Carrera, Maserati GranTurismo and Jaguar F-Type.

Longer, wider and lower than the Lexus’ other high-performance coupe, the RC F, the LC range comprises the V8-powered LC 500 and 3.5L V6 petrol-electric hybrid LC 500h, both of which priced at $190,000 plus on-road costs in Australia. In the segment, the sticker puts the LC above V6 variants of the BMW 6 Series Coupe and Jaguar F-Type but below the Merc SL, Porsche 911 Carrera and Maserati GranTurismo.

Underpinning the LC is Lexus’ new GA-L (Global Architecture – Luxury) platform that utilises steel, aluminium and carbonfibre. It’s claimed to be the most torsionally rigid Lexus ever built, and that includes the LFA. While Lexus says the new platform offers the optimum combination of strength, light weight and balanced 52/48 front-rear weight distribution (51/49 for the hybrid), I’m not quite sure on the middle bit. Weighing in at nearly two-tonne, the Lexus is no doubt a very heavy car, on paper at least.

The high-revving V8 in the LC 500 displaces 5.0 litres, and unlike rivals in this segment, there’s not a single turbo in sight in the Lexus. Delivering a maximum power of 351kW @ 7,100rpm and peak torque of 540Nm @ 4,800rpm, the engine is matched to the segment’s first 10-speed automatic transmission.

Thumb the engine start button and the big V8 comes alive in a glorious roar on start-up before settling down in a deep burble. With the slick gear lever shifted into drive, it’s time to point the LC 500 to some of the best driving roads in north eastern Victoria.

It doesn’t take long behind the wheel to gather a familiar impression. If you are simply cruising around, the LC drives just like what you’d expect from a Lexus – serene, refined and very civilised. The adaptive suspension soaks up bumps and ruts with aplomb, resulting in a ride that is firm but every bit as smooth as a luxury sedan. This is a grand coupe you can drive everyday. It is simply magnificent. And that V8, no one does V8 like Lexus, it is one of the smoothest we have sampled. It’s just so effortless. Cruising along at 110km/h in tenth gear, the engine is literally idling at 1,400rpm.

Despite having no fuel-saving cylinder deactivation mode, fuel use on the freeway is still a very respectable 7.0 to 8.0L/100km, though in urban setting that figure can quickly climb to over 16.0L/100km.

The 10-speed transmission has very tall gearing with equally spaced ratios, which I think is more suited on track than on road. I’d prefer the lower gears to be stacked more closely not just for quicker acceleration, but also the sensation you get from being able to rev out the glorious V8 using first and second without breaking the legal speed limit.

On the go gear shifts are smooth yet super quick, though occasionally it jerks and jolts on downshifts when slowing to a halt, quite often giving an unpleasant knock in the back. Shifting from reverse to drive or vice versa there’s also a lengthy pause in neutral. There’s certainly room for improvement, nevertheless the new 10-speed auto is a great match to the V8.

With a straight patch of road ahead of me, I switch the drive mode to its sportiest setting – Sport+ – and plant my right foot. Without delay, the V8 wakes from its slumber and all hell breaks loose. This thing screams like a chimp on fire as it crests 7,000 rpm. It pulls hard all the way to the limiter and that soundtrack (piped into the cabin, not synthetic) is nothing short of fabulous. It is absolutely mental. Let the competition go turbo because it seriously does not matter. There isn’t a car in this class that sounds as good as the Lexus. Naturally aspirated over turbocharging induction? Fully justified.

The gearbox dishes out lightning fast gear changes in Sport+ mode. It’s not as quick as a dual clutch but it’s close. Bar the LFA, this is the hardest shifting gearbox from Lexus and it feels fantastic. In manual mode, it lets you bounce off the redline too. Now that’s sporty. But so good is the shifting algorithm in auto there’s actually no need to use the paddles. Left to its own devices, the gearbox up and down shifts like a pro racer.

Lexus has not included a launch control but that’s fine because I hear some sort of LC F is coming before too long. Still, 0 to 100km/h in a claimed 4.7 seconds is pretty quick.

Despite tipping the scale at a hefty 1,935kg, the LC 500 feels properly planted on a stretch of challenging roads. Body roll is kept well under controlled and the nose points keenly into corners. There’s virtually no understeer as long as you keep things below the car’s limit. It feels somewhere between a grand tourer (which it is essentially) and a proper sports car. Punting hard the car feels sure-footed, predictable and alive, only struggling for traction at the tightest hairpins.

The surprisingly sharp dynamics stem from a well balanced chassis and a very stiff body, aided by an effective rear limited slip differential. Grip from those Michelin rubber is also outstanding.

The rest of the package is just as promising. The electric steering is beautifully weighted, precise and quick if not a little muted in feedback, and braking through those six-pot calipers at the front and four in the rear, the LC stops promptly and confidently.

It’s a really easy car to drive fast this Lexus LC, and more so on a track. It doesn’t just want to push and understeer, it respects the driver’s input. You can choose to grip drive it for sheer pace, or loosen its rear end for some sideway lunacy. Either way, the LC 500 will put a big smile on your face.

Typical of Lexus, the LC 500 is comprehensively equipped. The 12-way power adjustable front seats are heated and ventilated, though the controls for them are inconveniently hidden away within the infotainment screen. A bespoke Mark Levinson premium sound system with 13 speakers is standard, so are the electrically adjusted steering rack and colour heads up display (HUD).

Every LC is also equipped with Lexus Safety System+, featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collison Safety System, Lane Keep Assist, Sway Warning and Automatic High Beam, plus a Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, reversing camera, eight airbags and tyre-pressure monitor.

The LC also debuts the latest, much improved Lexus infotainment system with a 10.3-inch display, satellite navigation and finally, a voice recognition system that works, though the new Lexus remote touch interface still takes a bit of finesse to use.

Verdict

Design and Comfort: 9.5/10

Performance and Handling: 8.5/10

Quality: 9.0/10

Economy: 8.5/10

Equipment and Features: 8.5/10

Our Score: 4.4/5

There’re a few cars you would buy purely on looks, and the Lexus LC is one of them. It’s arguably the boldest and coolest looking car in its class. And to have that backed by a magnificent V8 engine and sharp dynamics, the LC 500 is also a car you would buy for more than just looks.

It’s a great effort from Lexus. Now bring on the LC F.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous looks
  • Superb interior
  • Scintillating V8 engine sound
  • Sharp dynamics
  • Excellent build quality

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Thirsty when pushed
  • Cramped rear seats

2017 Lexus LC 500 Pricing and Specification

Price (Excluding on-road costs): $190,000

As tested: $190,000

Warranty: 4 years/100,000km
Country of Origin: Japan
Service Intervals: 15,000km/12 months
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol

351kW @ 7,100rpm, 540Nm @ 4,800rpm

Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg): 183.3
0-100km/h (s): Claimed: 4.7 / Tested: 4.9
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km): Claimed: 11.6 / Tested: 11.8
RON Rating 98
Fuel Capacity (L): 82
Body: 2-door, 4-seat, coupe
Safety: 5-star ANCAP, 8 airbags, ABS, VSM, BA, EBD, Autonomous Emergency Braking, radar-sensing all-speed active cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic high beam, reversing camera, blind spot monitor, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert.
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm: 4,770/1,920/1,345/2870
Kerb Weight (kg): 1,935
Entertainment: 10.3-inch display screen, 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, CD Player, DAB+, satellite navigation, USB/AUX/iPod input

Competitors: BMW 6 Series Coupe, Mercedes-Benz SL, Jaguar F-Type, Porsche 911 Carrera, Maserati GranTurismo

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