New Lexus LC500 coupe cops a performance attitude
Posted on May 22, 2017
Several years ago, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, who is just as comfortable in a Nomex racing suit as the pinstripe kind, asked automotive reviewers what they thought of Lexus. The unanimous response was “boring.” That made Toyoda’s operating temperature rise, and he made it a personal mission to change that perception. The challenge was how to add performance without harming the brand’s reputation for quiet refinement.
Lexus leapt into the performance arena in 2007 by unveiling the IS F model, a challenger to BMW’s M and Mercedes AMG modified sports sedans. They also announced the LFA supercar, a howling, 10-cylinder beast in the same category occupied by Lamborghini. This rowdy duo earned enthusiast magazine covers, but in the Lexus lineup, it felt like dropping a world wrestling ring next to a symphony orchestra.
While Lexus is a very successful luxury brand, it has struggled to secure sales for cars above six figures — a familiar territory for BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The new 2018 model LC500 (which is available now), is a real weapon for that performance luxury battle. This stylish coupe makes an arresting statement with its thoughtfully crafted spindle grille, where the mesh pattern continues from top to bottom, to the wide rear flank that matches the aggressive tire patch. The rear styling is just as bold. The taillight trim pays homage to the earlier LFA supercar. Expensive coupes are usually a tough sell, so it’s important to get it right. I think Lexus nailed it.
While I’m enthusiastic about the LC500’s style, the new Lexus grille isn’t a universal smash hit across the lineup for me. On some Lexus models, it seems to try too hard. Still, few can argue now that the brand doesn’t have its own distinct appearance.
The heart of the new LC500 beats to the melodic tune of a 5-liter V8. When throttled, the engine plays its song inside the cabin through a resonance tube to the firewall. Outside, powerful notes are delivered by an active exhaust system. The responsive 471-horsepower and 398-pound-feet of torque are readily available without any turbocharge hesitation. A new 10-speed, quick shifting transmission easily finds just the right gear. Paddle shift if you wish, right up to the 7,300 RPM limit. That’s a very un-Lexus experience.
Near perfect weight distribution and a front, mid-engine layout that puts the driver in the center of the coupe will bring a new perspective (and grin) to the driving experience. Double ball joint front suspension, available active rear wheel steering, and big brakes add to confidence at high speeds.
It’s all a complex engineering and performance feat for Lexus. Take a test drive and you’ll be pleasantly surprised, just as I was. Brian Douglas