Last week I travelled to Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula to ‘Australia’s Best Hotel’ for a fitting alliance of design and innovation. Arguably the two most exciting releases of their respective categories in 2017, Jackalope Hotel couldn’t have been a more appropriate location for Lexus to launch their groundbreaking Lexus LC 500.
Originally debuting in 2016, the Lexus LC 500 is a dramatic step forward in aesthetics and positioning for the luxury Japanese brand. However, when you look at the brand’s past concept vehicles like LF-LC, which visited Sydney in 2012, it’s clear what vision Lexus had for their future even five years ago, and impressive that said vision is still at the forefront of vehicle design today.
In person, the Lexus LC 500 is a magnificent beast. And I don’t use the word beast lightly. Yes, the play on the word lightly was also intended. For the LC 500 is a sizeable Grand Tourer tipping the scales at 1950kg and 2000kg for the Hybrid, which is interesting considering the weight saving carbon fibre and aluminium construction. But I’ll forgive the weight because it is a beautiful thing to admire.
Tadao Mori, the car’s chief designer, has brought the LF-LC concept to life with the LC 500, retaining the concept’s hunkered down stance, poised front end and superb exterior lighting. There’s a hint of LFA there too, and an all round elegance that puts the LC 500 in a class of its own when it comes to looks. Still, it’s a design language you need to love to get into the brand. There’s a small part of me that imagines the LC 500 on the pages of a Dragon Ball Z comic with exaggerated slashes and curves to achieve a level of futurism currently untouched by the industry.
My favourite angle of the car was from behind, and watching the model in front of me, with the additional $15k ‘Enhancement Package’ deploy the rear spoiler and get on the brakes was enough to make any motoring enthusiast smile. As was the cabin I was watching from. I’m not overly familiar with past Lexus interiors, but I loved the LC 500.
There’s exposed Carbon Fibre when you step in, luxurious suede door panels, leather wrapped everything and a 918-watt Mark Levinson Audio system that sounds about as good as the car itself. The driving position is also a standout, cocooned low in a spirited but comfortable seat, gripping a beautifully shaped and sized wheel, albeit it minus a telescoping function. Unfortunately, navigating the entertainment system and car settings was like trying to write a neat letter with your weak hand.
What the LC 500 does without compromise, is excite the senses. From the moment you sit down and start the naturally aspirated V8 with a push of the button, you’re instantly engaged. I can’t attest to the Hybrid V6, which is fine because I’d never buy it, but the V8 sounds as good as an Aston Martin when it fires up.
Flick it into Sports Plus mode and engage the world first ten-speed gearbox and you’ve got a Grand Tourer that will get you from standstill to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. I spent almost all of my time in Sports Plus mode trying to get a feel for the unique gearbox which does an excellent job of delivering torque throughout the plethora of gears. I can’t speak much for the car’s handling in tight corners because we didn’t navigate a single one, but it felt confident and direct despite its weight.
Lexus claim it’s a car you can track, which is what they did with the motoring journalists the day before, which heralded various opinions. From my limited exposure, I can’t imagine myself putting it on the track, but nor could I many GT cars (outside the Panamera Turbo). What I think it would excel in is the occasional squeeze on some country twisties, windows down, downshifting to enjoy the visceral V8, letting the rear slide out just enough to make you hoot, before dialling it back and enjoying the sultry keys of Dave Brubeck through a world class audio system.
At $190k I’m not entirely sure who is going to buy the LC 500, but I’m excited that Lexus are now selling a car that enthusiasts can’t ignore. I think the car has an immense amount of appeal for both sexes. That elegance I mentioned earlier counteracts the wondrously raw engine note. The sheer fact that they opted for the aspirated V8 will sell cars, and Lexus predict 80% of the cars sold in Australia will be delivered with it. Interestingly the V6 Hybrid is the exact same price, and more expensive in other markets! Personally, I think 80% is a conservative estimate for the portion of V8 sales because no sane person is going to chose fuel efficiency over that sound, not at this price point anyway.
For more information on the Lexus LC 500 Coupe or to spec your own head to the Lexus website.