Let’s say five years ago, you went up a Lexus driver and said, “In half a decade, Lexus will make an LS that handles better than a 7 Series, as well as a coupe that’s cooler than a Maserati GranTurismo.”
Their response would be to ignore the crazy person and drive off as quickly as they could, but still in a quiet, refined Lexus way.
Present day: If you said the same to the driver of a Lexus LC, they’d whoop out loud: “Damn right wise ass, and this is it!” Then drop a burnout at the push of a single button, and roar off in a glorious miasma of tyre smoke overlaid with a soaring V8 soundtrack.
The LC looks like nothing else on the road – a difficult thing to do – and takes no cues from history, yet still looks aggressive and elegant in the right proportions. And speaking of proportions, the LC’s design works because it’s entirely its own thing: The fat haunches, the unique A-pillar and silhouette, the intricate details.
That it’s come from an almost totally unexpected quarter to shake up primarily European-influenced GT-design is just another plus point. And we think it’d look just as good roaming the streets of a cyberpunk Tokyo as it would the streets of old Florence.
The interior’s just as fetching. There are suggestive curves all over, from the supportive sport seats to the ‘wave’ patterns on the door and the ‘monoposto’ high-rise cockpit with a central instrument dial.
It’s all very driver-centric: The spot-on sporty seating position is low and comfortable, the drive mode and traction knobs are easily reachable, mounted as they are above the instrument dial. The latter is the same as featured on the Lexus RC F, a movable single-dial cluster that changes colour/theme depending on the drive mode. Additional menus display wing position, the G-force meter and more.
Despite it being a grand touring sport coupe, visibility is excellent: It’s certainly easier to maneuver than many recent SUVs, thanks to the thin, ‘flying’ A-pillars that allow you to see out the sides easily, while the rear quarter-windows enable simple, ‘life-saver’ blind spot checks, though it also comes with a blind spot monitoring system as standard.
Aside from a gruff bark upon start-up, the LC’s very civilised, though this is a grand tourer after all, and it handles the daily grind well, almost like any old Lexus. The coupe body, sporty suspension and big, 21-inch wheels spell for a slightly busier ride than a garden variety Lexus, but it’s similar to the RC and RC F models, and nowhere near as hardcore as say, a Mercedes-AMG C 63 S.
Under the elegant bonnet is the same 5.0-litre V8 engine as found on the RC F, but it makes a tiny bit more power here for a total of 470hp. On paper, that’s not as much as it sounds, compared to cars like the BMW M6 or Mercedes-AMG SL 63, which both have well over 550hp. In fact the LC’s 0-100km/h time of 4.7 seconds seems downright relaxed, but it’s another clue that Lexus isn’t chasing kilometres per hour, but smiles per minute.
470hp is still more than enough power for anyone, though, but the best thing is that the LC’s engine, remains a stirring, controllable gem just like on the RC. While all the Europeans have switched to turbos (Maserati Granturismo aside), the V8 is stubbornly, charmingly naturally-aspirated, and that breeds a deep driver connection.
A big part of that stems from the feeling you won’t fly into the scenery if you give it more than half throttle, that it remains predictable and controllable even in tight spaces, the other part comes from the hair-raising, high-revving sound track.
It’s not quite as 110-percent visceral as the GranTurismo’s crossplane-cranked 4.2-litre V8, but it’s not far off: edge toward the 7,300rpm redline and it makes sounds you never thought possible in a Lexus.
The other half of the glorious drivetrain’s partnership is the new ten-speed gearbox, another achievement Lexus is justifiably proud of. Not only does it give the car a wider spectrum of manners – 90km/h in top gear is only a smidgen above 1,000rpm – it always knows what you’re going to expect, lightning-fast when it needs to be, almost instantaneous with the gearshifts, followed by a whip-crack rev-match once you engage the hefty magnesium-shift paddles.
If we had driven the LC before the new Lexus LS international launch the sensational handling of the latter might have come as less of a surprise, given that both cars run on the new Lexus GA-L platform (Global Architecture, Luxury) which is the brand’s stiffest road-going platform to date.
Like the LS, the engie’s pushed far into the centre of the car, behind the front axle, while the front and rear overhangs are very short. All of this contributes to a machine that responds exceptionally well to a driver’s every desire.
‘Controllability’ is the key word here, and the LC has that rare quality of delivering it no matter how fast – or slow – you’re going. The ease of use means, like the RC, the LC is a comfortable car to drive quickly, and that pays dividends whether you’re driving in a carpark or on track.
The usual foibles of a GT apply: Boot space is a mere 197-litres, and while the rear seats are comfortable, they’re simply not for anyone who actually owns knees. It’s ostensibly a 2+2 but the seats only exist to give you an excuse to drop off pesky friends as soon as possible.
The charm and sensuousness of a naturally-aspirated engine mean worser fuel economy too – we never bettered 14.0L/100km, but we also never delved into ‘eco’ mode. It’s the price to pay for a new-school GT with a thoroughly old-school, driver-appealing charm though, a new part of the Lexus canon that’ll make you feel positively saintly, even while sinning.
Lexus LC 500
Engine 4,969cc, 32V, V8
Power 470hp at 7100rpm
Torque 540Nm at 4800rpm
Gearbox 10-speed automatic
Top Speed 270km/h
0-100km/h 4.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 11.6L/100km
Price $550,000 with COE
Agent Borneo Motors
Verdict: Charismatic, unique and possibly the most exicting-looking, fun driving Lexus coupe made to date