Somebody’s spiking the punch at Lexus. Who? Read on!
We all know that Toyota’s upper-tier brand builds safe, reliable, luxurious sedans, coupes and SUVs. “Exciting,” however, hasn’t really been their mass-market, stock-in-trade adjective. It’s not for lack of trying.
After all, the company’s “F” marque, representing the high-performance division, has delivered its share of potent cars. First out of the chute was the 2006 IS F with 416 horses, followed by the breathtaking 552 horsepower (and at $375,000, breathtakingly priced) hand-built 2009 LFA supercar.
The frisky, 467 horsepower RC F, which debuted in 2015, continues to sell briskly to the cognoscenti who want performance as well as comfort. But to most of the buying public, Lexus is still synonymous with mattress-soft barges and cushy carpool-lane SUVs.
That’s about to change. Say hello to the all-new 2018 LC (Luxury Coupe) 500 and its hybrid sibling, the LC 500h. If this eye-popping, powerful, luxurious cruiser doesn’t put Lexus squarely in the grand-touring market with world-class leaders like the Mercedes S-class, BMW’s 650i and Jag’s F-Type, then there’s more wrong with the world than we thought. It’s that good.
Let’s start with the LC’s athletic looks. That giant spindle grille, which people either love or loathe on other Lexus models, looks exactly right on the LC, anchoring the long hood and L-shaped LED headlamps with an aggressive, slightly sinister, leer. When this thing shows up in your rear-view mirror, you’d be well-advised to move over and let it pass.
Besides, that lets you enjoy the giant glass side panels, blacked-out rear pillars, functional vents and chrome-plated edge moldings, said to echo the lines of a traditional Japanese sword. Then there’s the tail’s cleverly sculpted mirror-image of the front.
Enjoy it for a few seconds, at least, because this thing is fast.
Powered by a 5.0-liter V8 generating 471 horsepower and 398 foot pounds of torque, the engine is a variant of what propels the GS F and RC F. Yes, the LC weighs nearly 4,300 pounds, but there’s plenty of hustle under the hood, propelling the LC from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
For now, at least, Lexus has resisted the twin-turbo trend of other manufacturers, opting instead for the throaty, guttural roar of a naturally aspirated V8. (The hybrid version features what Lexus calls a new-generation Multi Stage Hybrid powertrain, a 3.5-liter V6 and an electric motor for a combined output of 354 horsepower.)
The V8 is mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which Lexus says is a first for a luxury automobile, shifting at speeds rivaling dual-clutch transmissions but with the milkshake smoothness of a torque converter automatic. The electronic control system anticipates driver inputs by monitoring acceleration, braking and lateral-g forces, then pretty much always chooses the ideal ratio.
Lexus engineers worked hard to achieve the LC’s precise and luxurious ride, spending more than three times the usual amount of R&D time to find the sweet spot for road-contact feel.
Those desiring more drama can opt for the available Lexus Dynamic Handling system (LDH), which coordinates the electric power steering system with Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) and Active Rear Steering (ARS). The high-performance braking system brings all that go to a whoa in a hurry, thanks to six-piston front brake calipers and four-piston rears.
The comfy cabin, finished with the company’s signature Takumi craftsmanship, exudes a welcome un-Lexus edginess. The beautiful leather seats, for example, come in colors like “Rioja Red” and “Bespoke White,” which blends ivory, blue and orange. Even the conservative caramel beige integrates gracefully with the dramatic door trim drapery.
Optional sports seats feature substantial bolsters, keeping occupants firmly in place during exuberant maneuvers (aided by an integrated center console grab bar for passengers). The instrument panel houses an updated version of the LFA supercar’s thin film transistor (TFT) display that is sure to release your inner Trekkie.
As one would expect, the LC 500 features state of the art audio, navigation and connectivity technologies, such as the standard 12-speaker Pioneer surround sound system or the optional Mark Levinson 13-speaker system tailored to the LC cabin.
Both versions of the LC are equipped with Lexus Safety System+, an array of active safety features that integrate a camera and millimeter-wave radar with the Pre-Collision System and Pedestrian Detection, All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Vehicle Sway Warning.
So who’s spiking the punch and why? None other than Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda — he’s also chief branding officer and master driver for Lexus — who called for a flagship production coupe echoing the spirit of the LFA supercar to inspire more emotional and exciting vehicles for global markets.
Well played, sir. The LC 500 is a triumphant new chapter in the continuing Lexus story.
The only problem — getting one. Even with an MSRP of $92,000, (the hybrid goes for $96,510), they’re flying out of dealer showrooms as fast as they’re delivered.
Nice problem to have.
Brian Melton inherited his love of cars from his mom: She drove T-Birds, Jaguars and a much-loved silver Mercedes 450SL with an unrepentant lead foot.
WHERE TO SHOP
Sewell Lexus of Fort Worth
5100 Bryant Irvin Road
Park Place Lexus of Grapevine
901 E. Texas 114