THE BOLD AND THE BRU­TAL

LEXUS DE­LIV­ERS WITH THE LC 500 – A UNIQUE AND THROB­BING V8 POW­ER­HOUSE THAT EN­ABLES THE JA­PANESE MAR­QUE TO PLAY BALL AGAINST ITS MORE NO­TABLE GER­MAN CON­TEM­PO­RARIES.

GQ (Australia) - - CARS - WORDS STEPHEN CORBY

To­tal rein­ven­tion is a tricky ma­noeu­vre and one that only the truly in­ge­nious – say Madonna, or Shane Warne – man­age to pull off. The one­time per­form­ers with sala­cious sex lives and sus­pect streaky-hair habits have ma­tured into re­spected older states­peo­ple with fiendishly fit bod­ies. One of them even speaks a lot of sense th­ese days, and last year of­fered blowjobs to any Amer­i­can who would vote against Don­ald Trump. If she’d been 20 years younger, she just might have saved the world. As car brands go, Lexus has never been at the Warnie end of the spec­trum. Its bowl­ing would be more of the lawn va­ri­ety, and its hair prob­a­bly blue-rinsed. But it’s now at­tempt­ing the kind of im­age re­gen­er­a­tion that would make Tay­lor ‘Thank God I’m Not a Coun­try Girl’ Swift proud. Its lat­est ef­fort, the LC 500, is the be­gin­ning of Lexus’s “brand revo­lu­tion”, with a bold new look and a rein­vig­o­rated ap­proach to driver in­volve­ment that will grad­u­ally fil­ter down into all new mod­els. Sur­pris­ingly, the de­sign lan­guage of the LC is al­most over the edgy. Lexus calls the look – with its vast, whale-shark front grille, spac­er­acer rear and swoop­ing side pro­file – “brave”. It’s a fair de­scrip­tion. Some­how, though, de­spite be­ing as un­ex­pected as Warne tweet­ing his love for Ni­et­zsche, it works. Con­fronting in pho­to­graphs, it feels mus­cu­lar and mod­ern in the shiny flesh, while the sleek and luxe in­te­rior feel is a step above and be­yond what we’ve seen be­fore from the lux­ury arm of Toy­ota (in case you didn’t know, Lexus is, ef­fec­tively, Toy­ota’s dress-up cup­board). The shock of the new con­tin­ues with a world-beat­ing and boast­wor­thy new trans­mis­sion that of­fers no fewer than 10 gears in man­ual

mode. Out­side of a race­track – like the sod­den Span­ish one it chose to let the world’s me­dia sam­ple the new LC on – it’s doubt­ful you’d ever use all those, be­cause it’s just too tir­ing. Hav­ing all of them on of­fer when you’re in ‘D’ for Drive, how­ever, makes for silky-smooth progress, how­ever, par­tic­u­larly if choos­ing the grunt­ing 5.0-litre V8 en­gine (the LC does come, in typ­i­cal Lexus style, with a hy­brid en­gine, but no sane per­son would choose that op­tion), which pumps out a Hsv-like 351kw and 550Nm and will throw you at 100km/h from a stand­ing start in just 4.7 sec­onds. It’s a fran­ti­cally fun en­gine to play with, but its best fea­ture is an­other un-lexus-like one – an ex­haust that howls, growls and wails in a fash­ion more of­ten heard in the com­pany’s Ger­man com­peti­tors. It re­ally is fan­tas­tic and a wel­come ad­di­tion. What’s most re­mark­able about the LC 500 is how sporty it is to drive, even when put to the ul­ti­mate test of sur­viv­ing a few laps on a track of­fer­ing up as much grip as an ice rink with oil spilled on it. De­spite weigh­ing a hefty 1970kg, this is a car you can re­ally throw into cor­ners and you’ll be re­warded for do­ing so with sharp han­dling and steer­ing that com­mu­ni­cates in a way no mass-pro­duced Lexus has be­fore man­aged. The LC’S chief en­gi­neer, Koji Sato, was bold enough to claim that he bench­marked his revo­lu­tion­ary new Lexus against the ul­ti­mate driver’s car – the far lighter Porsche 911. It’s not about to put such a leg­endary ve­hi­cle to the sword, but you can feel the ef­fort Sato san has made to put it in the same ball­park . The pric­ing for the LC 500, which is ex­pected to start at around the $150,000 mark when it ar­rives on June 5, means it’s not the Lexus for ev­ery­one, but the tone it sets for the whole brand is very ex­cit­ing in­deed. While the Aus­tralian arm of the com­pany ad­mits it’s not an­tic­i­pat­ing huge sales for the car, in terms of brand-im­age rein­ven­tion, it’s ex­pected to do very big things in­deed.

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