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.
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.