Looks like art, sounds the part
Lexus stays true to a show concept with its style statement coupe pair
With the new LC coupe, Lexus has brought a daring concept car design to life. Many show cars lose their flair by the time they make it to showrooms but the LC has stayed true to the original formula.
To repeat a cliche, it looks fast even when it’s parked. However, despite Lexus promising the “pinnacle” of performance, the LC looks faster than it actually is, whether in 5.0-litre V8 guise or 3.5-litre V6 hybrid.
Look beyond the V8’s impressive output of 351kW. Its 540Nm of torque (the real energy that gets you moving) is in the same territory as a Ford Mustang (530Nm) or Holden Commodore SS (570Nm).
However, the low-slung Lexus is being asked to shift more weight than the humble Holden and Ford, tipping the scales at about two tonnes, so performance is muted relative to German peers. Not that performance is a key factor, as Lexus reckons it will attract buyers on looks alone.
“Cars are their obsession, they want exclusivity in their purchase,” says Lexus Australia boss Peter McGregor.
“Even when they’re blown away by the looks, it all comes down to the sensory experience of driving the car, the adrenalin rush, the driving credibility. The way a car makes them feel underpins the whole purchase.”
Beyond the hype, Lexus has realistic sales expectations of about 100 examples a year — mostly V8s — making the LC more, er, exclusive than Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini. ON THE ROAD
Does it live up to the hype? Yes and no. The LC is impressively comfortable over bumpy back roads despite riding on massive 21-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin run-flat tyres.
The balance of the body and the way the car feels in corners is up there with the best, although the optional “sports” steering is too sharp for our rippled roads.
The brakes are among the largest ever fitted to a production car — the front discs are 400mm in diameter — and are incredibly responsive and fade resistant.
Lexus says the V8 does the 0-100km/h dash in 4.7 seconds; the V6 hybrid isn’t far behind with 5.0 seconds. However using our satellite based timing equipment (under Lexus supervision) the best we could extract from the V8 was 5.1 secs, the hybrid 5.3.
Aided by a 10-speed auto, these are respectable times (marginally quicker than the Mustang and Commodore SS) and once would have been regarded as quick.
But the Lexus twins, each costing $190,000 plus on-roads, are not in the same league as German sports cars with similar price tags and sub 4.0-second sprint times.
An unusual beast, the LC500h is the first Lexus hybrid that can spin the rear wheels. Its V6 (related to the engine in the Toyota Kluger) is paired to a transmission that houses two electric motors (one for drive and one for regenerative braking) alongside a four-speed torque converter auto.
But it has in effect 10 ratios (by using an adjacent planetary gear set) and slurs gear changes much like a constantly variable transmission. As Lexus explains it: “The multi-stage shift device changes the output in four stages (but in drive it has) a simulated shift control pattern that replicates the feel of driving with a 10-speed.”
The hybrid accelerates to 60km/h as quickly as the V8 (2.7 seconds) but loses a little ground to 100km/h.
The high-revving V8 (redline 7300rpm) sounds like a NASCAR engine. It’s awesome, a highlight of the car.
Also impressive is the cabin’s quality, fit and finish, from the leather stitching to the real alloy knobs and cabin switches.
The hi-tech digital instrument display (inspired by the LF-A sports car) is up there with the best in the business.
Downsides? The Lexus cabin controller — a touchpad — is still incredibly frustrating and borderline dangerous to operate on the move. Lexus needs to scrap this flawed design and start again.
And, as in a Porsche 911, the two tiny rear seats are for briefcases and handbags. There’s no way you’re getting a human in there. If you want a four-seater, look elsewhere. VERDICT
This is the Lexus brand’s style statement and opinion changer. With its futuristic design, it looks faster than it goes. Buyers won’t mind. It sounds the part and looks like art.