Looks like art, sounds the part

Lexus stays true to a show con­cept with its style state­ment coupe pair

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR

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.

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