Sassy GT driven to be seen and heard

LAUNCH NEWS/ Lexus’s LC500 is thor­ough lux­ury with the looks to match its rau­cous en­gine note, writes Ler­ato Matebese

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

When Lexus un­veiled the LF-LC con­cept at the New York mo­tor show in 2012, it show­cased a new de­sign di­rec­tion for the brand, some­thing the LFA su­per­car teased when it was launched a few years ago.

In the case of the LF-LC, which has now spawned the pro­duc­tion ver­sion of that con­cept dubbed the LC500, the L-Fi­nesse de­sign lan­guage is even more ob­vi­ous. Mo­tor News re­cently at­tended the lo­cal launch of the new model in the Western Cape to see whether its flam­boy­ant looks have the sub­stance to go with it.

DE­SIGN FEAT

The model looks ev­ery bit the same as the LF-LC con­cept and the de­tails need to be viewed in real life to truly ap­pre­ci­ate the de­sign feat. The head­lights have a jewel-type de­sign while the 21-inch wheels and rear lights, with their 3D ef­fect, seem to have been lifted whole­sale from the con­cept too. are typ­i­cal of the brand, with some quirky el­e­ments such as the ana­logue clock and the touch­pad which con­trols the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. Mean­while the dash has been given a wraparound de­sign, which works well. How­ever, I would rec­om­mend a slightly lighter hue for the rest of the in­te­rior as the sea of black and grey dulls the over­all classy cabin. I would opt for Dark Rose (red) or Ochre (tan) in­stead, which are much live­lier.

While the model is es­sen­tially a two-plus-two, the rear seats are the pre­serve of small chil­dren or a box of Cham­pagne — and lit­tle else.

In the in­ter­ests of weight sav­ing and to lower the ve­hi­cle’s cen­tre of grav­ity, a car­bon-fi­bre roof has been adopted, which also looks cool.

Mo­ti­va­tion comes in the form of the com­pany’s 5.0l V8 nor­mally as­pi­rated en­gine, which is wel­come in an era where down­siz­ing and tur­bocharg­ing has be­come the or­der of the day. Es­sen­tially a sim­i­lar en­gine that pow­ered the IS-F sports sa­loon, the en­gine has been tweaked with up­graded pis­tons and in­lets and has di­rect (at high en­gine revs) and in­di­rect (at low en­gine revs) fuel in­jec­tion to pro­duce 351kW and 540Nm, which are healthy fig­ures for a ve­hi­cle of this dis­place­ment and as­pi­ra­tion. It is said to take 4.7 sec­onds to com­plete the 0-100km/h sprint and goes on to a top speed of 270km/h.

Push the en­gine start but­ton and it fires up with a belly roar that quickly set­tles into a smooth idle. Power is trans­ferred to the rear wheels via a 10-speed au­to­matic gear­box, which is es­sen­tially a four-speed au­to­matic with vir­tual steps in be­tween. It is a fairly re­spon­sive gear­box for a con­ven­tional torque con­verter unit, shift­ing quickly up and down the gears, par­tic­u­larly in Sport+ mode.

FAST GT

Granted, it is not a sports car in the mould of the Porsche 911 and this be­comes quite ev­i­dent on a wind­ing road such as that of Fran­schhoek Pass, where hurl­ing the ve­hi­cle into cor­ners with verve is not the model’s forte. In­stead, this is a fast GT that will gob­ble up the kilo­me­tres in rel­a­tive com­fort, the lat­ter fur­ther ac­cen­tu­ated by the mul­ti­link rear sus­pen­sion that gives a fairly sup­ple ride in spite of the 21-inch tyres.

So where does the car fit in the grand scheme of things? Well, it has no pre­ten­sions of de­pos­ing the Porsche 911 and rather com­petes with cars such as the BMW 650i coupe as a rapid, com­fort­able GT. How­ever, I feel the Lexus has more soul than the Beemer thanks to that at­mo­spheric V8 that thrives on revs and sounds the busi­ness.

Then, of course, there is that de­sign lan­guage that looks like noth­ing else on the road and judg­ing by the num­ber of on­look­ers and pos­i­tive nods dur­ing the launch drive will guar­an­tee you never travel incog­nito.

Then there is the price tag, which at R1,729,600 places it smack in Porsche 911 GTS ter­ri­tory, which re­tails for R1,768,000. Per­son­ally, I would go for the Ger­man sports car as it man­ages to fit the sports car and GT bill, not to men­tion hav­ing a more favourable resid­ual value.

EX­CLU­SIVE

How­ever, for those who are not both­ered by re­sale value and want to throw cau­tion to the wind and drive a ve­hi­cle that will elicit at­ten­tion and re­main ex­clu­sive, with only 40 units ini­tially com­ing to SA in 2017, the Lexus LC500 is your car.

And the fact it is one of the last bas­tions of a nor­mally as­pi­rated V8 model adds to its po­ten­tial to be­come a clas­sic.

Above: The Lexus LC500 is stun­ning from ev­ery an­gle. Right: The LC will be a rare sight but not one any­one will miss.

The in­te­rior is not as ex­cit­ing in its de­sign in black, but there are much bet­ter trim colour op­tions.

Sport+ en­ables you to get the most out of the car and en­joy the best sound.

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