Lexus has en­tered the large lux­ury coupe seg­ment with a car that plays by its own rules. Dar­ren Cassey takes in au­to­bahns and the Alps to see how it copes

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - News - DAR­REN CASSEY

WHAT IS IT? The LC is a large lux­ury coupe de­signed to be the new flag­ship of the Lexus range but it’s dif­fi­cult to pin­point a di­rect ri­val. To the Ja­panese car man­u­fac­turer’s credit, it has forged its own path with the de­vel­op­ment of this car to make some­thing fairly unique.

Lexus con­sid­ers the likes of the Porsche 911 and BMW 6-Se­ries as at­tract­ing sim­i­lar types of cus­tomers but in the words of chief engi­neer Koji Sato, “we fo­cused on emo­tional value rather than specs”, so di­rect com­par­isons can be tricky – to the LC’S ben­e­fit, I has­ten to add.

WHAT’S NEW? Apart from the two en­gine op­tions, most of the ma­jor talk­ing points of the LC are to­tally new. For a start, the chas­sis it’s built on gets its first out­ing and will also un­der­pin the LS lux­ury sa­loon, while the sus­pen­sion sys­tem took six months to per­fect.

How­ever, the big story is the multi-stage hy­brid trans­mis­sion, which uses a mix of tra­di­tional au­to­matic tech­nol­ogy and the con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT) com­monly used in hy­brid ve­hi­cles. The idea is that you get the flex­i­bil­ity of an eco-friendly CVT and the per­for­mance-ori­en­tated ca­pa­bil­i­ties of an old school auto in one 10-speed trans­mis­sion – but the real­ity is that it’s eas­ily flum­moxed and takes a lot of get­ting used to. WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET? Lift the long, sculpted bon­net and there’s a 3.5-litre petrol V6 nes­tled in the en­gine bay. It’s mated to a lithium-ion bat­tery, which to­gether pro­vide an out­put of 472bhp. What’s more im­pres­sive for a car of this size is that it’ll re­turn a claimed 44mpg – in spir­ited driv­ing on high-speed Ger­man au­to­bahns and Aus­trian moun­tain passes we man­aged a re­spectable 25mpg, so with more re­laxed driv­ing, mid-30s should be man­age­able.

There’s also a 471bhp 5.0-litre V8 ver­sion avail­able, which uses much more fuel but makes a fan­tas­tic noise and is a de­light to rev out.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? On the open road, the LC 500h is a sub­lime cruiser. With ex­cep­tion­ally com­fort­able seats and a ride that makes even rough roads feel silky smooth, there are few cars that can do long-dis­tance schleps in such a re­lax­ing man­ner.

How­ever, what’s just as im­pres­sive is how it han­dles a wind­ing back road. For a circa-two-tonne car to be quite so fleet-footed is mar­vel­lous. Nat­u­rally, with a car of this size it re­sponds bet­ter when you find a smooth rhythm rather than chuck it into cor­ners but it set­tles into di­rec­tion changes with ad­mirable aplomb.

HOW DOES IT LOOK? When it comes to styling, there’s no de­bate to be had – the LC 500 is stun­ning. When Lexus re­vealed the LF-LC con­cept back in 2012 no one in their right mind sus­pected the pro­duc­tion ver­sion would look that good but it truly does.

There are ex­trav­a­gant de­tails through­out, from the day­time run­ning lights that could have been carved by the hand of Zorro, to the mus­cu­lar rear arches that dom­i­nate the view from your wing mir­rors. This car is an event and turns heads wher­ever it goes.

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN­SIDE? Lexus in­te­ri­ors can be a bit hit and miss. Of­ten look­ing a bit like a 1980s vi­sion of the fu­ture, the bold styling doesn’t al­ways work. How­ever, this time the nail has been hit squarely on the head. The seats are lu­di­crously com­fort­able, the seat­ing po­si­tion is per­fect and the de­sign is quirky enough to be in­ter­est­ing with­out feel­ing try-hard.

It’s not per­fect, though. At six-feet-tall I couldn’t sit in the rear seats with­out lean­ing my head to one side, while the in­fo­tain­ment track­pad con­tin­ues to grate. Mean­while, the drive mode se­lec­tor sits atop the in­stru­ment bin­na­cle and re­quires a stretch to use.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE? There are three trim lev­els avail­able – Lux­ury, Sport and Sport+. In­ter­est­ingly, Lexus has made the pric­ing iden­ti­cal, whether you opt for the V8 or hy­brid pow­er­train, be­cause it wants cus­tomers to buy the one they want not the one they can af­ford.

Lux­ury-spec cars, which start at £76,595, get a suite of safety tech­nolo­gies as stan­dard, pre- mium-feel­ing leather up­hol­stery and a 10.25-inch dis­play with in-built nav­i­ga­tion. The Sport pack­age costs £5,000 ex­tra and adds 21-inch al­loy wheels, ex­tremely com­fort­able Al­can­tara up­hol­stery and a car­bon-fi­bre roof. Opt for the top-spec Sport+ pack­age from £85,895 and you get up­graded han­dling kit and rear-steer tech­nol­ogy for sharper cor­ner­ing.

VER­DICT It’s easy to fall quickly in love with the Lexus LC 500h. Those look­ing for a sportier drive would be bet­ter-suited go­ing for the V8 be­cause the hy­brid’s trans­mis­sion and en­gine note get in the way of en­joy­ment.

How­ever, as a lux­ury GT car the LC is ex­cep­tional. It’s com­fort­able, com­posed and – with the hy­brid at least – run­ning it won’t leave your wal­let empty.

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