Alex gets treated to the full feel-good, gift-wrapped Lexus new-car experience. At least up until the point where he’s expected to pay for it
I FEEL slightly ashamed to admit this, as though I should be writing these words with my head bowed, eyes averted and twisting my foot in the dirt, but I’ve never bought a new car. I’ve helped others do it, and taken joy in advising them on spec and trim levels, but for myriad reasons (headlined by a crippling dread of depreciation), I’ve always gravitated towards second-hand metal when it came to my own wheels. This means I’ve never experienced that ‘new-car feeling’ – the heady combination of elation, suspense and fear that comes with making a significant financial investment – so it was a thrill when, after agreeing to loan Wheels this searing yellow LC 500 for three months, Lexus suggested I collect the car as a real customer.
Toyota’s luxury arm is renowned for its dealership experience, so taking delivery would allow me to see if that reputation is deserved, as well as scratch a personal itch.
My LC is cloaked in a shiny black cover when I arrive at Lexus Brighton, and even with its details shrouded, the big rear-drive coupe oozes intent. Long, wide and classically proportioned, it’s also imposingly vast in the metal (overall length is 4760mm, while width is 1920mm).
Peeling away the cover enhances the drama. Yellow wouldn’t be my first choice (I think silver is more cohesive as it helps disguise some of the LC’S heavy-handed detailing, like the chrome finish atop the tail-lights) but there’s no denying its impact – I can’t think of a car this side of a Lamborghini that makes more of a visual statement.
Bernard, who has a heavy French accent, a penchant for Italian motorcycles and an obvious passion for the LC, conducts the handover process. It begins with a walk around the exterior, where I take in the enormous 21-inch wheels (shod with Michelin rubber 245/40 front, and 275/35 rear) and discover the hidden boot release button (disguised inside the right rear tail-light) before we slip into the cabin.
If the exterior is all about impact, things are much more restrained inside my example. Coloured leather options are available, but here it’s black-on-black from floor mat to roof lining, and that’s exactly how I’d spec it. First impressions are bang on too: the driving position is low and natural, the leather seats supple and supportive (as well as heated and cooled) and the fit and finish is staggering. Material quality is another highlight, as is the digital dash that glows white when Sport+ mode is engaged, which is an obvious nod to the LFA supercar.
The only negative is the same fastidious attention to detail has been applied to the LC’S infotainment system, with confusing results. Lexus has persisted with its maligned touchpad controller rather than a touch-screen (at least the dorky mouse is gone!), but the real problem lies with the infotainment software. It’s a maze of menus and sub-menus and provides the only hiccup of the handover process when Bernard gets lost down a rabbit hole while explaining the sat-nav. Fingers crossed things improve with practice.
Happily, driving the LC is much more intuitive. As the first Lexus to utilise the company’s all-new Global Architecture – Luxury (GA-L) platform, it feels impressively rigid and refined at city speeds with a surprisingly supple and controlled ride, but it’s the old-fashioned 5.0-litre quad-cam V8 that dominates the experience. Crisp, muscular and with an insatiable appetite for revs, it sounds brilliant and has a noticeable step change in volume and timbre as the tacho sweeps past 4000rpm. Yet the noise and effortless performance are only part of what makes driving the LC such an experience. The remainder comes from the looks and reactions its concept-car design generates from other road users and pedestrians. It makes you feel special, and that’s exactly what a new car should do. It’s going to be a good three months.