Lexus LC500

Lexus is hell-bent on vy­ing for supremacy over Europe’s best GTs

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents - Words by Botchi San­tos Pho­tog­ra­phy by Chris­tian Halili

On pa­per, the LC500 is an ex­cit­ing prospect. It is a proper gran tur­ismo that of­fers bold, hand­some looks that can only be Ja­panese, matched with a com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal in­te­rior that can only be Lexus. Huge spin­dle grille, smartly creased and over­lap­ping pan­els in origami-like an­gles, car­bon-fiber roof, high-strength lightweight steel and alu­minum struc­ture—all these things prom­ise driv­ing ex­hil­a­ra­tion.

The en­gine is Lexus’s im­pres­sive 5.0- liter V8 that pro­duces an as­tound­ing 470hp and 540Nm. It starts up and idles from cold with a loud, sharp bark, but set­tles into a quiet hum once warmed up. At cruising speed, it barely makes its pres­ence known. Find an open road and open the taps com­pletely, however, and the V8 un­leashes its full fury with the con­trolled ag­gres­sion of a samu­rai. The sound­track is unique, fo­cused, sharp—yet strangely enough, it’s more re­fined ver­sus its Amer­i­can (ram­bunc­tious), Ger­man (ex­plo­sive), and Bri­tish (feral) coun­ter­parts.

The in­te­rior is grand, and it goes to show that Ja­panese de­sign can be time­lessly unique and ex­quis­ite. The local test unit comes with the Per­for­mance Pack­age, which adds body­hug­ging sports seats, swathes of camel­col­ored leather and suede (it slightly re­sem­bles Fer­rari’s fa­mous ‘mouse-hair’ suede),s and a fair bit of alu­minum in­lays anda ac­cents. There’s a 13- speaker Mark Levin­sonL au­dio sys­tem, but it pales in com­par­isonc to that glo­ri­ous V8. The in­stru­menti clus­ter is a full dig­i­tal dis­play that can change view­ing modes as well as color de­pend­ing on your se­lected driv­ing mode (Eco, Com­fort, Normal, Sport, or Sport+).

On the road, the vari­able steer­ing can quicken from 13.6:1 to 9.8:1 de­pend­ing on speed and driv­ing mode. Steer­ing weight and ef­fort are spot-on, for the

most in­tu­itive steer­ing feel among all Ja­panese cars ever pro­duced so far. There’s more sim­i­lar­ity to, say, a Porsche 911 or a Fer­rari 488 than to any other Lexus. Driv­ing the rear wheels is a 10- speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, with mag­ne­sium pad­dle shifters adding a fur­ther el­e­ment of con­trol and ex­cite­ment when you re­ally want to give it some stick.

The ad­justable sus­pen­sion has all the sup­ple­ness you’d want for high­way driv­ing, but find a twist­ing road and ac­ti­vate Sport+, and you wouldn’t think this Lexus weighs just un­der two tons! The front-mid­ship en­gine lay­out en­sures all the heavy bits are in the mid­dle of the two axles, re­duc­ing yaw and low­er­ing the po­lar mo­ment of the car. Body con­trol is ex­cel­lent, the chas­sis re­sist­ing squat, roll, and nose-div­ing. The mas­sive brakes are more than a match for the LC500’s mass and size, pro­vid­ing a very pro­gres­sive action that al­lows you to re­ally ride the brakes through a cor­ner if need be (or just for the heck of it).

So yes, I’m practically in love with the LC500. But it isn’t per­fect. Fuel con­sump­tion isn’t great as ex­pected for some­thing this big; I av­er­age 4.8km/ L in com­bined city and high­way driv­ing. It can, with a good amount of con­cen­tra­tion on the driver’s part, achieve 10km/ L on the high­way, but it strug­gles to break 4km/ L in ur­ban con­di­tions.

The frame­less door win­dows al­low a fair bit of wind noise in, and the 21in Bridge­stone run-flat tires ( 245/40 in front, 275/35 in the back) can de­liver a jit­tery ride on im­per­fect roads. Also, while the ex­te­rior looks very hand­some, the cen­ter sec­tion behind the doors and ahead of the rear fend­ers looks like some­body had pinched it and for­got to stretch it back. The trunk is some­what shal­low, but it can still fit a golf bag (a Lexus re­quire­ment, ap­par­ently). While the mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem is great, it’s con­fus­ing for first-timers, lack­ing the in­tu­itive ease of Audi’s MMI or even BMW’s iDrive. And the Lexus track­pad is dif­fi­cult to use.

The LC500 rep­re­sents the very best of what Lexus stands for, with that cru­cial bit of drama that puts it on a par with many Euro­pean sports coupes. The LFA su­per­car, which it is al­ways compared to, took for­ever to break cover, such that per­for­mance goal­posts had moved sig­nif­i­cantly in the pe­riod be­tween its con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion and launch. Pun­dits and crit­ics ques­tioned its rel­e­vance: It’s far costlier, yet also slower, than its com­peti­tors. Rar­ity alone wasn’t enough to make it truly suc­cess­ful.

The LC500, on the other hand, doesn’t try to com­pete head on with its coun­ter­parts. No, Lexus set out to build the most ex­cit­ing GT coupe it can, im­bibed with Lexus val­ues of re­fine­ment, com­fort, prac­ti­cal­ity, and unique de­sign, and sprin­kled with great driv­ing dy­nam­ics. The re­sult practically beg­gars dis­be­lief: How could Lexus, pur­vey­ors of re­fined but al­most un­ex­cit­ing ve­hi­cles, cre­ate a GT with so much sex ap­peal?

What’s more, the car­maker is ru­mored to be work­ing on a high­per­for­mance 600hp twin-turbo LC F. To think I’ve al­ready run out of praises just for the LC500.

This was a concept car not too long ago

Too fight at the very high end, it’s gotta go big

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