Lexus LC 500

Japanese sports-GT keeps the atmo V8 alive

by SCOTT NEWMAN

ENGINE 4969cc V8, DOHC, 32v / POWER 351kW @ 7100rpm / TORQUE 540Nm @ 4800rpm / WEIGHT 1970kg / 0-100KM/H 4.7sec (claimed) / PRICE $190,000

STAR RATING

4.0

Like

Drivetrain; interior; price; concept looks

Dislike

Ride; weight; ESP; infotainment

THERE are plenty of parallels between Lexus and a musical one-hit wonder. Despite years of toil and a large body of work, the creation of one masterpiece has proved a blessing and a curse.

The LFA showed the dizzying heights the company is capable of, yet continues to cast a shadow over Lexusís performance offerings as enthusiasts wait for a model that offers a taste of the LFA magic without the $1million price tag.

Recently, however, there have been encouraging signs. The RC F isnít without charm, the GS F is a refreshingly different sports sedan and itís pleasing to report the new LC 500 continues this upward trend.

Based on the LF-LC concept car, the LC 500 is Lexusís new flagship.

At $190,000 it might not be the most expensive model in its range, T but in terms of design, technology and dynamics itís intended to push the boundaries and alter the public perception of Lexus.

It certainly looks the part. The bold design is likely to split opinion, but it does look better in the metal and has real presence Ė you certainly wonít mistake it for anything else. Itís a large car Ė itís wider than and almost as long as a BMW 6 Series Ė but the LFA-like proportions, broad stance and 21-inch wheels hide its size well.

The LC is the first car built on Lexusís new GA-L (Global Architecture-Luxury) platform, which will underpin all future frontengine, rear-drive products. Lexus claims the LC is the most torsionally rigid car itís ever built; yes, even stiffer than the carbon LFA.

Thereís extensive use of highstrength steel, aluminium panels with carbon-fibre inners and an optional carbon-fibre roof, however, at 1935-1970kg (depending on specification) the LC 500 is still extremely heavy.

Lexus vigorously defends the carís weight, saying the outright figure isnít as important as where the mass is located (weight distribution is 51:49 front:rear), but the fact remains this rear-drive, atmo 2+2 coupe is heavier than an all-wheel drive, twin-turbo Porsche Panamera Turbo.

Nonetheless, Lexus is right. At no point during the drive, even on the sweeping curves of Phillip Island, does the LC 500 feel like a two-tonne car. Itís very easy to place, helped by steering that has shed the on-centre dead spot of the RC F and GS F.

Grip levels are strong, as are the brakes, and thereís adjustability in the chassis. Lift the throttle with the car heavily loaded through PIís tricky turn two and the nose tucks

in sharply Ė despite its heft, this is an enjoyable car to drive on track.

The $15,000 Enhancement Package adds all-wheel steering, leather/ Alcantara sports seats, an active rear spoiler and bi-modal exhaust in addition to the aforementioned carbon roof. However, weíd probably stick with the more natural feel of the standard car.

The biggest complaint regards the ESP, which is either on or off with no Sports mode. It doesnít kill the fun completely but once awoken it savagely restricts power until it deems the situation safe once more.

On a bumpy road itís more of a hindrance, constantly activating as the LCís stiff suspension has it hopping and jinking around. Body control is good but even in the softest damper mode the ride soon becomes tiresome on poor roads, surely not helped by the giant 21s wrapped in stiff-sidewalled run-flat tyres.

But if the chassis setup is more sports car than GT, then the fact the engine is, too, makes it less of an issue. The 5.0-litre V8 is lifted from the RC F, albeit tweaked for a little more torque, and itís a great engine.

Itís not massively powerful, but few will find complaint with the LC 500ís speed and none will fault the noise. The new 10-speed auto keeps the engine on song and delivers both cracks from the exhaust on upshifts and theatrical V8 barks on downshifts Ė it sounds epic.

Combine this characterful drivetrain with sharp dynamics, head-turning looks and a classy, high-quality interior and this is the finest Ďregularí fast Lexus yet. It wonít be for everyone, but thereís substance beneath the style. The LC 500 is not a smash hit like the LFA, but it deserves a spot on the charts. M

It's not massively powerful, but none will fault the LC 500ís noise Ė itís epic