Being the luxury division of Toyota, Lexus isn’t really renowned for its performance credentials, especially in South Africa where we only received few examples of the LFA supercar and sell very few performance-orientated Lexus models.
However, this past week, I was invited to drive the brand’s new LC 500 in the Western Cape and came back more than a little surprised.
What is LC 500?
In very basic terms, the LC 500 is the result of the 2012 LF-LC concept car being put into production, and when I say it’s close to the show car, I really mean it. The large luxury Grand Tourer is possibly one of the most striking exterior design jobs we’ve seen on local shores in 2017. The good news is that this car’s design language will be implemented on future Lexus products too.
Up front, there’s the signature Lexus mesh texture grille along with ultra-slim triple LED headlights that are pushed back towards the front wheels, with L-shaped daytime running lights that run from the headlamps down towards the bottom of the bumper.
There are also front vents that channel air away from the wheels to minimise turbulence. For balance, two other vents sit on either side of the vehicle just in front of the rear wheels to do the same job as the vents up front, while also creating an attractive sweeping side profile complete with a floating roof appearance. At the rear, we find a curvaceous, sculpted bumper with two large exhaust exits, one on either side, along with a spoiler that deploys above the slim LED tail-lamps above 80km/h.
The overall impression is that you’re looking at something that is almost surreal; it’s hard to believe how close this car looks to something that the public would go wild for at a motor show.
Platform for the future
The styling is not the only aspect Lexus has used the LC for in terms of future product development. The brand also produced a new platform on which to base the car and therefore a platform for future front-engine, rear-wheel drive Lexus products. That platform is called GA-L (Global Architecture - Luxury) and Lexus claims it is the best it has made. In addition to the new platform, the LC is also produced at the same Motomachi plant that the V10-powered LFA was built in.
Despite the fact that the exterior looks like a life-size version of something you’d buy with a Hot Wheels logo painted on the side, the interior is a far more restrained affair. As with many Lexus products, expect leather, suede and other high quality materials to cover all surfaces and comfort to be the order of the day.
Aside from the slightly annoying operation of the Remote Touch Interface touchpad for the infotainment system, the interior is well executed, with sports seats that provide comfort and support, along with a seating position that gives the impression that you’re in something sporty.
All driver controls including the switch for driving modes have been relocated to allow the driver to reach them without taking his/her focus from the road. Another nicety is the addition of a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system as standard on South African-spec cars.
Powering LC 500
The rather special powerplant under the bonnet is the familiar 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 from previous Lexus models, only upgraded to 351kW/450Nm. The sound the motor produces is really an apt swansong for what is one of the last of its breed, if you have the active exhaust open of course.
Lexus claim a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.7 seconds but that wasn’t of concern, instead I found myself chasing the rev limiter in search of the machine gun-like crack as the V8 hits its limiter before I hooked another gear in the super slick ten-speed automatic gearbox. It was a bittersweet drive as the realisation that I was driving one of the last of the big V8s set in, while simultaneously, I was having one of the most memorable drives of the year.
The multi-link suspension setup and inclusion of a proper Limited Slip Differential (LSD), along with massive front and rear brakes and 21-inch wheels shod with sticky Michelin tyres, make for a car that is quite happy to take on a mountain pass and even a few laps on the track.
However, the car is a bit too heavy for the latter and is happiest cruising at high speed, munching the miles and providing an evocative soundtrack while doing so.
As with many Lexus products, there is little to no optional extras with items such as curtain, front, knee and side airbags, ,the Pre-Crash system, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keeping Assist, reverse camera, colour Head-Up Display, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, adaptive cruise control, front heated seats and Lexus Dynamic Handling with four-wheel steering all standard.
Warranty and service
All LC 500 models come with a four-year/100 000km service plan and a Lexus Distance Plan Complete as standard.
LC 500 - from R1 729 600
Article written by Sean Nurse