Before climbing into the car for the first time, I took it all in. Starting at the front, the grille, as with many other features in the car, is an amazingly intricate piece of design all designed to draw your eye to the arrow point. In this two-door coupe it works…
The waist of the Lexus LC500 tucks in neatly. You can look at in terms of female sensuality when you look in the door mirror, the trim waist curving out gently to the hips… or you can take it as the support for a broad set of shoulders, ready to punch away at the road ahead.
And this, to me, is precisely what the LC500 is about. It can either be a docile car, drifting along with the morning traffic or a near violent race car climbing Arthurs Seat with noise and incredibly rapid pace. You treat it as being soft and sensual, or brutal and hard. Your choice.
Lexus, to my eyes, has really struggled with the visual aspects of luxury cars. The nose of the cars with the spindle grille and Nike like ticks for the daytime running lights are meant to simulate an arrowhead, but to me it often combats the look of the rest of the car. In most cases, you either like it or you don’t. With the LC500, it works and I couldn’t find any who disagreed.
Lexus is as credible a luxury car maker as anyone. For years they have topped any ranking system in pretty much any part of the works for reliability and build quality. So you have that security in mind when you fork over the money, but you are also treated to a feast of safety and luxury that says take note Germany.
And so to the LC500. I first laid eyes on one at a Lexus drive day last year, and it immediately struck me as different for Lexus. Until I sat down and thought about the GS F I had just driver around the race track, or the LFA that I just seen 1980 World Drivers’ Champion Alan Jones just record some hot laps in. This car now seemed logical and evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It makes sense and it fits the new family.
Lexus lists the car as a 2+2, but if the driver is anything over 170cm is really a 2+1, unless no legroom is required behind the driver. It is tight in there. The suede roof on the test car sat under a carbon-fibre lid—there is a panoramic glass option but the roof remains fixed.
Accept the fact that all the safety gear required is there, all the way from the pre-collision safety system down to automatic high beam headlights. Personally, I’d like a little more control over some of the electronics—ie, I’d always rather the automatic headlights waited a little before light the road ahead under a bridge—but it is all there nonetheless.
There is a 10 speed gearbox and either the 351kW 5.0L V8 engine or a 264kW V6 hybrid drive train. The V8 drinks, but then I did like pushing the accelerator, and the sound is window vibrating and stunning.
The chassis is part of the new mid-size global platform Lexus will use for its next generation of cars. There is no compromise on the suspension with a well sorted fully independent multi-link suspension and gorgeous 21 inch wheels. The chassis is actually the highlight of the car, it is just bloody good.
Lexus talks about the LC500 as a being a GT car, but it is so finely tuned it is close to being full-blown sports car when the right buttons on the dash are selected. Compared to its major rivals, the LC500 cuts much more of a visual presence, and that tight little waist we spoke about earlier adds to the visual drama, but it also makes certain tasks a little harder—such as reverse parking into a car park beside a pylon.
The side mirrors twist down when you engage reverse via the stubby but simple gear selector. In many cars you can either choose this to happen or not, I could not find any way to turn it off so I will treat it that you can’t. I looked everywhere in the car’s computer system. This wasn’t the last time the car’s electronics left me wanting.
What it did was that it made it hard to see those fat guards and the pylon so I was very careful and I didn’t scratch the car, which was a relief.
The headlights are sleek and the L-shaped running lights create an illusion of movement without actually moving. The curves of the body draw your eyes the bulging rear guards and the big tyres struggling to burst free. The rear tucks away nicely, and the rear spoiler is only raised when it is needed.
The door handles either pop out or can be flicked out, and when you start moving they tuck away again to keep the lines sleek. Opening the door is a welcoming experience. Slide into the seat and close the door and then hit the start button and the steering which moved out the way to let you in, gracefully glides into place. The drivers’ seat has a squillion adjustments (and cooling and heating) and it works really well although the cooling is a bit noisy. Both seats move on the sliders when titled to allow rear seat access—which is incredibly limited and should only be tried by short people. I looked only.
The dash is clean and simple, and the big tachometer moves when you want to view extra features. With a really good heads up display though, you rarely look down. Anyway, start the car and the LC500 treats you to a light show as all the screens comer alive.
The computer system has a track pad for control, and it is mostly easy to use. The rest of the crafting of the interior is world’s best, and that is why it is such a nice place to sit. Moulded door trims flow from one part to the next. The two grip handles for the passenger would be well used over the week, as would the gear shift paddles which spin with the wheel.
There is no doubt this cabin is special, it’s only failing was there was no easy place to rest your phone. Otherwise is just exudes class and functionality. There is probably no better in its section of the marketplace.
And I love the way the navigation system talks to me about hazard and risks… although I didn’t need constant reminding that I need to obey the road rules when I clearly didn’t want to.
But this is a GT car, so all that will not matter if it doesn’t drive well. The drama starts when you hit the button, the engine roars into life to tell you it means business. Select drive and cruise away and everything is nice.
Push the accelerator just that little bit harder and the engine roars and you take off. The beauty of a really good V8 is that the power is seamless, there is no waiting for turbo to spin up or anything, just noise and lots of rapid forward motion. The sound is amazing, and intoxicating.
It screams when you go hard. It just gets louder as you get faster. In Manual Mode, the downchanges are accompanied by a little rev that a driver would normally generate with heal-and-toe activity. It means the driving into corners is smooth and the gear change doesn’t unbalance the car. Even if there are 10 forward gears from which to choose.
There are four drive settings from Eco to Sport+ complete with a visible change to the tachometer. In Sport+ mode you can have the most fun, and I did.
The chassis is superbly sorted and just grips, with enough feedback coming through to let you know what is happening underneath. The traction control intrudes quite harshly, and this is the only time the car feels unsettled. If you feed the power in coming out of a corner it doesn’t mute the performance, you can truly appreciate this car is more than just a GT. It is spritely and alive… and fun.
The brakes are also stunning, pulling down the speed quickly and consistently. Lots of use on a twisty road results in nothing but great performance.
Even if you stripped out the luxury, this car would be desirable. It points into corners, it has great stopping power and a relentless urge when the accelerator is pushed to the floor. All the components work together and it truly one of the great GT cars on the market today.
The LC500 is certainly an impressive car. It makes a statement on the road with dramatic looks and a noise that could wake the dead. But it isn’t perfect. The upside is that it is a Lexus, the craftsmanship in the build process is the best in the world, and Lexus is recognised around the world as the most reliable car you can spend your money on.
It reminds you to think about Lexus in a different way. If they can build a car that goes like this, they can build anything.
The Lexus Range
Lexus in Australia now has a vast range of vehicles, from the small hybrid-powered CT (Compact Touring) starting in the low-$40,000 bracket up to the LC (Luxury Coupe) range. In between is something for every well healed someone. The IS (Intelligent Sport) is small sedan, the ES (Elegant Sedan) and GS (Grand Sport) are mid-sized sedans, with the GS the sportier of the two, complete with the rorty GS F. SUVs include the NX (New Cross Over), RX (Recreational Cross Country) and the huge LX (Luxury Four Wheel Drive). Sport is delivered by the RC (Racing Coupe) and LC (Luxury Coupe).
- Jaguar F-Type (from 119,401)—big range of engines, V8s comparable in performance but more expensive.
- Aston Martin V8 (from $249,652)—Bit more expensive but stunningly beautiful. Just as quick, just as thirsty)
- Porsche 911 (from $244,100)—About as quick, better fuel economy but doesn’t sound as good! More expensive.
- Lotus Evora (from $212,339)—Mid-engined so 2 seats only, lighter and faster. It is a Lotus with the pluses and minuses.
- Nissan GT-R (from $210,051)—Named Godzilla because it is a beast. Tamed a bit but bloody fast.