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Is the attention-grabbing LC a pure sportscar, or an indulgent grand tourer?

Just look at it. Even painted in dour White Nova paint, the Lexus LC500 is a striking piece of design that sets necks craning and eyes widening. Hell, traffic laws are broken as fellow motorists whip out their smartphones and hit record.

In the luxury-car sphere, half the work is done if the vehicle nails the static-appeal brief. And Lexus’ chief designer, Tadao Mori, has certainly achieved something remarkable. Imbued with cues from 2012’s LF-LC concept unveiled at that year’s North American International Auto Show, stretched across an elegant, long and low body, the LC500 is pure theatre. From the most ornate interpretation yet of the 28-year-old company’s spindle grille – studded with buttons that give it a mesh-like surface – to headlamps that simultaneously dip into the bumper and nudge towards that grille, and taillamps that mimic the front lights’ design but have their own unique touch in an intricate three-dimensional effect, the big Lexus looks unlike anything else plying our roads.

We’ll forgive it some awkward angles from the rear-three-quarter (and you’ll have to make up your own mind about those flashy, chromed 21-inch alloy wheels) in return for the brand’s sheer bravura in launching a production model that appears to have escaped from a motor show stand.

Hop inside, taking care not to bump the long door against an adjacent object, and the drama continues. Perceived quality is beyond reproach – a crew of master craftsmen at the Motomachi plant in Japan is responsible for constructing the cockpit, including hand-stitching the gearlever – and every surface fits like a perfectly aligned Tetris block into the next. This test vehicle’s interior is trimmed in Dark Rose, a shade used for the leather and Alcantara panels, while the buttons and dials are machined in high-grade alloy. The paddle shifters, meanwhile, are magnesium-alloy. If it looks like a certain material in here, chances are it’s exactly that material.

The LC500 is offered with every possible feature as standard, including a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, head-up display, sat-nav and ventilated and electrically adjustable front seats (which remain indulgently comfortable after hours spent behind the wheel). Some are simple to use – physical buttons for the dual-zone climate control are always welcome, especially if they’re such a tactile pleasure in their operation as the Lexus’ – while others frustrate. Why the carmaker persists with its Remote Touch Interface, a haptic pad that’s over-sensitive no matter the mode it’s in, is anyone’s guess. We’ve used this system for years in a number of Lexus models and still haven’t mastered it; the Germans do it much better. Criticism was lobbed at the counter-intuitive drive-control stalks either side of the instrument panel, too, but thankfully you don’t use them often.

Punch the starter button to the left of the perfectly sized steering  wheel and an engine that dominates the vehicle’s driving manners fires up. The naturally aspirated 5,0-litre V8 is a familiar one, having served in a number of F-branded sports models for a good few years now (and Giniel de Villiers’ Toyota Hilux Dakar vehicle). Lexus’ engineers, under the guidance of chief engineer, Koji Sato, took extensive measures to reduce friction and pumping losses on the V8; cut vibration by installing a double torsional damper on the crank pulley; and optimise the aural qualities by fitting a sound generator to the front air intake that’s directly connected to the cowl reinforcement and as such reverberates sound in that enclosed space. The exhaust system, meanwhile, boasts valves that open or close depending on the engine speed and the drive mode.

And it’s a roaring success. The creamy V8 sounds magnificent, with upshifts by the 10-speed transmission punctuated with rapid fire as the 5,0-litre again races to the 7 200 r/min red line in the next gear. What it doesn’t do, however, is create an impression of effortless performance. Two culprits are responsible for the occasional paucity of punch: the vehicle weighs 1 935 kg; and the atmospheric engine delivers its 540 N.m at a heady 4 800 r/min.

It’s here where the 10-speed torque-converter automatic transmission is tasked with filling in the gaps. No bigger than Lexus’ current eight-speed ‘box, the new transmission does a stellar job when left to its own devices, never creating the impression that it’s been burdened with a brace too many gears. Pop it in manual mode, however, and 10 feels like overkill, with lots of finger-flexing needed across those tactile paddles.

Set off and one of the first things you notice is the composed ride. It has a firm edge, sure, but not one that’s uncomfortable by any definition; there’s a deliberateness in the way the Lexus handles road scars and speed bumps that implies outstanding damping qualities (considering it runs on ultra-low-profile, run-flat tyres). Next you notice the astonishing refinement, with near-silent levels of wind and road noise, and an engine that settles to a whisper at just 1 600 r/min at 120 km/h. Perhaps the LC is a grand tourer after all, despite some of the brand’s marketing claims to the contrary?

And then you tackle a set of bends, clock the feel-free electrically assisted steering, notice how the vehicle gently washes into understeer a little earlier than you had hoped – despite rear-wheel steering that’s part of the Dynamic Handling package standard on SA cars – and become slightly frustrated that the transmission appears to ignore some of your manual inputs, and the LC’s mission statement is clear: it’s a finely crafted, exclusive GT.

As alluded to earlier, local LC500s are equipped with every conceivable option, including a full suite of safety features that adds blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and cross-traffic alert. What it doesn’t have, however, is a basic level of autonomous-driving technology. That will be introduced with the new LS that, incidentally, will share this LC’s modular Global Architecture-Luxury platform.
Seville, Spain

What is it?

It’s a luxury GT coupe that, says Lexus, is aimed at the likes of the BMW 650i, Mercedes-Benz S500 Coupé and even the Jaguar F-Type. The first incarnation of the car appeared at the 2012 North American International Auto (NAIAS) show in Detroit as the LF-LC concept where it garnered the show’s EyesOn Design award for best concept. It was that, along with Toyota president Akio Toyoda’s statement that its luxury brand would no longer make “boring cars” that saw the LF-LC make it to production as the LC 500. Which, incidentally won two EyesOn Design award for best production car and interior at this year’s NAIAS show.

Doesn’t look half bad, doesn’t it?

The amount of attention it got from the people of Seville certainly bears that out. Wherever we drove, heads were whipped around and mobile phones pointed. To Lexus’ credit, the production car is very close to the LF-LC study and the result is a low and wide svelte silhouette that hunkers down on its 21-inch wheels. The nose has the latest incarnation of the Lexus spindle grille with angular headlamps that focus your attention on the grille’s mesh structure that expands as it moves from top to bottom.

A floating carbon-fibre-panelled roof draws the eye to the rear where creases in the rear bumper and boot mimic the spindle grille outline with large multi-layered taillamps that use mirrors to give the impression that they are several centimetres deep. It’s the same trick of the eye that happens when you’re in a mirrored lift and your image stretches on into infinity.

And inside?

The designers have carried those external lines and curves over to an interior that boasts all the luxury touches Lexus is known for. There isn’t a stitch that’s not aligned in those beautifully sculpted sports seats and the buttons and dials are all machined and bevelled in high-grade alloy. Behind the steering wheel, a configurable 8-inch screen has been adapted from the Lexus LFA supercar and to the driver’s left is the 10-inch screen that controls the LC 500’s infotainment system, satnav and climate controls via a haptic touchpad.

If there is any criticism I’d level at this superbly appointed cabin it would be that it’s still a little cluttered by too many buttons and I’d prefer a touchscreen to the haptic pad.

Are there different spec levels?

Internationally the LC 500 is available in different spec levels but we’ll be getting the top spec Sport + package that includes those 21-inch wheels, the carbon-fibre roof, a 10-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, and Lexus LDH (Lexus Dynamic Handing) package with its variable ratio front steering and rear wheel steering system… but I’ll tell you more about that later.

What’s this I hear about a new chassis?

Yes, the LC 500’s big news is that it is the first Lexus to use the company’s new modular GA-L (Global Architecture-Luxury) platform. In rear-wheel drive guise here, it will also underpin the next-generation Lexus LS and, confirmed Lexus chief engineer Koji Sato, future all-wheel drive vehicles. Along with its modularity, said Sato-san, the GA-L platform was designed with the aims of delivering exhilarating driving performance, comfort, and well as safety.

So what’s under that long nose?

Something quite familiar actually. It’s the same 5,0-litre V8 that’s not only in the RC-F coupe and GS-F sedan (both unavailable in SA), but also powers Giniel de Villier’s Toyota Hilux Dakar racer. In LC 500 guise it's tuned to 349 kW and 530 N.m. Something of a rarity in these days of downsized turbocharged engines, the V8 might not be the model of efficiency, but it delivers all the characteristics we all love in a V8 – that glorious wail (piped into the cabin) and bags of torque.

I hear it has a 10-speed auto… 10-speed? Is that really necessary?

Look, as a piece of engineering, it’s an impressively innovative piece of kit. It’s a 10-speed torque-convertor that has a multiplate system that mimics a dual-clutch set-up in terms of speed but, says Lexus, it is more reliable in terms of wear and tear.

Do you need 10 ratios though? I’m not entirely convinced either to be honest. Whereas systems with fewer ratios will see more of a gap between 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears, this 10-speed sees the box shift very quickly through the range in what Lexus calls “rhythmical shifting”. It’s fine if you’re in full auto mode, but if you’re paddle shifting, you are going to spend a lot of time flexing your fingers.

Okay, the important bit… what is it like to drive then?

I’ll answer that by first telling you what it’s not. It’s not a lightweight, razor-sharp track machine. The LC 500 is a 2 000+ kg GT that’s designed to quickly eat up miles in luxury and comfort. That’s not to say it’s a bit of barge… quite the contrary. Lexus chief engineer Koji Sato has clearly put plenty of thought into the LC 500’s dynamic handling to deliver appropriately GT characteristics.

Lowering and optimising the car’s centre of gravity was a goal and to do that the V8 sits above and mostly behind the front axle. In fact, the LC 500’s centre of gravity is some 90 mm behind the front axle and almost in line with the driver’s hip point. The result is that when you ask it to change direction, the car’s 52:48 weight distribution feels like its pivoting around you.

So how does that rear-wheel steering you mentioned figure in this?

The back wheels turn in the opposite direction (up to two degrees) to the front ones at speeds below 80 km/h, which makes for excellent turn in on low-speed corners. Above 80 km/h the rear wheels turn in the same direction as those in front which makes for high-speed lane-changing stability.

The strategic use of various materials in the chassis – high-strength steel, aluminium, carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), and carbon sheet moulding compound (CSMC) – has also helped create that ideal weight distribution and that low centre of gravity.

I heard you guys were at the Circuito Monteblanco  as well.

We were and piloting the LC 500 around this track near Seville confirmed Sato-san’s claims. Instead of hunting lap times, the track provided an opportunity to responsibly test his stated objectives and the LC 500 feels composed and a lot more nimble than I had expected. On the road, it had been supremely refined and comfortable – in fact I’d go so far as to say easily the most refined and comfortable among its competitor set – which made me wonder about its dynamic abilities. However, turn the dial from comfort across to sport+ (changing the transmission mapping, throttle response, steering and suspension damping) and the Lexus was a whole lot of fun; very stable under heavy braking and easily popping its tail out on corner exits if you planted your foot.

Sounds like you liked it.

I did indeed. For its intended purpose and stated target market – 50+ year-old males who appreciate performance, luxury, and have an eye for design – I’d say it’s spot on. Look, that’s not going to be a big target market in SA – whereas it anticipates selling 400 a month in the USA, here I reckon Lexus won’t shift more than two or three a month– but if you are looking for a finely crafted and rare-in-our-market GT, and you have around R1,5-million to spend, then this fits the bill very well.

The LC 500 launches here in June 2017 and you can bet on an even quicker F-Sport derivative and a convertible making an appearance in the near future. Sato-san wouldn’t confirm it, but he practically winked when he said “no comment”.

2018 Lexus LC

Ref No: 1593516

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather bolster spartial leather: Standard
  • Leather upholstery: partial suede-cloth + leather
  • Seats quantity: 2+2
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front
  • Lumbar support adjustment: front electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Heated ventilated seats: front heated + ventilated
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Driver knee airbag: Standard
  • Passenger knee airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 8
  • Lane departure warning: lane keeping assist
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: Standard
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: Standard
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: adaptive
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Eco, Normal, Comf (Comfort), Custom, S (Sport), S+ (Sport+)
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Head up display: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: adaptive
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • CD player: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front
  • Central locking: keyless
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Standard
  • Electric windows: front (rear fixed)
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: Standard
  • Electric seat adjustment: front
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: driver
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED
  • Highbeam assist: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: front + rear + rear camera
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Rear spoiler: active
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 707 km
  • Driven wheels: rear
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 10
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Gear shift paddles: Standard
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Limited slipdiff: Standard
  • Front tyres: 245/40 R21
  • Reartyres: 275/35 R21
  • Length: 4770 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1920 mm
  • Height: 1345 mm
  • Wheel base: 2870 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 11.8 m
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1960 kg
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2375 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 82l
  • Fuel consumption average: 11.6 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 267g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: EU 6
  • Power maximum: 351 kW
  • Power maximum total: 351 kW
  • Power peak revs: 7100 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 179.1 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 540 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 4800 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 540 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 276 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 4.7s
  • Maximum top speed: 270 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 4969 cc
  • Engine size: 5.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 5.0
  • Engine + detail: 5.0
  • Cylinder layout: V
  • Cylinders: 8
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: V8
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 32
  • Variable camvalve timing: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 7
  • Warranty distance (km): 105000 km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 4
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Lexus
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 381405501
  • MMVariant: LC 500 COUPE
  • Introdate: 2018-12-01
  • DuoportarecordID: LexuLC1c3

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