A punch to the solar plexus. Lexus’s Mercedes SL rival offers a properly snorting V8. Words Andrew English.
After a mixed reception for the smaller Lexus RC coupé in 2014, there’s a lot riding on this all-new LC. Not least is the pride of this upmarket Toyota badge, which has been continually traduced for being boring by Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s chief executive. There’s also the fact that this steel, carbonfibre and aluminium chassis platform will also underpin next year’s new LS saloon and all future big, rear-drive Lexus cars.
So the 4.8m-long, 2+2 GT has been given the startling look of the 2012 LC-LF concept, while the cabin borrows from the style set by the LFA supercar, its facia dominated by horizontal lines and slightly reminiscent of 1970s US luxury cars. Material choice is fabulous, with soft leathers and satin metals, but the centre-screen is too small and the touch-pad controller is a poor substitute for the capstan controls on German rivals. Top models get a Mark Levinson stereo; it sounds terrific but struggles against the roar of the optional 21in Michelin run-flat tyres.
There are two drivetrains, both costing the same. The LC 500, with a 467bhp/389lb ft 5.0-litre, quad-cam V8 coupled to a ten-speed auto transmission, has a top speed of 168mph, reaches 62mph in 4.4sec and emits 267g/km of CO2. The innovative LC 500h is a petrol-electric hybrid that uses a 291bhp/257lb ft 3.5-litre V6, a four-speed automatic gearbox mounted on the back of the 174bhp twin-motor hybrid system with CVT, and a 1.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The idea is that the four gears combine with the CVT’s artificial ‘ratios’ to give ten ‘speeds’ in total and reduce the rubber-band driving effect often associated with this Prius-based technology. Figures are 155mph, 0-62mph in 4.7sec and 148g/km of CO2.
Double-wishbone suspension, a low centre of gravity and a 50:50 weight distribution promise pleasing chassis dynamics, while the most expensive Sport+ package gets variable-ratio steering, a rearsteering system, a carbonfibre roof and a Torsen limited-slip differential. These were the cars we drove.
On the road the V8 is a delight, gurgling and snorting with giddy amounts of high-revving power up to 7100rpm and that tenspeed filling the low-torque gap at the bottom end of the revcounter. We’re going to miss engines like this when they’re gone. It’s fun to over-drive this Lexus with the tyres squealing, but ultimately the handling is deliberate rather than sports-car agile. It’s a big, wide car and feels it, but body control is good, the steering loads up progressively and the brakes feel strong and positive. It rides well, too, although those harsh tyres don’t do the low-speed comfort many favours.
The hybrid likes to pull away in electric mode but the engine chimes in soon after, providing a screaming, high-rev soundtrack. It’s possible to identify the real from the artificial gearchanges but there’s still a precision in the driving process. It’s not as fast as the #V8
, of course, but the combined electric and petrol power is more than enough, even if it sounds laboured at times.
The hybrid weighs just over two tonnes and it shows. The steering feels over-assisted when turning-in and it’s difficult to sense just how hard the tyres are working. It feels more trustworthy once it’s actually in the corner, but you can’t grab it by the scruff of the neck and hurl it up the road in quite the way you can with the V8. It rides brilliantly, however, even on those optional 21in tyres.
Priced at between £76,595 and £85,895 depending on spec, the LC is good value against the opposition. I’d choose the V8 for its power, soundtrack and superior handling, but the hybrid is far more economical and – much to Lexus management’s surprise – is occupying about half of UK orders.
Left, above and below LC touts shout-out-loud looks and supremely comfortable seats, but it’s a wide, heavy GT.