New Lexus LC 500 shows what the future drive will be
The spindle works.
In this new car, the flagship of the Lexus line, the spindle grill—that was somewhat controversial to some—works. Its levels of aggressiveness and flair combined well with the identity of the whole car.
This may be because the new Lexus LC 500 is in itself a bold statement not just of design and daring, but of how the company sees itself in a future that must combine reliability and value with enthusiasm and sheer joy.
This is what happens when the head of a company likes to spend his time going fast and sideways.
The new LC is hugely eye-catching, so much so that we literally drew people out of bars as we drove through the mountains near Sevilla in sunny Spain.
It has a sleekness that you associate with supercars, but it also has the lines, curves and mass that you associate with more futuristic modes of automobile transport.
You do get the feeling that this may be a hybrid or electric, for example, which indeed in parts of the world it could be.
I personally have not been a fan of that “obviously-futuristic” design language in any car, and I would prefer that cars were drawn up without having to take that into account.
Again though, on the LC, it works. Perhaps because the aforementioned Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyota had said that excitement was key for all their new offerings.
That excitement isn’t just skin deep; the LC moves. The LC 500 uses the already-familiar 5-liter V8 that runs 471 horses through to the rear wheels.
A smooth new 10-speed automatic transmission handles the gearing for you.
The number of gears now at your fingertips results in quick smooth gear shifts that happen with a level of consistency and flow that will make you wonder why other cars can’t behave the same way.
If you’re hard on the gas, the transmission keeps you in the optimal rev zone pretty much the whole way through.
If you’re just cruising, it acts to keep everything in the low rpms for efficiency.
As the engineers all say nowadays, the big advances in efficiency have more to do with the transmissions as the engines.
Make no mistake though, this all-motor V8 throws out a sound that is pure historic power.
Trackside, as the cars scream by on the long straight, the note you hear is clearly V8 but kind of like it was tuned by Italians.
The sounds seem finely tuned but not boorish, purposeful rather than attention-seeking.
That’s the way the whole car is, really. It has a lot of muscle and a sophisticated way to handle it all, but it is not a screamer.
In spite of the supercar looks, it is really more of a grand tourer. There are two rear seats that are loads better than some other 2+2 GTs and sportscars, but they really are not for large people—better for luggage or young kids.
It is fun to squirt the car around corners, and indeed the throttle may come a little too quickly for some, but it is pretty smooth after that. Thank the normal aspiration and 10-speed gearbox for that.
This is a long-legged traveler, not a dedicated track car, which is fine because you will use it a lot more this way.
The fit and finish of the LC is at a level of quality you would expect from a company that uses a special name for its master craftsmen, the takumi.
Whatever you put your hands or your eyes on is skillfully chosen, expertly designed, and beautifully put together.
The shift knob, for example, is covered in leather but uses an in-stitch method that conceals the actual stitches.
The paddle-shifters, on the other hand, are magnesium alloy, and feel precise in both shape and operation.
The driver is king, and the design of the interior works for him. The cockpit is focused on the instrument.
The steering wheel design took hours to test and retest before the appropriate takumi master driver was satisfied with how each cross-section was shaped to suit the driver’s grip even as it changed.
They also went through dozens of seat designs before they settled on the two that are available. There are a few compromises, which mainly serve to support the design and balance of the car.
The seating is a bit low and that can make getting in and out a bit challenging, but that’s the price of weight distribution and that jaw-dropping look.
If you were around for the beginnings of Lexus, they aimed to make cars as comfortable and smooth as all the big names with the big numbers. They pretty much nailed that down.
Now, they are letting their designers and customers have a little more fun—and draw a few more people out of bars.