Lexus LC500: Hail to the King!
In Lexus’ almost 30-year history, three models have truly stood out: the original LS400 luxury sedan, which taught the snooty Germans how a truly grand, reliable, no-frills yet super capable luxo-barge should be done; the LF-A supercar which, despite being late, taught the world that Lexus knows how terminator-like efficiency can build a truly amazing, sensual and awe-inspiring supercar with a sound better than today’s current crop of Formula 1 cars; and finally, this, the LC500, a car so amazingly capable, it was chosen as King T’Challah’s (of the Marvel Universe’s Wakanda fame) chariot.
The LC500 is built in the great and grand tradition of grand tourers from the golden years of motoring, which many say was the ‘60s.
A powerful engine, sensual sounds, a lavish interior that isn’t tacky nor over-the-top, coupled with a comfortable, yet connected driving experience sounds golden.
Add in the classic long-nose/short but stylish rump, and you have proportions that could easily be mistaken for something British or Italian.
The engine and the amazing 10-speed automatic transmission are the LC500’s two strong points: the 10-speed automatic is obviously meant to provide a combination of amazing acceleration and equally amazing fuel efficiency.
Driving home from the north, I was able to reach a best 14.5 kilometers per liter, cruising leisurely at the legal limit or thereabouts for roughly 100 kilometers.
The few times that I let the hammer down and unleash the screaming V8 wail all the way to redline, efficiency dropped to 3.75 kilometers per liter.
Indeed, the Lexus LC500 speaks softly, but carries a massive stick, and it knows how to use that stick to great impact.
All told, the engine delivers a heady 478 hp and 527 Newton meters of torque delivered to the rear wheels.
This gives the LC500 a steering purity that is responsive enough without being nervous, and alert without being tiringly sensitive.
There’s a sense of invincibility as well riding the LC500: it feels, well, unbreakable, like Wakanda’s mythical vibranium armor.
Despite riding massive 21-inch tires, it soaks up bumps, ruts, expansion joints, and rocks and stones that litter NLEX and the provincial highways leading to Subic Bay in Zambales.
There’s a sense of solidity, which gives it, and you as the driver, confidence to keep pressing on, driving faster and harder.
Despite weighing a massive 1,935 kg, the LC500 doesn’t feel ungainly. It feels heavy on slower, tighter corners, and when transitioning from accelerating to braking, but overall, the LC500 feels dynamic, sharp and posied, at least for most drivers.
Any harder, and it might as well be a track-focused, one-hit wonder.
The alloy 5.0-liter V8 is mounted front/mid-ship, that is, in between the firewall and the steering gear, helping keep the heavy engine centered, reducing yaw and inertia, and helping the LC500 provide tactile, feelsome and accurate steering.
Going through successive bends and corners, the LC500 doesn’t mind transitioning left-right-left-right continuously. It’s sharp and agile just like its Black Panther rider.
While it rides on massive 245/40R21 and 275/35R21 front and rear wheels and tires, the chassis is very stiff, providing excellent NVH isolation and ride comfort.
Inside, the LC500 is truly exquisitely built: suede, rich fabric and leather cover up the surface. The suede reminds one of Ferrari’s equally exotic and exquisite mouse-hair suede.
Everything that isn’t covered in organic materials is oozing with high tech: the LCD instrument cluster, the LCD multi-media display, and the track-pad with haptic feedback to control the multi-media system blend in seamlessly and perfectly with the two-level dash architecture and the very supportive bucket seats.
Imagine Wakanda’s high-tech capital set against the beautiful African countryside, and how both live and blend in seamlessly.
The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, and is quite large but perfectly-sized for relaxed long-distance cruising.
Magnesium paddle shifters deliver added exoticism, and a better measure of control on winding roads.
In Eco and Normal modes, the LC500 might just as well be any other Lexus. But in Sport and +Sport modes, it truly becomes a primal beast.
The engine note hardens, the revs rise and fall faster, the 10-speed transmissions loses its CVT-like smoothness in exchange for something far more forceful, and you’ll easily find your way to a top speed of 270++ km/h, a figure which no doubt the LC500 can match and even easily exceed.
If you want more soothing sounds aside from the V8’s absolutely feral, seductive and almost sensual scream, the 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system can help turn your MP3 audio garbage into something surprisingly decent.
A few foibles though. The LC500’s rear seats are absolutely useless. No way will anyone fit in the back seats, unless all four occupants were roughly 4-feet tall.
The doors are absolutely huge. The LC500 is definitely wide, but will fit in an average parking slot. Opening the doors to get in and out is a different matter altogether.
Lastly, the looks. The front looks amazing: majestic, handsome, aggressive. The spindle grill helps make it look even more exotic.
The B-pillar section is challenging at best: it looks pinched from the sides, and from top to bottom, as if Lexus designers sort of ran out of talent on a particular day and decided to let it slip.
The rear isn’t so bad, but doesn’t match the front end’s impact.
Though polarizing, the looks help give the LC500 character. It will stand out, but will soar even higher, thanks to truly impressive driving dynamics, backed by mind-numbing efficiency and reliability, as with all Lexus (and Toyota) products.
Fancy a proper GT but can’t afford the Europeans’? The LC500 is a true bargain as it costs half to a third of the European aristocrats for performance that’s right up there with them.
Lexus is slowly building up its motorsports pedigree with sportscar racing, thanks to the IS-F Club Racer One-Make Race Series in Japan, the LF-A supercars that competed at the Nurburgring VLN Championship Races, the RC-F GT3 race cars, and the LC500 competing in the Japan Super GT GT500 Category.
Lexus might not be on the same page as the Europeans in terms of motorsports, yet it is slowly but surely getting there.
In 30 years, Lexus has had three truly ground-breaking products, truly amazing ones because they proved just how amazing Lexus could be despite churning out a multitude of boring yet highly efficient engineering marvels of SUVs, sedans, coupes and the like.
The LS400 was the original king, followed by the LFA supercar, and now the LC500. All hail the new King!
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