2017 Lexus LC500 detailed
Performance hero ushers in a new era for prestige brand.
Meet the concept car that finally became a reality.
Previous daring designs showcased by Toyota and Lexus have been watered down by the time they made it into production.
But not this time.
“I hope you agree it is anything but boring,” said Akio Toyoda, the head of Toyota, as he unveiled the new Lexus LC500 high performance coupe in Detroit this week.
The grandson of the founder of Toyota and great-grandson of the founder of Toyota’s original industrial company, Akio Toyoda told international media that when the Lexus concept car was unveiled in 2012 “we had no intention of turning it into a production car”.
It was designed simply to “showcase the future Lexus design”.
This is what a more emotional Lexus looks like to me … and this is just the beginning
“But your positive reaction as well as the reaction of our customers changed our mind, we listened and we made it real,” said Mr Toyoda. “This is what a more emotional Lexus looks like to me … and this is just the beginning.”
The Lexus LC500 will spearhead an overhaul of the Lexus line-up after Toyota’s luxury division lost its momentum over the past 10 years.
The German companies it was challenging reacted far more quickly than Lexus anticipated and began to reclaim their lost ground.
Now it’s time for Lexus to play catch-up.
In Australia, the turnaround has already begun after Lexus posted record sales in 2015 with the arrival of four new models.
Lexus was the fastest growing brand among its peers, with sales up by 24 per cent compared with the previous year — and compared with the increases posted in 2015 by Audi (up 20 per cent), BMW (up 10 per cent), and Mercedes-Benz (up 14 per cent).
Although the Lexus sales tally of 8700 vehicles was higher than its previous record of 8200 in 2007, its overall volume is a fraction of the German brands’ (Audi 23,000, BMW 25,000 and Mercedes 36,000).
But the company hopes to close the gap with this and other models, such as a full-size, seven-seat SUV.
Power is modest compared with its German performance peers
The LC500 is designed to “usher in a new era for the Lexus brand”, said Akio, who joked that while his last name is “Toyoda” his middle name is “Lexus”.
The Lexus LC500 is powered by the same high-revving 5.0-litre V8 found in the GS-F sports sedan and RC-F coupe.
Power is modest compared with its German performance peers (351kW and just 530Nm of torque) but the addition of a 10-speed automatic transmission is hoped to boost acceleration.
Lexus says it is aiming for a 0 to 100km/h time of 4.5 seconds. That’s respectable, but not as quick as, say, an Audi RS3 hatchback or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG sedan, both of which stop the clocks at 4.0-seconds or less.
Price is yet to be determined but Lexus models with similar performance cost in excess of $130,000.
The LC500 goes on sale globally next year and debuts a new rear-wheel-drive platform that will underpin future Lexus models.
While the LC500 is expected to sell in relatively small numbers, Lexus Australia chief executive Peter McGregor said it will “act as a lighthouse model for our expanding range”.
Under the skin
When companies create cars, designers and engineers must work together to get the best result.
Designers want their creations to look stunning, engineers want them to drive impeccably.
Inevitably, there are arm-wrestles between the two sides as they fight for their corner. But Akio Toyoda personally intervened, banged corporate heads and told both sides to find a way to turn the concept car into a reality.
On first impressions, it seems they achieved their goals.
The design has stayed true to the concept, save for some minor detailing in the headlights and tail-lights.
The LC500’s structure is a mix of lightweight aluminium, carbon-fibre and high-strength steel to create the most rigid body Lexus has ever produced.
Run-flat tyres are fitted so there is no need for a spare, and, as is increasingly the case in top-end cars, the battery is in the boot for better use of space and a better weight balance. The weight distribution according to Lexus is 52/48 front-to-rear.
A mechanical sound enhancer that pumps engine noise into the cabin and the mufflers also have a “loud” mode to ensure the car’s bark matches its bite.