DETROIT — At a car show filled at last with sexy, sporty coupes, the Lexus LC 500 is perhaps the sexiest and sportiest of all. It’s working hard to kill Lexus’s reputation as a boring brand.
The LC 500 is the production version of the LF-LC concept that rolled onto the stage here four years ago. We didn’t hold our breath then for it to make it to the street — just as well, because four years is a long time — but now, it’s here, and we’ll forgive the wait. It’s due to arrive in Canada sometime early next year.
Lexus spent much of that development time working on the coupe’s driving feel. It was a pet project of Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, who drove it many times during prototype testing and was introduced here as Lexus’s “Master Driver.”
“Everybody, engineers included, wanted to make this car as close as possible to the design concept, with the most dynamic driving performance since LFA,” said Toyoda, referring to the brand’s carbon fibre supercar.
It’s a rear-wheel-drive 2+2, built on an all-new platform that’s long and low, with a 4,760 mm length and 2,870 mm wheelbase. The 5.0L, V8 engine is essentially the same motor that’s under the hood of the flagship RC F coupe and GS F sedan, making 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque.
Everything is driven through a new 10-speed automatic transmission that Lexus says has shift times rivalling a dual-clutch transmission, and which is smaller and lighter than some 8-speeds. Software anticipates the driver’s inputs by monitoring acceleration, braking, and lateral G-forces.
The naturally aspirated engine was chosen because of its linear power delivery and its emotional sound which, like other performance Lexuses, is accentuated through a sound generator. It “enhances the engine’s raucous melody into an aural thunder,” says the press release.
When this happens, the LC 500 will leap from standstill to 100 km/h in less than 4.5 seconds, but lightweight materials and the stiffest unibody Lexus has ever made will help manage it around corners. Greater use of high-strength steel apparently makes its body more resistant to twisting than the LFA supercar.
A dual-ball-joint multi-link suspension keeps everything on the road. “We spent more than triple the usual amount of R&D time to pursue linear steering and to find the sweet spot for road-contact feel,” said chief engineer Koji Sato. The show car wore optional 21-inch tires, though 20-inch rubber will be standard.
The interior is luxurious, of course, but with an emphasis on performance. “For example, we gave serious consideration to where the driver’s eyes would focus, and designed the surface shape in that area to help support a driver’s mindset,” said chief designer Tadao Mori.
“This project was one of the first times that designers were closely involved in the dynamic engineering development, so we could understand the driving goals and support with the car’s design.”
There’s no price announced yet for the LC 500, but it will surely be up in the realm of the $82,000 RC F and $95,000 GS F.
Lexus also introduced a sleek LF-FC concept, which Toyoda called “the luxury fuel-cell sedan of the future.”
The maker’s goal is to develop a car with zero emissions and zero dependence on oil, controlled through software that permits zero accidents, but which also has zero compromises on performance and design, he said, committing to a fuel-cell car in the Lexus lineup around 2020.
Toyota already has the Mirai production fuel-cell car available in California, Japan, and some European countries. It will be sold in several more American states next year.