Lexus has been around for 25 years – and now it’s decided to make a bid for sports car mastery. A convincing one it is, too…
Remember when a Lexus was a boring thing? Brilliantly made, superbly engineered and all that, but dishwater dull to look at and all too often no more than worthy to drive.
Well, Lexus has been around for a quarter of a century now and the company has come of age. We know this because it says so. To celebrate, it’s tearing up the rule book and entering a new era.
Lexus LC 500
On sale: late summer 2017
Price: £80-90,000 (est)
Engine: 5.0-litre, V8, petrol
Gearbox: 10-speed automatic
Top speed: 168mph
CO2 emissions: band n/a
It’s a new era of bold styling and exciting performance. Backed up by the build quality, engineering brilliance and customer service we’ve come to expect, of course, but that’s all good.
As bold moves go, putting a concept car into production takes some beating. Especially when it was never meant to be anything more than a concept car in the first place.
But that’s the LC 500. It’s the 2012 LF-LC concept, re-engineered upon Lexus’ new GA-L platform and offered with a choice of V8 and hybrid engines. And just as Lexus’ first car, the LS, arrived 25 years ago on a mission to beat the Mercedes S-Class, the LC 500 has its sights locked on the SL.
And the BMW 6 Series. And the Porsche 911, dammit. But can it really be that good?
Answer: yes. Yes, it actually can. The 911 is still ahead by a nose, but Lexus is right in the mix with this car.
The V8 engine we mentioned is the 467bhp 5.0-litre unit from the RC F, which is mated to a new 10-speed direct-shift auto whose changes are so precise and so quick that the whole driving experience feels completely linear. There’s a drive mode dial with no less than six settings; the top one is really only suitable for using on a circuit, but one step down from there is Sport S – which we found ideal for getting the best response from the LC 500’s chassis.
And the response is good. Really good. It’s grippy and poised, retaining its balance even when pushed hard on poor roads, and though it rides firmly around town it gets into its stride on faster roads, becoming easier to drive than you’ve any right to hope a front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car will be.
We need to add that our test car had variable-ratio steering, rear-wheel steer and a limited-slip diff, all of which helped make it more agile and sure-footed than ever. Even with this borne in mind, though, the LC 500 is delicate and confidence-inspiring to a triumphant degree.
Inside, it’s as lairy to look at as it is from on the street. Taste is personal, of course, but there’s no denying the sheer quality of the way it’s put together.
There’s also no denying the sheer lack of space in the rear seats, but see it as a 2+2 and there’s nothing about the LC 500 that should confound you.
Not unless you’re on a spying mission from one of Lexus’ perennial German rivals and you were hoping for this new direction for the company to be the kind you take when you go off the edge of a cliff, at least. Because what we see here is convincing evidence that not only has Lexus come of age – but that the next 25 years are going to be very exciting indeed.