More than a year after the Lexus LC debuted at last year’s Detroit Auto Show, the luxury coupé has finally gone on sale in Japan. The stylish two-door, derived from 2012’s stunning LF-LC concept, comes in two flavours – the LC 500 and the LC 500h hybrid.
The car made the journey from show stand to showroom remarkably intact, with a wide, low-slung body packed with interesting details. The low bonnet accentuates the sweeping lines of the front end, and was accommodated through the use of ultra-compact LED triple-projector headlights – the latter is paired by separate L-shaped LED daytime running lights for a bolder, more elegant look.
The sides of the car feature prominent haunches to emphasise the large wheels on offer – either 20- or 21-inch rollers – while the rear gets hourglass-shaped lines that mirror the characteristic spindle grille at the front. The vertical rear indicators that extend downward from the tail lights emphasise the car’s low centre of gravity, as does the low placement of the exhaust exits and diffuser.
Step inside the 2+2 cabin and you’ll find a driver-focused cockpit, with a central spar separating the driver and passenger. Lexus claims to have rigorously tested and optimised the driving position, including pedal and switchgear placement, steering wheel angle and seat fitting to ensure a more comfortable driving experience.
The semi-aniline leather seats on the mid-range L package feature a new two-part construction for improved holding and comfort, with extra bolstering in the shoulder blade area for increased lateral support. Alcantara sports seats on the base model and the range-topping S package feature even more substantial bolstering to keep the driver’s back in place, as well as integrated upholstery and padding for improved comfort.
The horizontal dashboard design has principal instrumentation and function controls within its cross section, all positioned at the same height to reduce the degree of eye movement needed to read them. The distinctive TFT LCD instrument display with moving centre ring has been further developed from the one in the LFA.
Lexus has even paid attention to the steering wheel design, with a cross-section change around its circumference to allow for variations in grip and wrist twisting. The new magnesium alloy paddle shifters – fitted on both the LC 500 and LC 500h, the latter being a first for a Lexus hybrid – give a more substantial feel when used, and are larger to allow fingertips to hook to them easier.
The base 12-speaker sound system has been improved to boost sound quality without any additional correction, with optimised speaker placements and acoustics designed from the body frame up. There’s also an optional 13-speaker Mark Levinson Reference surround sound system, incorporating Clari-Fi technology that improves the sound quality of compressed music through real-time analysis.
Meanwhile, the curiously-named Lexus Climate Concierge coordinates the automatic climate control with the heated and ventilated seats and heated steering wheel. In total, buyers can choose between eleven exterior colours, including a new high-intensity Naples Yellow Contrast Layering hue. Inside, there are four colour schemes to choose from, such as the new Ochre and Breezy Blue options.
Built on the new Global Architecture – Luxury (GA-L) platform, the LC features a rigid body using a mix of regular, high- and ultra-high-strength steel, aluminium and carbon fibre. To improve weight distribution, the front-mounted engine has been moved 50 mm rearward, and the spare wheel has been replaced by run-flat tyres, allowing the battery to be relocated to the rear (and the boot to be made larger).
A lower centre of gravity has enabled engineers to reduce roll angle without stiffening the springs and ruining the ride – the result is controlled body motion and precise, linear response, contributing to a smoother driving experience, particularly when cornering or changing lanes.
Suspension is via multilink front and rear systems, with the front gaining an optimal arm design for improved steering feedback, while the rear receiving a low-mount configuration with precisely defined arm locations for ideal high-stability steering characteristics. Double ball joints on the control arms allow for finer movement control, optimised suspension geometry and more precise steering response.
The S package gets Lexus Dynamic Handling that uses Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), Active Rear Steering (ARS) and electric power steering to enhance steering response and a more direct feel in high-speed cornering. There’s also an optional limited-slip differential for more stable mid-corner acceleration, which works with the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and ARS to reduce understeer and oversteer.
The LC 500 is powered by a 5.0 litre naturally-aspirated Atkinson-cycle V8, derived from the GS F and RC F. Fitted with VVT-i and D-4S direct injection, it’s been given forged connecting rods and titanium valves, allowing it to spin up to 7,300 rpm. There’s also a dual intake inlet to improve breathing and engine note, along with a double torsion damper on the crank pulley for reduced noise and vibration.
The result is 471 hp at 7,100 rpm and 540 Nm at 4,800 rpm, enabling the LC 500 to sprint to 100 km/h in under 4.5 seconds. All that power is sent to the rear wheels via a Direct Shift 10-speed automatic gearbox, with ratios spaced evenly and closer together – there’s an extra gear to reduce the gap between second and third gears, and a 10th gear for more efficient high-speed cruising at reduced engine speeds.
Other new features on this transmission include AI-Shift control with drive mode switching, selecting the optimum ratio not just on vehicle speed and accelerator usage, but also from past driving history. This enables the ‘box to estimate the driver’s preferences and intentions, adapting its gear selections to suit even if the driver leaves the Drive Mode Select switch alone.
With a new torque converter enabling full-range lock-up control, the LC 500 delivers a more direct feel and eliminates unnecessary revving – all while keeping the gearbox comparable in size and weight as the current eight-speeder thanks to the use of aluminium components. Lexus has also used low-friction materials as much as possible for improved fuel economy, and kept internal parts to a minimum.
Meanwhile, the LC 500h makes use of a 3.5 litre V6 – like the V8, it too gets direct injection, but benefits from Dual VVT-i; outputs are rated at 299 PS at 6,600 rpm and 356 Nm at 5,100 rpm. Mated to the engine is what Lexus calls a Multi Stage Hybrid system, combining a 180 PS/300 Nm electric motor and an 84-cell, 311 V lithium-ion battery, the latter being a Lexus first. Total system output stands at 354 hp.
The parallel hybrid setup is par for the course, but a four-speed automatic gearbox has also been added for a more direct driving feel. The new transmission replaces the reduction gear that amplifies the engine’s output in a traditional hybrid, allowing much greater drive power to be generated when accelerating off the line.
The system simulates the feel of a 10-speed gearbox – the eCVT has three virtual ratios, multiplied to nine through the auto’s first three ratios; the fourth gear is the 10th virtual ratio. This enables engine speed to rise in a linear and direct manner under acceleration, eliminating the CVT “rubber band” effect. There’s also Driver’s Mind Index control that optimises gear selection by understanding the driver’s intentions.
Standard on all LC models is Lexus Safety System +, a full suite of active safety features. These include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Pre-Collision Brake Assist, All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Vehicle Sway Warning and Intelligent High Beam. There’s also a four-point pop-up bonnet that protects pedestrians in a collision, while keeping the bonnet low.
Prices for the Lexus LC 500 stand at 13,000,000 yen (RM504,600) for the standard model and the more luxurious L package, and 14,000,000 yen (RM547,800) for the top-spec S package. Meanwhile, the LC 500h is priced at 13,500,000 yen (RM528,200) for the regular and L package models, and 14,500,000 yen (RM567,300) for the S package.