First Drive: 2017 Lexus LC 500 Coupé

First Drive: 2017 Lexus LC 500 Coupé
 

The frequency with which the Lexus brand was mentioned in hip-hop hits from yesteryear is amusing and fascinating.

Snoop Dogg rapped about his “Lexus that flexes from Long Beach to Texas.” The Notorious BIG spoke of the mischief he enjoyed behind the tinted windows of an “LX four-and-half” – referring to the 450 engine designation of the sizable SUV. Tupac Shakur opined that a Lexus made the courtship process easier. And Jay-Z included a GS sedan among the finery of a Breitling watch in the 1996 song Dead Presidents.

They must have had more sense than we give them credit for. While the old crop of Lexus offerings may have been well-engineered, they were far from exciting to look at. Understated at best and drab at worst.

Along the way there were models that gave an inkling toward the sexy side of things. Like the first generation of the IS, sleek and of compact proportions, undoubtedly edgier than the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 of the day. They also had the fearsome-looking LFA supercar, the first ever Lexus you would want to have as a bedroom poster.

With the LC 500 coupé, launched last week, Lexus claims to have decided to be the emotional choice – instead of pandering to the rational-minded as is tradition.

Aesthetically the newcomer looks nearly identical to the LF-LC concept that appeared in 2012. Kudos to Lexus for being brazen enough to follow-through on the promise stirred by the striking show car.

A cursory glance alone would sell most well-heeled customers for sure, especially with the car donning Naples Yellow paintwork. There are too many features to captivate a pair of eyes, from the lengthy prow to the rear lights that were designed to mimic afterburners of a jet engine when illuminated. Sharp pleats abound, lending themselves to all kinds of origami parallels. It strikes me as the kind of car a modern-day Jay Gatsby would swan around in. The jazzy Lexus would not have looked out of place in the music video for Cassper Nyovest’s recent song about our former reserve bank governor.

The LC is all about the good life: a vivacious chariot in which to woo fellow road users. And Lexus was quite honest about the fact that their new offering is an authentic tourer, rather than a purebred sporting machine.

That is not to say the model fails to inspire its driver with the impressive sensations expected from a car costing nearly R2m. It made velvet of irregularities in Western Cape road surfaces and tackled more dynamic pursuits with acceptable, if not outstanding, poise. The LC is mildly athletic, although clearly built with carefree and disengaged progress in mind. The noteworthy trait – to our ears anyway – is how addictive its eight-cylinder vocals are.

It sings proudly and in a brutish manner. Around town one is tempted to keep that 10-speed transmission lingering below third to prolong the truculent bellow of the 4969cc (351kW and 540Nm) mill.

On the open road, it gets up to pace with consummate ease. And shifts from the transmission are dispatched quite responsively, with the same deftness as some dual-clutch setups. A hybrid derivative is available abroad, but this version will not be sold in South Africa. We doubt many customers will care for its absence. A vehicle with this much charisma needs an equally soulful power source and thankfully, that is the case.

You would expect a car that looks this outlandish to have an equally extravagant interior. And you would be right. The lounge of the LC is dazzling – and be sure to go for one of the louder upholstery shades, like red. Customers will find all sorts of interesting textures, from cold metal to soft and fuzzy Alcantara. And being a Lexus, every amenity is standard.

So, who are they gunning for with the LC? Foremost, think large two-door models in the vein of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and soon-to-be-axed BMW 6-Series. But then around the similar pricing point of the Lexus, shoppers could also investigate products with a more sporting slant. Like the hugely entertaining Mercedes-AMG GT or the Porsche 911, with its irreproachable reputation.

That could put the rakish LC in a bit of a tricky spot. Although, the product planners will counter by saying the Lexus is far more exclusive – around 40 have been allocated to South Africa for the year. And maybe it is worth remembering that none of the German contenders are styled so flamboyantly. If you want to make a statement, the LC is your choice. – Brenwin Naidu

  • The Lexus LC 500 is priced from R1 729 600.