We could debate your opinion of the new Lexus LC500 for hours. But we’re not going to because it’s wrong. Instead I’m going to word punch you in the face with my view that it is simply the most radical car of its ilk. Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé? Yawn. BMW 6 Series Coupé? Give me a break – it just looks like a 4 Series that got stung by a wasp.
You could park the new LC500 next to pretty much anything – even an Aston Martin – and it will still steal your breath away. This is because the president of Toyota himself, Akio Toyoda, got sick and tired of motoring hacks mouthing off about Lexus products being dull and predictable and boring. So what you see here is the antidote: an adventurous foray that makes the German marques seems staid, safe and predictable.
So. There. Case closed. The LC500 is the most revisionist shape on wheels. It’s also quite possibly the best-built thanks to the insane quality control measures. Put together in the Motomachi factory (the same place the LFA was bought to life) each LC500 is scrutinised by a clan of Takumi master-artisans. Their job is to ensure that handfinished items and things like carbon-fibre roofs and resin boot lids are perfectly fitted. After this every LC500 is inspected inside a glass-walled, LED-lit booth. Yep, it’s next-level OCD. But it pays off because this thing is impeccable.
From the consistency of the panel gaps to the suppleness of the leather (from the cow’s neck, if you want to know) wrapping the gear lever, you will struggle to find a more exacting automobile. It ’s luxurious too. A Gran Tourer born, the LC500 lives to indulge its driver and his/her passenger of choice. It wants you to traverse long-forgotten highways and it gives you the tools to do so. Heated and ventilated seats. Adaptive cruise control. Head-up display. Mark Levinson audio system with 13 speakers. Blind spot monitoring and lanekeeping assist. Bi-LED headlamps. It’s all there.
What ’s also there is the infamous Lexus Remote Touch Interface infotainment system. It’s no BMW iDrive or Audi MMI but, like moving from Apple OS X over to Windows 10, you slowly get acclimatised. Emphasis on “slowly.” Then there’s the refinement. This car sits atop 21-inch alloy wheels and yet, in comfort mode, it glosses over pimply road acne like it’s a ’70s Cadillac de Ville. Wind and road noise? Impressively there’s hardly a trace – even at illegal speeds. For the most part the LC500 is calm and mild-mannered. But then you find a dark side. Twist over to Sport Plus mode and the naturally aspirated V8 explodes with the ferocity of a Le Mans GTE-Pro racing car.
Yes you read right — no turbochargers. Unlike almost every other manufacturer, Lexus decided not to force-feed their halo car ’s motor. And it is all the better for it. You get a deliciously linear ramp all the way up to the 7300rpm red line that’s smooth and easy to modulate. It ’s old school and I love it. I also love the way that you have to send the tacho needle into the red to extract every last kilowatt. Turbos spoil you with easy grunt but here you have to work those cylinders. When you do you’re rewarded with a savage wail: a collective scream from the ghosts of every great NA engine sent to an early grave.
The automatic gearbox, meh, well it has 10 speeds. Do we really need 10 ratios? Especially when the last four are just ridiculously long overdrives? I don’t think we do but Lexus has gone and done it anyway, for better of for worse. Otherwise it does a good job of swapping cogs with reactions fairly close to that of a dual-clutch unit.
Handling? Tipping the scales at nearly two tons the LC500 can feel a bit unwieldy at times. The nose can scrub and wander, particularly through tighter corners, despite the rear-wheel steering. Across more flowing sections of asphalt, however, it is vastly more adept and morphs into an apex-stringer of note. It’s planted, stable and extremely confidence-inspiring even at high speeds.
A luxury coupé need not be so dynamic but this Lexus is and it adds much to its drive-everywhere, attack-everything demeanor. This, on top of those park and stare looks, generous specification and brutal sonics is the reason the LC500 is now the car to beat in its class: proof that beauty and substance can coexist. It is also quite possibly the best Lexus ever made as well as the coolest automotive addition to 2017. Only a fool would argue otherwise. – Thomas Falkiner
Fast Facts: Lexus LC500
Engine: 4969cc V8
Power: 351kW at 7100rpm
Torque: 540Nm at 4800rpm
Transmission: 10-speed auto
0-100km/h: 4.7-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 270km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 18.7l/100km (achieved)
CO2: 267g/km (claimed)
Price: From R1 729 600