Japanese cars that excite all of the senses have recently been hard to come by. Sure, performance is generally covered, but the aesthetically pleasing aspect that the Europeans consistently deliver is often absent.
The Nissan GTR has a loyal following and fights well above its weight in the numbers game, however, it lacks the emotional design elements that pull at the heartstrings. It’s a similar story for Honda’s latest NSX, it’s a statement of capability and intent without the visual theatre of high-end models from Europe.
Rather than head turners, the Japanese are more about precision and proficiency, sometimes to their detriment.
Enter Lexus, a premium brand that has flirted with high-end performance and technical prowess. Take the much revered LFA, a wonderful expression of automotive engineering, but it can’t hold a candle to the looks of far less sophisticated cars from the rock in the North Atlantic.
Combining technical mastery with design and craftsmanship is what makes a car desirable. This is the best way to describe the 2017 Lexus LC500, it’s a car that signifies the Japanese are again in the business of making cars that offer performance and stunning looks.
There is a plethora of numbers and technical details relating to the materials and construction of the LC500 that you can’t see, so let’s focus on the things you can.
From every angle, the LC500 is a jaw dropper. The exterior designers have used angles and curves in a way that’s stylishly executed, it would be easy to overplay the hand and take it too far, however in this instance, the right balance has been found.
The proof is in the number of selfies taken with the car during our test week. Everywhere it was parked, the LC500 had no trouble attracting attention. From those not yet old enough to have a licence to those planning to enter the tribe of grey nomads, all agreed the design is a winner.
Sophisticated, elegant, beautiful – these are the words that come to mind upon entry to the cabin. It’s a beautiful interior, material choice is excellent as is the layout.
Lexus does lovely interiors, but the interior of the LC500 kicks things up a notch. The Alcantara, the stitching, the gear knob, everything the hands can reach provides a wonderful tactile experience. The Takumi master craftspeople have done a brilliant job.
Every switch, button and lever is processed to the highest standard. The interior presentation can easily compete with exotic models costing far more.
The only thing that detracts from the interior is the overly fiddly infotainment system. Some aspects of the package such as the screen size and the definition of the graphics are really impressive, so it’s a shame the system isn’t as intuitive as it could be – gesture control, please!
What’s really impressive is how easy it is to get in and out of the LC500. For a low car, the wide opening doors combined with the positioning of the seat in relation to the b-pillars allow front occupants to avoid the undignified process of entry and egress that’s generally unavoidable in situations like this.
The LC500 is classified as a 2+2 coupe, however, in reality, this label is dependent on the height of those lucky enough to occupy the seats up front.
Both the exterior and interior of the LC500 brings to life an interpretation of Japanese modernity without abandoning the necessary emotional elements needed to get people excited about dropping this amount of coin on a car.
Speaking of price, the LC500 starts at $190,000 plus on-road costs. In isolation, it’s not cheap, but when compared to what else is on offer in the premium segment, it’s unquestionably a car for those who know how to shop value.
At that price, the Lexus is extremely well equipped, it’s loaded with luxury features and the latest safety technology. This is something of a white whale in the premium end of the market. Practically every other car in the premium segment requires plenty of options to get the most out of the car.
When optioning an LC500, the only thing to consider is the addition of the Enhancement pack. For an extra 15k the pack brings Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS), Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), Limited Slip Rear Differential (LSD), Alcantara and leather accented interior, 10-way power operated front sports seats, carbon fibre roof, active rear wing and carbon fibre scuff plates. Our tester was fitted with the Enhancement pack and it’s well worth giving it serious consideration.
To appeal to a wide range of motoring enthusiasts, Lexus offers the LC500 with a choice of two drivetrains. There’s a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 and a 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric hybrid.
On test here is the hybrid model, the LC500h. Other than the h on the end of the model number and hybrid badging in front of the rear wheels, both models look identical.
People have embraced the LC500, 15 units were sold in August. It was interesting to note the lack of enthusiasm for the hybrid, all 15 sales were V8s.
Lexus has carved out a niche for itself in the premium end of the market with its use of hybrid technology. We are now living in an age where it’s cool to be green, having hybrid badging on a car like this makes one look informed and considerate.
Lexus concedes hybrid technology is closely associated with the word ‘eco’. People connect the term to economy and ecology, which is fair enough, hybrids have made their name on lower running costs and being environmentally conscious. The LC500h is charged with changing some of these perceptions. Lexus is looking to broaden the appeal of hybrid models by putting more emphasis on developing the performance benefits the technology offers. The LC500h is the first step in the process.
The LC500h features Lexus’ first Multi Stage Hybrid System. Essentially, this development uses hybrid tech to improve the car’s performance by responding more directly to driver inputs. The biggest gains are in the areas of acceleration from a standing start and grip. It’s not all serious stuff, there is also a fun factor, engineers claim this is the first Lexus hybrid that can spin its rear wheels.
Now the LC500h is something of an all-rounder. It rides the line between sports coupe and grand tourer.
In analysing the numbers the total power output for the powertrain is 264kW. Now that doesn’t sound like much in relation to the spend, but as the saying goes, ‘it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it that counts’.
In hybrid form, the LC500 has enough power to satisfy the majority of enthusiasts. Lexus quote the 0-100km/h dash can be done in 5.0 seconds, this is a surprising number, the car feels quicker when you give it a boot full, especially when it’s in sport mode.
The transmission is a perplexing aspect of the car. It’s a CVT (continuously variable transmission) that is calibrated to deliver the sensation of using a 10-speed automatic. The often maligned CVT doesn’t have many fans amongst hardcore enthusiasts, but this one is different. There’s no drone and I’m convinced most drivers wouldn’t be able to pick it on the first attempt. Which makes us wonder, why go to all the effort and expense to develop a new technology, only to make it feel like old technology to achieve a minor improvement in fuel consumption?
With a low centre of gravity, the car feels well planted and encourages a spirited drive. The steering feel is perfect. The LC500h is a big car, it’s almost 5-meters long, yet the car’s handling is sublime. Even the novice can send it into a corner with confidence.
As a grand tourer, the LC500h can swing with the best of them. The levels of comfort and refinement are first class. If you’re looking for something to carve up long sections of highway, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a wonderful car to enjoy a long drive, the cabin ambience is excellent.
It’s remarkable how serine the drive is when you consider the massive 21-inch rims wrapped in run-flat tyres. The whole suspension setup is buttery smooth.
In this case, refinement is a double-edged sword. If there’s one complaint about the driving experience, it’s the refinement. The cabin is extremely quiet and the soundtrack that should be part of a car such as this is missing. From behind the wheel, you can’t really hear the pipes chirping away under the bonnet or a meaty exhaust note from the rear.
I often read statements like, ‘this is a sporty car that you can enjoy every day’, more often than not, this statement is nonsense. It is true in this case, the LC500h could easily be used as a daily driver. The only thing that might hold it back is the small boot.
Consumption is the other ace the hybrid variant holds up its sleeve. Our test covered almost 1200km of city and highway driving, at the conclusion of the week we returned a figure of 8.0L/100km. The V8 won't get anywhere near that.
Lexus doesn’t offer a capped price service program for the LC500h, however, customers can enjoy a premium service experience if they reside or work close enough to a dealer. Owners can arrange their car to be collected and returned, or if the dealership visit is preferred, loan cars are provided. Maintenance intervals are set at 12 months/15,000km.
The LC500h gets a four year/100,000km warranty. Although warranty coverage is better than other premium marques, it could be bolstered. A five-year package should be the minimum on a spend such as this.
The LC500h ticks plenty of boxes. It has all the attributes to appeal to a wide demographic of buyers and lovers of beautiful things. A talented all-rounder is hard to find, blending the characteristics of a sports coupe and grand tourer gives the LC500h a genuine point of difference at its price point.
The gorgeous design, that’s both purposeful and emotional in its execution will bring a different sort of person into Lexus showrooms. Lexus has pushed its stock higher, it now has a car that’s not all about the numbers on the spec sheet. One thing is certain, the old line, ‘nobody shapes sheet metal like Italians’ is now completely redundant.
2017 Lexus LC500h Specifications
Price from $190,000 plus on-road costs Engine 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric hybrid Power Engine 220kW @ 6000rpm Electric motor 132kW Torque Engine 348Nm @ 4900rpm Electric Motor 300Nm Transmission 10-ratio CVT automatic Performance 0 to 100km/h 5.0 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 6.7L/100km Tank Capacity 82L Length 4770mm Width 1920mm Height 1345mm Wheelbase 2870mm Turning Circle 10.8m Kerb Weight 2020kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty four year/100,000 kilometre
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