There’s no arguing that the Lexus LC 500 is one of the most spectacular looking car on the road. And as beautiful it can be on a showroom floor, or on the pages of a glossy brochure, it looks even better on the road; as if mocking other vehicles obviously less lucky that it. I should know after driving one for a fair number of days – the LC 500 is a magnet for attention. No hooning, no revving its V8 in neutral, yet people’s eyeballs just gravitate towards it.
The car was destined for visual greatness as the 2012 LF-LC Concept it started its life from was so well received by the public. The LC 500 was also under the personal attention of Toyota Motor Corporation’s Akio Toyoda, then Lexus’ Chief Branding Officer. This Luxury Coupe (hence the ‘LC’) is also produced at the Motomachi factory, where all 500 units of the LFA were made during its production run between December 2010 to December 2012.
Lexus is not quite famed for sports sedans or coupes such as this; and past efforts made headlines for a while but only until it needed to take a step back and make room for the usual German suspects from Munich or Stuttgart. Nothing has ever stepped up since the LFA, and successfully held ground.
One look at the LC 500 and you know that it’s from Lexus. That’s probably because of the grille, isn’t it? And it is something else, that massive mesh is rather complicated with a lattice that is grouped tightly in the middle – also the car’s most forward point – which grows larger at the bottom edges. If you really examine it, it looks like a web stretched over an hourglass-shaped frame.
The LED headlamps are very compact, a cluster of three projectors that joins to a strip of DRL shaped like an arrowhead. It doesn’t stop with arrows as the two metal strips that flank the carbon fibre roof are inspired by a Katana sword design. The back features narrow taillights not without its own stories to tell. The L-shaped light strips stack up on each other that gives an illusion of depth, when the lighting enclosure is in fact just a few inches deep.
On the move it is a sight to behold. Calling it majestic is really overdoing it but that wide, low stance with a body not shy of sharp edges makes almost everything else look like any other roadside furniture. One could be forgiven thinking the LC 500 is mid-engined, and I won’t put it past company designers that that may have the point from the start, but the brilliant naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 sits upfront. The same motor saw action in the RC F and GS F models, both, by the way, I am told are also available in Malaysia although just without showroom units. And the engine in the LC has been given an update.
The fact that it is naturally aspirated further adds to the LC 500’s mystique. It produces 470hp at a high 4,700rpm. Not as powerful or revs as high as the Guards Red 911 GT3 RS featured just a few pages ago, but these two are different beasts altogether. Yes, the Lexus will do angry and aggressive if the driver wants to, but it is also docile for the most part. Most cars like this traditionally suffer from an overeager throttle, quick to lurch forward with the slightest touch of the right pedal. Certainly not the best thing to have when in traffic or when the road is slippery. This Lexus on the other hand is comfortable crawling at 5kph during rush hour traffic, with me not needing to be very deliberate with the gas.
There’s also a high level of comfort for everyday driving. Actually, Lexus pegs the LC 500 more as a grand tourer so this is not very surprising even taking into account the 35 Series Bridgestone Potenzas. It’ll soak all but the worst of KL roads, with the real terrible ones handled with a respectable amount of cushioning. Need to keep eye on those (big holes), though, owing to the 21-inch alloys.
Inside, things are always calm. Road and tyre noises are well isolated leaving the V8 to provide entertainment. If that’s not your thing, the 13-speaker Mark Levinson is on hand. The dashboard is not too high and despite the windscreen’s steep angle plus low roof, there is still a good sight out to the road ahead. However, the long-ish bonnet seriously kept me guessing of the car’s extremities. As such parking can be a problem, as do navigating around narrow roads with high kerbs. You’ll do fine if you can exclusively trust sensors and the reverse camera, of course. Also, the LC comes with RCTA (Rear Cross Traffic Alert System), a feature that I cannot do without in cars with inherent compromised visibility issues such as this.
... sense of familiarity I immediately had with the interior comes from the buttons, switches, and fonts used. It’s all too TMC. Boo!
There are two rear seats separated by a tall transmission tunnel for a 2+2 capacity. Funny thing is, the seat itself goes as deep as a proper sofa, yet there’s not much knee room available without compromising on the front passenger’s comfort. Makes for the perfect place to dump bags or other junk, perhaps the real use of the space anyway.
Great effort went into making the interior feel special, including a driver-passenger separation via its high and wide centre console. For the most part the materials used reflect the LC 500’s stature with plenty of leather and alcantara. The colour of the leather seemed tacky at first but the black option available in Malaysia would have only went the total opposite way in defining the premium Lexus experience. The bits of brushed aluminium scream high quality, in particular the svelte door handle. It wouldn’t look out of place as an art gallery exhibit, honestly.
Not to say there are no ‘misses’ – the sense of familiarity I immediately had with the interior comes from the buttons, switches, and fonts used. It’s all too TMC. Boo! Sounds harsh but in a vehicle costing RM1 million, exclusivity by way of a different typeface on switches does not seem like a big ask at the customer’s end I believe. Lexus was already deep into it with carbon fibre scuff plates and an electronic push button merely to open the glove box anyway.
And then there is the Remote Touch Interface, the manner in which you communicate with the car’s electronics. It has improved over the years – especially over the ‘mouse’ it still employs in other models – but the touchpad and the interface is not the final word in optimum user experience.
Other than all that the LC 500 is still a spectacular proposition. You can put it in ECO mode indefinitely and still enjoy the occasional quick bursts of acceleration, with the computer showing mid to high 5L/100km consumption. The 10-speed automatic gearbox has a lot to do with that, quick to upshift and settle that revmeter to the lowest number possible. I have reservations with gearboxes with too many ratios but that’s only because it gets in the way of quick and sure engine braking. The LC is not made for that, not specifically anyway, this is a grand tourer first, and daily driven bank account statement second. The 0-100kph in 4.4 seconds it is capable of is third, if that.
What’s appreciated most is the car’s drivability. Its 470hp and 540Nm is not all at the top and mid throttle positions which makes for an easy drive. The steering is light, perhaps too light at the steering’s dead centre thus making tracking straight a bit of a chore, but in an urban driving condition (especially in parking lots) there’s no harm in that.
Yes, people will stare at the Lexus (and the driver) but for some owners that’s just part of the appeal. Any road tester will admit to feeling nervous driving cars with this sort of price tag, and for the most part look forward to sending it back. Yes to the first part, but I was also oddly sad to part ways with the LC 500. The only way I can describe it is that from the outside looking in, the coupe tries very hard to stamp its presence simply by showing up. But from the inside, it just wants to play its part required by the driver. You want it to cruise down Jalan Damansara at civilian speeds and with comfort levels not usually found in hunkered down sporty coupe? No problem. 250kph down a clear highway with the V8 screaming at 7,000rpm next? It’ll do that, too.
Pictures: Raja Mokhzairi