Lexus LC500 is a chest-thumping automotive aphrodisiac
SUDDENLY Lexus has emerged from the cocoon of boredom.
It's like the designers walked out of the CWA meeting and straight into a strip joint. The car brand with a reputation for quality, longevity and prudence can now add downright sexy and excitement to the resume.
Sexy is almost an understatement when it comes to the LC500. This is blood-pumping stuff at standstill.
The marque, along with mainstream underling Toyota, has recognised things have been stale in the past. Wow, what a way to break the design shackles.
There were signs of improvement when the RC coupe was released, but the LC raises the bar in spectacular fashion.
Heads turn in unison when the V8 petrol engine barks. The long bonnet, short overhangs front and back, low roof, flared wheel arches ... it all combines for a compelling package.
What's the price of spectacular? In this case it's $190,000 plus on-roads - not a bad deal when stacked up against other flagships like the Audi R8, BMW i8 or Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe which are well into the $200,000 realm.
Refinement and craftsmanship resonate throughout the leather-clad cabin. From the minute "in-stitching” on the gear shifter to the compact steering wheel and millimetre-perfect coverage around the door handle, it's an enveloping environment.
Standard equipment is befitting illustrious expectations, and it starts with the external door handles which pop out from the doors when you hit unlock on the key fob. Also standard are LED lighting, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, shiny forged 21-inch alloy wheels, 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, as well as heated and ventilated front seats with 12-way power adjustment.
There is even space in the console and cup holders, and our only complaint within a sumptuous interior was the Lexus multimedia system.
While there's no issue with the satnav or menus, the remote touch feature is cumbersome and slow. Operating with a mouse-style operation, it lacks simplicity and fails where the European dial systems excel.
There is a minimalist approach on the dash, which means accessing controls like the seat heaters can take some analysis rather than just hitting a button.
Those looking for even more performance can spend $15,000 on the enhancement pack, which includes four-wheel steering and variable gear ratio steering, as well as an active rear spoiler that deploys automatically at 80km/h, a carbon-fibre roof, combination leather-accented and Alcantara upholstery, as well as 10-way power-adjustable sports front seats and carbon-fibre scuff plates.
ON THE ROAD
Statistics prove the LC is more a grand tourer than a supercar. Powered by a 5.0-litre V8, it still plays a wonderful exhaust tune from the moment you hit the start button.
Lexus has a hybrid derivative of the LC, but this V8 offers some old-school rear-wheel drive muscle which combines with an ultra-modern exterior.
Despite an ability to sprint from standstill to 100km/h in less than five seconds, it's a joy to drive over long distances and doesn't completely sacrifice comfort for speed.
There are six driving modes available via the bull horn dial atop the driver's binnacle, and when opting for one of the sporting personalities it can really hustle, accompanied by an unforgettable drivetrain soundtrack.
Get into some tight twisties and it can feel heavy and slow to react, although the LC does its finest work when ripping into hilly, flowing roads that are carved up with Iron Chef-like precision.
While it's a two-plus-two seater, those in the back do draw a short straw. It's terrain best left to kids, as legroom is limited and the sharply tapered roofline means those above 165cm will be rubbing their head on the roof - lucky it's suede.
Boot space, too, is confined. We managed one large suitcase with some room to spare, but that's about the capacity.
Coming with an impressive array of gear, basic inclusions are autonomous emergency braking than can reduce the car's speed by up to 40km/h if a collision is detected, radar cruise control with three pre-set distances, lane keep assist and lane departure warning, as well as automatic high beam.
The V8 also comes with a limited-slip differential for enhanced cornering.
Spectacular looks and a resonating sound, it's verging on a supercar without the major compromises. Still a big investment for a coupe.
Who cares about the outlay? The LC is utterly loveable and being a Lexus it's going to last a lifetime, even if I do have to make frequent visits to the petrol station. I could lay off the accelerator a bit, nah.
MASERATI GRANTURISMO $295,000
Outstanding sound and charisma from the Italian stallion, it has more badge kudos but build quality doesn't match the Lexus.
JAGUAR F-TYPE V8 R ($246,012)
Another spectacular looker, it's rear three-quarter angle is nothing short of breathtaking. It's got even less boot space than the LC, and it only has two seats.
For nearly three decades, Lexus has been the Cameron Smith of prestige motoring. Steady. Consistent. Ever reliable. The LC500 adds some razzle-dazzle. The same quality remains, yet now there's some Billy Slater in the mix. Excitement has finally come to the marque. It's fast, fun and automotive erotica.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE $190,000 (cheap against rivals)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 4 years/ 100,000km warranty, servicing annual or 15,000km (ok)
ENGINE 5.0-litre V8 petrol 351kW/540Nm 10-speed auto, RWD (old school muscle)
SAFETY Not rated, eight airbags, adaptive cruise control, pre-collison safety system, lane keep assist, sway warning, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, reversing camera, tyre-pressure monitor (good)
THIRST 11.6 litres/100KM (13.5 on test)
SPARE None, run flats (not great, but expected)
BOOT 197 litres (small but better than some)