The launch of the LC 500 marks the start of a quiet revolution at Lexus. It’s like nothing the premium Japanese carmaker has previously launched and marks the culmination of its turnaround from humdrum and rational to edgy and shouty.
A cross between a sports car and a GT, the LC is the production version of 2012’s LF-LC concept car, and is offered either with a V8 or hybrid drive. As that was a car created with no intention to actually be built, it’s not been a straightforward process.
Lexus has done it though, with the help of a fancy new platform called GA-L, which makes its debut here. This will form the core of future Lexus, including 2018’s all-new LS luxo-limo. For now, it’s down to the LC to give the brand a boost, broadly by sitting around the level of the Porsche 911 and taking on posh BMW 6 Series and Mercedes SL.
The first time you get into the new LC, you’ll fall in. The seats are far lower than you were expecting. That’s the first sign this is a new type of Lexus. Getting your hips down low means you have a better feel for the car, say the engineers, who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this seating position.
The heavily stylised cabin is, like the dramatic exterior, not for everyone. It’s beautifully finished though, and clearly benefits from a huge amount of effort. Consider it very much a 2+2 rather than a full four-seater, though.
With a wide stance and ‘front-mid-engined’ layout, the LC is optimised around its stiff underpinnings. The details stretch to putting the battery in the boot and using plenty of lightweight carbonfibre composites and aluminium. The Sport+ launch car also had a carbonfibre roof, which looked gorgeous.
This roof is part of the Lexus Dynamic Handling pack, which also adds variable-ratio steering, rear-wheel steering and a limited-slip differential. All very promising stuff indeed.
It doesn’t disappoint. For a front-engined, rear-wheel drive 2+2 GT, it’s surprisingly delicate and confidence-inspiring. You can feel the rear end helping out, despite the abundant grip, and capable suspension has the ability to handle grotty roads and clumsy driver inputs with remarkable composure.
Even the firm low-speed ride becomes smoother at speed, helping you easily find a rhythm. No Lexus since the LFA supercar has felt this engaging. No, it’s not quite a 911, but it certainly has one over a BMW 650i and Merc SL.
The engine is more familiar. It’s the 467bhp 5.0-litre V8 from the RC F. It’s vocal and punchy, but you need to have the six-stage electronic settings dial in one-below-full-fat Sport S mode to get necessary crispness and response. Full-on Sport S + is best left for the racetrack.
Lexus has enhanced the carry-over engine with a new 10-speed direct-shift gearbox. It sounds like something that will be constantly changing gear but, because it’s so swift and decisive, it blends seamlessly with the engine and chassis. Most of the time, you’ll use gears one to six: the top four are fuel-saving overdrives.
Overall, the Lexus LC is a lovely car, and a surprising one. Far better to drive than you’d ever believe, the styling may be divisive but the entertaining drive is guaranteed not to disappoint. You’ve delivered here, Lexus. We now look forward to more of the same.
Lexus LC 500
On sale: late summer 2017
Price £80-90,000 (est)
Engine V8, 4969cc, petrol
Power 467bhp at 7100rpm
Torque 389lb ft at 4800rpm
Gearbox 10-spd automatic
Kerb weight 1935kg
CO2/tax band n/a