Lexus has launched its flagship ‘Luxury Coupe’, the LC 500 in South Africa! The newcomer was introduced to the media in Cape Town this week and we took it for a drive on both road and track to get a sense of what this stylish coupe has to offer…
Rewind back to 2012 and you may very well remember the striking LF-LC concept, marking the beginning of a new chapter in terms of design and engineering for the Japanese luxury marque. Back then, the LF-LC represented a new and exciting future for Lexus design and the production LC 500 is an embodiment of Lexus’ intention to offer vehicles that are both exciting and emotionally impactful. Infused with the spirit of the LFA supercar and design of the LF-LC, the LC500 is claimed to not just be a new car, but rather represents a new future for Lexus.
To realise this future, Lexus developed an all-new platform known as Global Architecture-Luxury or GA-L that spawned the LC 500, but it also lays the foundation for the new flagship LS sedan and future front-engined, rear-wheel drive models.
The LC 500 is therefore unlike any other Lexus before it and it’s now available in South Africa. The local launch took place at the Franschhoek Motor Museum in Cape Town this week where we had the opportunity to drive and experience the LC 500 on road and track. Here’s what we discovered…
Based on the LF-LC concept, the LC500 is attractive and sophisticated in the metal.
Photographs can be deceiving, but in the metal, the LC 500 is well proportioned and its styling is arresting. Lexus’ bold spindle grille with a mesh texture dominates the front-end and is complemented with sharp-looking L-shaped daytime running lights and new triple LED headlights. A high waistline and bulging hips give the LC500 a stout appearance from the rear while slim taillights provide a dash of elegance. Large 21-inch wheels fill the wheel arches and the LC 500’s tapering side profile is particularly attractive.
The eye-catching exterior style is matched with a cabin design that’s befitting of a grand tourer with an emphasis on comfort and luxury. The driver sits low with the hip point positioned closely to the car’s centre of gravity, which Lexus says aids effective feedback from the car to the driver. The leatherwork and detailing is impressive and interior build quality is excellent, as we've come to expect from this marque. In terms of design then, the LC500 is the most progressive model to come from Lexus and it’s undeniably appealing to the eye. It is a serious head turner…
The LC 500 is both a capable grand tourer while also offering dynamic performance when it's required.
Apart from its striking design, Lexus has gone to great lengths to ensure that the LC 500 delivers engaging performance. To meet this end, the LC 500 is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine with peak outputs of 351 kW and 540 Nm of torque. The engine red-lines at 7 300 rpm and the full brunt of power is unleashed at 7 100 rpm while maximum torque is available from 4 800 rpm. Using a new, fast-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission, the LC 500 is claimed to accelerate from zero to 100 kph in 4.7 seconds and can attain a top speed of 270 kph.
However, outright performance was not the main objective and Lexus rather focussed its efforts on creating a specific blend of performance and handling ability that not only suits the grand touring character of the car but also ensures maximum engagement when the driver decides to be more adventurous.
To achieve this aim, the LC 500 is fitted with the Lexus Handling System as standard which coordinates functions such as the Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) and Electric Power Steering (EPS) to ensure optimum handling in all driving conditions. A limited-slip differential further enhances the traction and handling ability offered by the LC 500.
In terms of safety features, the LC 500 is well-equipped and comes fitted with front, side, curtain and knee airbags, ABS with EBD, Hill Assist Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Park Distance Control.
What’s the LC500 like to drive?
The local launch coincided with heavy rain and mist in Franschhoek but that didn't deter the media contingent from putting the new LC 500 through its paces. We had the opportunity to drive the LC 500 on track at the Franschhoek Motor Museum as well as on the well-known Franschhoek Pass.
Press the engine start button and you're welcomed by a marvellous burbling sound as the 5.0-litre V8 engine rumbles into life. As the heavens poured over us, we set off in the direction of Franschhoek Pass. We found the interior to be comfortable and the heated seats provided much-needed warmth – the high-tech nature of the cabin not detracting from its "snugness", thankfully.
The interior is comfortable and luxurious with fine detailing that lifts the overall look and feel of the cabin.
The LC 500 is fitted with a new multimedia system that provides access to audio, navigation and telephonic functionality via a 10.3-inch high-resolution display with an updated user interface. The system is controlled using the latest-generation Remote Touch Interface touchpad control located in the centre console and although it can be finicky if you have never used it before, usability will improve as you familiarise yourself with the functionality.
Franschhoek Pass was under siege from rain and mist which meant that we were unable to unleash the full capability of the LC 500. Ride quality is forgiving and it felt relatively smooth and comfortable. Weighing in at 1 940 kg, the LC500 isn’t light and its weight can be felt through the steering but it felt planted and sure-footed in the wet. While cruising, the LC 500 is very quiet with the engine hardly audible at all in the cabin. Only under harder acceleration does the engine make itself heard, and it's quite entertaining when it does so.
There are 4 driving modes available to the driver including Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Eco and Comfort are suitable for most driving situations while Sport and Sport+ can be activated when you feel the need for more spirited driving stints.
The LC500's performance is strong and with a vocal exhaust system, driving is a pleasurable experience.
On longer and safer sections of the route, we switched into Sport mode and turned on the taps. The LC 500 accelerates quickly and shifts through the gears seamlessly. We were often looking down at the instrument cluster to see what gear it was in because the shifts are barely noticeable. The 10-speed transmission was impressive and seemed to perfectly match the driver’s intent. You can, of course, use the mounted magnesium shift paddles for manual shifting if you wish.
The second half of the launch comprised of a few laps around Franschhoek Racetrack. The track was absolutely soaked and despite some apprehension and shot nerves (from the driver) the LC 500 demonstrated high levels of safety in challenging conditions and remained composed and true through corners where many vehicles would have left the roadway into the bushes. Before we knew it, the experience was over and we were left wanting more...
For Cars.co.za's Ciro de Siena's views on the LC 500's track ability, see our video at the bottom of this article.
Lexus deserves applause for the LC 500. Not only does it boast unique and appealing design inside and out, but it also delivers performance, refinement and luxury in a package that sets the tone for future Lexus models.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the LC 500 is how it adapts to your driving style. If you drive it with intent, it will follow suit and support and stimulate your senses in a way that few cars can. It’s strength, however, lies in its grand touring ability and it’s not only comfortable and refined but it’s also hugely pleasurable to drive.
The LC 500 competes with established rivals such as the BMW 6 Series (to become 8 Series), Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, Porsche 911 and Maserati GranTurismo to name a few. The LC 500 might be outdone in terms of outright performance against most of its rivals but as Lexus’ first stab at producing a high-performance luxury coupe, the LC 500 is a breath of fresh air and certainly worthy of consideration for the buyer looking for something a bit different, without sacrificing quality, advanced tech features and look-at-me styling.
Watch our first drive video of the Lexus LC500 at the international launch in Spain earlier this year!
Lexus LC500 - Price in South Africa
Lexus LC500 - R1 729 600
The Lexus LC500 is sold with a 4-year/100 000 km warranty and service plan.
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