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The hot as Hades road hugger, with hybrid efficiency, V-8 power and a seductive bright orange, blue and white interior, sets a new course for Lexus. If the LC can’t redefine what makes a great Lexus – and what makes Lexus great – then nothing will.
Lexus LC 500 with 5.0L V-8 and LC 500h V-6 hybrid goes on sale in May.
SEVILLE, Spain – Nothing quite gets the blood pumping like a run-in with the policia, especially when the few words they know in English are “prison” and “jail.”
Thankfully, this altercation occurs at the end of a full day of driving, in rush-hour traffic a long way from the countryside (and racetrack) that witnessed speeds well beyond legal.
My documents were in order, but the officers were trying to shake us down for driving a prototype car with red license plates they deemed unacceptable. It all happened a few blocks from our hotel in this town that ironically served as the cradle of the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century.
Lexus representatives sprinted to this downtown intersection teeming with pedestrians and tourists to argue with the officers that journalists have been driving these cars for two weeks – why the hassle at the end of the last day?
This is exactly what Lexus needs – a large, curious crowd wondering what transgression occurred in a blazing yellow sportster now surrounded by four police cruisers, two police motorcycles and several officers packing heat.
Lexus has a well-groomed image for its luxury cars, but it richly deserves some bad-boy mojo for launching the V-8-powered LC 500 and hybrid-electric LC 500h – a pair of 2+2 coupes that could catch the eye of Porsche 911 intenders. Lexus plans to sell about 400 units a month, with V-8 models making up 95% of the mix.
Going on sale in May in the U.S., this dramatically styled road hugger with up to 398 lb.-ft. (540 Nm) of torque and a seductive bright orange, blue and white interior sets a new course for Lexus. If the low-slung, hot as Hades LC can’t redefine what makes a great Lexus – and what makes Lexus great – then nothing will.
Inside and out, the car cries out to be ogled, from the short overhangs, flared haunches and narrow, angular wrap-around headlamps and taillamps to the deeply chiseled interior door trim, deployable rear wing and a windshield with about as much slope as a bunny hill.
It retains much of the pizzazz of the 2012 LF-LC concept car, which is exactly what top management wanted. The LC is so boldly styled that the angry trapezoidal grille, for which Lexus has been criticized mercilessly on more pedestrian vehicles, looks right at home.
Some might consider the LC to be overstyled, trying too hard to impress, even surpassing the styling language of the Lexus LFA, the brand’s first attempt at a supercar that saw production in Motomachi, Japan, of 500 units from 2010 to 2012. The new LC comes from the same plant.
But every brand needs a performance halo. Chevrolet has the Corvette. Dodge had (for a time) the Viper., the GT. , the GT-R. It’s about time ’s luxury brand has one, too. (Let’s hope the Toyota brand also gets a halo, in a revived Supra.)
The powertrain offerings are a mix of old and new.
The 5.0L naturally aspirated V-8 in the LC 500 is rated at 471 hp and carries over from the RC F coupe and GS F sedan, both slightly less potent at 467 hp. With 16 fuel injectors, the V-8 employs both port- and direct injection, a distinctiveapproach dubbed D-4S.
The extra power comes from intake and exhaust tuning. Within the intake manifold, a secondary opening allows in more air at higher engine speeds, increasing airflow into the engine.
Lexus powertrain engineers are rightfully proud of the V-8’s rich exhaust note, enhanced by a resonator in the cabin piping in authentic induction sound – nothing electronically generated. The system is designed to let the occupants enjoy the engine hum without being overwhelmed by it.
The volume cranks up in Sport and Sport+ modes, and it sounds even better in late prototypes driven at wide-open throttle on Monteblanco Circuit, a private racetrack west of here in rural Andalusia.
The LC500 was tuned to capture some of the LFA’s aural magic, and it manages nicely. But the $375,000 LFA, powered by a 552-hp 4.8L naturally aspirated V-10 capable of a sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.6 seconds, has a 9,000-rpm redline and a uniquely aggressive whine.
With its less outlandish 7,300-rpm redline, the LC 500, with its excellent 10-speed automatic transmission, has a deeper exhaust note, making it a better daily driver – and for a lot less money ($92,000 to start). Top speed is 168 mph (270 km/h).