The new grand tourer coupé looks amazing, but what goes on behind the lines?
This is the right sort of car for an elegant, exclusive and glamorous form of grand touring. A two-plus-two coupé with the engine at the front and the drive at the rear. And for a company such as Lexus, known for its build quality, this is a statement that tells people to look at them afresh since the LC500 is remarkably close to the LF-LC, the concept car that wowed everyone back in 2012.
Engine: V8, 4969cc, normally aspirated petrol
Power: 471bhp at 7100rpm
Torque: 398lb ft at 4800rpm
Gearbox: 10-spd automatic
Kerb weight: 1935kg
Top speed: 168mph
CO2/tax band: 267g/km, 37%
What a looker. We think the lines are absolutely stellar. And they’re built on an entirely new platform, one made of steel, aluminium and plastic reinforced with carbonfibre. It’s a stiff platform, as you sense when you swing shut the long and heavy driver’s door. It closes with a gratifying thud and you can feel not a tremor through the rest of the body. If it was just theatre it would be notable, but this is in the bone and it’s impressive.
Having closed the doors, you’re in a luxury cabin, even if the two rear seats are not exactly for adults to sprawl languidly in. The driver and front passenger sit low in remarkably comfortable leather and Alcantara sports seats that will offer all-day comfort. Ahead the dashboard rises in leather-wrapped tiers, housing digital instruments, high quality controls and everything you want or need. There’s even a hint of a flying buttress over on the passenger side, leather-wrapped of course.
Ahead you have a choice of powerplants, with nary a four-pot in sight. There’s a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine combined with an electric motor for the LC500h or, as here, a 5.0-litre V8, getting by on size and power rather than any fancy turbocharging. With 471bhp and a ten-speed auto transmission, this should be good.
And it is, when you’re on it, driving that big V8 towards the red, revelling in the delicious growling wail of the V8. Chasing the redline at 7100rpm is hugely enjoyable and sounds even better. But is that what you do all day in a GT car? I don’t think so. You want to ride the effortless waves of torque and power, making progress that is rapid indeed but progress that displays not an ounce of effort. And that’s where things go a bit awry, largely down to another figure in the table.
Torque is 398lb ft, and that’s quite a long way off the power figure, and not quite enough as it turns out to haul this two-tonne car around. Below 4000rpm the engine has to work too hard, and the gearbox has to suddenly drop two or even three gears to find one which might work. It can get a little dithery when put under that pressure and the result is a noticeable absence of wafting and rather too much dropping of cogs and soaring of revs.
It’s quite a wide and heavy car, too much so to make a sports car, but for a grand tourer it handles with some aplomb. There’s a poise and suppleness to some aspects of the handling and ride that are very attractive, almost as attractive as the lines themselves, and it’s those lines that cause another problem.
They just wouldn’t accommodate a full spare wheel and in reality there isn’t even room for a space-saver spare. So the car runs on low-profile runflat tyres. Guess what the result is? Correct, you appear to have wheels made of wood if the surface is bad.
It’s such a shame there are some duff notes in this car as overall it’s gorgeous. It’s so close to being right to be the car that you want to cross continents in, and get to the next continent feeling unruffled and ready for dinner.
It looks beyond, and is truly different to the Germanic counterparts that tend to dominate this space. Yet if Lexus is to conquer not just continents but cars like the Mercedes S-Class Coupe or the Porsche Panamera it needs to not just be close, but to have the finest cigar as well. Which right now it doesn’t.