When reality is close to the concept car
Plenty of people drew in an admiring breath when they saw the LF-LC concept car on the plinth at the Detroit motor show back in 2012. But most people then just puffed out their cheeks, certain that nothing so sharp would make it through to production. But it did and here it is.
This is Lexus trying to gain some edge, some confidence, after some fairly lacklustre models. And if you want to keep trying to do things differently, then fitting a big V8 without any turbocharging or supercharging is definitely the way to go.
It’s certainly a handsome car, all angles and flat surfaces. It’s built on the GA-L platform, with the new underpinnings using steel, aluminium and carbonfibre to build in integrity with light weight. Then you fit a 5.0-litre V8 under the stylish bonnet, giving you 471bhp to send to the rear wheels.
Without any forced induction, this isn’t a torquey engine, with 398lb ft, a moderate amount in this context, not coming in until a high 4800rpm, and then not for long. That’s doubtless one reason the Direct Shift torque-converter automatic gearbox contains ten gears to shift around.
At the rear there’s an open differential but you can specify a limited-slip diff as part of a £9300 Sport+ pack, which also includes four-wheel steering and a carbon roof panel.
Under that panel you sit low in the cabin, with a wrap-round dashboard that makes you feel fully plugged in to the car. It’s very well made indeed, and has a distinct style to go with the top-end feel. Those more used to the more stolid German experience might find it refreshing while at the same time noting that the quality is easily as good.
Ahead of the driver is an eight-inch TFT display which is clear and which can just house a big digital version of a rev counter if you fancy, which of course we did. That’s more successful than the 13-inch infotainment screen which is hard to access through layers of menus and a twitchy touchpad. It was actually immensely frustrating to try and use.
Behind the driver are two seats, but they’re there to tick a box rather than to provide useful seating for adult friends. Looking on the bright side, you’re not going to have any backseat drivers giving comments when you get that V8 spinning.
Leave it in Normal mode and you can trundle about quite enjoyably, but you’ll notice that the engine tends to hunt around for the right gear a lot, a symptom of that relative lack of torque. Going down several gears and then up a couple quickly isn’t exactly relaxing to be honest. It’s better to drive the car harder, putting it into Sport or Sport + and using the throttle with more conviction.
At that point it becomes effectively a seven-speeder and is all the better for it. The V8 wails harmoniously on its way to nearly 8000rpm and the whole powertrain works as one, smoothly and powerfully. It’s not an outright gangbusters performance, but it sits neatly between a GT car and a sports car, which is probably where it is aimed.
Sadly the ride quality is quite compromised, and for that we have to thank the boot space. There isn’t that much of one, thanks to those arcing lines, and as a result the car runs all the time on run-flat tyres. They’re renowned for having still sidewalls, and here they show their limitations.
The ride is fidgety and bumpy when it ought to flow and waft. That’s not helped by firm suspension either, but that suspension and the new platform result in a handling response which is more Porsche than heavy Toyota.
To be honest, on the road you can’t quite enjoy that handling to the maximum, hampered as you are by the ride limitations. But take it to the track, turn off the stability control systems and you’re in a very different and happy place that has blue skies and small pink fluffy clouds.
You can really indulge yourself in an immersive experience, even getting the back to play around safely should you wish, even though our car had the optional four-wheel steering, itself an intuitive an integrated system under most circumstances.
Starting at £76,595, this LC sits between a Porsche 911 just above and a Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport a few grand below. This is a competitive sector to put it mildly. But they’re not this car. It’s different, and has a character as well a handling response that deserves consideration. And when you see that if you want to cruise around you can hit nearly 40mpg – thanks to the ultra-wide gearing – then it makes you think.
But this isn’t a simple decision. There are times when the ride can irritate just as much as the infotainment system. The transmission can be irksome if you’re not in a hurry and it’s a heavy car. But if you want to get going over a decent distance then it comes alive and we just love that soulful V8 and the handling package as well as the stunning looks. It’s so much closer to the concept car than virtually anything else out there.
Decisions, decisions, remember to breathe.