Four years is a long time to go from concept car to production vehicle.
Typically, a car manufacturer teases a concept it intends to build and approves it for production within the year. For example, in the case of the Chevrolet Bolt introduced at the Detroit auto show (NAIAS) last January, it was green-lighted for production before the start of the Chicago Auto Show the following month.
Toyota has teased us with a handful of concept vehicles down through the years, including the fetching FT-1, a delicious sports car some still hope becomes the all-new Toyota Supra. Notably, on the Lexus side of the house we’ve seen the LF-LC, a product dangled before us at the 2012 NAIAS. That concept is now a production reality and comes to us in the form of the Lexus LC 500, a provocative high-end sports car introduced at the 2016 NAIAS.
Approved From the Top
The Lexus LC500 was approved by Akio Toyoda, Chief Branding Officer and Master Driver for Lexus. Toyoda is the scion of the same family that founded the automaker — substitute the “d” for the “t” and you have Toyota. Moreover, he is also the man who said more than four years ago that “our cars should be fun to drive.” That’s an understatement!
Toyoda made his earlier pronouncement even as the company was enjoying much success with nameplates such as the Corolla and Camry pacing sales. But that leadership came at a cost — most enthusiasts considered these models as nothing less than rolling appliances, devoid of passion. Toyoda understood that his cars needed to be changed and initiated a process that has since yielded sportier versions of its most popular products.
The Lexus LC 500 does something else — its gives Lexus a flagship sports car to join its two other flagships: the LS sedan and the LX SUV. Both the sedan and the SUV have helped pace the marque, but the excitement factor belongs entirely to the LC 500.
Now back to Mr. Toyoda: “A few years ago, we decided to guide the future of the brand with products that had more passion and distinction in the luxury market. This flagship luxury coupe’s proportion, stunning design and performance make a strong statement about our brand’s emotional direction and will grow the Lexus luxury appeal globally.” Emotive sells cars as does quality and reliability. The latter two points Lexus has long owned.
Can you sense the excitement?
Supplying Performance Cred
Certainly, Lexus has made some strides in recent years in an effort to up its performance credibility. In particular, the IS Series now has a turbocharged four-cylinder to showcase, providing a much-needed alternative to the base and slow-as-molasses 2.5-liter, V-6. Further, the RC F delivers to us a taste of what Lexus has in a sports car. Yet, the RC F is merely a luxurious competitor to such pony cars as the Ford Mustang — something more was needed.
The LC 500 gives us a 2+2 sports car with an athletic countenance, a copious spindle grille, and generously apportioned wheels — that’s an understatement: the wheels simply look enormous.
Its sleek roofline melts into the rear deck, the beltline rises and zooms back to meet the edge of the roof. This sports car not only is fast, but its visage looks the part.
Seating for Four, Room for Two
Like the RC F, the LC 500 offers token room for two in the rear. Figure that you’ll use that area to belt down a bag or two. Indeed, one look at the rear and no one will volunteer to squeeze into the back.
As for the cockpit, Lexus says that it is both driver-focused and elegant. But the same assessment can be said for the RC F.
Notably, “the driver’s hip point was engineered to be as close as possible to the vehicle’s Cg (Center of gravity) where feedback from the car is the most communicative to the driver.” That’s a feature common to high-end sports cars, one that provides the ultimate in driver satisfaction.
High-Performance V-8 Power
Under the hood is a high revving rendition of the engine found in both the RC F sports coupe and the GS F sports sedan. This 5.0-liter, normally aspirated V-8 engine will be paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission “with shift times rivaling those of a dual-clutch transmission. The component is smaller and lighter than some current 8-speed transmissions.” Lexus estimates that the all-aluminum powerplant will actualize 467 horsepower and 389 foot-pounds of torque. Importantly, an under 4.5-second 0-to-60 mph time is anticipated.
The new Lexus model is more than a year away from arriving on the market. When it does launch, it will be a 2018 model. By then, we’ll have pricing information — expect it to come in somewhere above $100,000; we’ll also have full model details.
Meanwhile, Lexus faithful should rejoice as the brand receives what is destined to become a world class performer. Certainly, it is a late arrival, but an altogether welcome one at that.
Photos copyright Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.