Looking over the Lexus LC 500 that broke cover at the Detroit Auto Show, you might be thinking, “Wow, that’s a stunning concept. Really striking design language. Lexus certainly isn’t dull anymore. Great concept.” And you’d be mostly right, except for one thing: The LC 500 is actually a production-ready car.
Sunday night, Buick stunned the auto world with the Avista concept — a gorgeous grand touring coupe with a 400-horsepower twin-turbo V6 beating heart. What made the Buick stand out even more is that the “low end” GT market has been essentially non-existent in the sub-$200,000 space. With Lexus joining the fray, the message seems to be that large luxury coupes are back with real sales aspirations — not just as auto show jewelry.
The LC 500 is, to say the least, extreme. There’s nothing modest on this car. You’d expect that on a concept, but in production spec, Lexus is putting the final nail in the coffin for its soft and bland reputation. At a time when Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and even Cadillac are playing it excessively safe with their design language, Lexus is making a firm statement. And you know what? It’s changed the conversation. The brand gets a lot of flak for its gaping grille and excessive use of angles, but people are talking about Lexus. The LC 500 isn’t going to blend into a crowd.
The car is powered by the 467-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 that’s found in the upcoming GS-F and RC-F. “The engine in the LC 500 uses a dual intake inlet that help improve breathing and allow the engine to produce its fantastic sound,” Lexus said.
GT cars are typically defined by their comfort on long-distance trips, but Lexus made sure the LC 500 could hold its own if the owner “accidentally” finds themselves at a track meet too. “We spent more than triple the usual amount of R&D time to pursue linear steering and to find the sweet spot for road contact feel. We also focused our efforts on suspension rigidity and enhancing geometry. Thanks to advancements in product engineering, we are now at a world-class level for suspension rigidity, and performance when lateral g’s are applied,” Chief Engineer Koji Sato said. Lexus promises zero to 60 in under 4.5 seconds.
Inside, the interior is wrapped almost entirely in leather. It’s driver-centric, going so far as to ensure that “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,” the company said. In true GT fashion, it appears that it won’t be a bad place to spend a few hours at a time.
The downside is likely its price: At a hair under $100,000, the LC 500 won’t exchange hands for cheap; it’ll certainly out-price the Buick, if the Avista ever finds its way to production. However, you do get a front-engined, rear-wheel drive luxury coupe that you won’t lose in a parking lot. And owing to Lexus’s commitment to reliability, chances are you won’t find yourself in the same position that Doug DeMuro did with a certain unnamed grand tourer of British origin.
Lexus did something that’s increasingly rare these days: It delivered on a concept, and in a big way. Production cars, anchored by safety and fuel economy considerations, rarely capture the high-flying imagination that’s present in the concept. Lexus just showed everyone that it is, in fact, possible.
You might not like what Lexus is saying, but at least it’s saying something. Had it taken after the SC 430 and gone with your business-as-usual “safe” styling, we’d be talking about how Lexus doesn’t design exciting cars anymore.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.