Shortly after Akio Toyoda was elevated to his present position as CEO of the company that bears his family name, he attended the annual Pebble Beach festivities in 2011. He was there to launch the new Lexus GS and hype the brand’s emerging styling direction, highlighted by its controversial new spindle grille treatment.
On stage, Toyoda was pointed, animated, and seemed extremely dedicated to making the brand great. The man was passionate. He vowed to personally oversee a new, global corporate structure, now known as Lexus International, designed to give Lexus space to move out on its own and to better foster a spirit of cooperation between the in-house departments creating them.
While much has been happening with Lexus in the years since, the 2017 Lexus LC 500 coming out to the world at the 2016 Detroit auto show is a rolling showcase of Toyoda’s vision, a car that he believes has the type of performance, styling, and technology worthy of a world-class luxury brand.
Presaged by the LF-LC coupe concept that first hit the Detroit auto show stand in 2012, the 2017 LC 500 is a premium luxury 2+2 coupe underpinned by an all-new, rear-drive platform, loaded up with the latest in high-tech entertainment and telematics options, and sheathed in an evolution of the Lexus design aesthetic.
One of the few elements of the LC 500 that we’ve seen and heard before is its engine. It derives its power from the brand’s 5.0-liter V-8 with 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft, the same mill also found under the hoods of the RC F and GS F. Given the move to turbocharged engines, the naturally aspirated unit is a bit of a throwback, but plenty powerful. The LC 500 boogies to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and it employs several tricks to make it sound loud and proud when the hammer is down.
The big news for the LC powertrain is its all-new 10-speed automatic transmission. A tranny that Lexus says is a first for the luxury segment, it’s lighter than the eight speed auto the brand presently uses, with shift speeds reportedly on par with the best dual-clutchers on the market. While the V-8/10-speed is the only powertrain for the LC 500 at present, we’d be stunned if we didn’t see more propulsion options for the LC in the future, namely a hybrid.
The LC 500’s front-engine, rear-drive setup (a global vehicle architecture known internally as GA-L) is also new, and was specifically designed to better centralize the mass of the vehicle and lower its center of gravity, leading to an impressive 52/48 front/rear weight distribution. The main goal, of course, is to improve the LC’s performance capabilities when it comes to handling and road-holding. All manner of weight-saving and vehicle-strengthening techniques, including liberal use of high-strength steel, a composite floor pan, and an available carbon fiber roof, further aid the dynamic cause.
Outside, the 2017 LC 500 is low and wide, and an evolutionary step forward for Lexus from the front view. It’s highlighted by a chrome-bordered, 3D-style mesh grille, flanked by triple LED light banks that sit above the L-shaped running lights. Out back, a rear diffuser and available deployable spoiler help keep the car planted at high speeds. The LC’s front and rear overhangs are short, and its 20-inch or available 21-inch wheel and tire setup (done up concept-style for its Detroit debut), with slightly wider tires in the rear, have been predictably pushed out to the corners. Additionally, the tires the LC rolls on are Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP run flats that were specially tuned for the car. Behind them are healthy brakes with six-piston calipers up front, four-piston in the rear. Being a real coupe, it has the type of sloping greenhouse four-door coupes can only dream of.
In the cabin, the focus (as it should be in a coupe) was on putting the driver in a position to better get after it when going gets fast and fun. As you’d expect, it’s swathed in leather and other high-end materials, with plentiful sound and entertainment options. Many of the interior elements, including the steering wheel, controls and other details, are designed around the driver. Sport seats are optional, and there’s a laundry list of standard and available safety and semi-autonomous tech features.
Coupes are an increasingly endangered species in the automotive universe, but a low-volume, high-end machine like the 2017 Lexus LC 500 should find its share of customers at a price we expect to touch six figures. More than that though, it is a rolling embodiment of how far Lexus has come since that Pebble Beach press conference, and where Toyoda-san and his team see it going. We’ll have more information on the LC as it becomes available.