Lexus drivers have always been an easy target, right up there with those behind the wheel of a Volvo. Slinging mud at the brand is all too easy, generally the fall-back line is that they’re “glorified Toyotas”. But in truth the brand has maintained a strong presence across the world since its inception in 1989. Admittedly for some time it failed to reach any great heights when it came to driving excitement or design flare. In recent years it has awoken from a conservative coma. Aside from the LFA supercar there’s one vehicle that really sticks its head out. The Lexus LC500, Chris Bowen spent two weeks driving both the hybrid and V8 versions.
What Is That?
I often drive some pretty surreal cars but funnily enough it’s not the Rolls Royces or even exotic Italian sports cars that really attract attention. The two biggest head turners I’ve driven over the course of around 5 years now are the Ford Mustang and now a Lexus LC500. It’s one heck of a design marvel, even a Lexus hater must admit this is an epic looking car. What is that?! Was shouted at me on more than one occasion.
Tear drop style headlights and equally thrilling mirror finished rear taillights help create one of the most exciting coupé designs you’re ever likely to encounter. There’s plenty going on with a dramatic hourglass shaped grill, long nose, dramatically cut front fenders and side air intakes designed to reduce drag in the rear wheel arches. From the rear, the rectangular dual tail pipes and just general squat leave me in no doubt this is one of the best-looking cars on the road.
The drama extends into a beautifully appointed cabin with all the luxury furnishings you’d expect. In fact, much of the inside is handcrafted, even the screws on the carbon fibre moulded inner door panels have the word “Lexus” skilfully engraved on them.
But best of all despite the manic looks, the familiar calm and refined Lexus driving experience remains. You can waft along all day in this thing, such is the plushness of the seats and inherent refinement.
For the same price you can choose from two totally different driving experiences. $190,000 before on roads will get you into both a hybrid or a thumping V8. It’s one of the more bizarre pricing strategies I’ve come across, the choice seems so clear and let me tell you it is.
The hybrid version uses a 220kW/348Nm 3.5-litre V6 and 132kW/300Nm electric motor matched to a continuously variable style transmission (CVT). It’s what they call a Multi Stage Hybrid transmission, a four-speed but with ten virtual steps to it. So, you can use the paddle shifters to cycle through what appears to be 10 ratios.
But I’ll be honest, I just simply didn’t enjoy the combination whatsoever. This combo doesn’t deserve to be in such a car and really did detract from the driving experience, it’s just wrong, wrong, wrong.
So, let’s do some V8 talking. A Yamaha tunned 5.0-litre V8 matched to a genuine 10-speed automatic pump out 351Kw/540Nm. This is one of the finest sounding V8s I’ve heard, but due to the hushed cabin you really need to have the windows down to fully absorb it. Plant the foot and lift-off is far from spectacular, off the line it’s a tad sluggish. But as you approach 5000rpm the decibel readings light up, this is one of those cars you could hear coming from two neighbourhoods away.
It sounds like a Supercar, roaring with pure rage basically like something that wants to bash you. The 0-100km/h time is 4.7-seconds, that’s quick but most of the time it seems closer to the five second club. The main problem here is weight, just 50kg off two tonnes. That’s a bloody heavy coupé and why it doesn’t fall into a true sports car category. Simply put the Lexus LC500 is an exceptional GT car, you could hop in one and drive across Australia and not be crippled afterwards. Under the bonnet is a very angry bloke, the rest of it a distinguished gentleman.
Because of the heft, you do feel a tad reluctant to push too hard, but handling wise it’s fairly composed most of the time. I’m pretty sure the traction control systems are a little more diligent than most, even in Sports+ mode. You also pay more attention to braking, they are good stoppers but you need to manage all these aspects more carefully than say a Jaguar F-Type.
10 gears may seem like overkill and most of the time you wouldn’t even reach 7th. But ripping through them in manual mode is one of the great feelings, it’s just bang, whip and snap as you crack those paddles.
Not So Good.
The Lexus infotainment system is close to horrendous, the touchpad takes the cursor on a wild ride every time you want to access a menu. It’s an extraordinarily distracting system. Don’t expect Apple CarPlay or Android Auto nor fuel economy, from both engines. Despite much lower claims I’d suggest for the hybrid you’d sit around 10L/100km and 15L/100km for the V8.
EFTM Rubber Stamp.
Putting aside the hybrid option, the Lexus LC500 is really a gripping car. When a coupé looks beautiful just sitting still you know you’re onto a good thing. Not many will buy this car, for a whole range of reasons. But Lexus can and have created something special. I award the Lexus LC500 V8 the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp of Approval. The hybrid? just pass.