2018 Lexus LC: The Rebirth of Lexus

Strong points
  • Super-rigid chassis
  • Surefooted, predictable handling
  • Sharp, linear steering
  • Striking looks
  • Top-notch materials and build quality
Weak points
  • Excessive weight
  • Modest performance
  • Frustrating Remote Touch controller
  • Ultra-tight rear seats
  • Limited trunk capacity
Full report

SEVILLE, Spain – The LC coupe, available in V8-powered LC 500 trim or as a hybrid in LC 500h trim, is no ordinary addition to the Japanese brand’s portfolio. This all-new sports coupe embodies the rebirth of Lexus.

While attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2011, Toyota president and CEO Akio Toyoda admitted that Lexus cars were “boring” and challenged designers and engineers to head into a different direction. Five years later, we’re finally starting to see the results of their work with the LC.

Rigid, but heavy

In order to create this new coupe, Toyota engineers developed an all-new chassis called GA-L, which stands for Global Architecture - Luxury. In fact, several other front-engine/rear-wheel drive Lexus models in the future will be based on it, including the next-generation LS sedan due to make its debut at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

Using mostly high-tensile steel and aluminum, this platform is the stiffest ever at Lexus, according to engineers. While some exotic, lightweight materials like carbon fibre were chosen for specific parts of the car, such as the roof, the Lexus LC 500 still weighs 1935 to 2020 kilograms depending on the trim. When asked about it, those same engineers said they would have used more aluminum and carbon fibre if the chassis would have been exclusive to the LC coupe, but that won’t be the case.

At first glance, the production model looks a whole lot like the bold, flashy concepts that came before it. Classic GT proportions, with a long wheelbase and ultra-short overhangs, define the silhouette. The spindle grille up front is huge and mirrored by the shape of the rear end. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I’ll let you be the judge.

Photo: Lexus

Familiar engines, ten-speed autobox

When it comes to the powertrain, the Lexus LC range offers some familiar options. The LC 500 gets the same naturally aspirated, 5.0-litre V8 as the RC F coupe, but with 471 horsepower, while the LC 500h combines a 3.5-litre V6 with a lithium-ion battery-fed electric motor for a total system output of 354 horsepower.

The former is mated to a ten-speed Aisin automatic transmission, whereas the latter benefits from a new Multi Stage Hybrid System that tacks on a four-speed automatic at the end of a conventional CVT, essentially reproducing the work and feel of a ten-speed unit.

On the track

During the global media launch of the 2018 Lexus LC, I had the opportunity to do some hot laps on Circuito Monteblanco with both models. The first things I noticed were the car’s extreme rigidity and excellent weight distribution (51/49 front/rear).

The LC heads into corners with tremendous precision thanks to an exceptionally direct and linear steering system that also offers great feedback. Handling is very predictable at all times, although the excessive amount of weight is a concern as it affects braking distances and cornering speeds.

The growl of the naturally aspirated V8 at full throttle has nowhere to hide: a sound generator, derived from the Lexus LFA supercar, channels the engine’s raucous screams all the way into the cockpit. It doesn’t sound as intimidating as a Mercedes-AMG engine or a Jaguar V8, mind you. The hybridized LC 500h is obviously heavier, less powerful, and hampered by a not-so-sporty transmission. I won’t even talk about the way it sounds.

In a move that makes absolutely no sense, Lexus Canada decided to make the Sport package (active rear spoiler, Dynamic Rear Steering, and more) optional with the V8 and standard with the hybrid model.

Photo: Lexus

On the slick Spanish roads

As we left the track for the gorgeously paved roads surrounding Seville, we discovered the Lexus LC’s true aspirations, namely those of a grand tourer, not a sports car. Comfort is supreme, at least on the slick asphalt we encountered.

Life inside the LC is particularly pleasant. One major exception is the touchpad-style controller for the infotainment system. This type of interface works remarkably well on a computer, but a whole lot less on the centre stack of a moving vehicle.

Both the LC 500 and LC 500h will land on our shores next spring as 2018 models. Lexus Canada reps couldn’t give us any information regarding pricing, however. The plan is to sell 120 units a year in the country, with the hybrid variant available on a per-order basis only.

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