What It Is: A prototype of Lexus’s upcoming flagship luxury coupe, which will be positioned far higher up the automotive food chain than the Japanese brand’s only other current coupe model, the RC. The new model was previewed by the California-designed LF-LC concept at the 2012 Detroit auto show, but now running prototypes are plying public roads. So, yep, it’s real.
Why It Matters: Lexus’s overcaffeinated design team has been trying to infuse the brand’s entire lineup with more emotion for the last few years—pleasing some, offending others—but nothing stirs emotion like a coupe. The LC badge is a new one, although some rumors persist that the once-beloved SC badge may be revived for this car. Depending on how it’s priced, it also could set a new high-water mark for mainline Lexus models in the future.
In terms of its subjective qualities, we may be able to tell all we need to know based on the prototype’s spy-shot compatriots, the BMW 6-series (a luxury coupe with sporting intentions) and the Porsche 911 (a sports car with luxurious proclivities). Expect sharp handling with a full boat of cosseting luxury features—and likely more technology than any Lexus in history.
Platform: We can’t tell from these shots what comprises the LC’s structure, but we know it won’t incorporate the piles of carbon fiber used in the stratospherically expensive LFA supercar. Plan on a modified version of the rear- or all-wheel-drive GS platform or possibly a shortened LS structure.
Styling appears to fulfill the promises made in previous reporting that Lexus styling will continue to polarize. Visible on this prototype is a trio of LED headlamps set wide, like those of the RC F coupe, but it’s not clear if the controversial Lexus grille has been rendered in a more palatable way. We doubt it. Other interesting bits include flush door handles, Bugatti Veyron–like wheels, and boomerang-shaped taillamps that drip down the body side. With the latter element looking so much like those of the concept, we can expect the front end to contain more than a few of the concept’s wild flourishes, as well.
Powertrain: The LF-LC was shown with a 500-hp powertrain incorporating some hybrid components, and we’d be surprised if such a thing weren’t made available, at least as an option, to LC customers. The base mill could be the LS’s naturally aspirated V-8, a hybrid V-6, or, should Lexus want a price-leading model, a plain-ol’ V-6 like the 311-hp 3.5-liter in the GS. The eventual appearance of an LC F model is a virtual guarantee, with a powertrain expected to churn up ridiculous amounts of horsepower.
Competition: BMW 6-series, Mercedes-Benz SL-class, Porsche 911, Maserati GranTurismo, Jaguar F-type.
Estimated Arrival and Price: We expect to see a production-ready “concept” very soon and for the series-production version to debut at the Detroit show in January. As for price, don’t be surprised to see the car start somewhere between $80,000 and $100,000.