We’ve already brought you all the details on Lexus’ good-lookin’ LC500, and attempted to explain the fiendishly complicated new Multi Stage Hybrid system, but what’s the reasoning behind such a ballsy move? We tracked down its chief engineer for a chat.
TG: Let’s be clear, we’re not looking at a replacement for the LFA here, are we?
Koji Sato: “We’ve already proved we can build a super car like this. This LC is designed to connect more with people’s lifestyle. We want to engage more deeply with their daily life. Sure, you could drive the LFA everyday if you wanted to, but the LC is more about being fun to drive and for long drives, kind of cruising drives.”
TG: Which do you prefer, the LC500 or the LC500h hybrid?
KS: “It’s difficult for me to answer, I think these two are a very different flavour. The gas model has a 5.0-litre V8 engine with 467hp, which gives you a lot of torque, and also combined with the 10-speed gearbox, gives you a sharper shift – it’s kind of a magic formula for the sports car. But on the other hand, the hybrid gives you a sharper throttle response thanks to the electric motor, while the new multi-stage hybrid controls the engine torque and motor torque together through the transmission, which gives it a much more natural acceleration feel. It connects with the driver more than you’d expect…”
TG: A-ha, does that mean there’s space for an even-faster LCF?
KS: “I cannot touch on the future product like that, but personally, I love the idea. So, you will have to wait.”
TG: Spoilsport. So what does this mean for Lexus as a whole?
KS: “In 2012, Akio Toyoda decided Lexus needed to move in a more emotional direction, in terms of brand shaping. So this is the first model to show the customer the way we’re taking: more emotional, more fun to drive, this is kind of a symbol of what we are doing.”
TG: Is that to try and compete on a level field with your German rivals?
KS: “I think that not one particular company is our competitior. As you know well, the luxury coupe segment is very large with a wide variation. Sometimes it’s a Porsche 911 or a Maserati GT or the Mercedes SL. But I think in the middle of the segment is the BMW 6 Series, it’s very dominant. So the main competitor is a BMW 6 Series I think. On the other hand I love to hear the engine sound of the Maserati GT, it’s lovely. All the luxury coupes have their own character, so we don’t want to follow anyone in particular, we want to create Lexus’ own taste and identity.”