Official Photos and Info
Although Lexus is careful to avoid using the “sports car” tag to describe the LC500, the car nevertheless is possessed of some very sports-car-like qualities: The engine sits behind the centerline of the front axle, the wheels are pushed out to the corners, the driver’s hip point was “engineered to be as close as possible to the vehicle’s center of gravity,” and the list of materials used in the car’s construction includes highfalutin substrates such as carbon fiber, magnesium, and aluminum. Did we mention that Lexus claims the LC500’s unibody is the most rigid it has ever built, stiffer even than that of the brand’s rolling tribute to exclusive, high-buck one-upmanship, the Lexus LFA? That’s some serious stuff.
But where the LFA played in rarefied air (production was limited to 500 units and the price tag was a whopping $375,000), the LC500 is poised to mingle with the rest of the Lexus lineup, where it will serve as a demonstration of what the brand can do with its front-engine, rear-wheel-drive architecture. At 113.0 inches, its wheelbase is almost an inch longer than that of the GS sedan, but the coupe is nearly five inches shorter overall.
Many specific details remain cloaked in secrecy, but what we do know doesn’t help the maker’s effort to avoid the “sports car” tag. An active rear spoiler optimizes downforce and air management, optional sport seats are aggressively bolstered, the front brakes are squeezed by six-piston calipers (with four-piston calipers at the rear), and a trunk-mounted battery and composite trunk floor contributes to the LC500’s very sporty 52/48 front-to-rear weight distribution. The interior door panels are carbon fiber, and an optional carbon-fiber roof (replacing the standard glass roof) will make the order sheet. Aluminum is used to form the door skins, bumper beams, front suspension-mount reinforcements, and most of the front suspension links. All in, we’re expecting the curb weight of the LC500 to come in around the two-ton mark.
The job of propelling that mass is tasked to the corporate 5.0-liter V-8. It sends 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic with shift paddles. Designed in-house, the transmission shaves pounds via the use of aluminum gears and the smallest, lightest torque converter in the maker’s history. Lexus is claiming a zero-to-60-mph time of “less than 4.5 seconds” for the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter LC500. Active exhaust baffles create a sporty engine note and are supplemented by a sound generator. Lexus says the naturally aspirated engine’s linear response and emotive quality were chosen over the option of applying forced induction in a quest for maximum output. We’ll buy that answer for now, but you can bet when the inevitable higher-performance F model appears, it’ll feature a force-fed engine, something with enough grunt to put it in league with the 550-plus-horsepower coupes that rule the segment (think Mercedes-AMG S63 coupe and BMW M6). Rumors suggest it may be of an all-new design and feature twin turbochargers. There likely will be a hybrid version at some point, too.
In the LC500’s styling—which evolved from that of the 2012 LF-LC concept car—we see traces of the LFA and the RC, and maybe the slightest hint of the old SC400 in the rear. The upshot is that, instead of going for a completely new design, Lexus chose to pinch and pull existing design elements to the extreme. Daytime running lights hang, fanglike, from the pointed front lamp housings, and the designers took another stab at reinterpreting the mesh of the spindle grille, with the zigs and zags this time giving way to more traditional geometric shapes near the hood. The wheels play a neat optical illusion, their color and shape giving them an almost “floating” appearance around the center hub when viewed at certain angles. A large center console splits the cabin, and many of the controls typically found on the console have been moved to stalks on either side of the gauge-cluster hood for a cleaner appearance.
The price for this sports car that’s not a sports car? Well, Lexus hasn’t shared that yet. But based on its current model hierarchy and the LC500’s competitive set, we’re guessing that when it hits the market next year, it’ll be priced right around the $100K mark. That would put it somewhere between the $90K entry point of the BMW 650i and the $120K price tag of the Mercedes-Benz S550 coupe. Expect to pay more for the high-performance LC F version that’s bound to follow.
The reality is that every sporting luxury brand worth its lateral g forces needs a performance icon, a flagship to demonstrate the brand’s engineering might. Lexus has been without one since the departure of the LFA. Now the LC has arrived to take up that mantle again.