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Combining Aesthetics & Technology
THAT the Lexus LC luxury sports coupe is a very important new model is an understatement. The Lexus brand is in the midst of a major redesign and the LC will be driving the Japanese luxury manufacturer's efforts.
As the flagship coupe, the LC is being pitched as an aspirational product that will seduce new customers and showcase new technologies.
An example of the latter is the car's brand new platform and it is nothing short of radical. Called the GA-L platform, it employs a new architecture that minimises weight by not just using lighter and stronger materials like high tensile steel and aluminium, but omits certain parts altogether.
For instance, the front section of the car is now supported by slim engine compartment bracing and not the usual heavy metal bar ahead of the front wheels. This new approach has also enabled Lexus to lower the bonnet line and incorporate bigger wheels, thus creating refreshing new styling. It made it possible for the LC production car to closely resemble the showstopping design of the LF-LC concept shown four years ago.
The new body structure also enhances vehicle dynamics. Together with a very rigid body and lower centre of gravity, the mass of the car is brought closer to the centre, thus increasing driver control and precision. The net result is that the Lexus LC500 with a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine feels very nimble even with a kerb weight of 1,970 kg or almost two tonnes.
Another stunning piece of technology is the world's first 10-speed automatic transmission. But Lexus, which debuted the first eight-speed auto with the LS full-size sedan in 2006, did not just add two more gears for bragging rights. With 10 gear ratios, the big V8's power is harnessed more "rhythmically'' as the transmission shifts up.
On the road, the silken gear changes perfectly match the linear delivery of the naturally aspirated unit to deliver what can only be described as effortless performance. This was displayed on the winding roads outside Seville, Spain, where the LC500 was unveiled at a recent media launch.
But more impressive than the substantial power is the body control - there is virtually no body roll in a sweeping curve. The LC500 with variable dampers corners so flat with so much grip that it encourages you to push even harder.
The electric power steering is one of the most natural you will encounter. It is well-weighted with excellent feedback but not so much that it becomes nervous. Then there is the ergonomic driving position, with the low hip point in an all-new form-fitting sports seat and a perfectly lined-up steering wheel.
What is truly remarkable, however, is that all this dynamism is delivered with typical Lexus comfort and refinement.
Much of that has to do with the high body rigidity, say Lexus engineers and test drivers; even the precise steering is a beneficiary of this boost in structural strength. This is the stiffest chassis Lexus has produced and it allows the next level of Lexus luxury to be enjoyed in unusually genteel surroundings.
The driver-focused cabin is familiar yet new. The "moving central ring'' from the LFA supercar is in the instrument cluster, but the drive mode selector and traction control knobs are now sited on both sides of the instrument hood. The Remote Touch Interface on the lower centre console to operate the centre display now has a larger writing surface and is gesture capable.
Lexus is proud of its 'takumi' or master craftsmanship and the leather on the steering wheel and gear knob is hand-stitched. Other surfaces also look and feel special, like the magnesium used for the shift paddles, and the "draped'' door panels with ambient light peeking out.
At 4,760 mm long and 1,920 mm wide with a 2,870 mm wheelbase, the 2+2 LC500 is not a small coupe. So the deep-set rear seats provide good legroom but the tapering roofline allows only short adults to occupy them comfortably.
But with its amazing aesthetic and dynamic appeal, it hardly diminishes the attractiveness of this striking coupe. What could ensure the LC remains a niche indulgence, though, is its estimated S$600,000 price tag when it arrives in the second quarter of 2017.
Engine 4,969cc V8
Gearbox 10-speed automatic transmission
Max power 477 hp @ 7,100 rpm
Max torque 540 Nm @ 4,800 rpm 0-100 kmh 4.5 secs
Top speed 270 kmh
Distributor Borneo Motors, tel 6631-1388