It’s being billed as “the strongest statement yet about Lexus’ future product direction,” but the slick LC 500 sports coupe the Japanese luxury maker revealed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week is only part of the story.
Expect to see “a number of additional variants,” according to a senior executive at Lexus, something backed up in conversations with several other officials at Lexus and its parent, Toyota. They’re all getting the blessing of Toyota President Akio Toyoda, who is intent on shedding the brand’s plain vanilla image.
Among the other versions of the Lexus LC 500 under development, a convertible is expected to follow about a year behind the coupe’s debut. An even higher-performance LC F is still under development, as is a hybrid version that may shatter perceptions, suggested one source, by proving that gas-electric vehicles aren’t only about saving fuel.
“A few years ago, we decided to guide the future of the brand with products that had more passion and distinction in the luxury market,” explained Toyoda – the grandson of Toyota’s founder – during a Cobo Hall news conference. His goal, he said, is to make sure “that the words, ‘Lexus,’ and ‘boring,’ never appear in the same sentence again.
While it will be more than a year before the Lexus LC 500 actually hits the road, initial indications are that it will be anything but boring, with an all-aluminum engine under the hood making 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque — enough to launch the coupe from 0 to 60 in just 4.5 seconds.
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The LC 500 is the production reincarnation of the well-received LF-LC Concept and it stays extremely true to the basic dimensions and look of that show car. In production trim, the coupe boasts a 113-inch wheelbase, and an overall length of 187.4 inches. It’s 75.6 inches wide, and 53 inches in height.
With its rear-drive layout, the LC 500 features the latest take on the Lexus brand’s familiar spindle grille, framed by slit-like LED headlamps. A long hood flows into a steeply raked windshield. The roofline, in turn, wraps into a short, high rear deck. The standard roof, incidentally, is glass, but buyers will be offered an optional carbon-fiber top.
The L-shape daytime running lights sit beneath triple LED headlamps, and frame a distinctive, 3D mesh patterned version of the familiar Lexus Spindle Grille. And like the concept vehicle, the overall look of the LC 500 is low, wide and more than a bit menacing.
Inside, there’s a very much driver-oriented cockpit layout, with a low seating position. To deliver a “seductive atmosphere,” Lexus says it focused heavily on details such as the size and angle of the steering wheel, the feel and positioning of the magnesium alloy paddle shifters, and the use of leather and Alcantara.
Traditionally, Toyota and its various brands, have put engineering in the forefront, often forcing designers to compromise on their vision. With the LC 500, Lexus rethought that approach.
“Design and engineering sides worked together on issues and obstacles that were overcome one by one. I feel we achieved something greater than simply preserving the spirit of the concept’s design,” said Chief Engineer Koji Sato.
(To check out the completely redesigned Lexus RX 300, Click Here.)
But performance is the central premise of this project. Lexus claims it has programmed a new electronic control system that can anticipate driver inputs by monitoring such things as acceleration and braking, as well as lateral g forces. To scrub speed off, there are six-piston front brake calipers, with fours in the rear.
The LC 500 is based on its own unique platform which likely will find other uses at Lexus – including a number of LC variants. The first to come, several sources confirmed, will be a convertible version due out late in 2018, most likely as a 2019 model.
We can also expect an even higher-performance version, to be dubbed the LC F. That’s proving a challenge for Lexus engineers, however. The 467-hp V-8 in the “base” LC 500 is the engine of choice for other Lexus performance models – like the RC F. So, they need to find a way to punch at least 600 horsepower out of a new LC.
Also under development is an LC Hybrid. But where Lexus has gotten a reputation for building high-mileage but – there’s that word – boring gas-electric models, the LC Hybrid is meant to deliver both fuel economy and performance, in line with what some of the German luxury brands are trying to accomplish.
Even the LC 500, incidentally, is still a work in progress. Among other things, the maker is still working to cut its curb weight. The target is around 4,100 pounds, TheDetroitBureau.com was told, though it may actually come in “closer to 4,200,” said a member of the development team.
(Click Here to see how Lexus hopes get back on top of the luxury sales heap in the U.S.)
Even the final designation is uncertain, but it looks likely the first Lexus LC 500 will be rolled out as a 2018 model.