2018 Lexus LC500 / LC500h
A few years ago, I had an epiphany on a Saturday morning while attending the mega Cars and Coffee in Irvine, California—an event that grew so large that it eventually had to be shut down. After perusing literally hundreds of vehicles, everything from daily driven enthusiast fare to the latest supercars, with a car-guy friend of mine who at the time worked for Toyota, we both realized that there wasn’t a single Toyota or Lexus. This would seem to be a problem for those brands.
Toyota president Akio Toyoda wasn’t there, but he would agree with that assessment, as he’s on record stating that the long-term success for both the Toyota and Lexus brands requires going beyond smooth, quiet, and comfortable A-to-B transportation. The company as a whole needs aspirational vehicles that inspire passion and cast a shadow of excellence over the two brands. In fact, Toyoda-san has made it his personal mission to prevent the word “boring” from coexisting ever again in a sentence with “Lexus.” If the new LC, which stands for Luxury Coupe, is an indicator of things to come, we’d say he’s well on his way to succeeding.
Mere minutes into our drive of the LC500 on the sinuous and extremely well-maintained back roads of southern Spain was all it took to have a second epiphany: There’s actual road texture being transmitted through the well-shaped and expertly finished steering wheel. It’s a much-desired quality that has been disappearing in the wake of electrically assisted power steering and misguided neutering billed as progress.
Get to Know This GA-L
The mission to build exciting cars could bode well for the brand’s ability to court enthusiasts going forward, and it also portends good things for the new LS sedan, which will ride on a larger version of the LC’s all-new front-engine, rear-wheel-drive architecture, dubbed GA-L (for Global Architecture-Luxury). And the company promises an increased focus on dynamics across the lineup going forward, although that doesn’t necessarily mean Lexus is aiming to be the most athletic in every segment.
LC chief engineer Koji Sato is a former chassis engineer, so perhaps the high priority he places on steering isn’t all that surprising. And he was utterly flabbergasted when we mentioned that other automakers, such as BMW, have told us that steering feedback has been deliberately diminished because that’s what some customers want. Sato-san refers to the LC as a “back to basics” car. Much effort was expended to get the fundamentals nailed, and he and his team have mostly succeeded. The front suspension is a double-ball-joint (both upper and lower) multilink design very similar to BMW’s latest, with a five-link, multilink setup at the rear. The opposed-piston brake calipers on both axles do an excellent job of hauling the LC down from high speeds. There was much effort to reduce weight and lower the center of gravity. Engineers also cut mass at the extremities to diminish the polar moment of inertia for improved rotational response. This includes the use of aluminum for the hood, front fenders, and door skins, with the inner panels of the doors and trunk made from carbon-fiber-reinforced sheet-molding compound (that’s the random-oriented fiber stuff, not the neatly entwined weave). There’s also an optional carbon-fiber roof (with the weave). On the exterior, only the deep-draw rear fenders are rendered in steel. Underneath, the front suspension is forged aluminum, and the front shock towers are cast aluminum. Still, the LC500 comes in at a rather heavy 4300 pounds, according to Lexus, with the LC500h hybrid adding an additional 150. That roughly matches the slightly larger and less sophisticated V-8–powered BMW 650i. And those pounds are also front heavy, with a claimed 54/46 percent front-to-rear weight distribution for the V-8 and 52/48 for the hybrid.