Lexus LC500 puts JDM back on the Map

Lexus. Just 25 years ago, it was a brave attempt by Toyota to enter luxury car segment with intention to compete with the likes of Mercedes Benz and BMW on global scale.  Target market for such vehicles as mentioned in previous post was limited to esteemed retirees or busy company executives wishing to get from A to B in quietness, comfort and prestige.

The world has changed since then and luxury segment is suddenly being sought by a younger buyer for whom prestige and comfort alone do not seal the deal.  Cars are supposed to be fun, and while Germans caught on the idea fairly quickly in the beginning of new millennia Japan was hopelessly lagging behind.  Perhaps, it's worth mentioning that while the western world was enjoying the dotcom bubble Japan had a fair share of their own problems.

The change in demographics and collapse of the 90's economic boom suddenly saw the disappearance of Skylines, Supra's Silvia's and NSX's from dealership floors and replaced by the likes of Voxy, Moco, Leaf, and Hustler -- yes, they are all car model names; model names attributed to entire generation of cars failing to represent anything significant or exciting, and to a car guy like myself a total embarrassment of Japanese car manufacturing.  I personally ended up with a BMW, but most Japanese just lost interest in cars all together.  

Local market for performance cars has shrunk so much that it took Toyota well over a decade to make a proper luxury sports car, and even with that it's not targeted at Japan, or so they thought.  You see, despite the rather steep price tag, and very un-Japanese specs (we'll get to those in a minute) the LC500 turned out to be a huge hit.  Even though it's mostly designed by Lexus USA, the roots, character, and above all styling are very much Japanese; and there is a very good reason for this.

When you see the LC500 for the very first time, it's easy to spot the resemblance to the limited production Lexus LFA, which with its screaming V10, futuristic cockpit, and unique design was the flagship of Japanese automotive industry.

Lexus built only 500 of these with the purpose of developing a sporty know-how and market themselves in the modern world of luxury sports cars.

While the V10 engine was never used in any other model again (and that's a crying shame)

Lexus borrowed a lot of features and from LFA's unique interior, drive train, and structural design.

The LFA became an icon, and while Lexus instantly gained a huge fan base, engineers immediately went to work applying some the LFA goodies to the rest of the line-up.  With birth of ISF, RCF, and F-Sport package options for the rest of the line-up, Lexus was clearly no longer an old-man's retirement plan. 

The LC500, therefore is an icing on the cake.  The concept was unveiled 5 years ago, and Lexus wasted no time surprising everyone with announcement of production model that looked exactly like the concept.

Toyota has developed entirely new GA-L platform under Toyota New Global Architecture strategy, that the LC will share with the upcoming LS.

Toyota has been in search for suitable design language for its Lexus vehicles, because as you may remember Lexus nailed performance and luxury aspects from day one, but for decades Lexus design wasn't much to write home about.

Today, Lexus is re-writing entire automotive design book.

The low ride height with long wheelbase give the car a very modern and sporty look, while 1920mm width delivers the uncompromising sense of presence.

The Garnet Red V8 test car that we feature here comes with optional 21 inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza S001 runflat tires measuring 245/40 in front and 275/35 in the rear.

The OEM wheel gap is present but barely noticeable.  Of course, we'll have to wait for Tokyo Auto Salon to see how the car will look lowered (or slammed, as we have seen on pre-production NSX) on after market wheels.

Rear of the car looks very busy with several lines crossing over and expanding towards the sides while the tail lights are designed perfectly to blend in by adding a few complex lines of their own.

Front fascia is even more unique: while preserving the Lexus X-shaped grille, the headlights are tiny triangles but appear bigger because of the LED swoosh that zig-zags towards the outside of the car and then points sharply downward.

Confused? Yes, me too - the design of the LC is the opposite of what we see on BMW or Mercedes Benz, both of which are known to keep things simple, yet produce very striking and recognizable designs.  It looks like Lexus gave the job of designing the car to several different teams, and then instead of picking the best it featured them all.

Yes, Lexus LC500's design is extremely complex and may even seem over-done, but somehow it just works.  And after all, this is Japan, absolutely nothing here is simple, so in that retrospect nothing screams "JDM" more than an over-designed and over-engineered Lexus luxury coupe!

I have been in Japan for 30 years, and I don't think I have ever seen a Japanese car (with exception of classics or the LFA) that would turn heads as much as the LC.  Whether it will stand the test of time as well as 300ZX did (which is a pinnacle of timeless design) remains to be seen.

With such amazing looks and steep price tag (Lexus LC starts at impressive 13 million yen, placing above all other Lexus vehicles currently produced), the LC must come with interior to match, and as expected Lexus has delivered!

Blending the luxury components that Lexus is very known for as well some bizarre sporty features borrowed from LFA this interior is a very nice and exciting place to be in.  The giant LCD screen is well position inside the dash and is extremely bright and clear.  All controls are easy to reach, with the most important one -- drive mode selector located right behind the steering wheel. It is there for one reason only: as soon you hit the open rode you might want to twist it into Sports Plus,

because this is exactly where the state of the art 5.0L V8 comes to life.  Once you get over 3000 RPM the intake and exhaust valves open up producing absolutely amazing sound track.  Lexus has really listened to customers' opinion and and worked some serious magic on the exhaust note.  As a matter of fact, I have never heard Japanese car (OK, apart from LFA) sound that good!  The cracks and pops on down shifts and the over run are properly suitable for Lamborghini or AMG are just icing on the cake.

Handling is also quite impressive.  The steering may seem a bit numb, but response is simply phenomenal. You can literally throw this car at a corner at any speed and will just follow.  Rear tires stick to the surface while traction works perfectly with active rear steering to help you to get through corners fast rather than just cut power and ruin the fun.

Switch the car back to comfort mode and it will turn into an old-school Lexus providing you with highest degree of comfort, luxury and quietness - a perfect vehicle to take to luxury restaurant on a date night.

With Sport Plus enabled though the LC becomes a perfectly justifiable excuse to skip the date night and go straight to Hakone for a canyon run.

True, it may not be the ultimate track weapon, but with 1960kg, a spacious rear seat, and all the luxuries, you would be mad to think that it would belong anywhere near a track.  This is a Luxury Cruiser with a strong sports pedigree, exceptional safety and stability, and yet extraordinary fun.  Oh, and don't forget one more thing -- it's is a Lexus, which means it will come with bulletproof reliability, and only thing you need to worry about are frequent fill-ups, and oil changes, during which you can just take it to the dealership, get treated with cup of cappuccino, some snacks, a test drive and a comfortable sofa while they change the oil and wash your car!

If this is what Japanese cars are going to be about in near future, then sign me up! After all who doesn't appreciate the uniqueness, fun, reliability, and practicality available in one package.  For years, this was the magic formula that made JDM machines what they were, and if cars are made like the LC500 from now on, it's safe to say that Japan's automotive awesomeness is back!




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