Not only is the Lexus LC500 a head-turner that demands attention, its performance also sets a high bar for others to follow.
SINGAPORE (Apr 30): We have all been wowed and impressed by futuristic-looking concept cars at motor shows, imagining what they might look like on the road. The problem is that many concept cars stay that way — just prototypes that never make it into mass production. But every now and again, a brave automaker will push the boundaries and bring a concept car to market, albeit with a few tweaks and changes along the way.
Thankfully, Lexus put itself in this “brave” category when it decided to launch the LC500 as a road-going car. You only have to give it a cursory glance to realise what a smart decision this was. This really is a strikingly beautiful car. For me, it was love at first sight on appearance alone. There are not many cars that take my breath away; the last one was perhaps the BMW i8 hybrid supercar.
But the Lexus LC500 is not a supercar, even if it might resemble one and follow in the footsteps of one. For Lexus had already showed it was changing direction when it launched its LFA sportscar — a 4.8-litre V10 supercar. But while the LFA was a show-stopper, it was only going to appeal to a niche market, especially with a price tag north of $1 million. The LC500 costs half the price, but as I found out, it definitely is more than half the fun.
In fact, when it comes to appearance, I much prefer the look of the LC500. Its shape is more curvaceous and its lines flow more naturally than the LFA. Plus, it looks more beefy and powerful too. This is thanks largely to bulging rear fenders, huge trapezoidal tailpipes and high horizontal tail lights. These are complemented by an aggressive spindle grille flanked by arrow-shaped LED daytime running lights. The retractable active rear wing spoiler completes the sporty appeal of the LC500.
To call the Lexus LC500 a head-turner would be an understatement. Everywhere I drove and parked the car, people stared, not sure what to make of it. It is a car that demands attention and imposes itself on the road. As such, the bar had been set high for its performance. The engine also set my expectations high — a five-litre, V8 power plant that produces 470bhp and 540Nm of torque. That is a beast of an engine that warns you to treat the gas pedal with caution and respect.
But once you find a stretch of quiet road, though, the temptation to floor the gas pedal is too strong. The acceleration is sublime and gets you from a standing start to 100kph in a blistering 4.7 seconds. Once you reach this limit, you just want to keep going and see how it feels at the top speed of 270kph. Of course, this is not possible on our roads, but I imagine it is effortless.
The engine purrs when you are cruising at a steady speed and roars when you are accelerating; the roar is addictive. You might startle the neighbours when you start the ignition, or maybe even yourself.
The reason for the effortless power surge is the car’s 10-speed automatic gearbox. Every shift up or down is done with such precision and accuracy, you can hardly tell it is happening. With such a wide range of gears, you will never be in danger of lagging when you put your foot down.
With all that speed and power and sublime looks, it would tick so many boxes for a car buyer with half a million bucks to spare. But we are forgetting this is a Lexus, Japanese luxury at its best. That means you are cosseted in an elegant cabin full of hi-tech gadgetry unlike its German counterparts. From the track pad in the centre console to the flush door handles, Lexus makes luxurious cars in a very different style to BMW and Mercedes-Benz. I have spent so much time inside German premium cars that I had forgotten how good the Japanese are in this segment.
If that is not enough, the Lexus LC500 is featured in the superhero movie blockbuster Black Panther, opening it up to a new and younger audience. But even without this movie appearance, the car is already putting down a strong marker for Lexus that it is no longer a brand for wealthy old men. The LC500 looks like it costs a million dollars, but costs just half of that. That value-for-money proposition will definitely appeal to young entrepreneurs and high-fliers whom this car is aimed at.
$540,800 including COE
Engine: 4969cc, 32-valve, V8
Fuel consumption: 11.6L/100km
0 to 100kph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 270kph
Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast
This article appeared in Issue 828 (Apr 30) of The Edge Singapore.