Supercar performance from V8-powered Lexus

LEXUS LC500: V8 engine or V6 hybrid.

I’ve made no secret over the years of my affection for Lexus product.

There’s something about the fit and feel when you are sitting behind the wheel, the quality of manufacture, the intuitive way the controls are laid out and, of course, there’s that luxury/sport blend that is hard to combine in manufacture and get right.

Lexus has taken a big step with the manufacture of its LC500 series sport coupe. It’s a car which swings the bias away from luxury squarely into the performance car category, and I label it a bit of soft supercar. Its price of $215,000 is less than you’d pay for an equivalent Ferrari or Lamborghini, but the LC500 has supercar looks and has performance not that far distant.

The LC500 lands here in two forms, there’s a 5-litre V8 model which is the subject of this evaluation, and if you feel that you’d like to give back to the environment a little there’s a V6 hybrid model. Both list at the same price and you can have the option of a carbon fibre roof on either variant for an extra $5000.

When Lexus New Zealand launched the LC500 it included a media experience at Highlands Motorsport Park, near Cromwell. I can report from that event that both models live up to that sports car dynamism – even the hybrid, it is a high performance contender without question.

That event was truly memorable, and served to prove that the LC500 is a sports car with handling and power without compromise, and it all comes with a sound that as a sports car buyer you’d be satisfied with, it isn’t overwhelming but it is strong out of the exhausts.

In true sports car fashion the LC500 drives through the rear wheels, and from the best information I have it has a near perfect 52:48 front/rear weight balance, and that’s hard to engineer into a big car.

The engine drives through a 10-speed direct shift automatic, and by the sheer nature of its power outputs (351kW and 540Nm), there’s an unfaltering surge of power through the power band, the red-line sits around 7000rpm and the engine will happily wail to that point with a thunder and fury that only a V8 can produce.

It’s timely to point out that the engine is naturally aspirated, there’s no turbocharger, it produces those fabulous outputs solely on mechanical ability and the ability to rev freely.

Of course, you don’t need to drive the LC in sports car mode all the time, it’s a city-friendly drive and adapts to all situations with aplomb and dignity, and that’s what I mean about the Lexus way of manufacture, it’s more than just a high-speed sports car, its driveability at all speeds is uncanny.

The LC500 is delightfull in all aspects, its road manners aren’t disturbed by uneven surfaces, the suspension is simply magic with a comfortable ride and the dynamics needed to harness that wealth of power.

Huge Michelin tyres (21in) put the power down well, and the traction control network isn’t overly invasive and doesn’t stifle the driver’s request when power out of a corner is asked early.

While the LC500 is simply magical in all performance aspects, the criteria I rely on most when judging how good a car is through the feel in the steering in relation to the request for power. The LC500 steers likes it’s on velvet, steering input translates to minute changes in direction and there’s perfect loading at the wheel, the body stays rigid and flat over the suspension, most of its wonderful handling manners relate to that perfect balance I mentioned earlier, for a weighty car (1941kg) stability is phenomenal.

In terms of figures, the LC500 will lunge to 100km/h in around 5sec and will complete an 80km/h to 120km/h overtaking time of 3.8sec.

Those familiar with the Lexus brand, will relate to the high specification features built into the brand and the LC500 incorporates all of the kit you’d expect from a car of this price. As I eluded to in my introduction, the cabin proper is luxurious and impeccably laid out for comfort and convenience.

It’s a bit unrealistic to call the LC500 a four-seater given the tight nature of the rear seating area, but you could get away with calling it a 2+2 for short distances.

Lexus, as a company and through the dealership network, agree the LC500 in either form won’t be a huge seller, but it is a clear intention by the company to prove that they don’t just sell luxury cars, the LC500 has definite purpose.

Those who do buy one had better get used to being in the limelight. In the 30-plus years I’ve been driving new cars I’ve never had one that’s captured quite as much attention as the LC500 did, and that doesn’t surprise me, it is an absolute stunner in all aspects.

Price – Lexus LC500, $215,000

Dimensions – Length, 4720mm; width, 1920mm; height, 1345mm

Configuration –  V8, rear-wheel-drive, 4969cc, 351kW, 540Nm, 10-speed automatic.

Performance –
0-100km/h, 4.7sec

Fuel usage – 12.2l/100km