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NAIAS 2016: Lexus Makes A Powerful Statement In Detroit

NAIAS 2016: Lexus Makes A Powerful Statement In Detroit

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In a meeting room packed with hundreds of journalists at Cobo Hall last week, Toyota Chairman, Lexus Chief Brand Officer and Master Test Driver, Akio Toyoda promised that the words “Lexus” and “boring” would never appear in the same sentence again. And with that promise he cued the arrival of the brand’s latest high performance sports coupe, the LC 500.

Longer, lower and wider than the brand’s already successful RC F, the LC 500 is designed to be the flagship sports car that propels Lexus into the top tier of the luxury performance car segment along with BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi. Based on the LF-LC concept car that was shown in Detroit in 2012, the LC500 is the car Lexus claims the critics said they would never make, a no-compromise sports coupe that could challenge the world’s best.

Mr. Toyoda said, “this LC 500 is what a more emotional Lexus looks like to me. It’s also what it sounds like, and I hope you will agree that it is anything but boring.”

The new LC 500 takes recent Lexus design to a new level, with a spindle grille that features a 3D mesh design that varies its visual tension. The “L”-shaped daytime running lights rest below a new triple LED headlamp unit, that employs extremely thin projectors which shortens the front overhang. This combined with a sleek, athletic profile creates a design that is both daring and dramatic.

Under the hood Lexus has bolted the 467 horsepower 5.0 Liter V8 that’s being used in the RC F and GS F, but for this car it’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with with shift times that are said to rival those of a dual-clutch transmission like you’ll find in a Ferrari or McLaren. This combination of high horsepower, close gear ratios and quick shift times means the LC 500 will be able to sprint from 0-60 in under 4.5 seconds. Both the power rating and 0-60 time are excellent, but not remarkable. There are several cars it competes with – Mercedes Benz AMG-GT, BMW M4 and Audi S5 – that are equal or better in both. So Lexus also focused on making a car that handles exceptionally well.

According to Lexus Chief Engineer, Koji Sato, “We spent more than triple the usual amount of R&D time to pursue linear steering and to find the sweet spot for road contact feel.” This effort is designed to result in a car that offers exceptional handling dynamics while still delivering the ride quality people expect from a Lexus. In other words, the LC 500 will be a top flight sports coupe that won’t shake your teeth lose when the road gets a little rough.

Inside the LC 500 you’ll find Alcantara-clad sports driving seats that sit very low to the floor making you feel as if you’re behind the wheel of a GT3 racer. Everything about the interior, from the leather driving wheel to the magnesium paddle shifters, to the race inspired instrument cluster and cockpit like feel of the entire cabin are designed to inspire you to drive. Which may be why the back seat is a complete afterthought, with only enough room for a duffle bag to hold all the cash you’ll need to pay off your speeding tickets.

From the LFA to the GS F to the RC F, I’ve been impressed with Lexus’ ability to create performance cars that balance emotion and excitement with comfort and control. We’re looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the new LC 500 to see if it delivers as Mr. Toyoda promises and takes Lexus into another gear.

The LC 500 will go on sale next year and I will bring you a full driving impression when cars become available for testing this fall. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know if Lexus future is as exciting as it seems.