CAR CONNOISSEURS, it is time to put away your knives. To cease the mean jabs. “It’s pretty good . . . for a Lexus.” Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota and Lexus brand ambassador, listened, politely, as you told him that his cars were a bore. After a research trip to the United States in 2011, he returned to Japan and issued an executive edict: Banish the boredom.
The result, more than five years on, sits in front of us today, in the Spanish sun, and we can say unequivocally: You ain’t gonna yawn.
The LC 500 is the production version of the LF-LC concept car shown in Detroit in 2012. It is a big-boned, rear-drive coupe, slightly shorter than a Mercedes E-class coupe but wider and lower. The Lexus uses its size to make a definite impression, athletic and purposeful. It fills a parking spot commandingly.
And we do, setting off on a day that begins in Seville, the cultural capital of Andalusia, and takes us to a racetrack and miles of weblike roads. The car comes in two varieties: one a V6 hybrid and the other a naturally aspirated V8-the same engine found in the RC F coupe and the GS F sedan. The hybrid, with a combined 354 hp, is balanced and likable but can’t keep me from spending most of the day with the V8. (Lexus estimates 85 to 90 percent of customers will make the same choice.)
The 5.0-liter V8 produces 471 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque and delivers all the happy sounds one expects from a naturally aspirated V8. An attentive driver can tip in and out of the throttle in a nuanced manner that a turbo engine just won’t accommodate. The LC’s downside is a claimed 4280-pound curb weight, so the 5.0 liter has its work cut out for it. Regardless, Lexus estimates the LC hits 60 mph in a respectably quick 4.4 seconds.
While the LC is not a track car, laps around the Circuito Monteblanco racetrack showed off strengths. In a straight line, revs pitched high, the LC gathers velocity with bravura. It should play well on the autobahn, as it is incredibly stable at speed. The steel-rotor brakes hold up under repeated laps, and the car tracks true even under full-threshold braking, a relief when I come in too hot at the end of a long straightaway. The electrically assisted steering murmurs about asphalt quality and is firm without feeling artificial. It’s as if Lexus engineers benchmarked German cars of old. Even the actual wheel feels good in the hand, the kind of detail that matters.
The V8 LC will start at $92,975. Considering the car’s exotic looks and the design and quality of its cabin, that’s a value. Lexus execs regard the BMW 650i, the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupe, and the Jaguar F-type as competitors. The Lexus is far more agile than the similarly priced 650i and generally feels more athletic than the much more expensive Mercedes. The F-type, although smaller, is more apt. Both are meant to impress friends and future girlfriends. Of course, the LC does have rear seats, even if they are mostly ornamental.
Away from the back roads and onto the highway’s fast lane, the LC 500 flashes past dozens of cars, gathering as many looks. Then I realize the Lexus is reminiscent of another highly competent GT, the Bentley Continental. The LC serves the same purpose, but at a remarkable savings. And it will initially be nearly as exclusive, as Lexus plans to sell only 400 a month. The LC 500 might be the most interesting car that Lexus has ever made. Toyota’s luxury division just needed some extra encouragement from Mr. Toyoda himself.