Four years after it took the wraps off its show-stopping LF-LC Concept, Lexus returned to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday and revealed the production version of the 2+2 luxury coupe it inspired: the all-new LC 500. And, thanks to an unprecedented collaboration between the brand’s design and engineering teams, the latter comes very close to replicating the promise of the former.
As such, the LC 500 represents not only Lexus’ newest flagship vehicle but also the beginning of a new phase for the brand.
“The LC 500 has been an important product for Lexus and me personally,” says Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation and chief branding officer and master driver for Lexus. “A few years ago, we decided to guide the future of the brand with products that had more passion and distinction in the luxury market. This flagship luxury coupe’s proportions, stunning design and exceptional performance make a strong statement about Lexus’ emotional direction, and will grow its luxury appeal globally.”
The journey from concept to production vehicle, however, has not been an easy one. To get there, LC 500 Chief Engineer Koji Sato said Lexus had to embrace a radically new development process. The engineers worked to maintain as much of the concept in the production car as possible. Similarly, designers were involved from the earliest stages to understand engineering targets and collaborate on differing viewpoints and potential solutions. This led to the building of additional prototypes to put design and engineering ideas to the test and refine key elements. It meant surpassing many manufacturing, design, material and dynamic challenges that can often compromise a vehicles design vision.
“The design and engineering sides worked together on issues and obstacles that were overcome one by one,” says Sato. “I feel we achieved something greater than simply preserving the spirit of the concept’s design.”
One thing’s for sure: This new development process has given rise to one head-turner of a vehicle, both inside and out. Here’s a short list of some of the LC 500’s most noteworthy attributes:
Athletic and emotional exterior—
The production vehicle replicates much of the concept’s design elements, including an aerodynamic silhouette, sensual curves, emotional forms, sloped roofline and long wheelbase paired with compact front and rear overhangs. A powerful interpretation of Lexus’ signature “spindle” grille in front and slim, multi-layered tail lamps in the rear further contribute to the highly passionate yet also fully functional package.
Every detail of the LC 500’s interior contributes to a shared objective: spirited and sporty driving. For example, the driver’s hip point was engineered to be as close as possible to the coupe’s center of gravity, optimizing communication between driver and vehicle. Designers and engineers also focused on the size and angle of the steering wheel, the feel and positioning of the transmission’s paddle shifters, and shapes and surfaces where the driver’s eyes would likely focus.
Exhilarating driving experience—
The LC 500 is the first Lexus to employ the brand’s all-new premium rear-wheel-drive luxury platform, part of its new corporate global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA-L). A key element of this new approach is “inertia spec,” which led to the repositioning of most of the vehicle’s mass toward the center and low point of the chassis, helping to sharpen handling. Other mass-management moves include an available carbon fiber roof, aluminum door skins mounted to carbon fiber inner door structures, a composite trunk floor and the most extensive use of high-strength steel in a Lexus vehicle yet. Additionally, the LC 500’s multilink suspension incorporates double ball joints that help create more precise steering response. The net effect: razor-sharp reflexes, exceptional handling balance and rock-solid control.
Linear power delivery—
The heart of the LC 500 is the proven, high-revving all-aluminum 5.0-liter, 32-valve V8 that’s also found in the RC F and GS F. It generates maximum output of 467 horsepower and 389 lb.-ft. of torque. When mated with the newly developed 10-speed automatic transmission, the LC 500 aims to achieve a 0-60 mph time of less than 4.5 seconds. And thanks to a dual intake outlet and a Sound Generator, this new luxury coupe has the robust growl of a performance vehicle to match.
Advanced electronics and safety—
The LC 500 will introduce the 2017 Lexus Multimedia package that sports a new graphic user interface on the front end and new capabilities on the back end, all made possible by faster and more flexible software. Also new is a standard Pioneer premium audio system developed in tandem with this luxury coupe’s unique interior environment. And the LC 500 will also come standard with Lexus Safety System +, which integrates several of the brand’s active safety technologies: the Pre-Collision System, Lane Keep Assist, Automatic High Beam and All-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
The only downside? We’ll all have to wait just a bit longer before we can get our hands on it. Lexus’ breathtaking new flagship vehicle is set for the 2018 model year and won’t be available for sale at Lexus dealerships until spring 2017.
By Dan Miller