LEXUS says its new LC is “absolutely not a sports car”; it’s being positioned as a grand tourer, and even more importantly than that, as a halo car for the brand. We drove an early reversion of the LC 500h last year (Issue 1,452) and declared it a technological masterpiece. The innovative gearbox and part-electric drivetrain worked well, while the beautifully built interior and strong refinement helped tick the GT boxes. Now we’re driving the production V8 to see if the extra grunt is enough to mate you turn your back on the fuel-sipping hybrid.
Press the starter button and the 5.0-litre petrol engine from the Lexus RC F fires into life before settling to a cultured idle. It sends power through a new 10-speed auto gearbox-changes are swift, but not quite as seamless as on the best dual-clutch boxes. Lexus has worked on the V8’s refinement. Some harshness has been taken away, but a tube into the cabin transfers the engine’s more pleasant frequencies under hard acceleration. Valves in the exhaust offer crackles on full-throttle gearchanges, too.
Those used to turbo units will find the naturally aspirated engine a little flat, but there are thrills available if you use the revs. There’s a good chassis, too. Sport+ spec gets dynamic rear steering, making the LC agile through tight corners and reassuringly stable at high speeds. We’d like to see more feedback through the steering wheel, but there’s plenty of grip on offer. With the same pliant ride and silent cabin as the LC 500h, but a greater turn of pace and a larger boot (thanks to the lack of bulky batteries), it’s also a more effective GT than its hybrid brother. The 60 percent of buyers expected to choose the V8 will have to accept higher fuel consumption, although both models cost the same to buy.
Visually, it’s hard to find fault with the LC 500, though. It’s a stunning design and the cabin is just as impressive, with expensive materials and solid build quality. The TFT instruments are great, while a pair of rotary controls sprout from either side, allowing you to adjust the traction control and drive modes. They look a little odd, but they’re surprisingly intuitive to use.