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Detroit show: Lexus reveals LC500 sports flagship

At last: Lexus engineers and designers have been working for years on the new LC500 coupe that is now set for production for world markets, including Australia, in 2017.

Akio’s hulking V8 Lexus LC500 coupe represents ground zero for luxury brand


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12 Jan 2016

LEXUS wowed the Detroit motor show today with its long-awaited flagship sports coupe, claiming it represents a new beginning for the brand.

Powered by a thundering 351kW 5.0-litre V8 and sitting on the company’s new global rear-wheel-drive architecture that is also set to spawn the next generation LS, the LC500 is set for production in 2017.

The four-seat 2+2 coupe was a pet project for Toyota president Akio Toyoda, who sees it as a symbol of Lexus’s new spirit.

“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,” he said.

“This flagship luxury coupe's proportions, stunning design and performance make a strong statement about our brands' emotional direction, and will grow the Lexus luxury appeal globally.”

Lexus Australia immediately confirmed the LC500 for this market, with chief executive Peter McGregor describing it as “a lighthouse model for our expanding range”.

The new Lexus is just one of a flock of new luxury cars to make their debut at the show, with the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Infiniti all wheeling out stunning new metal.

The LC500 is remarkably close to the LF-LC concept shown at the same show two years ago, carrying over most of the styling cues of the original in a solid challenge for engineers and designers.

The two-door sportscar also carries a similar design language to the LF-FC large sedan that many pundits believe is a precursor to the next LS.

Unlike the fuel-cell-powered LF-FC that was revealed at this year’s Tokyo motor show, the LC500 is pure petrol power, at least in the form shown at Detroit.

We would not be betting that the 5.0-litre V8 engine will be the sole powertrain offered with the LC when it goes to market, with a hybrid version among others likely to surface.

A convertible version might not be out of the question, either.

At 4760mm long and 1920mm wide, the LC500 is 540mm shorter and 80mm narrower than sedan concept, but nevertheless looks squat on the road, with muscular flanks, short overhangs and huge wheels of up to 21 inches.

The new Global Architecture Luxury (GA-L) platform is said to be the most torsionally rigid ever produced by Lexus – stronger even that the carbon-fibre unit of the LFA supercar.

Lexus says the vehicle resulted from a new level of collaboration between the design and engineering groups at the request of Mr Toyoda who wanted to keep as much of the concept car as possible in the production version.

Lexus chief engineer Koji Sato said the LC500’s shift in engineering processes and design ideologies symbolised the beginning of a new phase for the Lexus brand.

“Design and engineering sides worked together on issues and obstacles that were overcome one by one,” he said. “I feel we achieved something greater than simply preserving the spirit of the concept's design.”

To keep weight low, the roof is fashioned from carbon-fibre, while the body makes the most intensive use of high-strength steel in the company’s history.

Most exterior panels such as the bonnet, mudguards and doors are aluminium.

Weight distribution between the axles is a near-ideal 52/48, even though the engine is planted at the front.

The LC500 gets multilink suspension all round, employing a dual-ball joint on both the upper and lower controls arms for better wheel control and more precise steering. Stiff front suspension towers aid rigidity, while forged aluminium control arms reduce unsprung mass.

Mr Sato said company engineers 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.

“Thanks to advancements in product engineering, we are now at a world-class level for suspension rigidity, and performance when lateral g's are applied,” he said.

The 5.0-litre 32-valve normally aspirated V8 engine has been lifted from Lexus’s other performance machines the – RC F and GS F – and is hooked up to an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission in a world first.

While the transmission is a conventional torque-converter type, Lexus says shift times are close to that of a dual-clutch cog swapper. It is lighter than current eight-speeders employed by many rivals, too.

Acceleration from zero to 100km/h is claimed to be “under 4.5 seconds”, putting it in Porsche Carrera territory.

Brakes have six-piston callipers up the front.

Inside, the front sports seats – cloaked in Alcantara – are located as close as possible to the vehicle’s centre of gravity for best feel through the derriere.

The new Lexus model will go up against a raft of competitors from German, Japan, Britain, Italy and the United States.

Among the classy rivals are the 375kW Mercedes-AMG GT, Jaguar 404kW Jaguar F-Type V8 R, 338kW Maserati GranTurismo and 316kW Porsche 911 Carrera GTS.

Pricing and final specifications for Australia will be released at a later date.

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