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Driven: Lexus LC arrives from $190K

Shape shifter: The Lexus LC will be offered in two model grades in Australia, a V8 and a petrol-electric hybrid.

BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz SL in Lexus LC sights Down Under


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6 Jun 2017

LEXUS Australia has priced its sleek LC coupe from $190,000 plus on-road costs, with the local outfit’s chief executive Peter McGregor claiming the two-plus-two coupe flagship offers dynamics that eclipse the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz SL.

The LC500 and LC500h are identically priced and specified, with the former 351kW/540Nm 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol only adding a standard limited-slip differential (LSD) over the 264kW 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric motor hybrid.

Both use new automatic transmissions, with 0-100km/h and combined-cycle fuel consumption claims of 4.7 seconds and 11.6 litres per 100 kilometres for the V8, or 5.0s and 6.7L/100km in the hybrid.

Speaking at the national media launch of the Lexus LC, Mr McGregor said the brand’s new coupe flagship is unashamedly a ‘grand tourer’ but one that is design and dynamically focused compared with its rivals.

“The LC represents a major shift in the evolution of the Lexus brand,” he started.

“(New models) are changing the way Lexus is perceived by customers and the automotive industry (and) now the LC takes this evolution to another level with its distinctive design and rewarding dynamic experience.

“This isn’t simply a car that looks great, it has been engineered in every dimension to deliver a very special driving experience.”

Although Mr McGregor nominated the 6 Series and SL as main rivals to the LC, he claimed the Lexus offered a dynamic advantage over German competitors.

“What do I think the advantages are for this product?” he asked.

“First of all I think the absolute stunning design of the vehicle. But I also think that the driving experience also distinguishes the vehicle. This is a car you can drive on a day-to-day basis, or you can take to the racetrack and enjoy. And I think that it fulfills both aspects, is something that will distinguish it.

“The way a car makes them (buyers) feel underpins the whole purchase process, even when they’re blown away by the looks it comes down to the sensory experience of driving the car. The adrenaline rush, the driving credibility.”

In terms of buyer profile, he added that, “I would expect it to be more male dominated”.

“That said, I think there are a significant number of women out there who enjoy driving a Grand Tourer, so while we think the mix will be more strongly male, it won’t be exclusively male, not by any shadow of a doubt,” he said.

Mr McGregor said that he expected 100 units of the LC would be imported this year, but the figure could drop in its first full year on-sale in 2018.

However, while the price of both grades is identical, Mr McGregor added that pre-orders were running at 80 per cent V8 – and the hybrid’s share could be reduced even further to just 10 per cent in the long term.

“Our initial planning we think will be in the order of around 100 units, I think it will fall off a bit, it could go down to between five and 10 per month next year,” he continued.

“The volume isn’t that critical to us … while we want to satisfy all our customers’ demands, if that’s 80 or 120 (units per year) we don’t really mind.

We’re more focused on this vehicle leading the way in … being the epitome of our new product offerings in terms of design and performance.”

Asked whether Lexus Australia considered not importing the hybrid version given the expected low volume, Mr McGregor replied: “Not really no, I think the multi-stage hybrid makes a statement to the market about the future of Lexus as well, about being able to provide people a choice, and in this market choice is very important.” The LC500h was tagged as an alternative for buyers who might be put off by the fuel consumption of the LC500, according to Lexus Australia product planning manager Sajid Hasan.

The V8-engined LC500 trails the slower (5.3s 0-100km/h) $179,500 BMW 640i’s 7.4L/100km and its faster (4.6s 0-100km/h) $232,900 650i’s 8.6L/100km. The near-identically fast (4.9s 0-100km/h) $218,715 Benz SL400 slurps just 7.8L/100km.

“For a naturally aspirated V8, 11.6L/100km is very respectable, and if customers want the additional fuel consumption they can opt for the V6 hybrid,” Mr Hasan said.

Asked whether Lexus considered turbocharging as a way to reduce the V8’s consumption, he added: “In terms of turbocharging, that wasn’t fitting the profile for the LC.

“The engineers wanted to create an engaging driving experience and the response and the sound is only something that you can get from the naturally aspirated V8,” he continued.

“Of course turbocharging would improve the fuel consumption, but first and foremost was the engaging driving experience.”

However, despite an extensive use of carbon-fibre and aluminium derived from the company’s former LFA supercar flagship, a 1935kg kerb weight leaves the LC 200kg heavier than an SL400 and 250kg weightier than a 640i.

Mr Hasan nominated the equipment, size of the vehicle, an effort to lower the centre of gravity, use of sound deadening and torsional rigidity that eclipsed even the LFA to become the stiffest Lexus ever, as kerb weight contributors.

The LC is underpinned by Lexus’ new Global Architecture-Luxury (GA-L) platform shared with the new LS, which prioritised moving the engine 50mm rearward to create a “mid-ship” configuration and enabling designers to lower the bonnet of the coupe.

Lexus claims that lowering the centre of gravity was key to reducing the LC’s roll angles without stiffening the multi-mode adaptive suspension – of which there are six driver-select modes also acting on drivetrain response. The multi-link front and rear suspension design is all new and forged aluminium-intensive.

Inside, the driving position is 200mm lower than that of an LS, with the 4770mm-long and 1920mm-wide LC also being 55mm longer and 75mm broader than an RC F, but with a 45mm-lower 1345mm roof height.

Standard equipment includes 21-inch forged alloy wheels (with 245mm front and 275mm rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres), semi-aniline leather-trim with 12-way electrically adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, sports pedals, magnesium-alloy paddle shifters and stainless steel scuff plates.

Infotainment extends to a 10.3-inch centre screen and 8.0-inch driver display with “enhanced” voice control, live-traffic satellite navigation, Lexus Enform connected mobility, Siri Eyes Free/Miracast recognition, colour head-up display, plus a Mark Levinson 918-watt 13-speaker sound system.

A standard Lexus Safety System+ encompasses forward collision warning (including pedestrian detection), “all-speed” adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane-departure and lane-keep assistance (via steering wheel buzzer or audible beep) and automatic high-beam for the standard LED headlights.

An LSD can be further added to the hybrid as part of a $15,000 enhancement package available with each drivetrain, which includes four-wheel and variable electric power steering, active rear spoiler, carbon-fibre roof replacing the standard glass overhead panel, and sports seats with Alcantara inserts.

In addition to 11 colours offered, interior choice extends to Ochre (caramel), Dark Rose (red) and Black leather and dashboard hues.

While the LC500’s V8 has been fitted with a sound generator to capture natural sound and maximise its frequency into the cabin, the 10-speed automatic is different to the hybrid’s unique, four-speed automatic-plus-CVT, creating 10 ratio ‘steps’. Another first for a Lexus hybrid is manual mode via paddle shifters.

All LC models are produced at Lexus’ Motomachi plant, home to the LFA supercar, hand-produced by what the company calls ‘Takumi’ craftspeople who can each spend up to 20 minutes building a car.

2017 Lexus LC pricing*
LC500 (a)$190,000
LC500h (a)$190,000
*Excludes on-road costs

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