Lexus has never shied away from a challenge, pitching itself against the big German premium marques right across its model range. Now it`s taking on big coupes like the Mercedes SL and BMW 6 Series with the LC – and it does it rather well.
We love the hi-tech approach to making a hybrid powertrain and CVT gearbox work well, while the V8 engine is a joy to drive hard, but it does need revs to really deliver.
The handling is pretty impressive, too, with plenty of grip and poise, even if the steering lacks a Porsche 911`s precision, which is what the engineers were aiming for. There`s also a fair amount of comfort and refinement when cruising, confirming the LC`s credentials as a grand tourer - indeed, Lexus has been at pains to say that the LC is `absolutely not a sports car`.
As in all Lexus models, the quality is outstanding – inside and out – but, at the same time, the cabin is a mess of buttons and controls, while the Remote Touch infotainment controller is way behind rivals` systems for usability.
This also isn`t a particularly practical GT – even calling it a 2+2 would be stretching it a bit, as the rear seats are best used for putting bags on, especially as the boot isn`t exactly cavernous.
That said, as a complete package, Lexus has made a compelling alternative to the established German GTs.
The GT market isn`t exactly booming right now – that`s one of the reasons Jaguar chose to go down the F-Type route rather than replace the XK. But that hasn`t stopped Lexus launching its LC 500 (5.0 V8) and LC 500h (3.5-litre V6 hybrid) against the BMW 6 Series, Mercedes SL and Maserati GranTurismo.
The LC is the first model to use Lexus` new GA-L (Global Architecture – Large) platform that will also be used in the new LS saloon as well as other rear-drive models like the Lexus GS and IS. So, you can expect the V8 and hybrid powertrains to find their way into the LS, too.
Tech fans will love the hybrid version, as it actually has two transmissions. The first is a CVT that can keep the revs at a constant point, whether for maximum performance or optimum efficiency. The second is a regular four-speed automatic gearbox that changes the output in stages to provide a wider spread of usable torque, while helping to give 10 artificial `steps` to simulate real ratios.
There are 10 of these steps, which makes the LC more natural to drive. However, at full throttle, the box defaults to CVT mode, pushing the revs higher for maximum acceleration.
This arrangement all but eliminates the `rubber band` feeling of traditional CVTs, while being quick to change and enhancing the performance of the car: the hybrid is only 0.3 seconds off the V8`s 4.7sec 0-62mph time.
As well as the two engine options, there`s a wide choice of trim levels. The base car is already well specified, but beyond that you can also choose the Sport or Sport+ packs, as well as the Limited Edition version. The Sport pack includes Alcantara/leather sports seats, 21-inch alloy wheels and a carbon fibre roof, while the Sport+ adds Dynamic Rear Steering, a limited slip differential, retractable rear spoiler and carbon fibre scuff plates. Finally, the Limted Edition model has a Mark Levinson stereo and a colour head-up display.