FIRST DRIVE: Lexus LC

Is the new Lexus LC beauty or the beast? Phil Huff finds out...

 

It almost doesn’t matter what the new Lexus LC is like, as it looks a million dollars before you’ve even set foot in it. You pick up a big Mercedes coupe to say “I’ve arrived”, but the LC says “let’s get going!” And shouts it rather loudly, too.

This is Lexus though, a Japanese luxury brand that has become synonymous with hybrid powered cars that are high on eco-friendliness but perhaps a tad low on driver engagement or emotion. Yet this is that same company that gave us the RC-F, a five-litre V8 engined beast that had little to offer beyond an emotional bond with the driver.

Which means the LC is a difficult car to place before getting behind the wheel. There’s the soul-grabbing drama on the outside and the promise of power under the bonnet, but there’s also a hybrid version available to please those wanting to make a token gesture at green living.

This, though, is the full-on petrol-powered V8 model, devoid of anything bolted on to reduce CO2. Lexus, however, is keen to remind buyers that this is not a sports car, but rather a grand tourer best suited to cross continental runs.

A run through the wilds of the Yorkshire Moors suggests that Lexus is underplaying its hand. The ten-speed automatic gearbox features ratios that are evenly spaced, at least up until fourth gear, making it easy to get into a driving ‘rhythm’, while the reasonably traditional suspension setup makes a good fist of absorbing the bumps on these far from perfect roads while also clinging on tenaciously. With 471bhp going to the rear wheels, it’s relatively easy for the back end to break traction, but various levels of computer assistance will keep the LC on the tarmac.

The button to switch between the various drive modes, from Eco to Sport+, is mounted to the side of the instrument panel, in the driver’s eye line and easy to reach without hunting around a menu on the infotainment system or hunting for a switch on the centre console. It’s another reminder that, despite the GT promise, there’s a sports car of sorts trying to get out.

There’s not quite as much feel through the steering wheel as I might like, which can make placing that long nose a tad tricky, but the car ultimately seems to shrink around you a little. The width becomes less unnerving (those flint walls get very close!) while the seats are near centre along the car making it easy to feel what’s happening at each end of the car.

It might be a tad too focussed for that long-haul driving Lexus references, though. The stiff suspension, the low driving position, the near-unusable rear seats and the lack of immediacy from the engine at low revs might make daily driving a slightly frustrating experience, but the weekends will be spectacular.

With a car like this, practicalities aren’t so much of an issue, but the 24.4mpg might cause even the flushest of drivers to pause for thought - and sub-20mpg is surprisingly easy to achieve. CO2 emissions are through the roof so tax, both road tax and company car tax, is as high as you can get.

There’s also the £85,000 sticker price to get past as well, putting the LC up against rivals from Porsche, Mercedes and BMW. The Lexus fights hard against those German options, with an arsenal including a glorious Alcantara-trimmed interior that is unlike any of it me-too competitors. There’s aluminium highlights, swooping leather, tactile touchpads, digital screens and instruments that physically move around should you need different information in front of you. There’s even a decent boot.

And then, of course, there’s the way it looks. Everything I’ve written above ultimately doesn’t matter much as the head won’t get a look in when it comes to making the buying decision. This one is for the heart.


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Guest Thursday, 14 December 2017