In its almost 30 years of existence, Lexus has produced three truly groundbreaking and iconic models. The first, the LS400 of 1989, showed the world that the Japanese know how to make luxury cars that can rival European offerings. The second, the LFA, bloodied the noses of established supercar companies when it was launched in 2009. It was sex appeal on wheels and had a heart-rending V10 shriek. It even competed in the 24 Hours Nurburgring and spawned a Nurburgring Package version that lapped the Nordschleife in 7min 14.64sec.
But today, we’ll focus on the third car: the LC500.
This model and the fictional Kingdom of Wakanda share a number of qualities: Both go their own way, exude nobility and grace, and hide a quiet ferocity within them. No wonder the LC500 is King T’Challa’s chosen steed.
I leave the metro at the crack of dawn on the day of our photo shoot. Despite riding on massive 21-inch tires (245/40 front, 275/35 rear), the LC500, in comfort mode, feels light and easy to drive. Steering feedback is just right: alert without being nervous, direct without being too heavy on long drives. The throttle has that perfectly measured long-travel quality, making it easy to modulate. The brakes, with six- and four-piston calipers front and rear, respectively, clamp down firmly on gigantic vented rotors for fade-free stopping performance.
As traffic piles up, the LC500 is chill and relaxed--as composed and confident as a king should be. It’s a true head-turner, garnering respect and admiration of onlookers. It’s neither loud nor vulgar; its aspect is truly royal. Other cars give way as I weave through traffic until our convoy reaches the NLEX, and that’s where the Lexus shows what it does best--cruising. Or, specifically, grand-touring.
Yes, this is a true GT. The traditional German squad of the Mercedes SL, the BMW 6-Series, and even the Porsche 911 lack the visual drama that this car delivers; it has more in common with an Aston Martin or a Bentley Continental GT. The greenhouse does appear pinched, and the rear end looks ho-hum considering the massive impact of the front end with its large spindle grille and cat-like LED headlamps. But other than these, the LC500 barely has any weak angles.
I drop the hammer and the car accelerates with such ferocity that I quickly find myself dangerously close to getting jail time. Despite making 471hp and 539Nm, the 5.0-liter V8 is able to achieve 14.5km/L when cruising at a speed of 95-110kph. This leaves me shocked! On a long stretch of tarmac in a private property development, I keep the pedal to the metal and manage to hit an indicated 248kph before the road (and my talent) runs out. There’s definitely enough grunt to get the LC500 to the 290kph mark. The 10-speed automatic’s smooth, almost CVT-like quality of shifting becomes hard-edged and aggressive in Sport and +Sport modes as you assault the highway and the law.
It’s this multifaceted, widely appealing, and confident demeanor that has everyone in love with the LC500. No, it isn’t a limited-edition supercar. It isn’t an intimidating, difficult-to-drive exotic. Nor is it a focused sports car. But it represents the very best of Lexus--it’s amazing to behold, efficient to cruise with, and fun to drive.
At Top Gear, we’re a motley crew of writers, photographers, and contributors. During the photo shoot, we take turns driving the LC500 and it leaves all of us impressed. The art guys love the details inside and out. The writers love the driving experience. The videographers love the graceful movement of the car on the road. And if I haven’t made it clear enough, let me say again that this car is a real doodle to drive--easy enough to use every day for a person with the kingly riches to afford one.
‘Magnanimous’ is a great way to describe this Lexus. Even half-decent drivers will find it very approachable and manageable. But to unleash its full potential, you have to give it respect. The front-midship engine placement bestows it with poise and dexterity on the road despite the 1,935kg curb weight, which you won’t even notice unless you check the spec sheet. But this being a proper rear-wheel-drive coupe, my advice would be to practice clean driving--as in slow in, fast out, and braking in a straight line. Unless you want to go all Black Panther on the road.
The LC500 is king, and it best represents us at Top Gear. It’s fast and furious when it wants to be, and classy, restrained, and dignified when idling quietly or trundling along in traffic. It has the versatility to meet different drivers’ needs and preferences, and it does this with authority, refinement, and a good deal of fun when you open the taps and rev all the way to the redline.