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ON THE ROAD – IAN LYNAS PREVIEWS THE NEW LEXUS LC 500

Perfection is the name of the game when it comes to Lexus, a brand that originated from a corporate project to develop a new premium saloon, code-named F1, which began in 1983 and culminated in the launch of the Lexus LS in 1989.

Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure of attending the press launch for many Lexus models and often the opportunity to test them over my own patch. I can recall vividly my first drive in the LS, it was outstanding for its time and it set the standard that Lexus would continue to follow. The name would go on to adorn not just superbly appointed saloons, but coupes, convertibles and of course the very much in fashion SUV range. It is worth noting that Lexus did not exist as a brand in the Japanese home market until 2005, and all vehicles marketed internationally as Lexus from 1989 to 2005 were, in fact, released in Japan under the Toyota marquee. The USA took to the Lexus in no small way as it challenged the models of the home market. The Lexus LC based on the 2012 LF-LC Concept was revealed in 2016 in Detroit, replacing the SC, which was produced from 1991 to 2010.

Now though, there is news of the next chapter with a number of key changes for 2021. The Lexus engineers constantly explore ways to hone and enhance every detail of each new model that is produced and perhaps even more so with the LC. This approach will deliver the new 2021 model year LC 500, by marking an evolution in the luxury motoring qualities of the company’s flagship coupe. The detailed refinements reinforce the connection between driver and car with enhanced ride and handling, new styling choices and an upgrade of the multimedia system.

Significantly, unsprung weight has been reduced by almost 10 kg, accomplished principally with changes to the suspension, including the use of aluminium lower arms, lighter, hollow anti-roll bars with a revised diameter and a new high-strength material for the coil springs. Where specified, the 21 inch forged alloy wheels also have a lighter construction. The suspension improvements offer a smoother, softer stroke to give the driver a stronger feel of the road and the electronic front shock absorber controls were adjusted to give a longer stroke, and bound stopper rigidity was optimised to help create a smoother suspension stroke overall. Rear anti-roll bar rigidity was increased to improve front turn-in performance and provide more linear steering input, again helping make the driver feel more connected to the road. The Vehicle Stability Control has gained a new Active Cornering Assist function  which helps control cornering by providing braking to the inner wheels in line with lateral vehicle acceleration experienced when higher G-forces are generated in spirited driving. A new safety feature is automatic selection of Park in the transmission which operates if the driver gets out of the car leaving the shift in any position other than P.

To the heart of the matter, a V8 engine with a full-throated engine note generated through the variable Active Exhaust system. With a power output of 464bhp, the end result is true sports performance with rest to 100kph (62mph) taking less than 4.7 seconds. The five litre engine is mated to a 10 speed Direct Shift automatic transmission, newly updated to provide an even stronger sense of connection between driver and machine. Yes the engine, transmission, ride and handling qualities of the LC are paramount; however in the best traditions of Lexus, the quality of onboard equipment is outstanding. The multimedia system features are controlled via a 10.3 inch high-resolution screen with a split-screen facility that allows different functions, including audio and climate controls, to be viewed and operated simultaneously. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing for easy, wireless Smartphone integration and access to popular apps for navigation, entertainment and messaging and with Android Auto, the Google Assistant can be used and tailored information can be sourced based on the user’s calendar, previous activity and established preferences. Apple CarPlay allows customers to access the familiar interface from their iPhone through the vehicle’s multimedia display. An iPhone can be connected to obtain journey directions, make calls, send and receive message via Siri, and gain access to apps such as Spotify, Audible and Apple podcasts.

Alas, I can only provide a preview of the LC500 at this stage for obvious reasons as we endure a global lockdown. Hopefully the new LC500 will take to the road mid summer. I must also mention, fifteen years on from Lexus’ introduction of the world’s first luxury hybrid vehicle, the LC 500h is maintaining that tradition of innovation as the first Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid. Like all other Lexus hybrid powertrains, a petrol engine is combined with two electric motor/generators. The Atkinson cycle 3.5 litre V6 engine uses D-4S direct fuel injection to achieve optimum efficiency, and its lightweight valve train with Dual VVT-i intelligent variable valve-timing ensures ample torque across all engine speeds. The combined system output is 354bhp/264 kW. With the benefit of the Multi Stage Hybrid System, power from the V6 engine and electric motor can be amplified by the four-speed automatic transmission, giving much greater drive power when accelerating. The LC 500h uses a compact, lightweight lithium-ion battery that is located neatly between the rear seats and the luggage compartment. It has a high power density, with 84 cells producing 310.8 volts.

Ian Lynas

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