Lexus took a design chance and it's paying off big time - except for older customers.
Love it or hate it, Lexus’ large spindle grille is here to stay. There's been some criticism over this brash styling, but no one can claim the Japanese automaker is still the conservative brand it was for a couple decades. A few years ago, it decided to permanently shed its traditional image for long-term survival. It also realized it needed self-identification, something BMW, for example, has had for decades with its twin kidney front grille. While it appreciates its many loyal buyers, Lexus needed to look beyond aging baby boomers and focus on millennials.
The new for 2017 Lexus LC 500 (and its 500h hybrid counterpart) is the perfect example. Ironically, this halo model was not originally supposed to happen. Let’s go back in time to the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. It was there where the stunning and show-stealing LF-LC concept made its debut. LF-LC stood for Lexus Future-Luxury Coupe. Here was a fairly large, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive grand tourer concept that no one saw coming. There had simply never been anything like it from Lexus before, and both the public and media made one thing very clear: a production version was needed. Thing is, Lexus did not seriously consider one before the concept’s debut.
In fact, Lexus management told its design team to create a vehicle they only saw in dreams. There were few to no limitations. And so it was. Not long after the concept made the international show rounds, Lexus began developing the production version, which debuted in the Motor City exactly four years later in 2016. In between those years, Lexus continued to launch its new dramatic design language with more mainstream models such as the NX and IS, but the LC 500 is meant to be something different. Is it a direct successor to the LFA supercar? No, but it’s still just as important regarding the brand’s image. “The LC 500 has been an important product for Lexus and me personally,” remarked Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda at the car’s launch.
“A few years ago, we decided to guide the future of the brand with products that had more passion and distinction in the luxury market. This flagship luxury coupe’s proportions, stunning design and performance make a strong statement about our brand’s emotional direction.” He couldn’t have said it better. Designers worked hard to maintain as much of the concept’s styling and proportions as possible. The LC 500 is unquestionably athletic-looking with a strong aerodynamic shape. It’s emotional, with sensual curves while still being performance-focused. For example, in place of the standard glass roof, buyers can opt for a carbon fiber piece to help reduce poundage.
And then there’s that front fascia, a dramatic interpretation of the spindle grille. It’s bordered by chrome on three sides and even has a 3D mesh design pattern. Notice the L-shaped daytime running lights directly below the triple LED headlights. The pair of large vents located directly in front of the wheels are functional, contributing towards aerodynamic stability and cooling. The low hood and short front overhang are even more icing on the cake. Looking at the LC 500 from the side, its sloped roofline was a must-have for both visual and aerodynamic purposes. The side vents are functional as well, feeding air to the rear wheel wells and, ultimately, to the rear exhaust quad exhaust.
The multi-layered taillights reflect the overall design theme with dramatic angles as well. There’s also a rear diffuser and optional active rear spoiler that further assist in managing airflow. Twenty-inch machined cast aluminum wheels are standard, but we think the LC 500 looks best with the optional 21-inchers. Step inside and you’ll find a driver-focused cockpit that, at first glance, may appear to be a bit more conservative than the radically styled exterior. A closer examination, however, reveals an outstanding level of craftsmanship. In Japanese, it’s known as Takumi, a literal outright obsession with the finest details. The paddle shifters are made from magnesium alloy, while supple leather and Alcantara cover the seats.
Even the stitching in the door panels, center console and dash pad is detail-focused. Along with the 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 with 476 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque under the hood, or a 3.5-liter V6 paired to an advanced hybrid system in the LC 500h, owners will experience one of the finest displays of automotive craftsmanship and, above all, design on the market today. Not even a decade ago would that vehicle come from Lexus.