Because we now live in a time where 467 horsepower is not enough.
Lexus has the sales data to prove that it’s on par with its German peers, but it’s lacking one factor that cannot be quantified: bonafide enthusiasm for cars. The kind that trickles into projects drawn up in a fit of lust and make an appeal to the artistic and emotional right side of the brain rather than the logical and calculating left. The Japanese automaker plans to remedy that with the LC coupe, but as Autocar has learned, the go-fast F version of the vehicle may not be the naturally aspirated monster we were hoping for.
For that, reference the LC500, which gets the same 467-hp 5.0-liter V8 from the RC-F and GS-F. It’s a good fit for the LC500 since it needs to set a precedent, which it does thanks to its sonorous engine roar and linear throttle. The problem is that technology moves fast and Lexus' 5.0-liter will be a bit old and lacking in torque compared to its competitors by the time it fills dealership lots. That’s why, while Lexus hasn’t yet confirmed a go-fast LC-F version, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to expect one. When speaking to Koji Sato, Lexus’s chief engineer, Autocar learned that no plans for an LC-F were in the books, but that if they were to materialize, a hybrid drivetrain would be the power supplier of choice.
Lexus has already announced a hybrid LC with the LC500h, which will supplement its 3.5-liter V6 with electric motors, but that will be slower than the LC500. Toyota, a pioneer and established leader in the arena of hybrids, could look to performance cars like the BMW i8 when it comes time to develop a sports car. “The interesting thing is that Porsche is developing a sports car with electric power, and there is the BMW i8, so maybe a big engine with more power is a little bit heading in the old style," said Sato. "The hybrid model may be an interesting idea. The sudden torque provided by the electric motor is much faster and more unique - and perhaps more interesting for the customer.”
Given the possibility that Toyota is already experimenting with hybrid options for its other upcoming sports car, the revived Supra, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see the Japanese automaker lend a hand to its luxury wing to help boost its flagship. With the LC500’s dimensions signaling that it will do battle with the likes of the BMW 6 Series coupe and Mercedes S-Class Coupe (yeah, we were hoping for a Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 911 fighter too), a performance variant would have to make horsepower figures in the neighborhood of the 600s to compete. To do so efficiently and without building turbocharged or supercharged V8s (which Toyota doesn’t really dabble in), hybrid drivetrains would be in order.
Unfortunately a fast LC would not be the bargain pick, that’s old Lexus. Don’t even expect to pick up the new LC500 for less than $100,000. As it did with the LFA, Lexus is banking a lot on the LC, hoping it will convince customers that it's an evolved and committed brand and not just a branded afterthought. So far that plan is looking like a success.