Lexus LC 500 Shows Its Bloody Maw at the Porsche 911

The long-gestating coupe emerges, hungry, in Detroit.

byLawrence Ulrich|
Lexus LC 500 Shows Its Bloody Maw at the Porsche 911

Oh, that cutup Akio Toyoda. The chairman has made a pet project of the Lexus luxury brand, whose long-aborning LC 500 coupe will come to showrooms next spring to aid Lexus’ transformation from dull to dynamic.

“Toyoda may be my last name. But my middle name is Lexus,” said the race-driving Toyoda, drawing an appreciative chuckle from a Detroit auto show media that’s used to narcoleptic presentations by punchline-challenged German execs.

With its Slinky-shaped mesh grille and a more extroverted body than Shakira in full shimmy, the LC 500 will underscore Toyoda’s promise to make Lexus relevant to enthusiasts who have often crossed the brand off their bucket lists.

“I hope you’ll agree it’s the furthest thing from boring,” Toyoda said, as the words “BORING” and “LEXUS” appeared together on a giant stage display—as they’ve shared space in journalists minds for years—before the “BORING” was slashed out onscreen.

Looking a near carbon copy of the Lexus LF-LC Concept that was a major buzz car in Detroit in 2012, the LC 500 will start below $100,000, company executives pledged. Urge comes from the 467-horsepower, 5-liter V8 borrowed from the RC F coupe. But this one will be mated to Toyota’s first-ever 10-speed transmission for a claimed zero to 60 mph dash below 4.5 seconds.

Lexus says the coupe’s structure, a stew of carbon fiber, aluminum and high-strength steel, will be more rigid than the $375,000 LF A supercar of a few years’ back. A carbon fiber roof panel is an option. Rumors continue to swirl over a more powerful version, perhaps with a smaller turbocharged V8, that could approach 600 horsepower.

At just over 187 inches long, the four-seat Lexus is roughly the size of a BMW 6 Series, but nearly a foot shorter than Mercedes’ S-Class coupe. Brian Bolain, Lexus’ corporate marketing manager, cited the Porsche 911 as one performance benchmark, along with cars like the Maserati Gran Turismo and Jaguar F-Type.

“The drive should be more like a sports car, but in the body of a grand tourer,” Bolain said. The concept version was born at Toyota’s CALTY studio in California, but the production version was developed in Japan. And company executives said that Lexus, as urged by Toyoda, lavished unusual attention on melding design and performance.

“There was a coming together of our engineering and design departments that we don’t always see,” Bolain said.

With the LC more than a year out from showrooms, Lexus for now will ride the wave driven by models including its all-new RX SUV. Though the RX has only been in showrooms for weeks, Lexus posted a 14 percent sales gain overall in 2015 to close the gap on BMW and Mercedes.

Performance junkies may scoff at Lexus, but it was America’s best-selling luxury brand for 11 straight years before conceding the title to BMW in 2011. Last year, Lexus moved more than 311,000 cars, compared with just under 340,000 for BMW and about 330,000 for Mercedes.

With luxury coupes strictly a niche play for today’s automakers, the LC won’t bring anything like the sales numbers of Lexus’ RX SUV. But for Lexus, which currently doesn’t sell anything resembling an enthusiast car in the $70,000-and-up range, the LC puts a sporting halo atop its lineup. We’re eager to see how it competes—in both performance and popularity—with the likes of BMW, Jaguar and Benz.