The mk7 Golf GTI will bow out with a slightly conflicted special edition
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£74,470 when new
Very interesting looking car… Isn’t it just? Like an Aston Martin in proportion, size, form and demeanour, and that’s a good place to be. UK buyers can choose between the LC500h (a hybrid) and the LC500 (a big V8), both of which are identically priced, from a whisker under £75,000. Forget the hybrid, right? Yep. That uses a 3.5-litre V6 and e-motor to produce 354bhp fed through a CVT gearbox. Lexus says it emits 149g/km and will do 44mpg, but we all know that’s fanciful. You’ll get 27mpg. And a disappointing driving experience to your tax dodge.
No, you need the 465bhp 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8. We’ve driven it a couple of times already, not least on track during our recent Speed Week extravaganza. Although it’s not especially efficient (24.6mpg and 263g/km) or outrageously fast on paper (0-62mph in 4.4secs and a 168mph top speed), it does have several things going for it. Not least a 10-speed gearbox. 10 speeds? Where on earth do you start? In first, normally… Sorry. Anyway, it won’t surprise you to learn that it’s massively long geared (10th, which you can’t drop into until you’re past 60mph, only pulls 1,400rpm at 70mph). This means that if you’re pottering along the motorway and the traffic clears, you’ll be pulling the left hand paddle five times just to get down to a gear that’ll give you some semblance of thrust. RSI-ahoy. Torque is not this engine’s strong point. It might have 398lb ft, but you’re waiting until 4,800rpm to get it. Most turbo rivals have that on tap at 1,800rpm. Anyway, that’s provided you lock it into manual mode, avoiding kickdown, which most LC500 drivers probably never will. You’re assuming the LC500 is going to be bought by traditional Lexus buyers? I am. And I really hope that’s not the case. Because this car deserves a wider audience. But I’ve not finished telling you about the gearbox. By most modern standards the intermediate gears are short – second runs to 60mph, third to 90mph, fourth to 110mph. But I do think Lexus has missed out on a trick and could have stacked a load of them close through the mid-range where you could actually enjoy using them. The reason they haven’t done this is the LC500 isn’t that sort of car. It’s not a sports car. It’s a grand tourer. The template here, as I said at the top, is Aston Martin. Relaxed athleticism. And it’s a mark the LC hits with commendable accuracy. We’re used to cars at this price point heading down one of two alleys: they’re either aggressively sporty (Porsche 911, Mercedes-AMG GT) or big and not that coupe-ish (BMW 6-Series, Audi RS7, Mercedes SL). The LC500 then, treads an interesting path, channeling a DB11 vibe, but for half the price. Significantly cheaper than a Maserati GranTurismo, too. Which dynamic avenue does it head down? Pretty much the middle. It is delightfully refined at speed – almost silent, in fact – and rides very well. It’s not soft exactly, there’s not too much travel in the suspension, but it smothers stuff very well indeed. And that’s pretty much true no matter which mode you slot it in. From Eco and Comfort, through Normal to Sport and Sport Sharp, the ride doesn’t deteriorate too much, instead you’re aware of the drivetrain feeling more urgent and tense. And it is fast. Not daft fast, not ridiculous; but nicely, pleasingly speedy. And the engine is an utter peach to use. So silkily smooth as it gains revs, so lovely to listen to as it piles on revs with increasing urgency. It’s a honey and much more rewarding than the usual big hit of instant torque. But this is a GT, surely you want the ease of forced induction? You could argue that, yes, but left to its own devices and with the mode knob on the side of the instrument binnacle twiddled to Sport, the gearbox and engine work pretty well together to deliver rapid progress. In less sporty modes you’ll find that 10 is a lot of gears to be swapping between and, left to its own devices, the transmission struggles to keep up. Manual mode is good, though, and if you’re not in a hurry that gearbox is tremendously discreet. And it handles British B-roads well? It does. It’s keen to get stuck in, corners with poise and behaves admirably well for a car that weighs a lot more than you’d think – 1,935kg. The steering might not be the last word in feel, but it’s well geared, so turn in feels crisp without being darty. In fact the whole car feels very complete to drive. It’s as if Lexus has identified the exact person they want to aim this car at and ensured that every element of its performance matches that brief. And who might that be? God knows. But it might well be you – there’s way more appeal here than you’d credit from a company that has produced such duds as the CT200h. But it made the LFA, don’t forget… I was coming on to that. Because I think this is right up there with the LFA and original LS400 as the best things Lexus has ever done. Both of those, especially the latter, shook the European car industry to a certain extent. This is a well targeted, well executed coupe that does a very valid job. Honestly, if you’re looking for a daily driver and are considering anything from a DB11 to a 911 you should have a look at this. What are the drawbacks? If you only go for a quick test drive you’ll despise the LC. Because you’ll have had a play with the touchpad and discovered it to be a hopeless way of navigating the over-complex infotainment. This is one of those things you have to take time to get used to. I’m not saying it’ll ever be brilliant, but after a few days you do get used to it. And then you can settle back and admire the rest of the cockpit. The seats are beautifully, beautifully shaped, the layout is creative and bold and interesting. Access the dash menus and the dials slides across the screen with oiled precision. It’s massively over-engineered for the modest job it does, but so what? It’s no bigger or smaller in the back and boot than most comparable rivals and is assembled with a precision that sets it apart. And it’s so striking to look at. People genuinely admire it. And that means you’ll feel good about driving it.
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