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The Lexus LC again?
Yep, for two reasons. One – the US is Lexus’s biggest market by far, so how this car is received here will dictate the model’s and the brand’s fortunes far more than anywhere else. But, perhaps more importantly, because this is the moment we’ve been waiting for from Lexus – it’s gone and built a car that’s almost as emotionally – not just rationally – desirable as anything comparable from BMW and Mercedes.
What is it about it that you like so much?
That it’s not necessarily better value, faster or better handling than the German motors – just appealing for all the reasons we love cars. It looks right – it’s the first Lexus the spindle grille works on – drives right and makes all the right noises while doing so. It proves the LFA wasn’t a flash in the pan, rather a spark that is now turning into the beginnings of a fire at Toyota’s luxury brand.
Is there any difference in the LCs you get in the US?
Not technically, but there is a price differential. Whereas cars with both drivetrains cost the same in Europe, you have to pay a $4,500 premium for the hybrid in the US. The company isn’t expecting the hybrid to make up much more than ten per cent of sales but, we think if potential customers get to drive both, it could be less than that. Because the 5.0-litre V8 car is the pick of the litter by miles.
While the rest of the world is busy clamping turbos to all their engines and downsizing to six and four-cylinder engines to boost fuel efficiency, Lexus still gives you the choice of being green or opting for the rare steak, naturally aspirated V8 version. To have that choice is a great start on most others, but then for the motor in question to be as lusty and free-revving as this one is a proper treat.
Hang on, you’re saying a Japanese car has a better engine than a lot of luxury cars from Germany?
Yes. It’s a genuine barking and spitting treat to rev all the way to the rev limiter. It’s such a surprise – like discovering your fridge can not just talk but also has a good sense of humour, too. Plus you absolutely know it’ll never, ever break down and if even the slightest thing were to go awry with it, Lexus will have it sorted instantly before you knew anything about it. And remember your name, how you take your coffee and give you a loan car while you’re waiting.
Is the handling as good as the engine?
All depends which version you get behind the wheel of again. But the real sweet spot for the US market is the base V8. In this guise it is like a Japanese muscle car, in the same vein as the Mercedes AMG GT is Germany’s take on big, brutish power in a slick rear-drive chassis. Turn off every system you can, find a long and twisting road, mat the LC’s throttle and, if you stay ahead of it, you can warp along in a very satisfying way. Yes it’s a bit heavy, the heft making itself felt especially in the middle of a corner. But it still gets in and out of them in a pleasing way and the steering has meaningful feedback. You have to keep reminding yourself it’s a Lexus.
But you’re still not saying we should buy one, right?
Wrong. If you are looking at a BMW 6 Series or a Mercedes-Benz SL, you absolutely should check out the LC500. Not for any rational reasons of cost or reliability – although why not? – but just because it’s a an appealing alternative. No, really.