FOR A fleeting moment in late 2010 Lexus sold a car that made the world forget that the brand was the preserve of Pringle-wearing golf club captains. Suddenly Lexus was cool. Even Jeremy Clarkson, the man who created the Top Gear Cool Wall, took back (nearly) all the bad things he’d ever said about the Japanese car maker.
The car that changed the way people thought about Lexus was the LFA. Built from carbon fibre and shaped like a bullet, the V10-powered machine was a masterpiece.
But its shelf life was short. Two years after the model had been introduced, all 500 cars had been made, and slowly but surely Lexus went back to selling cars to accountants.
So the launch of the LC 500 — essentially an everyday, £90,000 version of the £336,000 LFA — is a key moment both for the manufacturer and for lovers of high-performance machines.
Its specification sounds promising. There’s an optional carbon-fibre roof, and the aluminium door panels are mounted on carbon-fibre frames. This suggests it will be light — weight is an area in which many Lexuses have needed to buck up their ideas — and nimble.
The LC 500’s engine has been positioned behind the front axle to improve weight distribution. And, unlike competitors, it doesn’t rely on turbochargers; instead, good old-fashioned volume supplies the performance, in a 5-litre V8 developing 467bhp.
This, and a 10-speed automatic transmission sending power to the rear wheels, means the 500 can accelerate from 0 to 60mph in less than 4.5 seconds, says Lexus.
More importantly, it looks like a car with the power to make drivers go weak at the knees. This is not a concept car; it’s the very model British drivers will be able to test-drive at their nearest Lexus showroom when it goes on sale in 2017, although we’ll get a right-hand drive version, of course.
The luxury 2+2 coupé is for anyone who has grown tired of hearing about 50 years of evolution of the Porsche 911, or feels Audis and Mercedes are becoming about as individual as a pair of M&S socks.
It looks different, sounds promising technically and sparked the biggest social-media buzz of all the cars revealed at last week’s Detroit motor show.
We’re looking forward to seeing whether the car lives up to its Cool Wall promise. We’re not entirely convinced by the interior, for example. Take a look around the LC 500 for yourself in the video below.
And if you’d like to see Jeremy Clarkson driving a Lexus LFA as he tries to escape a stunt plane pilot, watch this classic clip from Top Gear.