Lexus, as we reported on multiple occasions, did not plan to build a production version of their wild LF-LC concept. But, like Twinkies, the world just loved it too much.
Akio Toyoda said as much at the unveiling today. “We had no intention of a production car,” he admitted. But extremely positive reactions from the press and from the public at large changed the company’s mind, Toyoda said.
Even Lexus itself was pretty juiced on making the concept car real, and Toyoda claimed that the design and engineering teams, run by Sato Koji and Tadao Mori respectively, worked especially close together. Their desire was to make the production car as close to the concept as possible.
As far as my eyes can see, they succeeded. There’s little to spot between the LF-LC concept and the LC 500 that should be on sale next year. I mean, the mirrors are different and the fake tailpipes are a slightly different shape, but there’s not much else to it.
Toyoda echoed my sentiments in his address to the press:
Lexus design manager Tadao Mori and chief engineer Koji Sato both intimated that the car was a labor of love, one that sticks shockingly close to the Lexus LF-LC concept. In a world dominated by crash safety standards and bland normality, that’s increasingly rare—but that wasn’t easy.
“It was really hard, actually,” Mori told me with a laugh. “The concept, we didn’t think anything about engineering, really. It was just a design study. Production was totally different.”
We’ll have a detailed breakdown of the differences between the two later, but the production car ended up longer and taller than the concept. Thank safety regs for that.
Sato said that this time around, the focus was on driving dynamics. “It’s back to basics,” he said. Torsional rigidity, natural behavior on the road. He stressed it’s a performance coupe, not a cushy cruiser. One could easily see it taking on the S-Class Coupe and SL; other competitors, he said, include the BMW 6 Series, Maserati Gran Turismo, and even the Jaguar F-Type.
But perhaps the biggest surprise is that engine. Lexus eschewed a hybrid drivetrain or even turbochargers to stay with the proven 5.0-liter V8 with 467 horsepower. Sato explained the reasons for that.
“This V8 engine has character,” he said. Unlike so many turbo mills, it loves to be revved and puts out a ton of power in the upper part of the RPM range. He added, “it will have a great engine sound, too.”
Power goes to the rear wheels via an all-new 10-speed automatic paddle-shift gearbox. While it’s a conventional auto and not a DCT, Sato said it happens to have the smallest and lightest torque converter in the world—and it can do shifts in a very quick 0.2 seconds.
All in all, it’s hard not to be impressed with the LC 500. It will be months before we can get behind the wheel of one, but at least from where I’m sitting, it seems Akio Toyoda and the Lexus brand are finally putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to fast and interesting cars.