Lexus Australia has confirmed local availability of the brand’s new, production-ready flagship, the Lexus LC 500 coupe. The stunning four-seater, unveiled at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, will launch globally in 2017.
The provocative LC 500 is being hailed by Lexus as the strongest ever statement of its brand direction.
Although exact timing of arrival is yet to be confirmed, Lexus Australia chief executive Peter McGregor said he was delighted the local subsidiary’s appeal to Lexus International to secure the vehicle for Australia had been successful.
“The LC 500 epitomises the new spirit of Lexus and will act as a lighthouse model for our expanding range,” Mr McGregor said.
The 5.0-litre quad-cam V8 LC 500 will be the first Lexus underpinned by the company’s new Global Architecture Luxury (GA-L) platform; the most torsionally rigid ever produced by the company, and will feature the world’s first 10-speed automatic transmission in a luxury vehicle.
The new GA-L platform is a blueprint for all future front engine, rear drive models.
Lexus’ Chief Branding Officer and Master Driver, Akio Toyoda, has been integral in the development of the production model since it was first shown as the LF-LC concept at the Detroit Motor Show in 2012.
“The LC 500 has been an important product for Lexus and me personally,” Mr Toyoda said.
“A few years ago we decided to guide the future of the brand with products that had more passion and distinction in the luxury market. This flagship luxury coupe’s proportions, stunning design and performance make a strong statement about our brands’ emotional direction, and will grow the Lexus luxury appeal globally.”
Design and Engineering Teams United
The new LC 500 serves as a symbol of the achievement that can result from heightened collaboration between design and engineering groups, and their commitment to help overcome each other’s hurdles.
When Akio Toyoda challenged these development groups to produce this special vehicle, it meant surpassing many manufacturing, design, material, and dynamic obstacles that could typically compromise a vehicle’s targets or design vision.
The LC 500 was driven by a strong, appealing fundamental design target (LF-LC), and engineering teams worked tirelessly to find new solutions to maintain as much of the concept in the production car as possible.
Vehicle designers were intimately involved from the earliest stages of the dynamic development process to understand the engineering targets and collaborate with design viewpoints and potential solutions.
Additional levels of prototype vehicle build also allowed both teams to better study design or engineering ideas and refine key elements.
The LC 500 project became much more than simply the development of a new coupe for the Lexus organisation.
Chief Engineer Koji Sato said the LC 500, with the shift in engineering processes and design ideologies it represents, symbolised the beginning of a new phase for the Lexus brand.
“Design and engineering sides worked together on issues and obstacles that were overcome one by one. I feel we achieved something greater than simply preserving the spirit of the concept’s design,” Sato-san said.
It becomes apparent the engineering and design team’s collaboration was highly successful considering how much of the LF-LC’s design ideology the team was able to transfer into the new LC 500.
The new production model shares many of the key design elements, proportions and visual dynamism of the concept car that inspired it.
The LC 500’s visual appeal is defined by an athletic aerodynamic shape, with sensual curves, emotional forms, an available flowing carbon fibre roof (glass roof standard), creating a low, wide imposing stance that come together for a highly functional, passionate package.
The LC 500’s front fascia features a powerful interpretation of Lexus’ signature spindle grille, bordered by chrome on three sides and a radical new 3D mesh design that varies its visual tension.
The “L”-shaped daytime running lights rest below a new triple LED headlamp unit specially designed to include one of the industry’s thinnest projectors to enable a low bonnet with a short front overhang.
Functional venting also plays into the LC 500’s exterior design to help improve aerodynamic stability and cooling.
The car’s athletic profile is characterised by its fast, sloped roofline, its wind-cutting silhouette, a long 2870mm wheelbase with compact front 920mm and rear 970mm overhangs and low bonnet height.
The curves and flowing lines maintain a consistent tension in sheet metal through to the rear end that features slimly designed, multi-layered tail lamps with a unique lighting effect that helps convey a sequential L motif.
A rear diffuser and available active rear spoiler also help manage airflow during performance driving.
It rides on machined cast aluminium 20-inch, or available 21-inch, forged aluminium wheels.
The interior design of the LC 500 is influenced by the dynamic luxury theme of the exterior with a cockpit-focused and elegant layout.
The coupe’s driving position was calibrated to invite spirited, sporting driving, and help develop easier confidence with a more intuitive control layout.
The driver’s hip point was engineered to be as close as possible to the vehicle’s Cg (Centre of gravity) where feedback from the car is the most communicative to the driver.
The front seats offer a high level of support and comfort for long drives, while available sport seats offer additional bolstering and lateral support during cornering.
Lexus engineers put considerable effort into creating an engaging yet seductive atmosphere for the driver, focusing on details such as the size and angle of the steering wheel, the feel and positioning of magnesium alloy paddle shifters, and available supple leather and Alcantara seating surfaces.
The LC 500’s door panels, centre console and dash pad structures feature elements of Lexus’ world-renowned, detail-obsessed Takumi craftsmanship in their finish.
“At an early stage, the designers collaborated with the engineers to understand their image for the LC 500’s driving dynamics, and they incorporated this into the design,” said Tadao Mori, chief designer of the LC 500.
“For example, we gave serious consideration to where the driver’s eyes would focus, and designed the surface shape in that area to help support a driver’s mindset.
“This project was one of the first time that designers were closely involved in the dynamic engineering development so we could understand the driving goals and support with the car’s design.”
The mission for LC 500 was to offer a dynamic driving experience and character unlike any Lexus vehicle prior to it.
The pursuit of a sharper, more refined driving experience became the mission for the development team which also sought to maintain a superior Lexus ride quality befitting a flagship luxury sport coupe.
The LC 500 is the first Lexus to use the brand’s all-new, premium rear-wheel drive luxury platform and is part of the new corporate global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA-L).
The underpinnings of this new coupe will become the blueprint for the company’s future front-engine/rear-wheel drive vehicles.
The LC 500’s engineers focused on the platform’s fundamentals by placing most of the mass, including the engine and the occupants, in a position more centralised, and lower in the chassis to improve the centre of gravity.
Internally, Lexus engineers referred to this menu of mass-arranging tactics as the “inertia spec”.
The driver hip and heel points have been lowered, wheels pushed to the corners of the car with shortened overhangs, and the drivetrain mass located behind the front axle line to create a front mid-ship layout.
The LC 500 also relies on run-flat tyres to improve packaging, reduce weight (thanks to no spare), and help shorten overhangs in the interest of dynamic targets.
The 12-volt battery has been relocated to the boot as part of the mission to redistribute weight.
Other mass management measures include the available carbon fibre roof, aluminium door skins mounted to the carbon fibre door inner structure, and a composite boot floor.
The LC 500 also represents the Lexus brand’s most intensive use of high-strength steel.
This provides enhanced rigidity, while reducing-and ideally positioning-vehicle mass to optimise dynamics.
The LC 500 as a result is very well balanced, with a close to ideal front/rear weight distribution of 52/48.
Lexus engineered the stiffest monocoque the brand has ever produced to help achieve the level of chassis performance targeted for this new coupe.
Strategic use of lightweight, high-strength steel helps make for a high degree of torsional rigidity that is more resistant to twisting forces than the exotic, carbon fibre-intensive LFA supercar.
The platform design maintains a consistent level of resistance to flexural forces and stiffness across the vehicle’s wheelbase to help create consistent, predictable handling behaviour, and sharper steering responses.
Special braces in the engine compartment (usually a more twist-prone part of the chassis), the adoption of stiff aluminium front suspension towers, and the addition of a ring structure near the rear guards are all measures that help further bolster the strength of key chassis structures.
Particular attention was devoted to the LC 500’s multi-link suspension system.
Double ball joints on the upper and lower control arms allow for control of the smallest movements from the driver inputs and road conditions.
A dual ball joint arrangement helps optimise suspension geometry to increase wheel control and create a more precise steering response with better initial effort.
The LC 500 features lightweight forged aluminium control arms to help reduce unsprung mass and improve suspension response.
Providing the grip on the show prototype car are Michelin Sport tyres: 245/40 RF21 up front and 275/35 RF21 at the rear.
LC 500 becomes a world-class luxury sports coupe that exhibits razor-sharp reflexes, exceptional handling balance and rock-solid stability when all handling elements come together.
This all-new platform will continue to undergo continuous improvement and enhancement throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle.
Said Sato-san: “We spent more than triple the usual amount of R&D time to pursue linear steering and to find the sweet spot for road contact feel. We also focused our efforts on suspension rigidity and enhancing geometry. Thanks to advancements in product engineering, we are now at a world-class level for suspension rigidity, and performance when lateral g’s are applied.”