Speaking to Autocar in the summer, Koji Sato, Lexus’s chief engineer, described the significance of the front-engined, rear-wheel-drive 2+2: "It is a symbol of the Lexus brand shift. Previously Lexus has been known for well-made, comfortable cars with good fit and finish. Those areas were the characteristics for people who buy a Lexus.
“But we are car lovers, and many of the team at Lexus were thinking that we were missing something. In 2012 our president decided the brand should move in a more emotional direction, connecting with driving pleasure and cars that are fun to drive.”
The Lexus LC500 is the first result of that new thinking. Sato says the car is supposed to be “beautiful yet emotional, more brave in terms of design and performance. I believe that is the new taste of Lexus: even sharper handling, yet still refined.” The exterior looks are the work of chief designer Tadao Mori.
The significance of the LC500 runs deep: it is underpinned by the new GA-L platform that will also form the basis of other luxurious front-engined, rear-wheel-drive models from Lexus. The modular structure can be shrunk or grown as necessary; expect it to underpin future versions of the GS and LS. Sato says the LC contains “Some of the flavour of we want to share in other models”.
Development of the platform began shortly before the LC500, but underpinnings were created from the outset with dynamic capability in mind. Sato-san refers to the “inertia spec” of the car, by which he means getting the centre of gravity as low as possible by placing the engine lower and as far back as possible within the car, moving the front axle forward to reduce the overhang and also seating the occupants as low as possible. Even the 12-volt battery has found a home in the boot to enhance the weight distribution.
“The new platform gives us wider capabilities of design and performance. It’s on the top level in this class and can help us to create a more natural vehicle behaviour, so when you turn, the steering feels is more linear,” he says.
When it came to the LC500’s body, Lexus relied in part to some inspiration from the carbonfibre masterpiece that is the LFA. Although the LC500 is constructed from a mix of materials including high-tensile steel and aluminium, it still retains carbonfibre for some parts, such as the inner door structure and boot floor.
The LFA is also a source of inspiration for the noise that the LC500 makes, which is something of a surprise given that the former was powered by a V10 and the latter uses a V8. But Sato-san says the two cars share “the same philosophy” of engine sounds.