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We drive the new Lexus LC 500h, the company’s new flagship, a car so radical that it made heads turn even in the automobile haven that Japan is…
2019 Lexus LC 500h drive review

If you’re looking for a grand tourer but want to stand out from the usual European choices, then this is what you should be looking at. The 2020 LC 500h, flagship luxury coupé from Lexus, aims to bring together all the goodness of brands like Bentley Continental GT and the new BMW 8 Series, served with a pinch of authentic Japanese flavour.

Just look at the seductively curvy body with the flared-up wheel-arches and pulled-in doors which create a narrow waist. Some suggest that the profile is inspired by the form of a crouching tiger. And I agree. This beast is about to pounce on the Indian market towards the end of the year. Since we’ll be getting the hybrid version and not the fire-breathing 5.0-litre V8 monster, the question remains if the smaller capacity 500h has any hidden dragons within? To get the answer, we head to their award-winning Kyushu plant in Fukuoka, Japan. This is where the LC comes to life.

The design is unmistakably Lexus with a massive signature grille, an equally large front bumper and the ultra-compact, frowning-eye-like headlamps, all intricately detailed. The wheels have been pushed further out, giving the car a much wider stance. On the side, the all-black roof and C-pillar visually separate the top of the car from the beefy rear fender, while the chrome highlights on the roof seem to be inspired by a Japanese warrior sword. The retractable door-handles create a flush finish and one must push on its front part to make it pop out.

As your eyes move towards the back of the car, you’re treated to a familiar spindle on the rear created by the creases on the bumper and the tail-gate. The final piece that completes this work of art are three-dimensional tail-lamps. This intricate set-up creates a multi-reflection effect using pieces of mirrors which gives an impression of infinite depth but is just three inches deep. Probably inspired by the climax scene in Bruce Lee’s famous film, Enter the Dragon.

To enhance the dynamics of the LC 500h, the engineers made most of the GA-L (Global Architecture-Luxury) underpinning, an all-new rear-drive platform. So, they moved the front wheels forwards and brought the powertrain rearwards, giving it a more mid-engine layout and to get as much mass as possible between the axles. The low body and pushed-out wheel-track make it rather wide. The car’s 1,920 millimetres of width means that I couldn’t reach the passenger door from the driver’s seat. And it’s pretty low, too, with a ground clearance of just 140 mm. This is great for the car’s aerodynamics but when driven on uneven roads, such as the ones back home in India, one must be extra cautious to avoid scraping the car’s belly.

Speaking of which, India will be the 69th country to get the LC 500h and we’re getting the new 2020 iteration and that too in the top Sport+ trim, which, like my test car, will come with a carbon-fibre roof and an active rear wing which slides out at 80 km/h to improve downforce. There are some minor mechanical tweaks also, such as new ABS, updated performance damper for the rear, and use of more forged aluminium which enhances the dynamics even further.

As we drive into the scenic Shikashima island, I pull over to take some more pictures and inspect the car up close. The LC is a complete showstopper. The artistic creases on the body, beautifully polished 21-inch alloy wheels, and that spectacular proportions make the LC the most riveting car design from the Japanese brand. It’s just so edgy that one can mistake it for a concept car. To be honest, it isn’t too far off the LF-LC concept unveiled by the company’s Master Driver, Akio Toyoda, at the Detroit Motor Show in 2012. Toyoda san has been the driving force in the development of the LC and has left the critics around the world who doubted this project eat their words. With a design like this, they unanimously agreed that the Lexus isn’t boring any more.

The elegance continues within the cabin too. It’s plush, with the exceptional build quality and top-class sound insulation. These are the things one looks forward to in a Lexus. Details such as the flowing lines on the door-panels which seem to be a continuation of the bonnet’s creases manage to create a perfect balance between the exterior and the interior of the LC 500h. I like our test car’s tan upholstery which can brighten up the day for practically anyone. But having it in a darker shade would have reduced the reflection on the windscreen, especially since we were driving on a sunny day. The seats are super comfortable and low and Lexus claim that your heels are just 200 mm lower than your hips. The driver’s side gets a cockpit-like layout, with most of the creature driving aid switches well within reach. The two seats at the back can’t be used by adults and are avoidable during longer drives. The hybrid’s battery pack is concealed between the rear seats and the luggage compartment, which means that there’s limited storage space in the boot.

 

About the author: Sarmad Kadiri

 

 

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