The chances are you’ll hear it before you see it, with a mellow burble that rises to a pure, undiluted V8 howl – free from the muffling effect of the turbochargers found on just about every other performance car these days.
And then it comes into view. An unapologetically extrovert slice of automotive sculpture that looks like it’s been taken straight from the sketchpad of a caffeine-fuelled designer. A lot of cars start off like this in the design studio, but few make it through to production with such unfiltered presence.
The basic shape has been around for some time now, but Lexus treated the LC500 to a series of revisions last year that have brought sharper handling, greater comfort and improved infotainment.
The star of the show remains that engine. With a total weight of nearly two tonnes and no turbochargers to help it along, the LC500 doesn’t initially feel as fast as its 457bhp output might suggest.
You need to rev it hard to tap into the performance, but to do so is to immerse yourself in one of the last truly charismatic combustion engines. It pulls with increasing urge to well over 7,000rpm, with crisp responses and a magnificent soundtrack. The blipped downchanges – delivered with canon fire rapidity in manual mode – sound particularly good.
This resolutely old school powerplant seems almost wilfully unconventional. And you sense a similar philosophy at work with the chassis. Rather than stiffening everything up to deliver a bone jarring ride in the pursuit of perceived sportiness, Lexus has gone with a supple setup that flows with the road.
Even with the adaptive suspension in its firmest setting, the LC500 remains a genuinely comfortable long-distance machine. And yet it still handles remarkably well for a big GT. The variable-ratio steering may not offer a huge amount of feel, but it’s perfectly-weighted and admirably precise. Similarly, body roll is kept well in check, while the four-wheel steering system gives the big Lexus a sense of agility that belies its size.
Sink into the cockpit and you’re gripped by seats that have an uncanny knack of being firm and supportive, yet also supremely comfortable.
Lexus has always been known for its build quality, and that’s particularly evident inside this flagship model. The materials are superb, with swathes of soft leather and Alcantara contrasting with carbon fibre and polished metal.
As with the rest of the car, Lexus seems intent on bucking the trends with its infotainment system. There’s no touch functionality on the 10.3-inch screen, so instead you use a central touchpad, a bit like the one you’d find on a laptop. It’s not as intuitive as the rotary controllers used by a lot of other manufacturers, but you soon learn to adapt.
In terms of practicality, the LC500 offers a mixed bag. There’s plenty of room in the front, but the rear seats are pretty tight for anyone over five feet tall. Similarly, the boot is big enough to hold a large suitcase and a couple of carry on bags, but it’s not exactly capacious.
The LC500 is undeniably a niche proposition. But we get the impression that Lexus is just fine with that – it’s a company that likes to go its own way. If you do too then there’s a lot to recommend this exquisitely-engineered grand tourer.
It combines tremendous presence with the Japanese firm’s legendary attention to detail. Lexus frequently tops the surveys for reliability and customer satisfaction, so if you’re drawn to the LC500’s big personality, it should appeal to your head as well as your heart.
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