When the world’s largest car company pulls the sheet off of something at one of the biggest automotive events of the year, it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when they steal the show.
And looking back over the recent 2016 Detroit Auto Show, that is pretty well what happened when Lexus revealed the LC500, a new flagship and halo car for Toyota’s premium vehicle division.
The two days of the 2016 NAIAS press preview at the Detroit Auto Show this January were supposed to be about the new 2017 Lincoln Continental, following up on last year’s talked-about concept, along with anticipation about the 2016 BMW M2 hot rod coupe, the second generation 2017 Honda Ridgeline and, especially pertinent to Canadians, the new Windsor-built 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. And there’s no denying those expected reveals were spiced by the jewel-like artistic renderings of the Acura Precision Concept and the Buick Avista Concept.
But if you really want to turn some heads, all you have to do you is simply build a car that stays true to the shape, style and spirit of the original concept.
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When the Lexus LF-LC concept first debuted four years ago at the same venue, most of us figured they’d never pull it off.
The new concept was too radical, the coupe styling and proportions too exaggerated, the exquisite details too precise to survive practical engineering for full production.
This lack of faith might just have rankled Lexus a little, coming on the heels of recent customer and enthusiast surveys that in the past have summarized the brand lineup with an attitude basically summarized as “yeah, nice cars but, sorry, there’s just no heart or soul there”.
The resulting determination to take the LC 500 beyond the usual compromises can be well summed up by a short two-minute video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAUG6E1nVO0
) or we can quote Akio Toyoda, who came up through the ranks, from test driver to Chief Branding Officer for Lexus and torch bearer for the new LC 500.
“The LC 500 has been an important product for Lexus and me personally,” 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. And this LC 500 is what a more emotional Lexus looks like to me.”
The LC 500 starts builds on an all-new premium rear-wheel drive platform and a carbon-fibre and aluminum chassis mounted with unibody construction that is not only lightweight but also the most rigid structure ever produced by Lexus.
A naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine, rated at 467 hp and 389 lb/ft of torque delivers that sound, fury and thrust through the company’s first-ever 10-speed automatic transmission. Lexus is aiming towards a 0-60 mph time of less than 4.5 seconds.
All this is wrapped in a sharply defined exterior package marrying Lexus’s distinctive spindle grille with edgy LED lamp and accent designs, crisp lines and flowing shaped curves that enhance an aggressive, wheels-to-the-corners stance on big 20-inch or 21-inch wheels.
Inside, the LC 500 carries over with more attention to detail and a comfortable driver-oriented 2+2 coupe cabin with well-bolstered seats, premium Alcantra leather upholstery, and the debut of the 2017 Lexus Multimedia package with updated software and graphics to complement a full suite of dynamic and safety technologies.
Expect the 2017 Lexus LC 500 at Canadian dealers by the spring of next year. Pricing is yet to be revealed but I would expect this flagship sports coupe to run somewhere north of $100,000 and, while “halo cars” like the LC 500 are never expected to make big sales numbers, after chatting to Jennifer Barron, the newly-appointed Director of Lexus Canada, I’m pretty sure they will take every unit they can get their hands on.
Also, a short note that Lexus also hosted the North American debut of the LF-FC concept, illustrating the design direction of the luxury fuel cell sedans of the future. Lexus promises a fuel cell addition to the lineup by 2020.
After hogging the limelight with the Lexus debut of the LC 500, Toyota’s technological presentation on the following day seemed somewhat anti-climatic.
But with a brand display floor already full with the latest hybrid, fuel-cell and personal mobility concepts, Toyota chose to focus on connectivity, displaying a Mirai fuel cell vehicle equipped with satellite communications technology from Kymeta, a U.S.-based company that is the world’s leader in flat-panel antenna technology.
RELATED: Toyota Mirai Ushers in Future of Sustainable Mobility
Most people, having seen the rapid advances in communications technology, fully anticipate a time in the future when everyone can be connected, anytime and anywhere. Automotive companies have a similar goal, searching for future connectivity that is global, inexpensive and secure.
Since September 2013, Toyota and Kymeta have been jointly researching a new flat antennae system, embedded in the car, to support satellite distribution and reception of huge amounts of data to a vehicle. And with a $5 million contribution to a joint Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership, Toyota is funding future technology research and development.