2016 NAIAS: Stylish sporty Lexus LC 500 luxury coupe breaks cover

Article by Andrew Christian, on January 13, 2016

When it originally launched during the North American International Auto Show back in 2012, a number of people which included customers, the press, and fans, wondered if the style and the proportions of the Lexus LF-LC Concept could ever make it to production. It took four years but Lexus has recently unveiled the Lexus LC 500 luxury coupe at the 2016 North American International Auto Show.

This latest offering is its flagship coupe and is the company’s strongest statement to date with regards to the future direction of its production line. Over the last five years, the luxury brand has been growing rapidly especially when it established Lexus International. This has resulted in the introduction of new models like the IS, NX, and RC, all of which carry high levels of emotion in its style coupled with dynamic driving characteristics. It has also been responsible for drawing in new customers who had been loyal to other brands.

At the heart of the brand’s global expansion is Akio Toyoda, who personally made sure that the three different teams, design, engineering, and marketing, all worked together to create a luxury brand that would be able to meet any of the needs of its next-generation customers.

Though the LC 500 clearly shows the performance and style the brand is known for, it also best exemplifies what can be achieved when the design team and the engineering group collaborate and commit to help solve the issues each is facing. When Akio Toyoda issued the challenge to the development groups to come out with the new model, it meant that the groups needed to beat the obstacles, whether it’s the design, dynamics, material, or even manufacturing.

These are challenges that many usually face when trying to meet the design vision or any target for that matter. Having an appealing design guided the creation of the LC 500. In order to retain majority of the original concept to the production version, the engineer had to find ways and offer solutions.

The design team meanwhile was made part of the development process, especially during the early phases, in order to realize what the engineering team wanted and work with them to come out with design viewpoints and possible solutions.

In order for the development teams to have a closer look at the design and improve important elements, the prototype vehicles had levels added to it. Thus, the LC 500 is not just about making a new coupe, rather it also represents the start of a new stage for the brand considering that a shift occurred in the design principles and the engineering methods.

Chief Engineer Koji Sato shared that the two teams, design and engineering, worked on the different issues that arose, and thus were able to overcome each of them. Sato added that it feels as if the team did not just preserve the spirit of the original design but also achieve something even greater.

A look at the LC 500 clearly shows that the cooperation of the design and engineering teams was a success. One reason is that it is easy to see that a large part of the original design principle of the LF-LC is in the LC 500. The production model has the visual dynamics, and even the proportions and important design components present in the concept car.

Exterior Design

The visual appeal of the LC 500, much like the concept car, is due to its aerodynamic shape. The combination of the passionate forms, sexy curves, and the glass roof (carbon-fiber roof is available as an option) result in a low yet wide impressive stance that goes with a functional package. The front fascia of the LC 500 provides a strong interpretation of the company’s unique grille.

Three of its sides have a chrome border with a 3D mesh design that changes the visual tension. It has a Triple LED headlamp, which had underneath daytime running lights in the shape of an "L" under it. The same daytime running lights have been designed to have what may be the thinnest projectors in the industry.

This allows the LC 500 to have a low hood as well as a short front overhang. The design of the exterior also incorporates functional vents which help to cool the engine and improve the aerodynamic stability. The LC 500 has a sporty shape that is characterized by a number of features like its tilted roofline, its silhouette, wheelbase, and low hood height.

The wheelbase in particular is 2,870 mm long, or about 113 inches. Its front overhang measures 920 mm (36.2 inches) while the rear overhang stands at 2,870 mm (113 inches). Its curves and the flowing lines ensure that there is constant tension on the sheetmetal through the rear portion.

The rear end carries the multi-layered tail lamps and with the slim design, this results in a distinct light effect that expresses the L motif. Helping manage the airflow are the active rear spoiler and the rear diffuser. This is important especially during performance driving.

The wheels meanwhile come in either the 20-inch machine cast aluminum or the aluminum forged 21-inch wheels. While the layout of the LC 500’s interior is focused mainly on the cockpit, it remains elegant.

Interior Design

It is also clear that the design of the interior has been inspired by the exterior’s rather luxury theme. Going back to the cockpit-centered design, the position of the driver has been adjusted to encourage sporty and lively driving. In addition, since there is a more intuitive layout to the controls, it also helps develop confidence much easier.

Take for example the hip point of the driver. It was constructed in a way that it was as close as it can be to the center of gravity of the LC 500. This is the position in the vehicle where the feedback is communicated easily to its driver. The front seats meanwhile give the needed comfort and support that a driver needs for a long drive.

There are also sports seats that can provide that extra strength and horizontal support when cornering. Engineers at Lexus took the time and effort to create an attractive ambiance for the driver. This is realized by concentrating on different features like the angle and size of the steering wheel, the position and feel of its alloy paddle magnesium shifters, and the flexible seats with leather and Alcantara.

The center console, dash pad structures, and even the door panels have elements that are clearly finished with the detail-oriented Takumi craftsmanship. LC 500 chief designer Tadao Mori said that during the early stages, the designers worked together with the engineers so that the driving dynamics they envisioned would be integrated to the design of the LC 500.

He said that the team took into consideration where it was that the eyes of the driver would focus and then designed the shape of the surface for that specific region so as to be able to support how the driver thinks.

The LC 500 project was the first time that the designers had to team up with the engineering team in order to understand what the driving goals were and thus be able to support it with the design, Mori related. The rear wheels have power supplied to them through a group of components that have been aimed to ensure maximum output.

Powertrain

Powering the LC 500 is the all-aluminum V8 32-valve 5.0-liter that was also in the GS F and RC F. The V8 was chosen for the LC 500 since it gives off a smooth engine sound and a more linear throttle reaction. This engine delivers 467 HP of power with maximum torque of 389 lb.-ft. It is obvious that the engine was made to be durable as the valves are made of titanium while the connecting rods are of high strength and are lightweight, ensuring that the engine continues to flourish even when running at high rpm.

This engine therefore makes it perfect to be paired with a stable sports coupe as it can deliver linear power in a way that is easy to control but offers excitement too. In addition to the power, the engine also utilizes a dual intake inlet helping improve the breathing of the engine and make it have that amazing sound. Under Sports mode, the LC 500 has an active exhaust that opens its baffles thereby helping the car have that aggressive sound even when just starting up.

Under Normal mode, the exhaust baffles are able to open when the rpm is above 3,500. When the LC 500 accelerates, a Sound Generator has a tuned acoustic plumbing that increases the loud sound of the engine to that of thunder and thereby allowing it to be differentiated from other cars in the segment. Paired with the engine and transferring the power to its rear wheels is the 10-speed automatic transmission.

Considered to be the first of its kind in a luxury car, its shift times is more than a match for even dual-clutch transmissions. Spaced closely together, the 10 gears give enough bandwidth in shifting that it makes the LC 500 perfect for any form of driving as it can deliver the optimum gear regardless of the conditions. That’s not all. This particular transmission is complemented with an electric control system that has software that helps to anticipate what the input of the driver will be based on the acceleration, the braking, and even the lateral g forces.

The transmission is just one part in a car that has a number of active control elements like steering that has been tweaked to operate even in sport driving conditions, braking, and power application.

Drivers who are able to get behind the wheel of the LC 500 can easily feel the balance between applying the linear power of the engine, the smooth shifting actions, and the deceleration given by the front brake caliper. The front brake calipers have 6 pistons while those at the rear have 4 pistons.

The drivetrain and platform created grant the LC 500 with the agility and performance that are not typically found in a four-person coupe. Acceleration of the vehicle is targeted to be 0 to 60 mph in just under 4.5 seconds.

Press Release

Global Debut of All-New Lexus LC 500 at the 2016 NAIAS Signals Dawn of a New Era for Lexus

When the Lexus LF-LC Concept debuted at the 2012 North American International Auto Show, the press, loyal customers, and enthusiasts wondered if the concept’s arresting styling and dramatic proportions could ever evolve into a production 2+2 coupe. Today, four years after the debut of the breakthrough concept that inspired it, Lexus has revealed the all-new LC 500 luxury coupe. This provocative, athletic flagship coupe makes the strongest statement yet about Lexus’ future product direction.

The past five years have seen Lexus evolve rapidly with the creation of the luxury brand’s globally-focused organization, Lexus International. Exciting new models involving elevated levels of emotional styling and dynamic driving characteristics such as NX, RC, and IS have also helped Lexus’ brand shift with consumers. Akio Toyoda has been at the center of the Lexus global expansion, personally driving a heightened level of collaboration among design, engineering and marketing teams to help build a luxury brand better suited to meet the needs of the next generation of consumers.

“The LC 500 has been an important product for Lexus and me personally,” said Akio Toyoda, Chief Branding Officer and Master Driver for Lexus. “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 brand’s emotional direction and will grow the Lexus luxury appeal globally.”

Design and Engineering Teams United
Beyond its styling and impactful performance, 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 car, 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. Likewise, vehicle designers were very involved from the earliest stages of the dynamic development process to understand the engineering targets and collaborate with design viewpoints and potential solutions. With LC 500, additional levels of prototype vehicle build also allowed both teams to better study design or engineering ideas and refine key elements. For Lexus, the LC 500 project became much more than simply the development of a new coupe. The LC 500, with the shift in engineering processes and design ideologies it represents, symbolizes 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,” said Chief Engineer Koji Sato.

Exterior Design
At first glance, it becomes apparent that 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. It features sensual curves, emotional forms, an available flowing carbon-fiber roof (glass roof standard), helping create a low, wide imposing stance that comes together for a highly functional, passionate package.

The LC 500’s front fascia features a powerful interpretation of Lexus’ distinctive 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 enabling a low hood 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 characterized by its fast, sloped roofline, its wind-cutting silhouette, a long 2,870 mm (113 inches) wheelbase with compact front 920 mm ( 36.2 inches) and rear 970 mm ( 38.2 inches) overhangs and low hood height. The sexy curves and flowing lines maintain a consistent tension in sheetmetal 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 aluminum 20-in. or available 21-in. forged aluminum wheels.

Interior Design
The interior design of the LC 500 is influenced by the dynamic luxury theme of the exterior with a layout that is both cockpit-focused and elegant. The coupe’s driving position was calibrated to invite spirited, sporting driving, and help develop easier confidence with a more intuitive control layout. In fact, for LC 500, the driver’s hip point was engineered to be as close as possible to the vehicle’s Cg (Center of gravity) where feedback from the car is the most communicative to the driver. The front seats offer excellent 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 exquisite door panels, center 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, the 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 times that designers were closely involved in the dynamic engineering development so we could understand the driving goals and support with the car’s design.”

Chassis
In helping to drive the future of the Lexus brand, the mission for LC 500 is 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 who 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. In an effort to sharpen the car’s handling, 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 centralized and lower in the chassis to improve the center 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 have been pushed to the corners of the car with shortened overhangs, and the drivetrain mass has been located behind the front axle line to create a front mid-ship layout. The LC 500 also relies on run-flat tires to improve packaging, reduce weight (thanks to no spare), and help shorten overhangs to achieve dynamic targets. The 12-volt battery has been relocated to the trunk as part of the mission to redistribute weight.

Other mass management measures include the available carbon fiber roof, aluminum door skins mounted to the carbon fiber door inner structure, and a composite trunk 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 optimize dynamics. As a result, the LC 500 is very balanced with a nearly ideal front/rear weight distribution of 52/48.

To help achieve the level of chassis performance targeted for this new coupe, Lexus engineered the stiffest unibody the brand has ever produced. For LC 500, the 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 fiber-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 behavior and sharper steering responses. Special braces in the engine compartment (usually a more twist-prone part of the chassis), the adoption of stiff aluminum front suspension towers, and the addition of a ring structure near the rear fenders are all measures that help further bolster the strength of key chassis structures.

Particular attention was devoted to the LC 500’s multilink 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. Beyond sharing workload, a dual ball joint arrangement helps optimize suspension geometry to increase wheel control and create a more precise steering response with better initial effort. To help reduce unsprung mass and improve suspension response, all but one of the control arms are made of lightweight forged aluminum. Providing the grip on the show prototype car are concept versions of Michelin Pilot Sport tires with Premium Touch® sidewall technology: 245/40RF21 up front and 275/35RF21 at the rear. When all the handling elements come together, LC 500 becomes a world-class luxury sports coupe that exhibits razor-sharp reflexes, exceptional handling balance and rock-solid stability. This all-new platform will continue to undergo continuous improvement and enhancement throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle.

Said Sato: “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.”

Drivetrain
The power delivery to the rear wheels for LC 500 is handled by a new, very well matched set of components that maximize output to the wheels. The heart of the new LC 500 is derived from the proven, high-revving 5.0-liter V8 that is found in the RC F and GS F. The naturally aspirated V8 was selected for its smooth, linear throttle response and emotional engine sound. The all-aluminum, 32-valve V8’s output targets 467 HP and 389 lb.-ft. of torque. The new engine is built for durability with lightweight, high-strength forged connecting rods and titanium valves that allow the engine to flourish at high rpm. This naturally aspirated engine makes an ideal pairing to a balanced sports coupe with its linear power delivery that allows easier control and exhilaration behind the wheel.

The engine in the LC 500 uses a dual intake inlet that help improve breathing and allow the engine to produce its fantastic sound. The new coupe features an active exhaust that opens baffles in Sport mode to help give the car a more aggressive exhaust note even in start-up. In fact, even when the vehicle is in Normal mode the exhaust baffles open above 3500 rpm. During acceleration, a Sound Generator involving tuned acoustic plumbing enhances the engine’s raucous melody into an aural thunder that helps distinguish the LC 500 in its competitive segment.

Helping power transfer to the rear wheels is a newly developed 10-speed automatic transmission—the first ever in a luxury automobile—with shift times rivaling those of a dual-clutch transmission. The component is smaller and lighter than some current 8-speed transmissions. The wide bandwidth of shifting afforded by 10 closely spaced gears is ideal for all forms of driving, providing an optimal gear in all conditions. This transmission is matched to a new electric control system with software that helps anticipate the driver’s inputs by monitoring acceleration, braking and lateral g forces.

The new transmission is just one key element in a vehicle that has had all of its dynamic control elements such as power application, braking, and steering tuned to operate rhythmically in sport driving conditions. Drivers will feel the controlled balance between the quick, smooth shifting actions, the application of linear engine power, and the deceleration afforded by 6-piston front brake calipers (4-piston at rear).

All of the platform and drivetrain engineering helped endow the LC 500 with performance and agility uncommon for a four-person coupe; the vehicle targets a 0 to 60 mph time of less than 4.5 seconds.

Interior Electronics
This flagship coupe will debut the 2017 Lexus Multimedia package that will feature updated, faster, more flexible software enabling future enhancements and a more inviting graphic user interface. Occupants also will be treated to an exceptional audio experience inside the cabin: in addition to the available audiophile-worthy Mark Levinson audio package, a new premium Pioneer audio system comes as standard equipment. Pioneer’s sound engineers worked in collaboration with LC 500 body and cabin designers to enhance interior sound performance within the cabin, studying the acoustic environment and driving structural changes to enhance sound performance.

The LC 500 also will boast Lexus’ renowned safety technology, Lexus Safety System + , which integrates several of Lexus's active safety technologies: an All-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (All-speed DRCC) that relieves stop-and-go traffic stress, the Pre-Collision System (PCS) helps prevent and mitigate collisions; Lane Keep Assist (LKA) helps prevent vehicles from departing from their lanes; and Automatic High Beam (AHB) that helps ensure optimal forward visibility during nighttime driving.

These technologies are part of a multi-faceted approach to active safety, the Lexus Safety System + package, and combines millimeter-wave radar with a camera to help achieve a high level of system reliability and performance.

*Spec and equipment might differ by market

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