SOMETHING good is happening at Lexus.
After years of building cars designed to appeal to the rational side of our brains, or to people who enjoy golf and lawn bowls, the company is steadily shaking free of its snoozer shackles.
My first encounter with this shift in philosophy came a few years ago at the launch of the then-new Lexus RC F in America. Lexus had taken the bold step of holding the event at a circuit, and while the RC F wasn’t quite as sharp as a BMW M4 or AMG C63 (blame a circa 2000kg kerb weight), its rev-hungry V8 and desire to blaze its rear rubber to smithereens left an indelible mark.
It wasn’t just exciting; it was fun too.
Then came an entire day at Sandown with a Lexus LFA, which didn’t just vaporise any preconceptions I had about the brand, but forever etched the howl of ten screaming cylinders into my brain as the digital tacho crested 9000rpm.
My bright yellow LC is further proof that the foundations are shifting, if gradually, at Lexus HQ. While last month was spent in Comfort mode, where I marvelled at the hushed cabin and surprisingly supple and controlled ride on those huge, concept-car wheels, month two has seen me explore the LC’s angrier side by toggling the drive-mode selector to Sport+.
The change it brings is dramatic and unexpectedly shouty. Suddenly the big 5.0-litre V8, which had been happy to quietly rustle into life and slip effortlessly through city traffic, feels razor sharp and, with your right foot planted, verges on manic. Even the 10-speed automatic gearbox comes to the party, with upshifts hammered home with an authority and speed that isn’t far off a dual-clutch.
The real highlight, however, comes when you pull the left shift paddle and discover downshifts aren’t just as fast, but are surprisingly crisp. The noise is brilliant too: I’ve found myself cycling through the gears just to hear the big V8 roar and then crackle and gargle on the overrun.
It has soul this engine.
Lexus could have followed the downsizing trend and fitted the LC with the twin-turbo V6 found in the new LS, but I’m glad it didn’t. The V8 gives the LC the personality it needs to match its futuristic styling. It feels like a muscle car which, given its hefty 1920kg kerb weight, wide 275-section rear tyres and healthy thirst, it kind of is.
And who’d have thought that about a Lexus?