Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Apple’s approach to personal computing led to it becoming the richest company in the world.
The Sinclair C5? Not so successful. Toyota launched its Lexus sub-brand 28 years ago – to offer something different to the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz – which now includes a model range, all of which feature hybrid versions.
It hasn’t hugely dented the sales of its premium rivals but Lexus is still fighting the good fight.
And that fight is about to get even more interesting with the launch of its newest model, the LC – a grand tourer that is adding a little spice to a brand that even Toyota boss Akio Toyoda admitted was, at times, seen as slightly boring.
The LC should appeal to those on the lookout for a strikingly designed performance car with lots of standard-fit equipment.
Lexus LC should appeal to those looking for a well designed performance car
At least that is who Lexus’s research suggests will constitute the majority of buyers for the model.
Taking each of the attributes that prospective LC buyers are looking for in turn, the one that is most immediately apparent is the design of the car.
It isn’t often that a concept car – the LC started life as the LF-LC at the Detroit Motor Show five years ago – appears in production form almost unchanged but that is what Lexus has built.
Swooping lines, a low profile and bold, futuristic details all add up to help create a great looking car.
The LC is an eye-catching and alluring interpretation of a modern grand tourer that will turn many heads (and probably prompt a few deposit payments too).
Modernity is also a significant influence on one of the two available engines in the LC.
The petrol-electric hybrid LC 500h combines a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with an 132kW electric motor to produce a total of 354bhp, leading to a 0 to 60mph time of 4.9 seconds.
Despite that level of performance though official average fuel economy is 44.1mpg, with 145g/km emissions.
We tested the car on a mixture of roads, averaging around 36.1mpg which is good for something as sporty as the LC.
It felt quick too but we weren’t entirely convinced by the Multi Stage Hybrid System, an innovative gearbox that combines a four-speed automatic with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) system to create the feel of a 10-speed auto – the gear-changes are still not quite as smooth as other automatic gearboxes on the market and it feels a little artificial at times.
There is nothing artificial about the LC’s other engine choice though – a snarling V8.
While the hybrid is the economical vision of the future, the LC 500 represents an unreconstructed blast from the past but updated with the latest engineering.
Pumping out a visceral – and beautiful sounding – 471bhp that enables a 4.5-second 0 to 60mph time, the V8 is mated to an actual 10-speed automatic gearbox.
Too many gears? Probably.
High-quality materials make for a classy interior
The “rhythmic shifting” that Lexus claims is delivered is sometimes staccato, as it shifts a few gears at a time to find the right one.
That said, the engine is grin-inducingly brilliant. It isn’t the fastest thing you’ll ever drive – there is a minor delay for it to really come to life – but when it gets going, it is a joy to experience.
The LC has been designed to challenge that view of Lexus cars being boring to drive.
The good news is the LC won’t be sending anyone to sleep any time soon.
It’s a grand tourer rather than an out-and-out sports car but it is engaging to drive and handles well, feels stable and controlled and the rear steering system adds an extra element of precision that is welcome on twisty roads.
The ride is also highly accomplished, despite 21-inch wheels and run-flat tyres – we would need to test the LC on broken British roads for confirmation but it felt up to the job of keeping you comfortable.
The LC’s interior is classy and beautifully assembled.
The LC has been designed to challenge the view of Lexus cars being boring to drive
High-quality materials are used throughout and everything feels well designed and ergonomic with the controls focused on the driver in a cockpit-style layout.
It is a 2+2 cabin but the rear seats are suitable only for children or as extra luggage space.
Our one real gripe is the infotainment system.
The display in the centre of the dashboard is wide but too shallow, so when in navigation mode, the map doesn’t show enough of the area around the car, even if you zoom out.
The touchpad that controls the operation of the system is also neither quick nor intuitive – this is one area in which being different is not necessarily a good thing.
But overall the LC’s differences to its rivals are positives.
The hybrid option is almost unique in this sector of the market, its looks are distinctive and its grand tourer personality means it is not aimed at sports car buyers.
Prices, the same whether opting for hybrid or V8 (another different approach) start at £76,595 and there are just three trims (standard, Sport and Sport+).
But trying to determine whether this is competitive is not straightforward. Sure, the LC 500 is up against conventional V8s such as the Jaguar F-Type and Maserati Granturismo (which is also cheaper) but the LC 500h’s only real rival is the BMW i8 which is £30,000 more expensive and is a sportier car.
The LC’s differences will not make Lexus as big as BMW but it should stop people thinking the brand is boring.
And if that leads to more of Lexus’s other models being sold, that will be rewarding.
Overall the LC’s differences to its rivals are positives
-Model: Lexus LC
-On sale: now
-Price range: £76,595 – £85,895
-Engine range: Petrol – 5.0-litre; petrol/ electric – 3.5-litre + 132kW electric motor
-Power: 0 to 60mph in 4.5 seconds, 168mph top speed (5.0)
-Average fuel economy: 44.1mpg (3.5)
-CO2 emissions range: 145-267g/km
-Rivals: BMW i8, Jaguar F-Type, Maserati Granturismo