The new Lexus LC coupe is their most exclusive car yet

It's set to be one of the most exclusive – and lowest selling – models ever to grace a Lexus dealership, but the new LC coupe is a big step for the Japanese luxury giant.

That's because it ushers in a new brand promise – "Experience Amazing" – which is about injecting more excitement and emotion into a brand that has at times lacked fizz.

"The luxury car market goes far beyond just a rational understanding – it's got to be an experience, it's got to be something you can engage with," says Lexus Australia chief executive Peter McGregor, who describes the LC as "a significant evolution as we take the brand into the next stage".

Pursuit of perfection

He's expecting to sell only about 100 LCs a year in Australia, about one quarter the number of Porsche 911s.

But McGregor says the car is about developing that emotional engagement and preparing for future models that follow similar thinking.

"We've always had relentless pursuit of perfection…what we're doing now is evolving that brand promise," he says. "[LC] will enhance the presence…it will enhance the penetration of Lexus in terms of top-of-mind."

It's all about the look

So often motor show concepts are toned down to the point where they're barely recognisable by the time they make it to the showroom.

Not the LC. Its sweeping lines and elegant proportions translated almost directly to the LC production car, right down to the intricate LED lights that form stylised L's front and rear. Those lights even carry over the concept's contrasting vertical slashes, for added drama.

"Brave design means courageous and confident," says McGregor of the LC.


Size counts

On first blush the LC may seem like a really expensive way to get the two-door looks and thrills of the Lexus RC. The two even share a V8 engine.

But Lexus is at pains to point out the LC is a much bigger machine, going head to head with the likes of the BMW 6-Series (from $179,500) and Mercedes-Benz SL (from $218,715).

Compared with the RC, which is priced from $65,090, the $190k-plus LC is 55mm longer and 75mm wider.

It's also 45mm lower, something that helps give it a more athletic and aggressive look.

The LC also employs more advanced materials and design details.

The door handles, for example, retract flush against the doors, which are made of a mix of aluminium and carbon fibre.

Same price, two flavours

Buying the LC means choosing between two very different models, each priced from $190,000.

One letter is all that separates an old school V8 in the LC500 from a high tech hybrid powertrain in the LC500h.

The hybrid uses a 3.5-litre V6 engine and an electric motor to produce 264kW of power.

But the instant torque of the electric motor means it initially accelerates harder than the V8, with a seamless surge accelerating it to 100km/h in 5.0 seconds.

Fine tuned

There's a zing to its sound – one that lowers an octave if you choose the Sport+ mode, which also sharpens throttle response – but it never sounds mean.

Enter the 5.0-litre V8, which is tuned by Yamaha and pumps out 351kW of power – well below the output of some German rivals but hearty nonetheless.

The dash to 100km/h takes 4.7 seconds, but our blast around Phillip Island race track showed it was at least 30km/h down the main straight – and faster anywhere else around the flowing circuit.

Loud and thirsty over high-tech and frugal

So, which to choose – LC500 or LC500h?

The V8 is faster, louder, has more character and is more fun.

But it uses a heap more fuel. According to the official laboratory-determined fuel figure it slurps an average 11.6 litres of premium unleaded every 100km.

The hybrid uses just 6.7L/100km.

Considering the initial acceleration of the two is similar, the case for the hybrid version of the LC –  the LC500h – gets stronger.

Giving them what they want

Except most buyers aren't interested, instead preferring the fuel-sapping ways of the V8 that is the performance hero of the lineup.

Early orders suggest 80 per cent of LC sales will be for the V8.

But Lexus Australia's Peter McGregor expects that to increase to 90 per cent as the model settles into life fighting against predominantly German competition.

While bringing the hybrid in to sell maybe 10 a year seems indulgent, McGregor argues it's crucial to the future of Lexus.

"While I think the V8 will be the dominant volume … the multi-stage hybrid makes a statement about the future direction of Lexus as well in terms of being able to provide people with choice. Choice is very important!"

Grand tourer, not track star

While our drive of the LC involved a race track component, the car is best suited to the road.

That's because it's more of a grand tourer, or GT, rather than a race track star.

Blame it partially on the weight: at almost two tonnes (or another 50kg for the hybrid) the LC is no featherweight.

On the road, that's less noticeable and despite an occasionally busy ride the big two-door is composed and confident.

Direct steering – moreso on cars with the optional four-wheel steering system – lacks some engagement but tracks faithfully.

And big 21-inch Michelin tyres hold on impressively.

Combined with a cabin presentation that's as edgy and elegant as the exterior it makes for a comfortable and stylish way to travel briskly.

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