Tuesday, January 12, 2016

NAIAS 2016: Lexus's LC 500 is a Strong Statement

Lexus debuted a big surprise at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in the form of the LC 500 luxury coupe. Based off the LF-LC Concept which was shown four years ago, the LC 500 is the brand’s new provocative, athletic flagship coupe that makes the strongest statement about Lexus’s future direction.

Beyond its styling and impactful performance, the new LC 500 serves as a symbol of the achievement from an intense collaboration between design and engineering. Driven by strong fundamental design targets found in the LF-LC, the engineering teams worked to find new solutions to maintain as much of the concept car in the product car as possible.

The key design elements including the proportions and visual dynamism of the concept car have been retained. The LC 500 is defined by an athletic aerodynamic shape with sensual curves and emotional forms. It’s also available with a flowing carbon fiber roof (glass roof is standard) helping create a low and wide stance. 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. 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 sexy curves and flowing lines maintain a consistent tension in sheet metal 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.

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. 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.

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.

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 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 527 Nm of torque.

The engine in the LC 500 uses a dual intake inlet that helps 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 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.

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.

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