It is an essential quality of Lexus that every model in its range is subject to continuous improvement, with engineers constantly exploring ways to hone and enhance every detail. This painstaking approach has delivered the new 2021 model year LC, marking an evolution in the luxury motoring qualities of Lexus’ flagship coupe. The detailed refinements reinforce the connection between driver and machine, enhance ride and handling, offer new styling choices and upgrade the capabilities of the multimedia system.
Key changes for 2021
The changes implemented for the 2021 LC 500 further sharpen the coupe’s performance. Significantly, the car’s unsprung weight has been reduced by almost 10 kg, accomplished principally with changes to the suspension, including the use of aluminium lower arms, lighter, hollow anti-roll bars with a revised diameter and a new high-strength material for the coil springs. Where specified, the 21-inch forged alloy wheels also have a lighter construction.
Once the weight-savings had been made, the focus was on updating the suspension for a smoother, softer stroke to give the driver a stronger feel of the road. The electronic front shock absorber controls were adjusted to give a longer stroke, and bound stopper rigidity was optimised to help create a smoother suspension stroke overall. Rear anti-roll bar rigidity was increased to improve front turn-in performance and provide more linear steering input, again helping make the driver feel more connected to the road.
For better vehicle control in mid to high-speed ranges, the LC’s Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) has gained a new Active Cornering Assist (ACA) function. This helps control cornering by providing braking to the inner wheels in line with lateral vehicle acceleration experienced when higher G-forces are generated in spirited driving.
An additional, practical new safety feature is automatic selection of “Park” in the transmission, if the driver gets out of the car leaving the shift in any position other than “P”.
Responsiveness has been improved with adjustments to the software across a number of vehicle systems, including the Variable Gear Ratio Steering, Dynamic Rear Steering and Electric Power Steering. And in typical Lexus attention to detail, even the surface of the brake pedal has been revised to give a better feel.
In the UK, pricing is to be announced at the beginning of May, ahead of first cars being delivered to customers from July 2020 (local conditions permitting).
Transmission and hybrid system updates
Lexus has made changes to the logic patterns in the LC 500’s 10-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission with the aim of improving day-to-day driving in what its engineers refer to as the “active zone” – commonly where drivers are using the 50 to 70 per cent throttle range. The direct-shift transmission allows engine revs to increase in the range to heighten the feeling of acceleration before shifting into the next gear.
The downshifting mode in the LC 500h’s Multi Stage Hybrid System has also been updated. It will now downshift to second rather than third for smoother operation and more robust acceleration out of sharp bends.
The LC coupe is the most passionate expression of Lexus design, captured strongly in the mesh spindle grille that extends across the front of the car. A large glass panel and blacked-out rear pillars create the effect of a floating roof, while chrome mouldings echo the curving lines of the traditional Japanese katana sword. The range includes the option of a CFRP composite roof for an even more powerful look.
The rear light clusters are one of the most distinctive design elements, their night-time illumination signature inspired by the afterburners of a jet. At the front, the ultra-compact triple-LED units are not only striking in appearance, they are half the size of conventional headlights.
The LC strikes an impressive balance between function and comfort, sporting intent and luxury. In the cabin the low-set instrument panel and the narrow front pillars give the driver a commanding view of the road ahead. The door panels’ flowing lines generate a sense of design continuity, extending exterior styling that flows from the bonnet through the windscreen.
Exterior colour choices include Blazing Carnelian, new for the 2021 model year, and Terrane Khaki, which was previously reserved for the LC Limited Edition. Other shades include F SPORT White, Cadoxtan Slate, Sonic Silver, Sonic Titanium, Velvet Black, Graphite Black, Sonic Red, Naples Yellow and Deep Blue.
The seats, exclusive to the LC, feel as good as they look. Their two-part construction provides a seatback that drapes over the shoulders and then wraps around the back, with a structure designed to hold the driver securely when cornering at speed.
The driving experience is further enhanced by a steering wheel with a cross-section that varies in shape around its circumference, allowing variations in grip and twisting of the wrist. For the front passenger, the side of the centre console rises to form an integrated grab handle.
The quality finish of the upholstery, trim materials and detailing is an expression of Lexus’ world-renowned takumi craftsmanship. It can be seen and felt in the hand-stitching of the leather-wrapped shift level and draping treatment of the Alcantara door panel trim, among many other details.
The interior colour schemes include new Flare Red leather and Manhattan Orange Alcantara options for the 2021 model year, the former replacing the previous Dark Rose. Other leather shades include Black and Ochre.
Right from start-up the LC 500’s V8 engine signals its potential with a full-throated engine note generated through the variable Active Exhaust system. The engine has a power output of 464hp/346 kW and can move the car from rest to 62mph in less than 4.7 seconds.
The 5.0-litre engine is matched to a 10-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission, newly updated to provide an even stronger sense of connection between driver and machine.
Impressive and efficient hybrid power
Fifteen years on from Lexus’ introduction of the world’s first luxury hybrid vehicle, the LC 500h is maintaining that tradition of innovation as the first Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid. As with other Lexus hybrid powertrains, a petrol engine is combined with two electric motor/generators.
The Atkinson cycle 3.5-litre V6 engine uses D-4S direct fuel injection to achieve optimum efficiency, and its lightweight valvetrain with Dual VVT-i intelligent variable valve-timing ensures ample torque across all engine speeds. The system retains the planetary-type continuously variable transmission, familiar from Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive, but adds a four-speed automatic transmission to the system. Working in concert, the two gear sets alter output in four stages to optimise engine performance across the entire speed range.
When the driver selects M mode, the gears sets work together to create the effect of 10 gear ratios, generating a highly engaging driving feel and enabling the driver to move through the ratios using paddle shifts. In automatic mode, AI shift control matches gear selection to the driving conditions and the driver’s inputs. The Multi Stage Hybrid System allows for more electric assistance at lower vehicle speeds and enabling the car to be driven at speeds up to more than 80mph with the petrol engine switched off.
The combined system output is 354hp/264 kW. With the benefit of the Multi Stage Hybrid System, power from the V6 engine and electric motor can be amplified by the four-speed automatic transmission, giving much greater drive power when accelerating.
The LC 500h uses a compact, lightweight lithium-ion battery that is located neatly between the rear seats and the luggage compartment. It has a high power density, with 84 cells producing 310.8 volts.
The LC’s multimedia features are controlled via a 10.3-inch high-resolution screen with a split-screen facility that allows different functions, including audio and climate controls, to be viewed and operated simultaneously.
For the 2021 model year, all LC models are equipped as standard with Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto®, allowing for easy, wireless smartphone integration and access to popular apps for navigation, entertainment and messaging. With Android Auto, the Google Assistant can be used and tailored information can be sourced based on the user’s calendar, previous activity and established preferences.
Apple CarPlay allows customers to access the familiar interface from their iPhone® through the vehicle’s multimedia display. An iPhone can be connected to obtain journey directions, make calls, send and receive message via Siri®, and gain access to apps such as Spotify, Audible and Apple podcasts.
Advanced safety and driver support
All LC 500 and 500h models are equipped with Lexus Safety System+ as standard. This includes Pre-Collision System with pedestrian detection, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Keep Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition and Automatic High Beam. Further safeguards against common collision risks include a Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.