Bark's Bites: Finally, Lexus Actually Flexes

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

If you’ve never been to a press day at a major auto show but always dreamed of being there for all the big releases and parties and executive speeches, I’m afraid I must burst your bubble: The shows just aren’t all that awesome. This year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit was no exception.

It’s true that there was some fun to be had, but it was mostly the same sort of fun that one has at a high school reunion. I had a blast karting with the Jalopnik crew the Saturday before the show, and I definitely enjoyed hanging out with my friends Matt Farah and Sam Smith late on Sunday. But the show itself was a giant MEH.

BMW launched a car with more letters in its name than most DNA strands. Ford rolled Ryan Seacrest out to read questions from a teleprompter while Bill Ford and Mark Fields read their responses from the same teleprompter, right down to cued laughter. Honda showed off a five-passenger Pilot with a bed. (What? That was a Ridgeline? Well, I’ll be damned.)

In fact, I was pretty much ready to head back to Caesars Windsor to continue my massive Spanish 21 win streak when I remembered that Lexus was going to be showing off some new coupe.

Lexus. Yawn. Okay. Whatevs.

By the time I got to the “Lexus Theatre,” which was really just a sectioned off space in the very back of Cobo Hall, I had no chance of actually getting in — the assembled khaki-and-polo crew was already overflowing out of the area. I was ready to bail on the whole thing when Lexus made an announcement that they’d have some overflow seating in their booth space where we could watch the presentation on video. I decided to head over there, grab about three plates of cheese and Breton crackers, and check out the assuredly boring show.

I mean, come on. It’s Lexus.

But from the moment Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, walked out onto the stage, I knew something was different. First of all, he didn’t introduce himself as the CEO. He introduced himself as “Master Driver,” accompanied by some video clips of what appeared to be Mr. Toyoda himself flogging the hell out of some mysterious whip.

Master Driver, eh? What’s that all about?

He then went on to address the feedback that Lexus received after the last NAIAS, which was largely that Lexus makes “nice, boring cars.” Sounds about right, I thought to myself. I mean, sure, Lexus makes some rear-wheel-drive cars with big horsepower numbers, but nobody ever confuses Lexus with BMW. Lexus’ bread-and-butter has always been front-wheel-drive Avalon copies and the RX line of crossovers. When you think of the stereotypical Lexus driver, it’s hard not to picture a woman in her late 30s with a Kate Spade bag and a “MADISYN CHEER ’19” sticker on the back of her lifted Camry.

Then he talked about the LF-LC concept car, a vision shown at the 2012 NAIAS, which pretty much everybody assumed would never be built. The car was gorgeous, even if it was the most egregious example of Predator Mouth that we’ve seen yet. He reminded us of all this by rolling an LF-LC onto the stage. Toyoda went on to say that nobody thought that Lexus would build such a car, and that people thought that Lexus would always be a safe, boring brand.

Then, he drove a fucking stake into the hearts of all those who dared to hate Lexus.

Enter the LC 500: a rear-wheel drive, 467 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8-powered bullet aimed directly at BMW and Mercedes. And no, it’s not a concept. It’s a production car — one that should terrify every German automaker, and maybe even the pony car stables at Ford and GM. It makes the M2, shown by BMW earlier in the day, look quaint. It was, simply put, the most exciting launch of the show, stealing the thunder of every other automaker in attendance.

And as I pondered the meaning of this new coupe, predicted to be priced right against the AMG and M offerings of the teutonic clans, I wondered if maybe we haven’t been giving Lexus proper credit for a while now. After all, I am not alone in thinking that the IS 350 and its F variants are the best cars in their respective classes. I know that nobody has ever actually seen a GS in the wild, but shouldn’t we have been congratulating Toyoda and crew for having it in the lineup? And the RC is a compelling entry in its own right, especially in F trim.

In a day when BMW, Mercedes, and Audi are trying to be more like Lexus, with expanded crossover entries and front-wheel drive, entry-level cars, shouldn’t we be applauding Lexus for boldly thrusting its middle finger in the air and building genuinely exciting cars, CAFE be damned?

I think we should. I think it’s time that even the most staunch beige-mobile haters grudgingly admit that it’s Lexus and Mr. Toyoda, Master Driver, who have become the best friend an enthusiast could have. At the same show, where nearly all other automakers were slobbering all over the virtual knob of automated cars, Lexus is bringing back cars for drivers. At a show where Ford tried desperately to become some bullshit lifestyle brand, Lexus said, “Nice story, bro. We’re gonna make a better Mustang.”

So to you, Lexus, and to you, Master Driver Toyoda, on behalf of all drivers, I’d like to say one thing.

Thank you.

I probably can’t afford an LC 500 any time soon, but just knowing that you’re making one is likely to ensure that I’ll check out whatever rear-wheel-drive Lexus I can afford when the time comes.

Finally, Snoop will be able to be right. This is a Lexus that flexes, and I think we’ll see it from Long Beach to Texas and everywhere in between.

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Jan 17, 2016

    Stunning car, even with that grille it's gorgeous. It will have plenty of power, and naturally aspirated is for me a selling point. I drive a 2000 GS400 with only 300HP and when I pass on the highway and just ease into the throttle big numbers come up plenty fast for 'only' 300 ponies. No downshift, no frenzy, just go. I like that, I am betting there's lots of other people who do too. They will like this car. And also, this is a Lexus, it will be built properly of great materials. Again, my car is 16-yrs old now and every time I sit in it and drive it, I am amazed at how new it feels. There's lots of fast hardware out there that will look like crap in 10-15 years of use (my car is a DD in winter too). And again there's enough people who just want the bloody thing bolted together properly and made of good stuff. Don't know why there's all the hate for simple qualities like that.

  • DrGastro997 DrGastro997 on Jan 20, 2016

    I think the LC would be fantastic if the engineers from Nagoya go to Hiroshima to learn a lesson in weight killing- gram by gram by gram. The LC seems too heavy on paper. Nevertheless I am ultimately curious how good the LC will be without having to go all the way up to the unachievable, at least for many, LFA.

  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.