Lexus shows off LC Convertible Concept, RC sports coupes

Paul Eisenstein
Special to The Detroit News
Lexus reveals it's LC convertible concept at the Detroit auto show.

Detroit — Lexus has always had something of a special relationship with the North American International Auto Show — and for good reason, the Japanese luxury brand made its original debut during the first year of the international show back in 1989.

So, it’s no surprise that the upscale arm of Toyota Motor Corp. would be back in 2019 with something special. In fact, it has more new product to show off than any other brand this year, with three to unveil, starting with twin versions of its RC sports coupe and a ragtop take on the hot LC model that debuted in Detroit just two years ago.

Together, they give potential buyers plenty of options for both road and track while helping add more of the “passion” that Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has said he wants to pump into the Lexus brand.

The biggest surprise for Detroit was the debut of the LC Convertible Concept. The show car manages to maintain the sleekly aggressive look of the LC coupe, with its long hood, steeply raked windshield, high deck lid — and the most aggressive version yet of the familiar Lexus “spindle grille.”

“This concept takes the unmistakable design of the LC coupe and reimagines it as a future convertible,” said Tadao Mori, chief designer of the LC Convertible Concept, ahead of the NAIAS debut. “It blends all the best aspects of the original coupe with the dynamic design of an open-air convertible.”

Unlike the ungainly Lexus SC convertible that vanished with barely a whimper in 2010 after an eight-year run, the new LC concept eschews a foldable hardtop for a conventional soft roof that better allows it to retain the basic shape of the coupe model.

As is the norm with a “concept” vehicle, there are a few points of exaggeration, most notably the 22-inch wheels that would all but certainly be downsized in production. But the fact that the show car has conventionally sized sideview mirrors is quite telling. That would suggest that the concept is all but ready to go into production, something likely to happen, observers anticipate, in the next year or two, at most.

This year’s showing by Lexus runs in sharp contrast to industry trends, most manufacturers shifting focus from sedans, coupes and sports cars to SUVs and CUVs — as well as some new models that emphasize the “sport” in sport-utility, like Ford’s new Explorer ST.

The Japanese brand’s other introduction shines in the spotlight on two versions of its already sporty RC coupe, including a limited-edition “track” model specifically designed for serious performance enthusiasts.

“Aside from the LFA, (the limited-volume supercar of a few years back), this is the fastest, most powerful vehicle we’ve ever built,” said Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America.

The 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition

The RC F Track model beefs up a stock RC with improvements to its aerodynamics, reduced weight, a retuned suspension and a number of functional styling enhancements, including a front spoiler and a big rear wing designed to keep the coupe glued to the pavement. It also gets some major enhancements, including an upgraded 5.0-liter V-8 that grunts out 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque

The “street” version of the RC F is no slouch, thanks to the 5.0-liter engine, one of an increasingly rare list of eight-cylinder engines in an industry rapidly shifting to downsized turbocharged powertrains.

The track edition now hits 60 in less than 4 seconds, the street RC F just a few tenths behind.

“The new RC F and the Track Edition, in particular, benefit from constant development since their original launch,” said Koji Sato, executive vice president of Lexus International. “With the latest improvements, these models help further distinguish the F brand by offering fast, durable, highly capable performance cars that rely on a range of technologies to help make their performance accessible to drivers of all skill levels.”

Look for both new takes on the RC coupe to start production during the second quarter of this year. Pricing will be announced closer to their on-sale date, according to Lexus.