Two-door thrust starts at bottom, moves up

One now, one next year and one in 2018 – suddenly Toyota is building coupes again, though it doesn’t want to talk too much about everything yet.


COUPES have come to the fore within Toyotadom once again, though the local operation prefers detailing changes to a car in the now rather than talk about two coming up.

While the international news wires are talking up the new Lexus LC – just subject to a glam international media launch - and the Toyota Supra, still under development but being spotted increasingly out and about in Europe, back here the primary PR focus has settled on the latest refinement to the Subaru co-share 86.

Lexus New Zealand has just issued comment about its eagerness to see the LC, but little in the way of solid news in respect to its likely placement here. The Supra, meanwhile, has yet to be addressed at all.

Toyota’s 86 update news strategy has an interesting twist, as it appeared it only brought media up to speed after having first given a heads’ up to actual owners some weeks ago.

The tenor of discourse from Lexus New Zealand, which operates as a sub-brand of TNZ, suggests buyers of the hottest coupe since the V10 LFA supercar might also be first to know when the LC will land, at what price and with what specification options, brand sentiment suggests.

Toyota/Lexus communications man Morgan Dilks was certainly guarded in reaction to a MotoringNetwork request for insight into those matters.

In respect to local availability for a model that has just been subject to an international media drive in Portugal, he declined to be more specific than suggesting “mid-2017.”

He also surprised by suggesting it was premature to comment in respect to price, or even the car’s position within the overall Lexus family, because these subjects have not been resolved locally.

Whether it will match or better the current fleet flagship LS limo, which in today’s format costs as much as $300,000, seems all the more relevant now that Toyota’s high-brow division has confirmed that an all-new, higher-tech LS is to be show off at the Detroit motor show next month.

The fifth generation LS is related to the LC, being built on the same all-new global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA–L), albeit in extended format.

Lexus is – surprise – not saying much about the new LS either, except to say it will “offer a more dynamic experience on the road” than the current car and has enough “visionary technology” to provide “drivers with the luxury experience they expect from a global flagship sedan.”

Even though it also utilises advanced materials, an equally dramatic look and is out of the same plant that built the LFA, LC is not being presented as a successor to Japan’s only supercar.

LC also has a greater bent on luxury and gran turismo-style driving and there’s no V10 option. Instead the engines are latest development of Lexus’ proven 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine powers the LC500, while the LC500h gets a 3.5-litre V6 full hybrid unit.

The power to weight is not at LFA standard because, despite using a lot of weight saving measures - apart from the optional carbon-fibre roof, aluminium door skins are mounted to the carbon-fibre door inner structures, as well as a composite floor and it divests a spare wheel – the LC is heavier even than the larger GS F sedan. Having two tonnes to haul shows in the claimed 0-100kmh time of 4.5 seconds for the V8; the hybrid is closer to 5s. The cited time for an LFA is 3.8s.

Being more mainstream makes it likely to be a lot less expensive than the previous technology showcase, which was limited to a small production run, launched at around $750,000 and was never officially represented in NZ. Whether it will be as expensive as the LS is, of course, the question Lexus here just doesn’t want to answer.

As the photos make clear, the LC is the production spin-off from the LF-LC concept that was 2012 showstopper and has been created as a direct response to a push made then for Lexus to create more exciting designs. This was led by no less than Akio Toyoda, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, who slammed his family brand for producing cars “which are well made but boring to drive”.

More than 4000 staff were involved developing the LC, some of them the same Takumi (master craftsman) who were at the Motomachi plant hand-building the LFA.

The flagship mill is also used in the GS F and RC F performance cars, only in the LC500, it’s specially tuned to make 351kW and 540Nm. It also has an extra barky exhaust and is mated with the first direct shift 10-speed automatic transmission in a luxury car.

The LC500h debuts what Lexus calls its next-generation hybrid tech, dubbed Multi Stage Hybrid System, which marries the petrol engine; electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack, to a four-speed automatic gearbox mounted behind the hybrid transmission. A four-speed? Well, yeah, but not quite as it seems: This is a constantly variable unit on which the Drive mode has a simulated shift control pattern that simulates a 10-speed box. The powertrain’s combined outputs are cited at 220kW and 348Nm.

Prefer to wait for a Supra instead? Even though the Palmerston North operation is still steering clear of engaging discussion, it’s know this model is set to hit the road in 2018. If you didn’t know already, it’s a co-development with BMW and shares its platform for the upcoming Z4 replacement.

However, the German and Japanese siblings are nowhere nearly as ‘twinned’ as the 86/BRZ. It’s said the Toyota will use a hybrid petrol-electric drivetrain whereas the BMW will have a conventional engine. Also, the German line might include a roadster version – Toyota, on the other hand, is reportedly only thinking about a hardtop. Interestingly, the conjoined models might come off a common assembly line – and it won’t be operated by Toyota. German media say Magna Steyr has the job. The Austrian contractor also builds cars for Mercedes and Jaguar Land Rover.

The car is now in an extensive trials programme in Europe and so is commonly been seen around Germany. The spy shots confirm it will feature a compact body, long front and taillights that look similar to those of the previous Supra, which was last seen in 2002. There are also hints of Toyota’s FT-1 concept shown at the 2014 Detroit motor show, especially in the nose.

As for the 86? The lineup is reduced to just two variants, an single manual-only entry car that uses simply the numeric designation and a slightly more upmarket GT, in manual and automatic, with the TRD editions now no longer available.

All have updated styling but just the manuals gain an additional 5kW/7Nm that increases power and torque to 152kW/212Nm. This is thanks to modified pistons, reworked intake and a larger exhaust system. It is not explained why the automatic 86 does not get the power upgrade.

Toyota has also revised the final drive gear ratio from 4:1:1 to 4:3:1 for better acceleration, but there’s a sting in the tail, with fuel consumption having increased slightly to 8.4 litres per 100kms for the manual and 7.1L/100kms for the auto, up from 7.8 and 7.1L/100kms respectively.

To further improve its sporty characteristics, Toyota has stiffened the rear end with additional spot welding, retuned the suspension for better handling and stability, and installed a thicker rear-stabiliser bar.

The Japanese car-making giant has also included a ‘track’ mode in the new sports coupe, developed from data gathered from racing during the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and, according to Toyota, the new mode “enables the driver to adjust the level of stability and traction control, including a ‘fully off’ option”.

The facelifted 86 gains a larger front grille while the rear bumper is restyled with a more pronounced rear diffuser and new aero-stabilising fins.

New look LED headlights, tail-lights and daytime running lights (DRLs) are also standard but the interior is lightly-touched, revisions amounting to a smaller steering wheel and revised tachometer design.

The entry 86 is in manual only and runs 16 inch alloys and costs $46,986 while the GT places at $51, 986 with an auto for another $1000. It has 17-inch rims and the additions of a multi-display screen instead of an analogue tachometer. The screen shows displays for economy, cruising distance, g force, stopwatch and power and torque curves.

The 86, despite its brilliance, has always been a hard sell for TNZ; so far this year they've placed no more examples in private hads for road use than the count of examples contesting the brand-run national circuit-racing championship.