SEVILLE, Spain -- Lexus' new LC coupe is the halo car that almost never happened.
When the concept version of the car -- dubbed the LF-LC -- debuted at the 2012 Detroit auto show, Lexus had no intention of building it as a production model. It was a design study and a marketing exercise to attract attention for the emotion-driven rebirth the Lexus brand had begun.
At the time, a new halo car wasn't anywhere near the top of Lexus' priority list. The LFA V-10 supercar was in the last year of its two-year run, and while it generated some marketing mileage and magazine covers, its near-$400,000 price tag and limited run made the car's halo too faint to see.
"The LFA was way too limited in volume, too expensive," Brian Smith, Lexus' vice president for marketing, told Automotive News, a sibling publication of Automotive News Europe at the press launch here for the LC. "When was the last time you saw an LFA driving down the road?"
Yet the reaction to the LF-LC by consumers, the media and dealers in 2012 jump-started Lexus into action to see whether the car could make it into production.
For that to work, Lexus had to keep the LC's cost in check -- both for the automaker and for consumers.
Lexus kept its own costs down with a reliance on sharing. The LC rides on a new rear-wheel-drive platform called GA-L that eventually will underpin every sedan in the Lexus lineup. The LC 500's 5.0-liter V-8 engine is pulled from the GS F and the RC F. Its new 10-speed automatic transmission, sourced from Aisin, also will land in future Lexus models, as will the new hybrid V-6 powertrain in the LC 500h.
Final pricing won't be announced until close to its on-sale date next May or June, but Lexus expects it will cost between $80,000 and $120,000 in the U.S.
The V-8 LC 500 will be the base model, and the LC 500h hybrid will be the top trim level, with Lexus positioning it as the more optioned-up grand touring version of the two. Nevertheless, Lexus expects 85 to 90 percent of U.S. buyers will opt for the LC 500 while the hybrid will see much better take rates abroad.
Additional variants of the LC are likely. A convertible version would be the first to come to market, giving dealers their long-sought Lexus droptop and an answer to the LC's competitors, all of which offer a convertible iteration.
The platform is structurally able to accommodate a convertible, Koji Sato, the chief engineer of the LC and platform engineer for the GA-L, told Automotive News. The LC also has the packaging space for all-wheel drive.
A high-performance LC F model is also likely, but this could take some time. A turbocharged version of the 5.0-liter V-8 wouldn't be possible in the LC, according to another engineer at the press launch. This means the brand would have to wait until a new generation of turbocharged V-8 bows, likely in a midcycle update of the LC.
This more approachable halo has Lexus cautiously optimistic about LC sales. It expects monthly U.S. sales of around 400 for the LC coupe, numbers that seem reasonable compared with the core competitors Lexus cites: Jaguar's F-Type, BMW's 6 series and Mercedes' SL and S-class coupe.
"This is really just a matter of taking that same sort of halo approach as the LFA and saying we're going to make sure that people can drive it," Smith said. "The LC has the chance now to really get enough owners; you'll actually see them on the road."