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Lexus has just introduced a totally new model aimed at the performance coupe marketthe LC. although the large and although the large and low now-trademark Lexus grille is present and accounted for, it is the rest of the styling that stands out. A nicely integrated and swooping roofline from the low front windshield back to the rear deck helps make the statement. On the flanks, air scoops in front of the rear wheels help set this coupe apart. Th e trunk lid has a soft spoiler, while two Y-shaped taillights loom below, and beneath the bumper are two amply sized exhaust pipe ports. Added to the equation are very hefty (as in 20-inch or optional 21-inch) attractive alloy wheels. Overall, Lexus has designed a dramatic and sleek-looking coupe.

And keeping with the Lexus tradition, two power train choices are available. For the performance oriented, a high-tech, multiple camshaft and four-valve per cylinder, 5.0 liter engine producing 471 horsepower is the standard powerplant. A 10-speed automatic transmission sends the power to the rear axle. On the green side of the equation is a hybrid option—taking a 3.5-liter V-6 plus two electric motors producing a total 295 horsepower.

The transmission is a mixture of a four-speed automatic and planetary gears that can give the driver 10 shifting “gears.” Perhaps more importantly, the resulting average fuel economy is 30 mpg. A fully independent front and rear suspension controls the handling and cornering. Pricing starts at about $93,000 on the V-8 and goes up another $5,000 for the hybrid.

Merely having the key on you lets you in. To say that the front seats are high bolstered would be an understatement, and the leather interior with suede inserts on the interior of the doors presents some interesting contrasts.

A large sunroof can lighten up the interior, if needed. The video screen in the center of the dash is sizeable (10 1/4 inches) and is controlled with various dials, buttons and small touch pad on the center console. Likewise, the dash pod has its version of a video screen, which can be configured in various ways to fit your needs for information. And speaking of information, an optional heads-up display on the inside of the windshield posts your speed, the local speed limit, the rpm, a compass as well as gear selection. As one would expect with a sports coupe, rear seating for two is snug, and front occupants will have to move forward to accommodate rear-seat users. Trunk space can handle two or three small suitcases.

But the payoff with the V-8 model begins with a press of the start button, which launches a low and throaty V-8 exhaust resonance, and it has plenty of spunk. The 10-speed automatic can be shifted manually with paddles behind the steering wheel. Acceleration from zero to 60 is a speedy 4.4 seconds, and the top speed is 168 miles per hour. With a dial on the dash pod, the driver can pick from three contrasting driving modes—economy, normal and sport. Depending on the choice, various configurations of shifting and ride are changed. The ride, however, on typical streets is not harsh by any means, and with the large wheel/tire combo handling and cornering are first rate. After the initial start up, the V-8 settles down to relative silence. Steering is weighted somewhat, but is direct. Various safety systems give sound and visible warnings (i.e., lane departure, etc.)

With the LC, Lexus has moved up a notch for those interested in a good-looking sports coupe with performance and/or performance with reasonable fuel mileage. In either case, the overall exterior design sets this coupe apart.