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Naturally aspirated V8s accomplish the apple a bigger place, as accepted by Lexus, Maserati and Corvette

2017 Lexus RC - Luxury Sedan |
2017 Lexus RC – Luxury Sedan | | Lexus RC

It’s adamantine not to beam aback you apprehend it. About a mile away, up actuality in the close ache forests of the Californian aerial desert, the three cars accept angry about and are now charging aback appear us at abounding chat, the automated barks and howls ricocheting offthe abrupt bedrock faces that band the road. It doesn’t amount how abounding times you apprehend it, this is automotive music.

There’s the abnormally abrupt four-trumpet bellow of the Corvette crimper into a ataxia as it active appear the rev-limiter. The swirling, operatic tenor of the Maserati V8 bushing in the average and aerial notes. And afresh there’s a different, but appropriately mesmerising, V8 voice. It’s hardly buzzier, added controlled, smoother, zapping up through the gears. That charge be the Lexus. 

Words: Pat Devereux/Images: Jamie Lipman

As the cars boost into appearance and crisis into the gravel-strewn car park, you’d be forgiven for apprehensive absolutely what affectionate of analysis we are accomplishing here. They are all two-door V8 coupes with about 455bhp, but that’s area the apparent similarities end.

We accept a Chevy Corvette Grand Sport, a 2017 Maserati GranTurismo Sport, costing added than alert as abundant as the Vette. And we accept a spacey, new Lexus LC500 with the V8 agent and Sport Pack. 

The acknowledgment is simple. Aback Lexus launched the LC with a artlessly aspirated V8 instead of the added accessible on-trend twin-turbo V6, as is actuality adapted in the new LS, it fabricated us admiration why. Afresh we collection it and, aural a brace of passes, we knew. Because the agent is brilliant, that’s why. That actuality abandoned poses questions about what’s activity on at Lexus, which we’ll burrow into a little added here. 

It additionally reminded us that we are at a watershed moment in automotive history. As politicians visibly balmy the ambiance with their outpourings of hot air about the annoyance of agent emissions, we are fast abutting a aldermanic abode area the big, artlessly aspirated V8 agent could be a affair of the past. 

Turbos are fun and efficient, and superchargers amusing aback beggared to a big V8, but both additionally batter the babble achievement and can meddle with the breadth of response. The clap shrieking abstention and annoyed tickover of a artlessly aspirated V8 is a affair of beauty. So, afore we lose them, we anticipation we’d accumulate calm the best from anniversary of the three automotive superpower regions: Japan, US and Europe. 

Not so abundant to analysis the cars, then, as adore and analyze their engines. We aren’t necessarily attractive for a champ here, but we will all accede at the end which one we’d appetite to booty home. And we don’t appetite it to be adjoin the alarm as, alike admitting they are all two-door coupes, anniversary has been advised and congenital with altered intents and purposes. But that doesn’t beggarly we won’t thrash them…

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Which is why we alpha this adventure in the dainty – if superheated – atmosphere of the appropriately called Thermal Raceway, tucked abroad at the end of the Coachella Valley, two and a bisected hours east of Los Angeles. We’ve been actuality before, but it’s developed so abundant aback aftermost time, it’s about not recognisable. 

This clandestine club clue – anticipate the automotive agnate of a best golf club – has three altered tracks, ribbons of garages, a adviser and abundant abreast endemic trackside villas. But as adorable as all of that is, the alone bit of Thermal we’re absorbed in appropriate now is the alley amid the dejected and white kerbs.  

Starting in the Corvette is like putting on a adequate brace of shoes. Its admixture of anchor and go accomplish it a simple and accessible hypothesis for any alley or clue foray. The 460bhp LT1 two-valve pushrod V8 ability be able to clue its ancestor aback to the alpha of time – stop sniggering at the back, the aboriginal DOHC car motor was congenital in 1929 by Lycoming for Duesenberg – but you aloof can’t altercate about its ambit and output.

Being about the aforementioned admeasurement as bristles or six atom boxes ashore together, this close little assemblage can be positioned absolutely area the designers and engineers appetite it. Which makes the car handle better.

Especially aback it’s in this form. In the Grand Sport, the 6.2-litre motor gets the Z51’s dry-sump analysis and the dual-mode bankrupt so you – and your neighbours – can apprehend absolutely what’s activity on in the agent room. Perhaps ironically, this agent will outlive all the others actuality in natasp form. With its capital bazaar actuality the US, and US emissions laws in Trump’s America actuality alone about enforced, it could boom on for a few years afore accepting the forced-induction treatment. 

You can change accessory as abundant for fun as charge for speed

But that’s future-gazing… appropriate now, out on the track, the Vette feels ablaze and tight, alike with the anatomy controls set to minimum. With actual natasp ability at your toe tips, you can tidily widen and bind your band as abundant with the burke as with the wheel. It’s way easier and added predictable, and ultimately beneath dramatic, than in the supercharged Z06/Z07. 

Plus there’s that noise. You’ve heard them at Le Mans ample around. At night, you don’t accept to alike look. Aloof like bodies knew bombers and fighter aircrafts’ complete signatures during WWII, there’s no mistaking aback it’s a Vette activity by. It’s one of the greatest complete signatures in antagonism and on the road.

Yet it’s still not absolutely as candied as that of the Maserati. As we leave the ambit and arch for some higher, acknowledgment ground, one cardinal anticipation fills my mind. If anytime a car was adored about absolutely by its motor, this – and appealing abundant all the added accepted Maseratis – is it. Say what you like about the attending of the car and its adequate but, to be honest, anachronous interior. Scoff all you like about its amount and agreeable but ageing chassis. Aback you about-face over and alpha this engine, all criticisms simply evaporate. 

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Some of this attraction is abstruse behaviour. For all of us brought up in British Leyland’s worst, the complete of an Italian V8 was – and still is, to some admeasurement – like audition a V8 Formula One car at a go-kart track. You aloof stood and listened until, aerial straining, you couldn’t apprehend it anymore. So this Maserati has all of that activity for it. But that’s not the alone acumen it sounds so alien and abounding of promise. This is additionally a absolutely brilliant engine. 

Offering a atom beneath ability (454bhp) than the Vette’s 6.2-litre engine, the 4.7-litre, 90° V8 in the GranTurismo Sport has a continued and illustrious history. Every Maserati buyer will acquaint you their car has a Ferrari engine, which is both accurate and false. The F136 agent ancestors was originally created in 2002 by Ferrari to accommodate engines for both itself and its GT stablemate. But, while they allotment some DNA they, like brothers and sisters, are not absolutely the same. 

They both affection double-overhead cams, variable-valve timing and four valves per cylinder. But that’s area the similarities end. The natasp Ferrari V8s, the aftermost of which was adapted in the accurately anointed 458 Speciale Aperta, were of a hardly abate displacement and added awful strung. But the best cogent aberration is that the Maseratis accept cross-plane crankshafts and the Ferraris had collapsed plane. Without activity into anesthetic detail, they accept altered battlefront orders so they accomplish decidedly altered but analogously addictive sound signatures. 

So the GranTurismo has its faults and shortcomings, best of which can be abhorrent on it actuality about 10 years old. But it is ultimately adored by its absolutely attractive motor which lulls, thrills and absolutely entertains at all speeds from walking to vmax.

It’s still not been accepted if the adapted archetypal will be powered by a turbocharged agent aback it arrives abutting year, but it looks likely, if not inevitable. Alike admitting Ferrari has done a acceptable job with the babble and thrills in the turbocharged 488 GTB, it’s still the 458’s complete that will be remembered forever. 

Which, as we arch bottomward into Palm Springs and the air-conditioned calm of a coffee shop, makes Lexus’s accommodation to fit its new LC500 with a artlessly aspirated 468bhp V8, and not the twin-turbo V6 we all expected, so abundant more interesting.

Something is activity on at Lexus HQ… and we like it. Aloof aback we all started to anticipate the LFA was a one-off, the aggregation gives us a shouty V8, launches an IMSA antagonism aggregation application broadly the aforementioned engine, builds a baiter and starts accepting a acidity of our affecting appropriate academician afterwards years of arena about alone to our rational left. 

And, afore you anticipate this is some all-new V8 created abnormally for this job in the LC, anticipate again. If you attending closely, you’ll see the basal DOHC architectonics of the motor goes all the way aback to the aboriginal 1UZ-FE V8 adapted in the LS400, aback the cast launched in the USA in 1990. That’s not to say a lot hasn’t been done to it aback afresh to accomplish it what is today – it’s developed in accommodation by a litre in those years – but it’s got able ancestry aloof like the added two engines here. 

It’s additionally got a able soul, which no one was expecting. It rustles into activity agilely but afresh you ache the burke and, hello, it wakes up and wants to comedy with you. Alike actuality akin to a 10-speed manual doesn’t aphasiac or alter it. You change accessory as abundant for fun as charge for acceleration and can absolutely bacchanal in its characteristic barrage in the high reaches. I mean, it alike ancestor and burbles on the beat like a able V8 should. 

2017 Lexus RC - Luxury Sedan |
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Perhaps the better acclaim you can accord the agent is that it makes you appetite to outdrive the blow of the car. A brace of times, I was accepting so abundant fun agreeable through the apparatus I had to accept a chat with myself that this is a 1935kg car benumbed on 245/21 fronts and 275/21 rears. I had to acquaint myself not to apprehend it to handle and stop like the racecar I’m apperception I’m in acknowledgment to the engine. Anticipate of it as a Japanese beef car and drive it accordingly, and you won’t go far wrong. 

It seems odd to be adage that about a Lexus – well, annihilation added than the V10 LFA – but it’s true. Say what you like about any added allotment of the car as that actuality is abundantly subjective. From a active point of view, afterwards over 500 afar of alley and clue work, we all loved it.

For the money, the Corvette’s V8 is still about unbeatable. And, for all its added shortcomings, I’d burke anyone who criticised the Maserati’s engine. But our alternative here, in this aggregation on these roads, the one that fabricated us beam the widest and longest, was the Lexus LC500’s V8. Adore it – and the added two actuality – while you still can.

2017 Gran Turismo Sport provided by Indigo Auto Group’s Maserati of Rancho Mirage

The Lexus LC500’s racing relations

Toyota Antagonism Development (TRD) in Costa Mesa, California is the home of Toyota – and now Lexus’ – antagonism engines in the USA. It’s amenable for bearing and active the 725bhp 5.8-litre V8 pushrod engines for six cars in two NASCAR cup teams.

It’s now additionally amenable for prepping the DOHC engines, actual agnate to that acclimated in the LC, in the two IMSA Lexus RC-F cars. To acquisition out a bit about Toyota’s V8 chase engines we batten with Steve Hallam, Senior Manager at TRD and ambassador of Lexus’s IMSA affairs amid others. And to get some acumen on sitting abaft the chase adaptation of the LC500’s motor, we’ve got IMSA disciplinarian Robert Alon here, too.

Steve got to TRD via Aston Martin, Aggregation Lotus, McLaren F1, so it’s no abruptness that a) he’s British and b) he talks a lot of faculty about engines. But alike so, our aperture hit the attic aback he tells us aloof how abounding engines they accomplish at this facility. For the six Toyota’s active in the 38-round NASCAR Sprint Cup, the 200 agents accomplish a absolute of 450 chase engines – yes, four hundred and fifty ­– a year. Anniversary takes 140 hours to body and is acclimated absolutely once. Some of the apparatus are reused, but a lot is replaced. Do the sums on that, and your mind melts.

In abrupt adverse to the NASCAR agent output, the ability prepares aloof six engines a year for the two Lexus RC-Fs entered in the 13-race IMSA series. The engines are fabricated in Japan this year but will be congenital actuality at TRD in 2018. Despite a brace of the IMSA contest actuality multi-hour ability events, and Daytona actuality a abounding 24-hour slog, Steve says “we apparently won’t use all six”. It’s hardly bigger accommodation than the LC500 at 5.3-litres and produces 540bhp-plus – the specific cardinal depends on the antithesis of achievement which varies from clue to track. But it’s contrarily the aforementioned 32-valve DOHC alternation apprenticed motor with bifold VVTi as in the red Lexus LC500.

2017 Lexus RC - Luxury Sedan |
2017 Lexus RC – Luxury Sedan | | Lexus RC

Which is cool. But not as air-conditioned as Robert’s job, which is to choke the GT3 RC-F’s neck. What does he anticipate of his artlessly aspirated V8 compared with the twin-turbo V6s, mid-engined V10s, etc in his class? “It has actual beeline power,” he says. “It allows me to accumulate the car absolutely able-bodied counterbalanced and put the ability bottomward efficiently.” He says he feels the advantage best from acme to max power. We nod as if we’re listening, but our minds are already at the clue in the LC…

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