ATMOSPHERIC engines - once a prerequisite of any sports car worth its salt - are sadly a dying breed and their days are well and truly numbered.
Whether we like it or not, government-led schemes to reduce emissions are high on the tree-hugging agenda, and that means high-revving powerplants have been constantly targeted because they’re not very good for the environment.
Naturally aspirated screamers are few and far between; unless you’ve a six-figure sum spare to put into a Porsche, Lamborghini or Ferrari, there’s not much out there and it’s a reason why non-turbocharged cars of yesteryear have rocketed in value as motoring enthusiasts desperately cling on to sonorous, charismatic engines.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, however - Porsche’s engineers, for example, know their audience completely adore flat-six 911 GT3s and their RS stablemates because of their 9,000rpm redlines, but to continue making them means they have to shift scores of all-electric Taycans to offset their C02 outputs.
Electric sales - sky-high for Porsche - ironically allows Porsche to continue satisfying our demands and it’s no different for Lexus, a trailblazer in hybrid technology for the last two decades.
Take this car, for example, and celebrate it - put it on a pedestal - because it’s absolutely astonishing when you peruse its spec sheet. The Lexus LC500 is a throwback to when engines were proper thoroughbreds: it has a 5.0-litre V8 with very nearly 500bhp, it’s not shackled by a turbocharger or even hybridisation and does its best work not low down or indeed the middle throws, but right at the very top end of its rev range.
While its sensational engine is the stand-out, overall the LC500 is wonderful as a whole. It’s beautiful, its interior is well-built and its driving position - as with every sporty Lexus - is perfect. It’s a £100,000 car, but it most definitely feels it and you wouldn’t ever feel short changed thanks to its quality.
There’s one chink in its armour, however, and that’s solely its gearbox. It’s a ten-speed, semi-automatic unit and it can feel somewhat dim-witted. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a deal-shattering thing, but it has far too many ratios and even in manual mode, it can take an age to drop down and deliver what you’re asking. In isolation, it’s fine, but when your main rival is a 911, you’ve simply got to be on top of your game as that car’s PDK semi-auto variant is a near-perfect thing.
Get it on a twisty road and it does feel its weight, but it’s still a cracking thing to drive. It’s a wide car, the LC500, and it’s unquestionably more GT-like than a B-road weapon, but on a fast, flowing stretch it’s very special. The steering’s good, the brakes are too, but extend its engine and you’ll be bowled over by the sound, the muscularity and the way it piles on speed past 5,000rpm.
It’s fast: 470bhp, 170mph, 60mph in 4.5 seconds - more than good enough in anyone’s book. But it’s not all about speed, strangely, and the experience is completed by just how incredible that engine is. Make no mistake: these engines will not exist in a decade’s time because they will be hybridised, so to revel in its glory now is even more apt because it’s almost extinct.
It oozes class. It’s gorgeous to look at. It sounds utterly divine. Doff your cap to a last-of-the-line, naturally aspirated wonder of the motoring world.