Arriving at the newly unveiled Jackalope Hotel on Victora’s Mornington Peninsula, I found myself staring at something that took me by surprise; a 7 metre high Jackalope sculpture and 6 aggressive Lexus badged coupe’s confidently glaring back at me.
Before deciding to approach my ride for the day, I thought it would be a more inviting idea to cautiously walk past the Emily Floyd sculpture and check out the already celebrated hotel, which takes its name from a charming mythical creature that looks like a cross between a deer and a rabbit.
For the first time (and definitely not the last) my first impression was wrong. What looks to be a charming cottage exterior turns out to be a modern art gallery you can escape in for the weekend. The lobby desk takes a back seat to the wine ‘cabinet’, which emerges from the dark entry and feels like a gallery putting its contents on display. The halls of the hotel, which seem to get inspiration from the movie TRON, with their extensive and endless neon installations are the only thing illuminating the way to 1 of the 46 hotel rooms.
Carr Design Group has created something I have not yet experienced, even in the experimental climate of current design trends in Victorian hotel/wineries. It seems this hotel, which has won as many awards as months it’s been open, has finally killed the trend of drab white colour palettes and boring plain ‘minimal’ interior design. While the studio has consistently upheld design excellence for over 40 years, Jackalope has set a new standard, even for a studio as prestigious as Carr.
Moving to my room, Carr Design Group has elected to take its sense of alchemy right into bed with you with elements of copper, silver and gold wrapped into an overall dark tonal palette. The opaque colour palette is ingrained into every interior feature of the hotel, right down to the black packaging of the soaps and moisturises by Melbourne based cosmetic label, Hunter Lab. The biggest take away from the design of the rooms was how utterly relaxing and tranquil the colour palette and material selection made me feel, even within what felt like a dramatic paradigm shift of standardised interior design.
I didn’t know it yet, but the same element of surprise the hotel dealt to me was waiting outside; The Lexus LC 500. The new Euro challenger has just hit Australian shores, and I was brought here to see if it could hold up against the speed demons of its German competitors.
From the outside, the Lexus flagship coupe has remained practically untouched from the LF-LC concept car unveiled at the 2012 Auto Show in Detroit. The aggressive yet sophisticated styling was composed by world-renowned Lexus artisans, or ‘Takumi’, as Lexus like to put it. The aggressive looks I was getting at the beginning of my morning were starting to make sense, as the LC 500 boasts a very low profile yet remains quite broad at almost 2 meters wide. The intricate head and tail light design was something I was more familiar with under modern Lexus projects, but overall the design had been marvellously integrated into the exterior body, grille and intakes.
Taking a look inside, I was legitimately impressed. Lexus has finally caught up to it’s German counterparts with interior styling. While the dash still does carry some sense of trademark Japanese minimalism, the interior now feels like a legitimate luxury coupe. The stitching is concealed beneath the leather, the paddles are composed of magnesium alloy, the gearshift has been perfectly designed to the palm of the hand and the steering wheel has a sense of perfected craftsmanship when you take hold of it. Oh, and I almost forgot, the Mark Levinson sound system probably deserves its own write up entirely.
But before we hit the engine start button – what’s under the hood? This is where things take an interesting turn. The LC 500 comes in 2 very different engine builds; the 5.0 liter naturally aspirated V8 and the hybrid powered 3.5 litre V6 with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Both look practically identical and will actually cost the same on Aussie soil, however the V8 will ride lower, put an extra 84kw out and will sound much, much nastier.
Lexus’ reason behind the identical price point? In their words, they didn’t want to punish buyers with a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, so it was important to the brand to remain environmentally sound. While it might not seem like there’s market demand for the LS 500h, giving their more progressive customers an exciting coupe moving forward is not only a good idea, but is undeniable necessary heading into the future of luxury hybrids.
While I do consider myself an environmentally conscious individual, I just didn’t know if I could shake the gritty sound of the V8 when I got behind the wheel of the hybrid. As we left Jackalope and headed toward Flinders golf club, the brands most torsionally rigid model gripped the winding peninsula roads beautifully and powered out of sharp turns with ease, but the artificial sound of the LC 500h just didn’t seem to measure up to the gritty note of the naturally aspirated V8 in front of me.
Upon return, I immediately found myself back behind one of the LC 500’s listening to Lexus ambassador and design prodigy Henry Wilson, testing the exhaust one last time. And that’s when I realised that all my rational thought and environmental intellect went out the window, all for the incredible sound Lexus had engineered out of the V8. Beautiful.
An interesting side note, it seems Lexus understands my irrational thought process, as they predict the LC 500 will be it’s flagship seller of the series and intend to sell 85% of it’s models in the V8 build. However, it’s interesting to note that at this price point, brands are rushing to accommodate a more environmentally conscious demographic.
Rushing back through the neon lit halls and Fabio Ongarato installations felt like riding on a TRON light cycle, I still couldn’t believe the experimental angle Carr Design Group elected to take in what seemed like a market reserved for a more conservative demographic.
After a quick freshen up (a shame I couldn’t test the incredible feature bathtub), it was time to run down to dinner at the hotel’s own restaurant Doot Doot Doot, where head chef Guy Stanaway has designed a menu to reflect the hotels experimental design and sense of mythical alchemy. The 4 course dinner was a clinic in seasonal and local ingredients from the kitchens very own garden. Definitely treat yourself to the incredible spanner crab, with the fig and hazelnut covered duck breast a worthy contender.
After an unbelievable dining experience under a mesmerising chandelier by Melbourne designer Jan Flook, it was time to end the experience by really hammering home the alchemy theme with a few cocktails. The in-house cocktail bar, conveniently named Flaggerdoot, feels like a cocktail lounge jammed inside a modernist fever dream. I honestly didn’t know if I was allowed to play a game of pool on the matte-blue pool table, which looked like an art installation from further away. I decided to hold my Negroni instead of setting it down just in case…
After what seemed like an alchemy induced haze walking back to my hotel room, I found myself reviewing the day by finding an interesting connection complimented by the vast number of artworks the hotel boasted. Jackalope had been a perfect setting to obliterate past standards and perceptions of a car brand that had traditionally been perceived for a more conservative crowd.
I think that although creating a $190,000 hybrid seems outrageous, it’s exactly what the industry needs to shift the paradigm to a brighter, more sustainable future in luxury automotive… Although having the V8 option doesn’t hurt either.