RSS icon Home icon
  • 2018 Lexus LC 500h

    Posted on November 2nd, 2017 ninarussin

    GT coupe with a conscience

    By Nina Russin

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    The LC 500h and its sibling LC 500 are Lexus’ answer to European GT coupes such as the Mercedes-Benz SL 500 and Jaguar F-Type, but with a twist: only the Lexus comes with an available hybrid powertrain, giving the coupe 30 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy. As part of his promise to infuse passion into the brand, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda (grandson of the company founder) charged Lexus with developing a new flagship that would not only deliver on his stated mission, but do so in a distinctly Lexus manner.

    Seeds for the LC date back to 2012, when Lexus introduced the LF-LC concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. After capturing the EyesOn Design Design Award for Concept Car, Lexus designers and engineers began work on a production model based on a new architecture called GA-L, Global Architecture-Luxury, that is also the basis for the all-new LS 500 luxury sedan and its hybrid counterpart.

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    While the LC 500h’s gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain is based on Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive that powers all-of the automaker’s hybrid offerings, Lexus engineers made some significant changes to enhance the new coupe’s performance. As with other Toyota and Lexus hybrids, a gasoline engine is mated to two electric motor generators. However, the system in the LC adds a four-speed automatic transmission to the standard continuously variable automatic, to multiply power and create the effect of a traditional ten-speed step unit that the driver can control using shifter paddles on the steering wheel.

    The new hybrid system uses more electric motor assist at low speeds so the LC can operate in electric vehicle mode up to 87 miles-per-hour. It is also the first Lexus hybrid that can spin its rear wheels, eliminating understeer at high speeds.

    Base price for the LC 500h is $98,510 excluding the $995 destination charge. That’s a bundle, but at least buyers don’t have to shell out an additional thousand or so for gas guzzler tax. Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring, intuitive park assist, 21-inch wheels, heads-up display, limited slip differential, Mark Levinson premium audio system, Alcantara sport seats, floor and cargo mats, bringing the final MSRP to $108,805.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    This week I put the LC 500h through its paces on city streets and highways throughout Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as along the Beeline Highway heading north towards Payson and Bush Highway that runs north-south along the western edge of the Superstition Mountains.

    I have-to admit that I always approach test-driving a car that costs more than I paid for my house with trepidation. I don’t want to be ‘that journalist’ that dings up the $100,000-plus test car. But having gotten over my initial fear of flying, I found the LC 500h to be a willing and intuitive partner that delivers on the extraordinary performance its creators promised.

    To enter the car, the driver depresses a slat that is flush with the door. The right edge of the slat pops out for the driver to grab hold of and at the same time unlocks the vehicle. To exit, the driver pushes the open edge back flush with the car and the vehicle is locked.

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    While Alcantara upholstery is stupidly expensive, there’s nothing not to love about it aside from the price. It’s soft, gorgeous and incredibly comfortable. Both the driver and front passenger get 10-way power seat adjustments as well as heating and ventilation for four-season comfort.

    A separate button controls the vehicle’s park function, similar-to the Prius, while a more traditional shift knob controls drive, manual mode and reverse.

    Combined system output for the hybrid is 354-horsepower as opposed to 471-horsepower for the gasoline-powered Lexus LC 500. Why would a buyer opt for the hybrid over the less expensive gasoline-powered model’ The answer is that in this case, horsepower ratings don’t tell the full story.

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    To start, electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, so the hybrid can accelerate harder off the line than a car with a traditional gasoline engine. In addition, the four-speed automatic transmission amplifies power from the V-6 engine and electric motor while accelerating. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 4.7 seconds. The coupe’s lithium-ion battery pack generates 310.8-volts giving the LC 500h enough juice to launch itself to the moon.

    Being more familiar with gasoline-powered sports cars than hybrids, some aspects of the LC’s performance take some getting used to. When a driver keys the ignition on a traditional sports car, he expects to hear a throaty exhaust rumble reflecting quite a bit of valve overlap. When the driver keys on the LC 500h, he hears nothing, since the vehicle is operating in pure electric mode. This isn’t to say that the LC 500h exhaust can’t roar with the best of them, but it takes some time to get there. Since the LC 500h can cruise at highway speeds in pure electric mode, it isn’t unusual for the roar to disappear, even though the coupe is passing other cars.

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    Once familiar with that, I found the LC 500h to be quite user-friendly. While it is-capable-of producing an insane amount of power, the coupe functions quite well in the 9-5 world of daily commuting. The optional heads-up display gives the driver speedometer readings as well as displaying posted speed limits. I’m not sure why Lexus made blind spot monitoring an option on a $100,000 car that includes every other known active safety feature as standard equipment. The coupe does have some blind spots, so I would recommend adding the option despite the additional cost.

    Steering response is the best this writer has ever experienced in a Lexus, rivaling the best of what Germany has-to offer. On center response is exceptional: sharp and precise without feeling dicey.

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    Engineers developed a double ball joint front suspension specifically for the LC to give the driver the ride comfort the brand is known on a vehicle with a very low center of gravity. Most of the suspension components are made of aluminum to minimize unsprung weight. Engineers utilized high strength steel throughout the car body to make the car rigid for high-speed stability.

    Drivers who are used to Lexus’ super-quiet interiors might be surprised by the amount of tire noise. It’s the unavoidable consequence of using R-rated run-flat tires on extremely large wheels. Sports car enthusiasts should not be bothered. Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior.

    Driver focused interior

    As is typical with two-plus-twos, the LC 500h is really-a two-person car: the back seat is primarily a nod to insurance companies to contain costs. Rear seats will hold the family dachshund or some extra groceries.

    Front row occupants should find the LC 500h quite spacious, whether for trips around town or extended excursions. Infotainment controls are easy to access from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark.

    The coupe’s trunk is large enough for luggage, groceries and golf bags. Those needing a bigger cargo bay for large items such as bicycles, skis and snowboards should consider one of Lexus’ crossovers.

    Standard safety

    The Lexus LC 500h comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, lane departure alert and assist, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and autonomous braking, adaptive radar cruise control, intelligent high beams and tire pressure monitoring.

    Lexus builds the LC 500h at its Toyota Aichi, Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A stunningly beautiful grand touring coupe with performance to match and excellent fuel economy.

    Dislike: Blind spot monitoring is not standard equipment.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: LC 500h coupe
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $98,510
    As tested: $108,805
    Horsepower: 295 HP @ 6600 rpm (gasoline engine). 354 net system horsepower
    Torque: 256.7 lbs.-ft. @ 4900 rpm (gasoline engine)
    Zero-to-sixty: 4.7 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 26/35 mpg city/highway

    Comments are closed.