Hybrid Lexus LC500h is an alluring proposition
Lexus shocked the automotive when the Lexus LC broke cover at the 2016 North American International Auto Show. It was the boldest car this side of the ballistic and brilliant LF-A and it was a cut above the slightly underwhelming RCF sports coupe.
Two variants of the Lexus LC are available: the Lexus LC500 and the Lexus LC500h. Both models have a recommended retail price of $190,000 plus on road costs, and customers can choose from an “Enhancement Pack” which adds suede inserts to the seats and door trims along with a carbon fibre roof, door sills and four wheel steering for an extra $15,000.
The Lexus LC500 is powered by a 5.0 litre naturally aspirated V8, which chucks out 351kW @ 7100rpm and 540Nm @ 4800rpm. We’ve driven the LC500, and we liked it very much indeed. Read the review here.
The other option is the more eco-friendly Lexus LC500h, which is powered by a 3.5 litre V6 produces 220kW @ 6600rpm and 348Nm @ 4900rpm and power is sent to the rear wheels via a 10 speed automatic. That V6 is assisted by an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery, which lift the combined power output to 264kW.
The LC500h also features Lexus’ multi-stage hybrid system which features a highly complex transmission that consists of both a CVT and a conventional four-speed automatic. That Lithium-ion battery is a first too, and Lexus says it saves space and weight.
So, is the LC500h just an oversized Prius in Victoria’s Secret lingerie? No, far from it. The LC500h is fast – Lexus cites an official 0-100km/h time of 5 seconds, just .3 seconds slower than the V8 – and it feels that quick. The hybrid system is clever too. Yes, you can use it as a purely electric vehicle around town at speeds below 40km/h or so and when you switch on the adaptive cruise control and the car is coasting the petrol engine shuts down, so you save fuel.
But perhaps most importantly, the LC500h is a hybrid that’s fun to drive. Stick it into Eco or Comfort and the LC500h pampers its occupants whilst wafting along in effortless quiet. Flick it into Sport+ however, and gear shifts are held for longer, that 3.5 V6 becomes louder and angrier with the muted rumble from the Eco and Comfort modes graduating to an enraged wail. It doesn’t sound quite as good as the LC500, but it isn’t far off.
Lexus claims an average combined fuel consumption figure of 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres. We found 11.5 litres to be more accurate, a fair way off Lexus’ figures, but still half decent for a car of this size and power.
On the road, you’re always aware of the LC500h’s size and weight, but the ride is excellent, the steering feedback is positive, the ride is comfortable and it grips rather well, even if the LC is a luxury grand tourer rather than an out and out sportster.
Inside, it’s standard LC fare – plenty of space for front occupants who are nestled in comfortable and but hugging seats. The front seats are heated and cooled, and Lexus has synched these functions with the climate control – turn the heat up and down, and the seat temperature is adjusting accordingly. Clever.
The infotainment system itself, though, isn’t so clever. The array of functions on offer are fine – although Lexus needs to promptly adopt Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – but it’s the way they’re accessed, through a laptop-style touchpad that lets the whole system down. Other prestige brands such as BMW and Volvo offer far better infotainment systems.
Two individual back seats are offered, but you’d struggle to get the smallest of people in them, as there seems to be minimal space for heads and legs.
The boot, interestingly is deceptive. It appears small, yet yours truly managed to cram in a week’s worth of luggage.
What we like:
- Jaw dropping looks: love it or hate it, the LC500h turns heads
- Gorgeous quality and attention to detail throughout
- Sublime comfort
- Brisk performance
- Efficient hybrid system
Not so much:
- Clunky infotainment system
- Useless rear seats
- Can feel big and cumbersome at times
- Limited visibility
- We’re not sure if it has the V8’s charisma
Sale or no sale?
That’s a tricky one, actually. The LC500h is a mix of jaw dropping looks, supreme comfort and quality; it’s also swift and fuel efficient. But it’s LC500 sister is just that little bit quicker, considerably more exciting and that V8 exhaust note is hugely addictive.
But if you can afford a $200k car will you be really concerned about fuel economy? And does a hybrid performance coupe have the same allure as a V8? We’re not so sure. We like the LC500h very much, don’t be mistaken, and we wouldn’t dissuade you from buying one, but if we were parting with our own money, we’d take the LC500.