If you don’t like people staring at you, don’t buy the all-new Lexus luxury sport coupe. If you do crave attention, this concept car turned production unit may just be for you. We recently spent a week behind the wheel of the Lexus LC 500h and found most folks could not take their eyes off of us.
I am not one for such adulation but I was not about to turn down the chance to review this beauty, especially arriving in the new hybrid powertrain. Lexus first showed the LF-LC concept of this vehicle on the auto show circuit in 2012 and this year they have released production units that are nearly identical to that turntable model. The automaker says this marks the beginning of a new phase for the Lexus brand and represents a shift in the engineering process and design direction.
Lexus delivers two variants of this new luxury coupe – the LC 500 and LC 500h – with the difference being the powertrain. The LC 500 is outfitted with the 5.0-liter V-8 gas engine backed by 10-speed automatic transmission and the LC 500h begin powered by a new multi stage hybrid system from Lexus. The new hybrid system consists of a direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine mated to a powerful electric motor with planetary-type continuously variable transmission and all of this is connected to a four-speed automatic gearbox. This new multi stage hybrid system offers plenty of power especially at low end, and the combination of the electric motor transmission and the traditional four-speed gearbox make the vehicle seem as if it is equipped with 10 gear sets as well and even includes real manual shift mode. This vehicle can even operate in EV mode up to 87 mph.
The new LC 500 and LC 500h are built on Lexus’ new premium rear-wheel drive platform that is part of a new global corporate architecture for luxury vehicles. This is the blueprint for future front-engine/rear-wheel drive models from the luxury division of Toyota. This new platform is very solid and stable. The layout has the powerplant in a front mid-ship arrangement with the wheels pushed as far out as they can go for optimal balance. Our LC 500h tester is weighted 52/48 front to rear distribution and that fact is discernable from behind the wheel. While the vehicle is no model for SlimFast, engineers have utilized some weight saving materials in the vehicle such as aluminum front hood and fenders, aluminum door skins mounted on a carbon fiber structure, a carbon and glass composite trunk lid, aluminum front suspension towers, ultra-compact LED headlamps, forged alloy wheels, and available carbon fiber roof.
Some of the other mechanical highlights of the new LC include multi-link front and rear suspension systems, vehicle speed-sensing electric power steering (and optional active rear steering), large disc brakes front and rear with ventilated rotors and high-friction brake pads, and 20- or 21-inch wheels and tires depending on trim package. Lexus outfits the wheels with run-flat tires thereby eliminating spare tire weight. Total system output power for the new multi stage hybrid system is 354hp. One thing I found interesting is both LC models arrive with a 22-gallon fuel tank. This seemed a bit large for a sports coupe but it did give our LC 500h tester a maximum driving range of around 700 miles.
The design of this vehicle is nothing less than stunning. It does feature the large (very large by proportion in this application) signature Lexus spindle grille and designers have made it look almost as if it is flowing on the front of the LC. The car looks very athletic with prominent quarter panels and door panels that are pulled inward. It has striking looks especially from the rear, which is the view most folks will be getting of this car. Inside this 2+2 coupe is a display of Lexus craftsmanship and design as well. It rides surprisingly comfortably and was terribly difficult to climb in and out of. The rear seat is really ineffective but can be utilized for additional storage space as the trunk at the rear is very tiny.
Lexus outfits the new LC models with nearly every driver safety and infotainment technology available. We enjoyed everything from head-up display and configurable driver information display to the 10.3-inch infotainment display controlled by Lexus’ next-generation trackpad in the center console. Of course the vehicle is outfitted with the premium Mark Levinson audio system and in our LC 500h tester that system is also used to boost engine sound in the Sport+ driving mode. The Lexus Safety System+ in the LC 500 and LC 500h includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and vehicle sway warning, and intelligent high beam. Lexus also offers limited slip differential, blind spot monitor, and intuitive park assist. Leather seating is standard with alcantara seat inserts available on Sport and Performance packages.
Pricing for the new 2018 Lexus LC 500h begins at $96,510. Optional packages include Touring, Sport, Sport with Carbon, and Performance with Carbon. Adding any of these packages along with the usual delivery, processing, and handling fees places the new luxury hybrid sport coupe at a smooth 100 grand or higher. That price point is not for everyone and Lexus says they expect to sell only about 100 of the new LC 500h models. Our tester was a pre-production unit so it did not arrive with a copy of a window sticker. It arrived in what appeared to be Touring trim with the optional head-up display. Lexus estimates the fuel economy for this new luxury hybrid coupe as 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. We saw just slightly less than these figures but we were running the AC the entire time we drove the vehicle.
This car was a blast to drive. Even though it looks gorgeous just sitting in the driveway it begs to be driven. The new multi stage hybrid powertrain was surprisingly powerful and even in Eco driving mode this baby will go. Lexus says this is the first hybrid that will spin the rear tires and, um, yes it will. Extra care is required in traffic as other drivers tend to stare at it so long they begin drifting toward where they are looking. This car looks like it came from a Lexus showroom in the future. It is an attention getter so be prepared to answer lots of questions. Or just drop the hammer and give them a look at the car’s great rear fascia design.