Japan’s foremost luxury brand has a new flagship coupe with a hybrid drivetrain and an important role to play.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
It comes in two flavours, both priced at $190,000. The first is powered by a naturally aspirated V8 engine and has a greater focus on sportiness. The second has a small ‘h’ added to the end of its name denoting a hybrid drivetrain. It is the more relaxed grand tourer, but is it the pick of the pair?
- Styling: it’s a polarising thing, but in this office the LC500h is considered good looking. Its bodywork is almost unchanged from the LF-LC concept car that previewed it, and it’s like a spaceship in the way it attracts attention. Its LED lighting looks intriguing at night, especially the ‘infinity’ taillight design.
- Comfort: on a long drive in a grand tourer like this comfort is important, and the LC500h has some of the best front seats of anything on sale. Ride quality is also impressive, though the adaptive dampers could go a little softer for more compliance on really choppy roads.
- Efficiency: is an obvious hybrid drawcard, and the LC500h impresses with claimed fuel consumption of 6.7L/100km. Not bad for a 1970kg lump.
- Gadgets: are good, and the LC500h feels like a big toy when driven silently in EV mode on electric power alone. It also has an excellent Mark Levinson sound system and a beautiful head-up display.
- Steering: it may be last on this list but the LC500h has the best steering of any Lexus on sale, which encourages you to have a go on twisty roads whenever they present themselves.
- Excitement: sadly, isn’t one of the LC500h’s assets. While the steering is good, the hybrid drivetrain just doesn’t have the zing of the V8. It doesn’t sound particularly good either, and outputs of 264kW and 348Nm are a long way short of the V8’s 351kW and 540Nm. The hybrid’s initial electric acceleration is fun, but that’s its only trick. For the same price we would have the V8 every day of the week.
- Gearbox: Lexus has come up with a weird transmission for the LC500h that combines a four-speed auto with a CVT to simulate 10 unique ratios. It slurs when driven hard and isn’t really suitable for track days, whereas the excellent 10-speed auto in the V8 stands up quite well to that sort of stuff.
- Practicality: matters in a grand tourer, but there isn’t much room for baggage in the LC500h, despite its huge overall size. Anybody going away with a partner for longer than a weekend might need to think about fitting a towbar. There are two rear seats, but they’re for emergencies only.
- Size: is part of the LC500h’s imposing appeal in one way, but it does make it a little difficult to squeeze into spots, and cumbersome in tight streets. Valet parking is recommended.
- Infotainment: hasn’t been a Lexus strong suit for a long time, and though the LC500h has a better user interface than other Lexus models, it remains infuriating to use at times. Lexus has persisted with a touchpad to navigate its menus, and it’s probably the slowest possible way to do it. Something like turning on the heated seats seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Lexus says the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz SL-Class are what the LC500 is aimed at, but there’s no hybrid option in the line-ups of either. Same goes for the Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 911 Carrera, which some LC500 V8 buyers might also consider.
For style and presence, those mentioned above are the two door coupes that compete with the LC500 in general, but the LC500h’s biggest rival has to be the LC500 itself. If we were buying, that’s where our money would go. That said, if electrified driving is what really floats your boat, the LC500h is it.