Performance and hybrid are no longer mutually exclusive terms, so it should be no surprise that the new electrically-assisted V6 Lexus LC 500 Hybrid should receive equal billing with its 5.0-litre V8-powered sibling.
Both cost the same $190,000, though the $15,000 enhancement pack adds a limited-slip diff to the Hybrid (standard in the V8) in addition to the carbon roof and scuff plates, all-wheel steering, sports seats with leather/Alcantara upholstery and active rear spoiler of the V8.
Bar a 50kg weight penalty thanks to the battery packs, there’s next to no difference in driving dynamics, either. The steering is well-weighted and accurate, grip levels are strong and despite its substantial two-tonne kerb weight, the way the mass is distributed means the LC Hybrid rarely feels its heft and flows fluidly from corner to corner on a twisty road.
Its exterior design is every bit as eye-catching as its bent-eight brother – whether that’s a good or bad thing will depend on your point of view – and the only clue that you’re driving the more environmentally-conscious version on the inside is the ‘EV mode’ button on the centre console.
Of course, where the two LC models diverge is under the bonnet. In place of the LC 500’s 5.0-litre V8 the Hybrid uses a 220kW/348Nm 3.5-litre V6 assisted by a 132kW/300Nm electric motor for a total system output of 264kW.
That might not sound much, but on-paper it runs the V8 close, trailing by just 0.3sec to 100km/h while claiming combined fuel consumption of just 6.7L/100km, a significant improvement over the V8’s 11.6L/100km.
Key to this is the first application of Lexus’s complex Multi Stage Hybrid System, which uses a four-speed automatic gearbox but via a power split device essentially offers 10 ratios. Lexus claims this is a true “high performance powertrain” but unfortunately it works a lot better as an engineering presentation than it does on the road.
To be blunt, the LC 500 Hybrid just doesn’t offer the performance you’d expect of a near-$200K sports coupe. It zips through the lower ‘gears’ at a rapid rate – you’re in 5th by 120km/h – but never feels particularly quick.
The V6 sounds strong, but the power delivery is flat and there’s a CVT-like warbling to the engine note under sustained hard acceleration. At the end of Phillip Island’s long main straight the Hybrid was just creeping beyond 200km/h, 30km/h down on the V8.
Lexus expects 80 per cent of LC customers to choose the V8 and we’re not surprised, as it’s difficult to think of any reason to recommend the Hybrid given it’s a lot slower and no more comfortable. Lexus may have given its clever Hybrid equal billing, but it’s a lesser car.
Pros: Same looks, interior, handling as V8
Cons: Much less performance
Engine: 3456cc V6, DOHC, 24v, electric motor
Power: 264kW (combined)
Torque: 348Nm @ 4900rpm (engine)
0-100km/h: 5.0sec (claimed)