Road Tested: 2018 Lexus LC500 and LC500h
SEATTLE, April 23, 2018 — To say that the LC500 is a car that Lexus had to make is to understate things. Sure, we’ve had the RC-F around for several years now and the LC500 does use the same engine. However, its level of refinement and styling sets it apart. The design language of the LC500 uses what is perhaps the best implementation of the famous, Lexus spindle grill and has a rather revolutionary body style to go with that.
This GT class sports coupe will set you back nearly $100,000 dollars. Roughly $92,000 for the LC500 and $96,000 for the LC500h. But when you consider you do get a long of comfortable, driving thrills it becomes understandable. There’s something amazing about hitting the highway in a grand touring car with one of the few available naturally aspirated V8 engines. The feeling you get when you punch down on that accelerator, the sweet-rumbling and spatters of its high-tuned exhaust notes is nearly orgasmic. In fact, outside of the Jaguar F-Type SVR, you’ll have a difficult time finding a better-sounding V8 exhaust note.
Read also: Road Tested 2017 Lexus IS350 F-Sport
Of course, for the LC500h Hybrid model, Lexus augments its exhaust electronically via the audio system inside the car. Cheesy? You bet, however, many companies are doing that these days. Not a fan, but what are you going to do? I suppose it’s cheaper to augment electronically rather than spend the R&D to build an exhaust system that would sound great on its own for a V6.
The LC500h model uses an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V-6 that uses two electric motors for a combined power output to 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. This setup propels the 4521 pound LC500h from 0-60 in approximately 4.8 seconds.
If you opt for the LC500, you’ll be rewarded with one of the few available, naturally aspirated V8 engines available in any production car. It churns out 471 horsepower at a blistering 7100 rpm with 398 lb-ft of torque. The multi-port exhaust – as pointed out above – is easily one of the best-sounding audible experiences to be found in any new car. This model is also a bit lighter than the Hybrid model, tipping the scales at 4250 pounds – still not a light-weight. Zero to sixty times on the LC500 comes in around 4.2 seconds.
Both engines are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission that does does feature a true manual mode. Meaning that it won’t force shift on you when it hits the redline. This transmission is a part of the reason why the car isn’t quicker than it is. Gears 7-10 are overdrive modes which effectively gives the driver gears 1-6. Combine that with a final rear drive ratio of 2.94:1 and you’ll start to understand more to its performance numbers.
They LC500h’s Multi-Stage Hyrbid technology has a 4-speed transmission setup with the electric motors, yielding an end-result of shifting that doesn’t come across as well defined as what the V8 model exhibits.
One look or either model and one immediately can tell that this is a car with a lot of intention and attention to detail put into its design language. The body style has all kinds of great angles, depending on the way you’re looking at it – you’ll see something slightly different and unique. Its active rear quarter panel vents help add to the drama of its overall, sporty styling. It’s a head turner that’s tame in town, fun on the freeway and extremely fun on a track with the right tires.
Other than its stunning exterior, what makes the LC500 so special is the way you feel when driving it. The visceral experience the car delivers is completely on-point. Sure it could be a bit faster, we’d love that. However, driving this car isn’t only about the quickness of it. It’s about the overall way it feels on the road.
Even though the steering is all electronic and feels weighted while operating the car in Sport+ mode, it still feels a bit light but well balanced overall. The car just wants to go, fast, in whatever direction you aim it in – all while keep its occupants nicely comfortable in its luxurious cabin.
You’ll find no better-looking Lexus interior, anywhere, than the painstaking details Lexus put into the interior. Hand stitched leather and carbon fiber panel nirvana surrounds the occupants well into the lap of luxury and refinement. In fact, it’s about as nice as you’ll find in any car, at any price point.
While we absolutely love the inside as much as the exterior, one thing we cannot get our minds around and that’s Lexus almost stubborn-like behavior of doubling down on what is perhaps the worst way to navigate an infotainment system. No more joysticks here, Lexus’ latest implementation is a touchpad that provides you with tactile feedback when the cursor on the screen is on your intended target.
Even with this latest version, it is still the worst infotainment system input setup available, in any car I’ve ever tested. It’s beyond frustrating to use as the cursor seems to always go where you don’t want it to. Even if you “master it”, there are other options out there that we hope Lexus will consider moving to in future vehicles.
There are a couple of available audio options, once from Pioneer and another from Mark Levinson, both of our test vehicles were outfitted with the latter. To say that the audio experience one hears by this multi-speaker, high-powered setup is superb, is to grossing understate things. It quite easily is one of the best-sounding stock audio systems available in any car, at any price. They have completely knocked it out of the park here.
It can be easy to get lost only in performance numbers and frankly, there are vehicles that do turn-in superior results in that arena. However, once you get your mind wrapped around that the LC500/LC500h are not “sports cars” but refined luxury coupes, things start to become more clear. These are the kinds of cars that are amazing daily drivers, a head-turner if taking them on a “night out to town” or as touring cars. You’ll be rewarded with very flat-feeling cars around corners that love to take take them fast and the massive brakes (15.7- and 14.1-inch vented discs) help things quickly come to a halt. The combination of stiff suspension and superb brakes help make the any bloat these cars possess, feel more nimble.
The level of comfort for the front passengers is incredible. Why they even bother throwing in rear seats, is a mute point. Sure they’re back there, but let’s be honest, they’re really just a glorified storage area for any extra cargo.
You’ll want to take the LC500(h) out one some glorious country back-roads with a lot of turns in them. The V8 model, in particular, simply wants its legs stretched – it beckons you, every time you get behind the steering wheel. You really need to hit that accelerator pedal, hard – you’ll want to. It’s so easy to fall in love with the sounds of that V8 rumble while the Hybrid model will try and woo you with its augmented soundtrack of engine sounds via the audio system. Not quite as thrilling for driving enthusiasts perhaps, but then again, most enthusiasts aren’t going to go for a Hyrbid in the first place when there’s a V8 available.
Those who still want a great ride but don’t want to quench the thirst of the V8 with petrol, should check out the Hybrid as it’s almost as quick and still gets well over 30 miles per gallon. A sharp contrast to the V8 getting 22 miles per gallon on the freeway.
Regardless of which model you choose from, there really isn’t any like-competitors out there so the LC500/LC500h models are kind of in a league all their own and certainly deliver everything we love about a Grand Touring car.