A Green Brand Ambassador
The LC 500 coupe is Lexus’ halo car, based on the jaw-dropping LF-LC concept car that was unveiled at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. It represents Lexus to the world, for style, power, and efficiency, too.
And you can get it in a rip-snorting powerful version, with a V8 engine that pushes out 471 horsepower and 398 pounds-feet of torque. Or, choose the green and clean model, which is a hybrid with a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a pair of electric motors.
Either way, this car lacks little and flaunts much. Start with the breathtaking styling, which exemplifies the look that has driven much of Lexus’ design language for the past few years. In this case, though, the LC is free of the hyper edgy look seen in cars like the RX crossover. Instead, it features dramatic curves with exuberant lighting at the corners, and more subtle edges and forms.
Of course, it wears the trademark spindle grill up front, but with a unique mesh texture that changes from top to bottom. The flared rear fenders and pulled in waist create drama, as do the gleaming 20-inch alloy wheels.
The Eco Flash
My Ultra White tester was the 2018 Lexus LC 500h hybrid, with Lexus’ Multi Stage Hybrid System, adapted specially for this car. It combines the engine with two electric motor/generators, for a total of 354 system horsepower. That system is good for a 4.7-second zero-to-sixty time per the manufacturer for the 4,435-pound cruiser.
The V8 model is a touch quicker, but why not go for the cleaner car? This one brags about its EPA ratings of 26 mpg city/35 highway/30 combined. I averaged 30.3 mpg in my test week—right on the money. The EPA Green scores are a set of lucky 7’s – great for a car with an engine and a motor and no plug.
More Than Surface Beauty
The 2018 Lexus LC 500h is not only stunning on the outside, but is top drawer in every way inside. You sit low in superbly comfortable leather-wrapped bucket seats, with a unique design that wraps around your shoulders. Rear passengers had best be children or pets, because there is little legroom there. Every surface is delightfully decked out in soft, perfectly coordinated “Toasted Caramel” leather and Alcantara (suede). I found no hard plastic trim anywhere, and the pieces that might have been chrome were satin-finish metallic, looking like the billet on a million-dollar one-off custom show car at the Grand National Roadster Show.
The doors wear flowing creases, like they were carved with a rake. The compact instrument panel directly behind the matching leather wheel offers two views, controlled by a button on the steering wheel. One places the tachometer in the center and surrounds it with basic fuel and temperature gauges on the right and hybrid performance bar graphs on the left (power/charge information). Push the button and the center tach slides to the right and displays various panels of information, including range, average mpg and mph, the essential three-part energy monitor (engine/battery/motor), gear position information, tire pressure, and even a G-force indicator and sway warning. This information is also available in the center of the dial with the first setting, so the choice is up to you. I switched it back and forth for fun, but liked the second setting better.
More Than Surface Performance
You can select from several preset performance configurations, including Normal, Eco, Comfort and two increasingly rockin’ Sport settings. The Sport options change the look of the tachometer, and tighten up the handling, steering, and accelerator feel, among other things. The Comfort setting softens them. Normal suited me just fine, but I did sample the others.
The energy monitor helps you know when the car is using the battery for power or the gas tank, and when it’s generating energy in the battery. I was pleased to see how often the battery ran the show, because in commute traffic it makes for a smooth, quiet, green ride. Touch the right pedal and you’re off, though, without a second thought.
A Few Upgrades
You’d think that a car in this price range would contain absolutely everything imaginable, but that’s not so. Although the car comes standard with the nice 12-speaker Lexus Premium Audio System, my tester was upgraded to the sensational Mark Levinson 13-speaker, 915-watt Surround Sound system. This $1,790 package also brings in Semi-aniline leather front seats and a matching Alcantara headliner.
A head-up display is nice in a sporty car, and this one has it—if you add $900 to the sticker. It shows digital
speed, a bar-graph tachometer and, on the left, either the compass direction or a miniature speed limit sign. My car also came with the Convenience Package ($1,000), which adds Intuitive Park Assist and a blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert.
What my car did not have, when the weather was giving us 37-degree mornings, was a heated steering wheel. I discovered that it’s part of a cold weather package that my California car didn’t have, so even though I could warm my nether regions, my hands couldn’t catch a break.
Lexus provides a touch pad on the center console to control the choices on the display screen. You get used to using it over time, but I regretted having to click the Climate button, slide over a few sections, and then flick it just to activate the seat heaters.
From a base price of $96,510, my 2018 Lexus LC 500h tester added up to a budget-busting $101,385, making it one of the most expensive cars I’ve driven in 26 years of testing.
Who’s the 2018 Lexus LC 500h Buyer?
He or she will need to have a substantial bank account, and not plan on carrying more than one friend and not much more than an overnight bag or two in the trunk. They will probably have another car for that, anyway.
The owner will enjoy exclusivity. It’s likely that you won’t see another LC 500 (hybrid or not) on the road at any time—I didn’t. (Lexus sold less than 2,500 LCs last year.) The low-volume LC’s job is to elevate the brand’s prestige and bring customers to Lexus’ website or into the showroom, where they can lease or buy a more down-to-earth sedan or crossover. Lexus offers multiple hybrids at a fraction of the LC’s cost.
But I did enjoy getting thumbs up at traffic lights, and my colleague, Harsh, was thrilled when he saw his dream car in the parking lot, learned it was my test car and got a ride in it.
The 2018 Lexus LC 500h is an extremely attractive and desirable car, and earns mileage numbers more like its modest cousin, the Toyota Corolla. I enjoyed my time with it, but was relieved to return it before I accidently placed a scratch on one of those stunning wheels.
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Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h (John’s view)
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Road Test: 2017 Lexus NX 300h
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