It may lack the aural theatre of its V8 twin, but the LC500h still makes you look and feel like a million bucks – for a fraction of that figure.
If you’re like me, you love attention – not even ashamed about it. Also, if you’re like me, you probably aspire to own a car that will make everyone stop and stare, and cars like that tend to be rather expensive.
Enter the Lexus LC, the Japanese luxury brand’s finest and most expensive sports coupe that blends achingly gorgeous design with the high level of build quality and equipment the brand is known for.
If it wasn’t already a left-of-field choice, here on test we have the 2019 Lexus LC500h V6 hybrid, often overshadowed by its V8-powered LC500 twin, distinguished by the ‘h’ on the end of its name and some blue badging.
Priced from $190,200 before on-road costs, the LC hybrid is a fraction pricier than its solely combustion-powered equivalent (from $189,642), though specification is largely the same – if you discount the clear difference in propulsion method, naturally.
Let’s start with the driving, shall we?
Power in the LC500h comes from a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine mated to a 650V Lexus Hybrid Drive System with a lithium-ion battery (unknown capacity). On its own, the petrol motor makes 220kW at 6600rpm and 348Nm at 4900rpm, while the electric motor makes 132kW and 300Nm.
Lexus claims a combined power output of 264kW, but doesn’t quote a combined torque figure (Lexus and Toyota tend to not list system torque output for their hybrids).
By comparison, the LC500 makes 351kW and 540Nm from its sonorous 5.0-litre V8, but don’t let the numbers fool you.
Drive is sent to the rear wheels via an interesting ‘Shiftmatic’ 10-ratio automatic, which combines an e-CVT with six ‘steps’ and a four-speed conventional auto to make 10 ‘steps’ or gears, which also features a manual mode and steering-mounted paddle shifters.
‘Firing up’ the LC500h may leave you scratching your head the first couple of times, because it tends to start up in EV mode before firing up the petrol engine 5–10 seconds later to warm it up if it’s cold.
At low speeds you’ll find the hybrid LC will putt along in complete silence, only engaging the V6 petrol engine when setting off from the lights or when you stomp on the throttle to overtake or make a gap in traffic.
When operating like this, the LC500h is comfortable, quiet, and inoffensive. Should the V6 rev past 2500rpm, you’ll hear a lovely high-pitched growl, too.
These conditions are when the 10-speed Shiftmatic transmission does its best work, too, ‘shifting’ between its artificial ratios quite like a normal automatic and shuffling into EV mode wherever it’s able to do so.
In saying that, the drivetrain can occasionally ‘clunk’ when shifting between EV and hybrid driving if you hit the throttle hard while travelling at low speeds, as the car needs a moment to figure out how much power it needs to put down.
But this is a performance car, so is the LC500h as fast as it looks? Well yes, and no.
Moving out of the city and onto some winding back roads with triple-digit speed limits, the LC500h presents something of a mixed bag. It’s definitely not short on poke. Lexus claims a 0–100km/h time of 5.0 seconds (versus 4.7sec in the LC500) and a top speed of 250km/h. Without having tested the acceleration using GPS tracking equipment, by the seat of the pants this thing is definitely quick.
Plant your foot to the floor and the V6 roars to life and revs right up to the redline, with a more pronounced engine note that is augmented by the in-car speaker system. Certainly doesn’t sound too synthesised, though.
You might also notice a high-pitched whine from the electric motor under hard acceleration, which has a bit of a supercharger vibe about it.
At times there’s a bit of hesitation between EV and hybrid drive under full acceleration, as the system works out which power source it needs, and the transmission at times can have a bit of an identity crisis.
After a few hard launches, we noticed the Shiftmatic auto would either ‘step’ at high revs or just ‘bounce’ off the redline, though neither were super engaging nor appealing to the ear compared to, say, the proper upshifts and exhaust pops of the true 10-speed automatic of the V8 model.
That aside, though, the LC500h picks up pace in a muscular and linear manner. It certainly doesn’t feel slow, and tends to spin the rear wheels if you plant the throttle too early – kicking in the very sensitive traction-control system. Our tester didn’t have the Torsen limited-slip differential that forms part of the hybrid’s $15,000 Enhancement Pack – the V8 gets this standard.
As for the ride and handling, the LC impresses despite its near two-tonne kerb weight. The steering is light and direct, though could use a little more feedback, making the big 4770mm long and 1920mm wide coupe feel nimble and athletic.
It rides beautifully, too, finding a great balance between comfort and sportiness. The LC barely rolls in corners, while also absorbing the lumps and bumps of inner-city roads with relative ease.
You can toggle five different drive modes that adjust various aspects like throttle response, steering weight and damping, but we found there isn’t a huge difference between ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport+’ in terms of the ride, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.
On one hand, you may appreciate the fact the LC is comfortable in any setting, which may prompt you to drive around in Sport+ just to have the cool LFA-style digital dial show up in your cluster – more on that in a bit.
However, those wanting a more Jekyll-and-Hyde vibe may be disappointed there’s not more variance between modes in that respect.
Insulation from perceived road and wind noise is impressive, too. Keep in mind this thing is riding on massive 21-inch wheels with 245/40 front and 275/35 rear low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport performance tyres. Those tyres also offer plenty of cornering grip, keeping the hefty coupe confidently on the black stuff in the corners.
Stopping power is provided by six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers, which we found do the job well regardless of driving environment and offer a consistent feel through the pedal.
It’s relatively efficient, too. During our week with the car we returned an indicated 10.1L/100km over 700km of mixed driving, including a week’s worth of peak-hour traffic and a spirited run through the Victorian hills. That figure is a bit up on Lexus’s official claim of 6.7L/100km, though we did see low to mid nines during regular commuting.
With that real-world consumption in mind, you can get between 700–800km of range per fill of the LC500h’s 82L tank, which asks for 98RON exclusively.
The LC is certainly capable as a luxury sports car, but you wouldn’t buy the hybrid if you plan on driving hard often. It’s much more of a grand tourer and is better suited to everyday driving.
Beyond the drive experience, the LC has plenty more to offer – I mean, just look at it for starters. There’s something about this car that really catches my eye. I think it’s stunning, and the bright ‘Zinnia Yellow’ finish of our tester just gives it even more personality.
From the sharp lines to the muscular rear haunches, the LC just looks special. The fact it looks almost exactly like the LF-LC concept that previewed just adds to that, at least for me personally.
A range of other colours are available for those who might find Zinnia Yellow a little gauche, from greys to blues and even a lovely deep metallic burgundy, all of which are no-cost options mind you.
Regardless of the exterior finish, the LC garners plenty of interest. I can’t tell you how many times I caught people staring, or the number of questions and compliments I received at a ‘Cars and Coffee’ event I attended with this car – while beloved colleagues Kez Casey and Paul Maric were shunned in the M850i and 911 Carrera S respectively.
Hop inside and you’re greeted by a lovely leather and suede-lined cabin, which is almost as futuristic-looking as the exterior. While the all-black colourway you see here may do little to excite you, you can also get tan and red interiors, too. Regardless of the hue, though, it’s just lovely.
There’s leather (or leatherette) and suede just about everywhere, and there’s no cheap-feeling touchpoint or button in sight. You tend to forget the LC costs only $200,000, because its cabin has a level of plushness and tactility that some boutique vehicles more than twice the price struggle to match.
Like the suspension, the semi-aniline leather-accented front sports seats are supremely comfortable and offer 12-way power adjustment for both the driver and front passenger. Both seats also get memory functions, along with heating and ventilation.
Ahead of the driver is an 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster with sliding meter ring (bit of a party trick I realised), which changes the tacho design with each driving mode – including an LFA-style white-faced gauge in the Sport+ setting – along with a colour head-up display.
The leather-accented steering wheel feels lovely in the hand, while the leatherette centre cap with stitching is a nice touch. However, we noticed the bottom spoke is trimmed with a cheap-feeling plastic, which is a minor complaint given it’s not really something you’re meant to touch.
Speaking of touchpoints, the gearshift is leather-accented, too, and the door cards are a combination of leatherette and suede. Not only does it look great, it feels great to the touch, as well.
Even the interior door handles are works of art. They just sit there freestanding in all their polished-metal glory.
Rounding out the front-row amenities is the 10.3-inch infotainment system with native navigation and voice control, which runs the Lexus Enform software seen in other models in the company’s line-up, including our UX250h long-termer.
The long-standing quibbles with the interface remain, including the fiddly trackpad operation (though I’m used to it at this point having spent plenty of time in the UX), the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with the uninspiring menus and displays that do little to differentiate from Lexus’s other models, or Toyota offerings for that matter.
On the flipside, the 13-speaker, 918W Mark Levinson sound system is nothing short of first rate. The sound is clear, crisp, and has a wonderful depth that transforms the LC into a rolling studio.
The LC also comes standard with digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and USB and AUX inputs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto should also become available once the local arm starts rolling out its retrofit upgrade program for existing owners, though we haven’t heard of a timeframe for the LC as yet.
Rounding out the tech suite are active safety and driver-assistance systems like autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist with steering assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, all-speed adaptive cruise control, auto high-beam, and tyre-pressure monitoring. Plus, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rear-view and side mirrors, dual-zone climate control with ‘Nanoe’ moisturising, and a power-adjustable steering column.
We found the driver-assist systems to work well as with the wider Lexus range, with the adaptive cruise function with stop&go proving to be particularly useful in peak-hour traffic during the daily commute to and from the office. Blind-spot monitoring was also very useful in traffic given the wide rear haunches and limited glasshouse.
Behind the first row is a pair of rear seats best left for emergencies or short drives, as they’re not really suited for carrying adults often. Headroom is extremely limited, and you’ll find your head pressed up against the rear glass.
There is a clever function for both front seats to ensure adequate legroom, though. Pull the lever on the back of either of the front seats and they’ll electrically move forward out of the way for easier access, and then once the passenger is in place, the seat will start electrically moving back to its original position.
Once it touches the rear passenger’s leg, the seat will stop and then move forward again a touch to allow for some legroom. It’s all in the details.
Further back, there’s 172L of storage space under the bootlid, which isn’t groundbreaking for this type of car, but has a cutout that is suspiciously shaped like a golf bag.
I don’t play golf so I couldn’t test that theory, though there was enough room for a couple of large tennis bags. You’d be able to fit a regular suitcase or overnight luggage just fine, too.
From an ownership perspective, the LC500h is covered by Lexus’s four-year/100,000km warranty, whichever comes first. This beats the German luxury brands for time frame, though Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have unlimited mileage limits
The Lexus DriveCare programme is complimentary for the duration of the new-vehicle warranty period, which includes 24/7 roadside assistance, one-way metro taxi fares up to $150 (incl. GST) should your car break down, off-road patrols, a courier service for urgent small parcels or documents, along with entry assistance if you’re locked out of your vehicle. More on that here.
As for servicing, scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. At each service owners have the option of a complimentary loan car, or can elect to have their vehicle picked up from their home or office and returned once maintenance is complete. Lexus does not, however, offer a capped-price servicing program.
We contacted Lexus for an estimation of the LC500h’s service costs over the course of the warranty period, and the company quoted the first four intervals at $0, $809, $701 and $809 respectively – equating to $2319 over the first four years/60,000km.
The Lexus LC won’t appeal to everyone, and the hybrid version narrows its appeal to conventional luxury sports car buyers even more. It’s already lacking the badge cachet of the Germans, and on paper lacks the straight-line speed of flagship coupes from rival brands, along with its own V8-powered twin.
What it doesn’t have in prestige or brawn, though, the LC500h makes up for with gorgeous looks, comfort, first-rate build quality, and all-round driving competence. It’s as at home in CBD bumper-to-bumper traffic as it is on a winding country road, and will turn more heads than a Porsche 911 – ‘Cars and Coffee’ proved it.
And, should you be environmentally conscious, the fuel-saving and emissions-cutting benefits are obvious when compared to anything else the LC competes with. The Lexus is also fantastic value for money, undercutting some rivals by up to six figures, and being a Lexus it should never break, right?
It’s the thinking man’s sports car, but I’m thinking I’d still go for the V8.