Since Lexus eliminated the SC following the 2010 model year, fans of the brand’s luxury tourer have been clamoring for a successor. Lexus fought off these demands as long as it could. Heck, it even tried to satiate its ravenous fans with the RC. While the RC was enough to get some fans through the hunger pangs, they remained mostly unsatisfied.
Then came the 2012 debut of the Lexus LF-LC concept, and everyone took notice. Was Lexus actually doing it? Or was this just another concept that would end up a fond memory instead of a production rig? Well, as we entered the 2018 model year, we learned that this would be a reality, as Lexus introduced the LC 500 and its greener sibling, the LC 500h.
I spent the past week in the latter, and here’s my take on it.
Likely the LC 500h’s most endearing quality is its styling. Inside and out, this car is a looker. From the outside, its low-slung roofline, impossibly long nose, huge spindle grille, sharp LED lighting, signature flared rear wheel wells with air inlets, and perched LED taillights attract lots of stares of envy. Hell, I even caught myself staring a few times.
As you approach the LC and unlock it, the flush door handles pop out as to invite you in for a spin. And with looks like this, who could ever turn it down – this car almost begs to be driven.
Inside, the goodness mostly continues, as the LC 500h’s cabin is filled with the tanned hide of many dead cows. One of my first tasks when I get into any luxury car is to play a very expensive game of Where’s Waldo, as I search for where the automaker saved money by sneaking in cheap plastic. In the LC 500h, I had a hard time finding this, except in the places where you must have it. Every square inch above the hipline is either leather or a matte chrome, making this rig feel like it’s well worth the $100K you shelled out for it.
The front-seat passenger is enveloped by the swooping handle assembly on the center console. I am guessing this handle also double as the “oh, crap” bar, as my wife frequently grabbed it when she saw me flick it into Sport+ model. On top of being the “oh, crap” bar, this swooping piece adds yet another super-modern touch to this coupe.
The LC 500h is by far one of the most gorgeous cars I have ever had the pleasure of driving and shattered Lexus’ safe-space mold, so I have no issue giving it a perfect 10 out of 10.
Up front, you are treated to super-comfortable seats that are good even on long hauls, a massive 10.3-inch screen, an LED dash that changes with each drive mode, and an optional 915-watt Mark Levinson audio system that is precise and deafeningly loud. While the front seats are great, there are a few downsides to it all. One of my biggest gripes is that the seats are perforated, but they do not have ventilation, and I expect this in a $100K car.
In the rear, the LC 500h does an about-face and becomes one of the worst cars I have ever tested. The seats have all of 32.5 inches of legroom, and I argue that is way too generous. My 7-year-old son struggled to sit behind my 4-foot-11 wife. Also, that sexy roofline makes the rear seat’s headroom way too tight – I lost count of how many times I hit my 3-year-old’s head off the roof when putting him in his seats.
Speaking of getting in the car, let’s talk about ingress and egress. This is another sore spot for the LC. Its doors are understandably long, as it needs to make some room to slither into the back seats. However, getting in and out tough in tighter spaces a little tricky, as there are only two stops on the door hinge assembly, and one leaves the door opening too narrow to squeeze through while the other allows the door to smack the car next to you in tighter spots. As a courteous parker, I found this extremely annoying.
As for the trunk, it is tiny on paper at 4.7 cubic feet, but I managed to cram four full-size water-cooler bottles in it, so it makes pretty good use of that space. That said, there is no outside trunk-release button, so you are forced to use either the remote or the interior button.
While I cannot say the LC 500h is uncomfortable, as that would be unfair, its tiny rear seats and minuscule trunk put it somewhere in the middle of the pack. I say it is a 5.5 out of 10, at best.
The LC 500h is rolling technology, so it is hard not to lump the entire care into this section, but I want to turn the focus to one area: infotainment. While the 10.3-inch infotainment screen is crisp and clear, the Lexus Remote Touch Interface is so frustrating you can only laugh.
Lexus has tried to smooth things out by replacing the idiotic joystick with a mouse pad, but this seems more like bone tossing on Lexus’ end rather than an actual attempt to fix the issue. Want to adjust your route wheel driving using the mouse pad? Forget about it. You’re safer reading “War and Peace” on your Kindle while driving.
What makes matters worse is that the voice control is just as frustrating, as its required phrases are not easy to memorize, and it struggles greatly with finding points of interest. Plus, there is no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, which adds to the frustration.
Moving away from the infotainment system, the LED headlights are solid and illuminate your path nicely, while the standard adaptive cruise functions well. One big flaw, though, is its lack of a surround-view camera, which is confusing considering cheaper Lexus models have this feature.
While I enjoy the sound of the Mark Levenson 915-watt audio system, the LC 500h’s tiny cabin does not provide great acoustics, so it’s more ear-bleeding loud than pleasing at anything about 50% volume.
The LC 500h scores a 5.5 out of 10 because of its crummy infotainment system and lack of a surround-view monitor.
Performance & Fuel Economy
I have heard the LC 500h called many not-so-favorable things, including a neutered sports car and a sports car lite. Even in jest, I don’t think this is deserved. The LC 500h is a different breed of sports car or luxury tourer – whatever you want to call it – that caters to a different buyer. It serves up great performance while still remaining somewhat green.
Yes, at 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque it comes up short of its meaner cousin, the 471-horsepower LC 500h. That said, there is some value in its 26 mpg city, 35 highway, and 30 combined fuel economy ratings. What’s more, you get this mileage while being just about 0.3 seconds slower to 60 mph than the V-8-powered LC that guzzles fuel at a rate of 16 mpg city, 26 highway, and 19 combined.
Note: I had a very heavy foot during my mostly city driving for the week I had the LC 500h, and I ended up around 26 mpg.
Backing up the 3.5-liter V-6 and dual-stage hybrid system is a continuously variable transmission with 10 simulated speeds and a four-speed automatic. The technological dance these two transmissions do is beyond my understanding, but I do understand that the traditional automatic transmission helps deliver a better launch.
What the LC 500h’s powertrain does lack is that mean growl the Lexus V-8 offers in the LC 500. It does have simulated engine noise that gets piped into the cabin, but it sounds more like a 1990s video game Lambo than a mean Lexus V-8. Why not just let the V-6’s vocal chords do the talking?
All that said, the LC 500h can pin you to your seat with its instant torque, and the ponies are plenty for any normal driver. Plus, its fuel economy is out of this world for a sub-5-second car that starts south of $100K – mine tested just south of $102,000.
Handling is OK in the LC 500h, but its 4,435-pound curb weight forces a little sphincter puckering when cornering at high speeds, but the 275-mm rear tires refuse to give up their death grip on the pavement. It’s neither a pig nor a cornering monster either – it rests somewhere in the middle. It is, however, relatively comfortable in Comfort or Eco mode. Additionally, its steering is a bit disconnected, leading to minimal feedback for the driver.
Though it lacks a bit in handling and I missed the engine growl, the LC 500h is still a good-performing luxury touring model. It earns an 8.5 out of 10.
What Would I Do?
If I had the $102,000 that my tester costs and had to buy a car with it, would I run to my nearest Lexus dealer and plunk that cash down to buy the LC 500h?
As a dad of two kids, my wife would probably divorce me, but for $102,000, this one of the better Goldilocks cars. It doesn’t do any one thing great, but its porridge is perfectly warmed, thanks to its incredible fuel economy for its class, good performance, stunning style, and half-amazing-half-terrible cabin.