With the 2018 LC500 and LC500h Hybrid, Lexus reenters the luxury sport coupe world with its all-new flagship of the line, offering both performance and efficiency to high-end buyers.
Based on an all-new architecture, the new large high-feature chassis and product line encompasses also the new top-drawer 20018 Lexus LS sedan. It’s the largest Lexus sport coupe to date, dwarfing the SC with a 113-inch wheelbase and wide proportions all around.
Styling is based on the LF-LC concept car from 2012 that set in motion many of the design themes we see across the brand today. In the LC500h we see much of the same detail level found in the concept car such as its jeweled LED headlights, flush door handles and mirrored LED tail lights.
Ours rides on huge 21-inch polished aluminum wheels and being the hybrid has the badges on the side that say so in addition to the blue halo Lexus emblems front and rear. Its floating roof design is straked by a prominent chrome arrow strip that separates the carbon fiber top panel from the steel. A glass roof panel is also available.
The interior is really where the LC’s flagship status is most obvious, here lined with miles of leather, stitched soft trims and optioned on ours Alcantara suedes. It smells rich, feels rich and looks it too. The sport seats are infinitely comfortable and aggressively supportive, the console high and the seating position low.
This isn’t an overt sports car, but rather a luxury sport coupe. Thus the balance of features and niceties are skewed toward comfort and convenience rather than track day tools. The electronic shift lever, the console mounted track pad and TFT displays all serve to impress technologically and that they do.
It’s a comfortable place to drive all day as you reel in the miles of quiet solid motoring. The drive modes here range from ECO to Sport+, the latter stiffening up its multi-link suspension considerably. Even there, the ride remains refined in spite of the extra firmness and staccato beat of the lower profile tires on its optional 21-inch wheels.
The chassis doesn’t get its feather ruffled even when thrown deftly into a curve of rough pavement, delivering reasonably good steering feel. Here we have the variable gear ratio steering system that quickens steering in slow situations like in parking lots and out on windy roads. It slows the ratio for high speeds for better stability. Works well.
354 system horsepower comes from a 3.5 liter Atkinson Cycle V6 and a new two-motor hybrid drive system. The engine itself features D4S fuel injection which means both port and direct injection, either or both can be used depending on parameters.
The gearbox combines a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a four-speed automatic to create what is effectively a 10-speed automatic. If that sounds bizarre, it kind of is but it works to provide the traditional feel of a conventional automatic when you expect it and the functionality of a CVT when it needs to be a hybrid.
Happily it seems to work reasonably well and delivers the feel of real shifts when you snap them off with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The gear ratio spread allows for the LC500h to have impressive acceleration of 4.7 seconds from 0-60 mph regardless of its relatively low horsepower rating and its weight of 4435 pounds.
Fuel economy is where the action is even if you don’t normally expect it from a luxury sport coupe. Here the EPA rates the LC500h at 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. We managed 32 mpg combined in our week with it, an impressive number given what this thing is.
The 2018 Lexus LC500h starts at $92,000. Ours was well optioned with packages and individual options that brought it to $108,605. It’s a healthy sum but compared to contemporaries from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar it’s on the low side for comparative purposes.
In putting a value equation here, it’s always tough with luxury products. With the Lexus however the supposition is one of long term reliability and low maintenance compared to the known quantities of the peers.