Road TestsClassic CarsInterviewsQ&AAbout/Bio

2018 Lexus LC 500h
The 2018 Lexus LC 500h hybrid is gorgeous, fast, plush and fuel thrifty.

Price: $96,510

The 2018 Lexus LC 500h hybrid GT should attract a good number of buyers because of its rakish styling, which is backed with solid performance.

The somewhat controversial Lexus “spindle” grille looks good on the rear-drive LC 500h. And the $96,510 gas-electric LC 500h I tested does 0-60 m.p.h. in 4.7 seconds and hits 155 m.p.h. It has a new-generation “Multi-Stage Hybrid” powertrain: There’s a 3.5-liter gas V-6 and two electric motor/generators that develop a combined 354 horsepower and 256 pound/feet of torque.

This is the first Lexus hybrid to use a compact, lightweight lithium-ion battery. The battery pack fits neatly between the rear seats and luggage compartment, which is rather small and has a high opening..

Power shoots to a smooth planetary-type continuously variable transmission that’s too complicated to explain here. Sufficient to say they act together to provide the effect of 10 ratios and let a driver shift through the ratios with paddle shifters.

You can choose various driving modes, including “Economy”, “Normal” and “Sport/Sport+”” via a dashboard knob. “Normal” is the best choice for regular driving. “Sport+” makes the car too aggressive for normal street driving, as if it should be on a race track. The car’s seemingly mile-thick owner’s manual says “Normal” provides “an optimal balance of fuel economy, quietness and dynamic performance.” I found little use for the paddle shifters, although they work well.

Estimated fuel economy is 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on highways, although the rear-wheel-drive LC 500h weighs a hefty 4,435 pounds. After all, this is a GT car. It would be heavier, but uses aluminum for the hood, front fenders and door skins. Only the rear fender are steel. Good aerodynamics enhance fuel economy. For instance, the exterior door handles jut out a bit when you press the key fob to open the doors, then retract against the body when the door is shut. Also, the car’s underbody is almost completely smooth for less wind resistance.

The LC 500h weighs too much to provide sports car performance, at least on a track, although handling is quite good. The steering is quick at 2.6 turns lock-to-lock, although it’s on the heavy side. I found handling is secure on such things as sweeping bends taken at above-average speeds, and the powerful brakes work well, although I could tell that they’e hybrid-car brakes. The ride is supple, although don’t expect it to be as smooth as a Lexus sedan’s ride.

Want more muscle? Well, there’s also the non-hybrid $92,000 LC 500. It has a 5-liter 471 horsepower V-8 that develops 398 foot-pounds of torque and, says Lexus, the first 10-speed automatic for a luxury auto. I didn’t test the V-8 version, but Lexus says it hits 60 m.p.h. in 4.4 seconds and tops out at 168 m.p.h. The LC 500 weighs less than the hybrid version at 4,280 pounds and delivers an estimated 16 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on highways. It sounds sexier than the hybrid version with that V-8.

Both LC models require premium fuel. The LC 500h has a 22.2-gallon fuel tank, while the LC 500’s tank holds a little less, at 21.7 gallons.

The LC 500h has such rakish styling and luxury that I suspect many buyers won’t care if car has the V-8 or hybrid system. However, the front end is very low and thus might be easily damaged. Also, the LC 500h’s two doors are long and heavy, and rear vision is poor without the outside mirrors. The tight, hard-to-reach rear-seat area is best suited for children, although the seats there look good and are comfortable. Front seats are nicely formed to provide comfort and above-average support. Alcantara Sport seats that provide greater driver support and grip during dynamic driving are offered in a $2,400 Sport package.

The gorgeous, quiet interior has a big front console that takes up lots of room. But the cockpit practically smothers you with leather, and the flowing lines of the door panels are an extension of an exterior line that flows from the hood and through the windshield to allow a sense of continuity between the exterior and interior. Gauges can be quickly read, and all driving controls are easily reached without changing one’s position. However, I found that the Remote Touch Interface touchpad control took a lot of effort. At least there are some basic controls.

You can get get heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel in option packages.

About those packages. They contain a variety of desirable comfort and mechanical items but are costly, ranging in price from $2,400 to $8,790, with one in the middle priced at $5,400. It’s thus easy to order a LC 500h that lists at more than $100,000. The many options on my test car included a blind spot monitor, intuitive park assist and heads-up display, which I found very useful.

The LC 500h comes standard with an array of active safety features that can help a driver avoid an accident or lessen the consequences of a collision. For instance, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection is designed to detect vehicles and pedestrians under certain conditions, and there’s also all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist.

The 2018 Lexus LlC 500h is a specialty car that is unlikely to be a common sight. But owners of this car should be prepared to draw plenty of admiring glances.

Lexus LC 500h 1

Lexus LC 500h 2

Lexus LC 500h rear

Lexus LC 500h rear 2

Lexus LC 500h interior

Lexus LC 500h pros and cons

Lexus LC 500h bottom line