The Lexus LC is one of the most visually striking cars on the market right now, and whether you love or hate its design, you can’t deny that it is stunning.
Engine: 3.5L V6
System Output: 354 hp
Transmission: CVT + 4-speed automatic
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 26 city, 35 hwy, 30 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 8.6 city, 7.0 hwy, 7.8 combined
US Price: Starts at $96,510
CAN Price: $120,271
(all prices include destination fees)
The 2018 Lexus LC 500h is a grand touring car, so instead of driving a traditional grand tour from London to Paris, we did the Canadian version and drove it from Toronto to Montreal over Canada Day long weekend. Everywhere we drove it, people were gawking and trying to sneak photos, rolling down their windows to ask us about it, and generally acting like they spotted a pop star roaming around and wanted to be part of the hubbub. This car is so unique and although people might not know what it is when they see it, they do know it’s something special.
Style or Substance?
This coupe is remarkable from every angle. The swoopy car’s long hood, exaggerated haunches, and short deck give it classic proportions for a grand touring coupe yet it’s executed in an entirely modern way. The lines flow beautifully and the proportions are nearly perfect. The LC 500 is easily one of the most elegant grand touring coupes available.
The interior is also crafted nicely and with premium materials, although some hard plastics can be found here and there. Aside from awkward placement of the drive mode selector and those odd hard plastics, the cabin’s design and layout are quite pleasing to the eye.
Unfortunately, the way the LC 500h looks is this car’s biggest draw, and I’m afraid this hybrid has a serious case of style over substance. There aren’t very many compelling reasons to buy this coupe over its competition (or even its V8 sibling) besides its exceptional good looks.
The Grand Tour
As a grand touring car, the LC 500h doesn’t have to be sporty or even exciting — grand tourers have to be smooth, effortless and comfortable, first and foremost, and advanced tech that makes the drive easier is always appreciated. I found the coupe comfortable during long trips, but my boyfriend found that the seats were a bit too bolstered and restraining for him. His hair was also brushing the headliner, so his six-foot-three frame found the cabin a bit tight. The trunk is also big enough to comfortably fit two carry-on-sized bags, which is all you’ll need because the back two seats are essentially too cramped to hold adult passengers.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe Review
Although this car might look intimidating from the outside, the drive is relaxed. It’s only available with rear-wheel drive, but it’s not some tail-happy sports car, instead displaying a lot of poise and grace when cruising around. Although the switchover from EV driving to the gas-powered V6 could definitely be smoother at low speeds, it switches pretty seamlessly at highway speeds when coasting. I do wish it was easier to drive in pure EV mode – the car seemed too willing to fire up the gas engine even when in Eco mode and with ultra gentle driving.
The suspension setup is pretty good for long drives, meaning it rides comfortably over rough roads but also doesn’t feel sloppy in a corner. It feels balanced, composed, and relaxed. There isn’t a lot of urgency in the way it moves, but acceleration is quick enough to make passing slower cars and getting up to highway speeds a non-issue. It’s not effortless, but it gets the job done.
Features like adaptive cruise control also make the drive less stressful. The system is smooth and easy to use, although the acceleration and deceleration would benefit from feeling more natural. The system even works in stop and go traffic, which is much appreciated. The safety systems like lane keep assist and parking sensors are also a bit too intrusive and hyper sensitive — the car loves beeping at you for no apparent reason.
Lack of Tech and Features
The fact that this is, as tested, a six-figure car from Lexus means that people expect it to come pretty much fully loaded. Charging this much for a car and still asking extra for features like a heated steering wheel, blind spot monitoring, and head-up display is pretty weak at this price point.
Canadian models come fully loaded from the get-go, however, helping justify its price, but the tech and features are still lacking. For example, the LC doesn’t have a 360-degree top-down camera, wireless charging, or self-parking assist, all things that can easily be found in much cheaper vehicles. [Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that heated and ventilated seats aren’t available in the hybrid because that was the information reflected on the official website. In fact, in Canada, all Lexus LC models come standard with heated and ventilated seats, despite the incorrect information on the Lexus website. The function must be accessed through the infotainment screen, as there is no physical button to activate the heated and cooled seats.]
It’s even worse that Apple CarPlay or Android Auto isn’t offered because the infotainment system in the LC is terrible. While its touchpad cursor controller is finicky and not at all intuitive, the system itself is slow to react and has a convoluted menu structure, and it locks you out of many options while you’re on the move, so a passenger can’t even input a new address while you’re driving. This would be easier to deal with by using voice commands to input addresses into the navigation, but the voice recognition was awful and did not once understand my very clear attempts to dictate addresses. Even the navigation assist where you phone in and the Lexus representative can download an address to your system is a nice touch as a final attempt, but we called in three times to get directions to our hotel, and it didn’t work until the third attempt. This is a failure of an infotainment system, where a seemingly simple task like changing the radio station or canceling your navigation route is enough to frustrate even the most patient drivers. The technology on offer here simply isn’t at the level it needs to be at this price point.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Lexus LC500 Review
Better off Getting the V8
These days, a hybrid system can be used to achieve two very different goals: to boost performance or get better fuel economy, but you can’t usually get both. In the Lexus LC 500h’s case, it doesn’t do either very well and is stuck somewhere in the middle. The coupe would have been more successful as a plug-in hybrid so the car could tap a bigger battery for instant torque, but also run solely on EV power for longer periods of time. The battery was never charged enough to drive in EV mode during our trip. Instead, over our 680-mile (1,100-km) road trip, fuel economy was averaging a not-that-impressive 27 mpg (8.6 L/100 km), and that was mostly highway driving. Considering the V8 is rated at 26 mpg on the highway, there’s even less reason to get the hybrid model.
This makes the price premium for the hybrid hard to justify. You’re better off getting the V8 model because it sounds fantastic, is faster and more powerful, and is even less expensive and won’t get dramatically worse fuel economy. The sad truth is that the LC 500h is quite boring to drive, which I could easily forgive if it got killer fuel economy, was ultra luxurious, or had cutting-edge technology, but it doesn’t do any of those things, so it doesn’t have a lot of redeeming qualities for the price it demands. The V8, meanwhile, drives a harder bargain.
The Verdict: 2018 Lexus LC 500h Review
The 2018 Lexus LC 500h is a frustrating car. There was so much potential for it to be a budget Aston Martin, but there are so many ways that Lexus missed the mark. The coupe’s shortcomings would be easier to forgive if the price was right, but the six-figure price tag only amplifies everything that is wrong with it. When a car’s best and only redeeming quality is how it looks, that’s a huge problem. As a car that is supposed to represent the very best of what Lexus has to offer, I come away a bit let down.
But if all you’re looking for is a relaxed and unapologetically beautiful grand tourer, this is one of the most stunning on the market.
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