Let’s suppose you went on a date with the most beautiful person you could ever imagine; someone you thought unreachable, untouchable, on a pedestal. Then that perfect date showed up dressed just as perfectly, spent a few blissful days with you and left you wanting more after it was over.
That’s pretty much how I felt a few months ago after a week with a Lexus LC 500. It was as near perfection as a I have ever found in a car that is not necessarily of reach to most of us, unlike say a Ferrari or some other supercar. At the time I joked with the Lexus rep that the LC500 and I were ‘eloping’ running off to unknown roads there to drive happily ever after.
There was no laughter on the other end. And yes, I of course–sadly–gave them the car back after my requisite week.
Flash forward a few months and Lexus sent me another LC 500 for another week. This time it was the hybrid version, the LC 500h. And it was delivered a week after I attended the Lexus Performance Driving School at Daytona International Speedway. There I had a chance to, among other things, throw an LC 500 around an autocross course and fly down the frontstretch of that iconic speedway at speeds nearing 165 mph.
So yeah, another week with an LC? Sure, I’m in.
For those unfamiliar with the LC, shame on you, but anyway: In 2012 Lexus showed the world a concept car, the LF-LC at the North American Auto Show in Detroit. Sure, it was great looking, but how many concept cars do we actually see in the dealer’s showroom?
Fast forward to 2017, and the answer is the 2018 Lexus LC 500. The production version of the LF-LC concept car shown off in Detroit back in 2012. The LC 500h is the hybrid version.
The differences between the 500 and 500h are mainly unseen. The 500 has a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter powerplant (based on the same one used with the GS F and RC F) with 471 horses and 398 pounds of torque, with a 10-speed transmission delivering the power to the rear wheels. The 500h powerplant is a Multi-Stage Hybrid in Lexus-speak (unlike the Hybrid Synergy Drive used by other hybrids in the Toyota/Lexus lineup). It uses an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V-6 and two electric motors in combination with a unique transmission that’s basically two gearboxes in one. It incorporates both a two-motor hybrid continuously variable transmission (CVT) and an Aisin four-speed automatic which broadens the hybrid operating range. It all adds up to 354 hp, 117 fewer horsepower and 143 pounds more than the LC 500.
One thing that didn’t change is the sheer beauty of the LC.
No, there is no growl, no beastly roar when the pedal is stomped, but on the road. The LC is seriously one of the best-looking cars I’ve had a chance to spend time with. The spindle grill melts into sweeping lines that end in a squared off rear with flared quarter panels framing it. The rear exhaust outlet is angled like a diffuser and Lexus kept the underbody as smooth as possible. There is also a rear active spoiler that only deploys at speeds above 50 mph.
Like the LC 500 version, inside the cabin is snug, but nicely so. With the optional performance package, mine had the Alcantara sport seats along with the Alcantara and carbon fiber accents; the exterior beauty carried over to the interior.
Being a relatively heavy car (4471-pound curb weight), the 500h isn’t something that can be thrown around. But as I learned during my time on the autocross during the Performance Driving School, the design in combo with that weight seems to help downforce giving a driver confidence that can’t be had when worried about breaking loose.
That doesn’t mean the LC can’t get it done, or the 143 extra pounds affects performance all that much. In the 500 I did 0-60 on 4.5 seconds, 4.7 in the 500h, only 0.2 seconds difference.
Beyond the lack of a V8 roar, there seems no real differences between the LC 500 and LC 500h. Except how often you’ll need to stop at a gas station; the 500 has a combined mpg of 19, the 500h 30 so there’s that.
Look I get it; the automotive world is going hybrid and the rest of us old V8 gearheads are starting to accept that. The LC 500h certainly helps. After getting a chance to spend a week with both versions, it’s sort of like finding out on the second date that she’s vegan but doesn’t mind if you eat a steak.
I again pondered an elopement, but at the end of the week I watched it go and started saving up my pennies.
The 2018 Lexus LC 500h
MSRP (as tested): $101,375
Engine: Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V-6 and two electric, 354 hp @ 6600 rpm, 256.7 lb.-ft torque @ 4900 rpm
Transmission: Multi Stage Hybrid
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 26 city, 35 highway, 30 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested mixed conditions: 22mpg
Base Curb Weight: lbs 4435
Cargo Area Dimensions
Trunk Volume: ft³ 4.7 cu. ft.
Wheelbase: in 113
Length, Overall: in 187.4
Width, Max w/o mirrors: in 75.6
Height, Overall: in 53
Track Width, Front: in 64.2
Track Width, Rear: in 64.4
Min Ground Clearance: in 5.5
Passenger Capacity: 4
Passenger Volume: ft³ 85.9
Front Head Room: in 37.2
Front Leg Room: in 42
Front Shoulder Room: in 56.5
Front Hip Room: in 54.1
Second Head Room: in 32.2
Second Leg Room: in 32.5
Second Shoulder Room: in 48.9
Second Hip Room: in 43.7
Basic: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 6 Years/70,000 Miles
Corrosion: 6 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 4 Years/Unlimited Miles
Maintenance: 1 Years/10,000 Miles
Hybrid Component 8 yr./ 100000 mi.
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