Toyota/Lexus makes no excuse for its goal of dominating the automotive market with both practical and outrageous exotic sports cars. Its newest LC 500h hybrid is a terrific example of the latter, with hybrid fuel economy that costs thousands less than its rivals.
Its curb appeal is arguably unmatched against the BMW I-8, Acura NSX and Porsche 911, with a sticker price of nearly $50,000 less than some. Enough said.
The LC 500h comes on the heels of last year’s debut of its sibling, LC 500 V-8 (reviewed separately), that is more outrageous and a half-second faster than its hybrid counterpart with a 4.4 second time reaching 60 mph. Pick your poison. Surprisingly, the V-8 is priced $4,500 less than the hybrid.
• Luscious interior
• Low slung
• Stunning looks
• Little cargo space
• No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity
• Back seats not for sitting
• Awkward cup holder tray
Its presence is unmatched in sports car sheet metal design, with bulging rear quarter panels housing wider run flat tires than up front. Our test car’s optional Infrared color fit well with its forged wheels and oversize brake calipers front and rear.
The big snout grille out front in other Lexus models carries over in the 500h and, we feel, looks more at home than with other Lexus models.
A leader in hybrid technology, Lexus took its V-6 engine and twin electric motors to make 354 horsepower. A new multistage continuously variable transmission is further modulated in the LC with a four-speed automatic, creating a second transmission. There’s more.
In manual mode, with magnesium paddle-shifters, the system replicates a 10-speed transmission seamlessly and quickly goes through the early gears while shifting at redline and stretching upper gears.
Lacking off the line in g-force, the LC picks up speed nicely. Its 20-inch run flat tires stick to the pavement with direct steering, solid braking and track-like handling.
The LC isn’t built just for speed. With six driving modes – Eco, Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport and Sport Plus – the LC can wipe out road imperfections and achieve 30 mpg combined compared with 19 mpg from its V-8 sibling.
Stepping into the 500h is a breeze for all but the seven-footers amongst us. The driver cockpit is smartly enclosed with a partition off the right console that separates a myriad of control buttons, knobs and dials.
Unfortunately, Lexus has carried over its Infotainment remote touchpad that has distraction written all over it. That aside, the interior is superb in craftsmanship and adorned with suede and leather panels with soft padding everywhere. We found voice recognition commands work well while adjusting and setting up navigation, audio and climate controls.
Sales of the LC have been brisk, with the hybrid surpassing sales projections compared with the V-8. Sales of both models have exceeded the above named exotics combined. With a base price of $96,510, the LC is a relative bargain in this high stakes field.
In a week of test driving the LC, we found it brought smiles to passengers and onlookers alike. Test drive one at your local dealer and you may fall for its allure.
• Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at email@example.com.
Model: 2018 Lexus LC 500h
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6; dual electric motors 354 horsepower
EPA rated mileage: 26 city, 35 highway, 30 combined
Assembled: The LC 500h is assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing facilities in Japan. U.S./Canadian parts content - 0 percent. Major source of foreign parts, Japan – 100 percent. Country of origin, engine and transmission – Japan.
Crash test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have not yet rated the LC 500h.
Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile basic; 6-year/70,000 mile powertrain; first and second scheduled maintenance; 8 year/100,000 mile complete hybrid system.