The 2018 Lexus LC500h is great at a few things – the first is attracting attention. Just look at it; the LC500h is a sculpted coupe with a lengthy hood, thick rear haunches, and intricate details at every corner. The Japanese take on a luxury two door model is also good at being complex – but in a good way.
You might say the LC500h’s powertrain is over-engineered. After all, its 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V-6 is paired to a transmission that combines both a CVT with a four-speed automatic inside a longitudinal housing that also gets twist from two electric motors. The result is a total system output of 354 horsepower and an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined. City estimates are 26 mpg and highway runs should average 35 mpg. Those aren’t terrible numbers for a heavy grand touring luxury coupe.
Ride and Handling
The hybrid LC rides as good as it looks, too. Its adaptive dampers offer selectable ride settings that range from smooth to stiff. The drive modes also control the powertrain’s operation. There is Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+. Lexus also includes a Custom setting where owners can dial in their preferred suspension and drivetrain settings.
Set to Comfort, the LC glides down the highway with ease. Only broken pavement interrupts the smooth ride and cabin’s hushed volume. Speed becomes deceptive at this point, with extra-legal speeds happening without notice. Thankfully, the coupe comes with adaptive cruise control.
Twisty roads are right for Sport mode. Here, the adaptive dampers stiffen the ride and the adaptive steering becomes more weighted yet precise. Feedback is muted, but the overall steering feel is good. Lexus has caved to the trend of piping in artificial engine noises, so Sport and Sport+ modes have the cabin rumbling with sounds of a high-strung V-6. Interestingly, there’s a hint of supercharger whine, too, despite the LC500h being naturally aspirated.
Throwing the Lexus around is fun, though, at 4,435 pounds, she’s no ballerina. Expect understeer when heading to the racetrack – well, we don’t really see it happening, but just in case someone does. However, the powertrain’s 354 horsepower feels like an understatement at full tilt, with 60 mph coming in only 4.7 seconds. Lexus limits the LC’s top speed to 155 mph. Relative to other luxury-first coupes, the LC500h feels quick. Relative to its V-8 powered brother, the LC500, the “h” version misses the mark.
A Showdown of Powertrains: Hybrid vs. V-8
I spent a week with a 2018 Lexus LC500 about three months ago, and boy, the difference between the two cars is night and day. Where the LC500h feels soft and reserved, the LC500 feels like a pack of wolverines wrapped in a silk bag. Its 5.0-liter V-8 makes a reasonable 471 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, giving the LC more of a raw component than the quiet V-6 hybrid powertrain in the LC500h.
The LC500 will hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, a top speed of 168 mph, and weighs 155 pounds less. The V-8 is backed by a less complex 10-speed automatic transmission. Both LC models power the rear wheels. The LC500 also costs $4,510 less than the LC500h. That begs the question: is the LC500h worth the extra money?
Aside from performance, fuel economy is the big factor here. Where the LC500h is rated at 26/35/30, the V-8-powered LC500 is only rated at 16/26/19 mpg. Now, despite both engines running premium gasoline, it would take quite a while to make up the cost difference in fuel when buying the hybrid. You also lose that V-8 goodness the LC500 has over its hybrid counterpart.
What’s more, who would be worried about saving money on premium fuel when buying a $100,000 sports car? The LC500 starts at $92,000 and the LC500h starts at $96,510. With $5,485 worth of optional extras and Lexus’ $995 destination fee, my LC500h tester costs a whopping $101,995.
Factor in the price of the two cars and the hybrid’s fuel efficiency benefits become almost laughable. $4,510 buys an awful lot of gas and the V-8’s throaty rumble and more traditional feel are more than worth skipping the “green” option.
Living With the LC500h
Regardless of what powertrain you chose, the LC offers loads of luxury inside its 2+2 cabin. Every inch of the cabin is bathed in high-end materials. Nothing looks cheap or out of place. I do complain about there only being one real cup holder and one sort-of cup holder under the center armrest. Americans love our drinks, after all.
Getting in and out of the car is pretty easy, so long as you’re in good physical shape. The trunk is rather small and there is no outside button to open it. You’ll have to press the dash-mounted release button or use the key fob. Frustratingly, the key fob option only works when the car is off. Room in the rear seats is cramped and should be left for smaller folks in rare events.
All told, the 2018 Lexus LC500h is a sweet grand touring car that’s more than capable of a comfortable cross-country trip. The hybrid powertrain is a marvel of modern automotive technology, but it might be too smart for its own good when compared to the V-8 LC500. Still, for those who want to drive a sports car while maintaining a green image, the LC500h makes a solid choice.
|Specs: 2018 Lexus LC500h|
|Starting MSRP||$96,510 + $995 Destination|
|Engine||3.5-liter V6 plus two electric motors|
|Transmission||4-speed auto + continuously variable transmission|
|Power||295hp @ 6,600 rpm plus 100hp electric motors; 354hp combined|
|Torque||257 lb-ft @ 4,900 pm; plus 150 lb-ft elec. motors; 350 lb-ft combined|
|0-60mph||4.7 sec (0-100km/h 5.0 sec) est|
|Top Speed||155mph (250 km/h) est|
|EPA (CITY/HWY/COMB)||26 mpg / 35 mpg /30 mpg|
|Length / Width / Height||187.4 / 75.6 / 53 in. (4,780 / 1,920 / 1,346 mm)|
|Wheelbase||113.0 in. (2,870 mm)|
|Cargo Volume||4.7 cubic feet (133 liters)|
|Weight||4,435 lbs (2,011 kg)|