2019 Lexus LC500h Review

The motoring world has been blessed with some beautiful looking cars over the years, with the Jaguar E-Type, Ferrari 250 GTO, Lamborghini Miura, Ford GT40, Aston Martin DBS, McLaren F1 and Audi R8 immediately springing to mind.  Back in 2012, Lexus premiered the LF-LC Concept, intended to be the replacement for the older SC model.  The project got approved and production started in early 2017, with two models introduced, including the LC500 V8 and LC500h V6 hybrid.

The good news for car enthusiasts was that the LC retained the overall design of the concept model, being a stunning looking two door coupe.  Having access to a 2019 LC500h provides a great opportunity to see this beautiful car close up and to see what it’s like to drive.  This particular model is fitted with the $15,000 Enhancement Pack, including a carbon roof, active rear wing, carbon interior scuff plates, leather-and-Alcantara seats and a rear-wheel steering system.  Before on-road costs, this LC500h is priced at $205,200.

Interior

After looking at the exterior of the LC500h, on first impression the interior is a bit underwhelming, particularly when finished in the tan colour of this example.  The leather-and-Alcantara front sport seats, although comfortable, have side bolsters that feel too narrow.  Both the driver and passenger front seats feature 12-way power adjustment, however the side bolsters have no adjustment.  Front seats can be heated and cooled, however this has to be selected from within the climate section on the infotainment screen.  There’s a 10.3-inch infotainment system with native navigation and voice control, and it’s well integrated into the dash.  At first, it’s hard to use the Lexus navigation panel to operate menus and sub-menus but this became easier with time.

In front of the driver sits an 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster with a sliding meter ring.  The steering wheel is of ideal proportions with high quality paddle shifters.  When looking at the dashboard, there’s stalks that come out horizontally from either side; the left stalk switches between drive modes while the right stalk turns traction and stability control on or off, and there’s also a snow function.  The park brake is interestingly operated by pushing a button located under the starter button.  On closer inspection of the interior, there’s a lack of cup holders and minimal legroom and headroom for rear seat occupants.  Boot capacity is only minimal at 172 Litres, much less than the 423 Litres found in the Lexus RC350F.  A small detail I enjoy is a small lock symbol located on the top of the driver and passenger doors that illuminates green when locked.  The carbon interior scuff plates are also a nice interior touch.

Exterior

To expand on my original thoughts of the most beautiful cars ever made, I really think that the Lexus LC500h deserves a place in this category.  It’s a stunning looking car from any angle that looks futuristic and should still look modern in years to come.  The ‘Infrared’ paint on this example really suits the car and combined with the big 21-inch 10-spoke silver wheels, it really stands out in traffic.  The Enhancement Pack adds to the aesthetics of the car with the addition of a carbon fibre roof and active rear wing.  The flared wheel arches that come out from the C-pillar look great and make the car look like it’s mid-engined.  When opening the car, the door handles pop out, revealing a Lexus logo.  There’s also blue highlights on the front and rear badges to identify this car as a hybrid.  The LC500h has functional side vents either side of the front bumper to aid in brake cooling.  At the rear of the car, there are four exhaust outlets, but it’s made to look like two big exhausts.  The huge wheels are wrapped with grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres; 275/35/21 at the rear and 245/40/21 at the front.

Standard equipment

The Lexus LC500h comes standard with digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and USB and AUX inputs.  There’s an excellent 13-speaker, 918W Mark Levinson sound system.  Active safety and driver-assistance systems include autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist with steering assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, all-speed adaptive cruise control, auto high-beam and tyre-pressure monitoring.  There’s also front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rear-view and side mirrors, dual-zone climate control, a power-adjustable steering column and eight airbags.  An energy monitor can be selected that displays trip information and the distribution of power to the engine, electric motor and battery.  Through the digital instrument cluster, the driver can toggle through range, tyre pressure (kpa), gear position, g-force, rear wing position and consumption.  There is however no Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or wireless phone charging.  The LC500h is covered by Lexus’s four-year/100,000km warranty, whichever comes first.

Drive modes

Lexus offers five drive modes including Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport S and Sport S+.  The driver can toggle through these modes by operating a stalk coming out of the left side of the instrument cluster.  The tachometer design changes depending on the drive mode selected.  The snow setting, traction control and stability control are operated by a stalk coming out of the right side of the instrument cluster.

Driving impressions and performance

After pushing the starter button, the LC500h is totally quiet, running simply on electric power.  It’s a surreal feeling after being so used to driving cars with no hybrid system.  Once underway and under acceleration, the petrol motor kicks in.  Unlike the naturally-aspirated V8 in the LC500, the LC500h comes with a front mounted 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine mated to a 650V Lexus Hybrid Drive System with lithium-ion battery, sending power to the rear wheels.  On its own, the petrol motor makes 220kW at 6600rpm and 348Nm at 4900rpm, while the electric motor makes 132kW and 300Nm.  Combined engine output is 264kW but there’s no figure on combined torque number  The petrol motor on its own has less power and torque than the Lexus RC350F previously tested (220kW and 348Nm compared to 232kW and 380Nm).  The LC500h is roughly 200kg heavier, but with the added power of the hybrid system, the power to weight ratio’s are similar, both at about 134kW/tonne in favour of the hybrid.  Having said that, the hybrid feels faster with a better torque output from the electric motor.

Lexus claims that the LC500h will cover the 0-100km/h sprint in five seconds and reach a top speed of 250km/h.  It’s quite an achievement for a car that weighs close enough to two tonnes and it does actually feel this fast by the seat of the pants.  The V6 sounds better in the higher part of the rev range, but overall this is a quiet car to drive.  The 275mm rear tyres offer a lot of grip under hard acceleration, with traction control only intervening on damp surfaces.

The car utilises a ‘Shiftmatic’ 10-ratio automatic, which combines an e-CVT with six ‘steps’ and a four-speed conventional auto to make 10 ‘steps’ or gears.  The gear selection can take time to get used to, particularly when engaging manual mode.  Overall, upshifts are fast enough but it’s not the best gearbox to use and often can’t make up its mind on what gear it wants, even when using manual mode.

It’s easy to place the LC500h exactly where it’s required on the road with excellent front end grip and turn in.  There’s a steering assist that can be turned on or off.  I found it to be a little bit artificial and heavy when turned on and as a result settled on standard steering sensitivity.  The Lexus can feel a bit out of its comfort zone with higher speed direction changes, where the mass of the car has its say, and is a car more suited to cruising.  Ride quality is very good for a car rolling on low profile 21 inch wheels and run flat tyres and the car is comfortable over a variety of different road surfaces.

Stopping power is provided by 338mm diameter ventilated discs with six-piston calipers at the front and 307mm diameter ventilated discs with four-piston calipers at the rear.  They do a great job of hauling up the heavy LC500h on the road.

The biggest difference in Drive Modes is between Eco and Sport S+.  The engine response is as predicted much better in Sport S+, with the car searching for higher gears in Eco mode for better fuel economy.  When selecting Sport S+, the rev counter looks reminiscent of the one found in the LFA and flashes red when approaching the rev limit of 6600rpm.

Some other items on the car that I enjoy are the head up display and the side mirrors.  The side mirrors really suit the overall design of the car and also offer a great understanding of your surroundings.  The active rear wing is a nice item and can be opened manually or automatically when above 80km/h.

Lexus’s official fuel consumption claim is 6.7L/100km, however I averaged about 10L/100km through a mixture of city and country driving.  It gives the car a range of 700-800km, with the car having an 82L tank.

Final thoughts

The LC500h is an expensive car, but actually costs less than some of its competitors, including the Porsche 911 (around $240,000), Jaguar F-Type V8 R (around $250,000) and the BMW 850i (around $273,000).  It may not have the overall power or performance of these cars, however in my opinion is more visually appealing.  It’s great that the production version of this car retained the overall design of the concept car.

The Shiftmatic transmission is a bit of a letdown in the LC500h, and it would be good to see how it compares to the conventional ten-speed automatic found in the LC500.  It’s a transmission that seems to be a bit too busy and not too well suited to a grand tourer.  For an expensive prestige car, it’s a surprise that the LC500h doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, wireless charging or heated steering.  The recently tested and much less expensive $80,000 Genesis G70 3.3T Ultimate Sport has these features, so I believe that a $200,000 car should at least match these features.

It’s a head turning car that attracted a lot of attention during my time with it.  Like the Lexus RC350F, the LC500h is a safe, comfortable and relaxing car to drive on long distances, but is more suited to cruising than outright performance.  Although it lacks some interior features of some cars that cost a lot cheaper, driving it really makes you feel special and good about yourself.  That in itself makes the LC500h a great car.

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