The 2018 Lexus LC 500 and 500h grand touring coupes are striking and refined in ways that will make buyers in the prestige/luxury sector of $100,000+ cars take notice, though the LC 500h hybrid slides in just below that mark with a base price of $96,510. Just 400 of these new models are being produced each month, which means there’s also an element of exclusivity that prestige car buyers and early adopters seek.
In Toyota’s sights are competitive models like the Mercedes SL, Jaguar F-Type and BMW 650i, high-end cars that can serve as daily drivers while highly capable as international touring vehicles. The LC 500 coupes keep the romance of crossing Europe safely at high speed and comfort a practical reality. Note that the LC 500h is particularly fuel efficient for a high-performance car, given its EPA rating of 26 city and 35 highway mpg.
These coupes have an entirely new platform designated as GA-L (Global Architecture – Luxury). Design goals achieved are a low center of gravity for improved handling and chassis stiffness that exceeds even the half-million dollar Lexus LFA supercar. These characteristics were well-proved during drives where roll and lean were never an issue in tight corners, even as the model delivered high marks for comfort and handling.
We had the opportunity to drive and compare both the 471 horsepower V-8 and the 345 horsepower Multi-Stage Hybrid V-6 with twin electric motors. Both versions have their own personality with only three-tenths of a second performance differential from 0-60 mph, in favor of the V-8. Our focus here is on the 500h and what makes it a distinctive and top contender for prestige clients.
Power in the LC 500h is derived from an Atkinson-cycle, 3.5-liter V-6 with direct fuel injection, variable value timing, and a redline at 6,600 rpm. This engine accounts for 295 horsepower and 256 lb-ft torque. The hybrid system allows the LC 500h to operate with the gas engine off at speeds up to 87 mph.
The hybrid system includes twin MG1 and MG2 permanent magnet motor-generators. MGI’s primary function is generator, engine starter, and control of engine speed. MG2 drives the rear wheels and handles regenerative braking. The car’s compact lithium-ion battery is comprised of 84 cells and is located between the rear seats and luggage compartment. Total system power is 354 horsepower, sufficient to deliver 0-60 mph acceleration in 4.7 seconds, outstanding for a car that weighs 4,435 pounds. Top speed in electronically limited to 155 mph. Rather than aiming at being a track star, this is a 2+2 designed for safe touring in comfort at speed.
Hybrid Synergy Drive has evolved in the LC 500h. The hybrid powertrain retains its planetary-type, continuously variable transmission and has added a unique four-speed transmission. Working in concert, the two gears alter output in four stages to utilize the V-6 engine across the entire speed range. In M mode, the two gear sets act together to provide the effect of 10 ratios, giving the LC 500h a highly engaging feel and allowing the driver to shift though the ratios with paddle shifters.
Sport, Performance, and Touring Packages further personalize the LC5 500h. As expected in this level of automobile, all the latest safety systems are standard and include pre-collision with pedestrian detection, all-speed radar cruise control, lane departure with steering assist, sway warning, and an intelligent high beam headlamp system.
A signature Lexus spindle grill gives the LC 500h a distinctive and highly-recognizable look. In this application Lexus designed a unique mesh texture that changes visual tension as it spreads across the front of the car. Adding to the sleek look of the front end are ultra-compact triple LED headlamps with functional venting that adds aerodynamic stability and cooling.
Chrome plated moldings along the edge of the roof are meant to represent the lines of a traditional Japanese sword. Even the rear tail lights have a design element not previously seen, using mirrors to create a three-dimensional series of L-shaped graphics. The LC 500h rides on standard 20-inch cast aluminum wheels with run-flat 245/45RF20 tires up front and 275/40RF20 at the rear. Front brakes have 6 piston calipers with 4 piston calipers used at the rear.
The coupe’s monotone interior is exquisite with controls that are intuitive and require little movement to reach. An 8-inch LCD display with Eco driving indicator is set low in the cockpit. Door handles are sculpted in satin chrome. Alcantara-covered door panels feature a wave effect that complements the lines of the dash. All interior stitching is done by hand.
Happily, Lexus designers have retained an upright gearshift lever rather than resorting to a ‘pop-up’ dial shifter. Multimedia features combine a graphic user interface with upgradeable software, along with latest remote-touch interface touchpad. The instrument binnacle is unique in its singular look and design and is the lasted version of thin-film transistor display technology, first introduced in the LFA supercar. Traditional it is not, and it may be setting the new contemporary look for functionality. Our LC 500h test car came equipped with the optional Mark Levinson 835 watt, 7.1 channel, 13 speaker sound system tailored to the LC interior. This system includes Harmon Clari-Fi music tech that analyzes and improves the sound quality of compressed digitized music.
Toyota’s new flagship coupe is important to the company, a point driven home by the automaker’s commitment of a billion dollars over a five-year development period to launch the LC 500 and 500h grand touring coupes. We’re confident these will be well-received by prestige car buyers looking for efficiency and performance in a no-holds-barred, utterly distinctive, and imminently pleasurable vehicle.