2018 Lexus LC 500h new car reviews

An extreme performance coupe that can achieve 35 MPG? Meet the 2018 Lexus LC 500h. As the name would suggest, this sleek sports car is a hybrid. And while most hybrids are all bout efficiency, this one balances that act with performance. How much performance? It can zoom from zero to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds.

Note that the torque number quoted in the sidebar is just the torque rating for the gasoline engine alone, while the horsepower rating is for the combined hybrid system.

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J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

The Lexus LC 500 snuck up to me under the radar. As we don’t typically focus on high-end new cars, I don’t typically keep up with all the latest news from that segment of the market. So when the LC500h showed up in our parking lot, I was a little blown away that it even existed.

First, it’s gorgeous. And not just in that modern “designers and computers are smart” sort of way, but in a way that we don’t normally see in mass-produced cars. There’s bold design decisions being made on a package that proportioned in a classically aggressive manner. It looks like the cars we all thought we’d be driving in the future back when we were drawing them on our Social Studies notebooks.

Second, It’s a Lexus, so the quality approaches industry-standard levels. Say what you want about the German brands, but I think Lexus more than anyone nails the overall quality and “perception of quality” equation as well as anyone making cars today.

Third, it’s a technological marvel, and the hybrid drive system helps it get over 30mpg. No, that’s not a typo. this thing that looks like it should be driven by a bounty hunter from the future stalking rogue automatons gets as many mpgs as your average econobox.

But there are frustrating sides. For one, the driver interface accessed via touchpad is crap. Too complex, too counterintuitive, too touchy to use while the car is moving. Yes it has some deep functionality, but it shouldn’t take navigating through FOUR discrete menus to change the fan speed on the air-conditioned seats.

Aside from that fail, though, the LC 500h is a joy. Quick but not supercar fast, it’ll put down performance well enough to justify its looks. And when you’re getting better mileage than a Ford Focus, the slight lack of performance justifies itself a bit.

I’m not sure who is going to buy these things, though. First off, it needs to be someone with $100,000 to spend on a car, which sure ain’t me. Then you’ll need to figure out what cars the LC 500h is being cross shopped with. I guess the BMW 6-Series and Jag Coupes, but those are aimed more at the V8-powered LC 500 I would think. The hybrid version buyer is going to be a weirdo, but probably a very fun weirdo to hang out with.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

If you crossed an electric shaver with the best hybrid in the world and threw in a touch of Batmobile, this is what you’d get. Meet the Lexus LC 500h.

Despite the super-sleek shape, outward visibility is great. I didn’t feel like I was driving a pillbox. It’s no harder to get into our out of than my E46 BMW.

The transmission is intriguing. Here’s what Lexus calls it: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable transmission paired with four-speed automatic transmission and magnesium paddle shifters

To me, it felt like a twin-cluch–lightning-fast shifts and no hesitation to downshift and grab a lower gear when needed. Nicely done, Lexus.

The driving experience felt spot-on to me. It’s fast, has plenty of stick, and treats its occupants to a comfy interior. You can barely do a new Porsche 911 for this price. If the styling is for you, the Lexus might make a worthy alternative.

My only fault with the car might be the chrome wheels–and, I admit, they’re growing on me.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin

This is the sexiest Lexus ever built, by a long shot. Yes, the hyper-exotic LFA was faster and more technologically advanced, but we are talking about looks here. Aesthetically speaking, the LFA is an ugly duckling, while the LC 500h is a swan. I’m not alone in this assessment either, as this car attracts an amazing amount of attention wherever it goes. People notice it, and you—which can be good and bad.

The striking exterior is complemented by an extraordinarily welcoming, and comfortable interior. The seats are wonderful places to spend time, and of course, they are heated and cooled. Comfort abounds in this Lexus, as it should in any six-figure car. It’s clear this was a thoughtfully made piece, as every interior surface fits perfectly, and feels like money. From the metal door handle pulls, to the suede headliner, to the supple leather that surrounds nearly every surface,this car is a tactile delight.

The Japanese have always prided themselves on their technological leadership, and this is certainly the case with the LC 500h. There are more modes, menus and options than any driver could ever want. The complexity of the car isn’t just overkill, it’s ridiculous overkill. This is a halo car for the technology nerd, the person who values computation above visceral connection. It does exactly what it’s algorithms tell it to do, but it never speaks to the driver. This Lexus never goads you into hooliganism, it would rather cruise and look good.

This isn’t to say the LC 500h isn’t a pleasure to drive. It is. It’s fast, capable, and it puts up respectable numbers. Numbers can’t describe the numb feeling from the steering, or the way the car feels planted, but isolated. To be fair, these are small nits to pick with a car that is pretty amazing at everything short of towing a load of firewood. I enjoyed my time with this gorgeous, fast, leather-lined robot, but love is harder to come by. For the money, I’d rather have a Porsche 911, or a Jaguar F-Type, or a BMW M2 and pocket $50K.

This lovely Lexus is a treat, but it’s not for me.

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MadScientistMatt PowerDork
8/30/17 12:02 p.m.

That looks like the only Lexus to make that new corporate grille look good.

But anybody who wants to make a complex touch screen interface for their car needs to be forced to spend five months commuting in the most worn out Buick Reatta still on the road. Seriously wrong tool for the job. I want climate controls I can operate blindfolded.

Cblais19 New Reader
8/30/17 12:05 p.m.

I saw a pair of the V8 ones getting prepped for their new owners at a Lexus dealer here. A truly gorgeous car, that interior is absolutely lovely as well.

sesto elemento
sesto elemento SuperDork
8/30/17 9:34 p.m.

So dope.

chuckles Dork
8/30/17 9:49 p.m.

Six figures?

dculberson PowerDork
8/30/17 11:27 p.m.

I got to drive an RC-F recently. Lexus has stepped up their interior game a ton. Their everything game, really.

Cblais19 New Reader
8/31/17 7:08 a.m.
chuckles wrote: Six figures?

Technically just under, the ones I saw at the dealer (and those were non-hybrids) had a nominal MSRP of $98/99k, but I think it starts in the mid $80k range with the hybrid.

hobiercr GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/31/17 8:55 a.m.

The V8's are high 80's, the hybrids are about $10K more.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
8/31/17 10:04 p.m.

Our presser had a sticker of $102,XXX.

Vigo UltimaDork
8/31/17 10:38 p.m.

Lexus was the first brand to launch a concept that is now completely mainstream at the very top price brackets of autodom: The performance hybrid. The 2005 GS450h was the first to try to sell hybrid tech as something that both increased performance and exclusivity. You can argue about the appeal of the car itself (i loved mine) but you can't argue with the fact that pretty much all the most exclusive high performance cars in the world now use hybrid powertrains.

I think the LC500h is sort of bold for asking 'big bucks' for a powertrain that will come across a spec sheet as underpowered and old at first glance. I hope it succeeds in spite of that, because i suspect it has an excellent driving experience and real-world performance that exceeds the expectations the HP number sets. In fact, i wonder if it doesn't actually punch above the weight of its expecations while the gas LC500 underdelivers. In spite of its 10spd auto, the gas car apparently is geared such that you only ever use 4 of the gears at WOT under 100 mph, and first gear is tall. Could this be part of why the gas car only manages .3s better in 0-60 with 130 more hp? Given that these ~4200lb cars aren't primarily drag cars anyway, i have to wonder if the hybrid might not have gearing more suited to having actual fun in 'normal' speed ranges. Sound could be a big factor and a lot of reviewers are raving over the gas car's exhaust sound. I haven't heard a hybrid review mention it yet, so maybe it's a letdown. I've definitely heard some Lotus Evoras make nice noises with a very similar engine..

I think the new hybrid trans presents some really interesting possibilities in a couple of respects. The old '2-spd' cvt auto in the GS450h (whose drivetrain this is a development of) made it a fast car that nevertheless wasn't responsive or sporty in the drivetrain department. If this new auto is that much more fun to drive it could make the GS hybrid massively more entertaining. We already know the GS-F is a pretty damn good car. It'd be nice if the GS450h F-Sport was nearly as much fun to drive and nearly as fast such as it appears to be in the LC line. The other thing is wondering whether this version of the hybrid drivetrain can hang with the full torque of the 5.0 v8 and be used in conjunction with it. The old GS450h hybrid drivetrain was hooked to Lexus' 440hp 5.0 v8 in the past in the LS600hL, but it pretty clearly couldn't make full use of the v8's torque as the gas engine wasn't allowed to rev up to the happy part of the powerband until the car was already rolling pretty fast. That's why in spite of having a combined total of like 600+lbft of torque and awd (hello Tesla P100D) it was actually slower to 60mph than the 2wd GS450h. IF the new hybrid trans can actually handle the full na torque of the gas V8, it could make a very interesting combo in a future model.

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