Review from the Road: The Lexus LC 500h

We don’t know if it was the timing or what, but Lexus’ LC series of vehicles never seemed to get a fair shake. Sure, they have their fans. But to many, the Lexus LC coupe is the successor to the amazing Lexus LF-A hypercar.

Except it’s not. Yes, the LC was announced just as LF-A production wound down. And yes, you’ll find a lot of similar design elements shared between the two cars. But the intended mission of each vehicle couldn’t be any more different.

The LF-A: a technological tour de force, with engineering so advanced, Lexus lost money on each one they made, despite its $375,00+ (USD) price tag. The LC, on the other hand, is a mainstream machine, with its LC 500h hybrid coming in around the high $90,000 range. We drove the former many years ago, and now have the keys to the latter. Here’s what we think.

The first thing we’ll address: the idea that the LC 500h is a terrible sports car. You know what? That idea is right and then some. Sports cars are supposed to be engaging, light on their feet, and feel most alive when pushed to their ragged edge.

This LC 500h is none of the above. It’s got just 354 horsepower to motivate its hefty 4435-lb curb weight, making for lazy launches off the line. Though, to be fair, lazy launches seem to be a Lexus hallmark. Cornering is an exercise in hope versus precision thanks to the LC 500h’s aircraft carrier-sized hood, which obscures everything from corner apexes to parking blocks to neighbourhood pets.

Lexus Sport and Sport+ modes don’t make things much better, either. All they do is make the ride unnecessarily rough and the steering wheel feel artificially heavy. Acceleration improves dramatically, though, with the G forces bringing on a case of tunnel vision.

So the LC 500h is a terrible sports car, but in the same way that a Bentley Continental is also a terrible sports car. It’s not supposed to be fast around a racetrack or mountain road; it’s a grand tourer, one that’s supposed to help you cover vast distances with speed and comfort.

And when viewed as a proper GT car, the LC 500h shines.

If we had to choose just one word to describe this car, it would be “elegant.” Sprayed in sliver and riding on 20-in. brushed aluminum wheels, it looks like a Naboo cruiser from Star Wars episode 1. Its exterior is composed of sweeping lines and graceful curves, with taillights purposefully designed to resemble afterburners from a jet.

Its interior is equally as artful, with French curves interplaying with long, flat surfaces. Materials aren’t quite as plush as what you’d find in a Bentley, but nothing feels cheap here. The cabin is tight enough to help the driver feel that everything is exactly where it should be, but never feels cramped. Don’t let the back seats fool you, though — there’s room for just one passenger, but at least your backpack or handbag can have its own seatbelt.

Cruising in the LC 500h is incredibly comfortable, with the adaptive suspension soaking up imperfections in the road. That aforementioned 354 horsepower is plenty when cruising down the highway, and with its CVT and standard transmission working in tandem to offer 10 effective gear ratios, this car just glides its way up to speed. If you’re all about personal comfort, this is the ride for you.

For us, though, if we wanted personal comfort from a Lexus, we’d go for an ES or LS sedan. The design of the LC 500h is pure emotion, and we’d like to feel more emotion from this car. Maybe the standard LC 500 is more our speed. With its 471-horsepower V8 and forceful 10-speed transmission, it sounds like it will deliver the goods. We’ll have to ask Lexus for the keys to one of those to find out.

 

Justin Kaehler
Justin Kaehler is a Los Angeles-based writer, photographer, and auto enthusiast who has been sharing his passion for cars for over 15 years.