26.9.2018Lexus LC 500h review
Lexus might once have had lingering reputation as a 'dull' manufacturer; one that makes good cars but not particularly exciting ones. However, the current line-up certainly can't be tarred with the same brush; thanks in part to the LC. The stylish coupe is available with a choice of petrol or hybrid powertrains, and NGC has tested the latter - the LC500h.
Review by Chris Lilly
The LC looks like it should be a bit quick, with its classic Grand Tourer proportions of wide stance, low roof-line, and long bonnet. Suffice to say, Lexus doesn't disappoint. The 0-62mph time is completed in just 5.0 seconds, before being able to reach a top speed of 155mph. The non-hybrid 5.0 V8 model is only a fraction of a second faster with a sprint time of 4.7 seconds, so the 3.5 litre V6 petrol/hybrid is certainly not the sluggish choice in the range - there isn't one. Instead, the LC500h pulls well at just about any speed, gathering speed in a surprisingly refined manner, rather than the V8's attitude which shouts and roars its way up the road. There's a nice noise from the exhaust when pulling hard, but the hybrid doesn't offer sportscar thrills in terms of performance, despite what the statistics suggest. There's no wanting for performance, but the LC500h is well set up as a GT car; quick but accessible performance is the name of the game here. This is highlighted when the LC500h pulls away in electric mode, silently rolling off the petrol station forecourt or away from the lights, until the petrol engine kicks in. There's a refinement to the Lexus that's only really possible with electrified powertrains, and the LC500h is one of the best around to blend sporty thrills with accessible performance.
Lexus has done a fine job with the way the LC500h drives. The chassis and suspension have been set-up beautifully considering the hybrid's talent for dignified performance. Don't get me wrong, chuck it at a bend and there is more grip than you would imagine when pottering along, with the tyres providing confidence-inspiring levels of grip. The steering isn't pin-sharp like on a Porsche, or beefy in the same way a Jaguar's is. Instead, it's accurate but cossetting, not transmitting every lump and bump through to the driver. This would be a negative point were the LC500h an out and out performance car, but the refinement it offers means it's a flexible car to drive. It's agile enough to put a smile on your face when pitched down a twisty country road. Yet it also settles down well at motorway speeds, and is relatively easy to pilot through traffic in built up areas. Low-speed ride isn't the best, but then you don't buy a car like the LC to be able to tackle speed bumps with abandon. Instead, the LC500h proves adept in just about every situation in terms of handling, even if it doesn't excel anywhere.
Well, just look at it. The LC is one of the most striking cars on the road. There are elements that, when looked at individually, might look out of place. The cuts made in the aggressively styled bodywork, or the huge Lexus grille for example. However, it all comes together to produce one sensational-looking package in my opinion. I love it, and it helps that Lexus has gone about things in its own way, rather than trying to mimic the more graceful lines found on European-made GT cars. It's edgy, eye-catching, and makes every time you walk up to it an event. As you might expect from the outside, there isn't an awful lot of space inside, where practicality has been compromised in pursuit of form. There is more than enough room up front for the occupants to feel comfortable, but only children are going to be able to fit in the back of the 2+2 coupe, and that could be a bit of a challenge considering the size of some child seats these days. The boot isn't particularly big either, and access is not the most practical around, with the boot lid more of a hatch than an opening. It's plenty big enough for a big food shop, or luggage for a holiday away; just don't rock up to Ikea wanting to buy the big flatpack furniture.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
If the exterior catches the eye, the interior is every bit its equal in terms of design. The seats look great, but also maintain Lexus' standards as maker of some of the most comfortable pews in the industry. We'll gloss over the rear seats since they will seldom be used. The dashboard is horizontally set-up, with a wide infotainment screen and strip air vents only adding to the impression that the LC is a low-slung model. This does mean there are few cubby holes about the place, and the glovebox is only really useful for gloves, but again, you don't buy an LC because of its practicality. There are some lovely touches about the place too, with the drive mode select on a dial placed to the left of the digital instrument binnacle, and the steering wheel and gear selector have been well designed too. It's little things like these that add up to make the driving experience a special one. Build quality feels as rock-solid as you would expect from a Lexus too, with the company consistently winning awards for customer satisfaction. The only downside is Lexus' use of its touchpad controller for the infotainment system. It's something that you eventually get used to, and I've experienced its use in other Lexus models. However, a dial has always proved the easier and more accurate way to switch between functions. It's not enough to put buyers off, but a different control set-up for the system would make the LC's interior better still.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
After covering a fair amount of miles, the LC500h was showing an average fuel economy figure of 35 MPG, which is pretty spectacular for this type of car. It must be said that the LC's performance was tested thoroughly within that average MPG figure, with the Lexus driven aggressively for a good proportion of the time, along with more normal and economical driving styles. It's a good reflection of what's possible from the coupe, and many drivers will find their fuel economy towards or above the 40 MPG mark if used on the commute each day. It's only when you take the LC by the scruff of its neck that the economy suffers. The official economy figure of 42.8 MPG is comfortably achievable then. To tax, the LC500h will cost £440 a year after the £195 first year rate which is included in the OTR. This is because it costs more than the £40,000 Premium Rate threshold, but qualifies for the £10 Alternative Fuel Discount because of its hybrid powertrain.
The hybrid powertrain is the core green element to the LC500h, and the model is the first to use Lexus' Multi Stage Hybrid System. This changes the powertrain output in four stages to make better use of engine speeds, for a more responsive drive while retaining the system's efficiency. The lithium-ion battery allows for short periods of running in electric mode, and runs the powertrain on start-up. Its a new pack that is 20% smaller than the nickel-metal hydride battery found in other Lexus models. There are also a range of driving modes including an Eco setting, and there is plenty of information available from the LC500h to tell you about how much energy has been used or recuperated. According to our calculations, the Lexus LC500h tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 55.
Lexus hasn't scrimped on equipment levels for the LC and kept things simple with an entry level 500h model, a 500h Sport, and a 500h Sport+ on offer. All models get the Lexus Safety System + package for a suite of driver safety systems, while adaptive variable suspension, adaptive instrument display, automatic LED lights and wipers, keyless entry and start, Lexus Premium Navigation with 10.25-inch screen, DAB radio, USB, and Bluetooth connectivity. Dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, electric front seats, 20-inch alloys, and a glass roof are also standard. Added to the Sport trim tested is a carbon fibre roof and 21-inch alloys as standard, while the test car was also fitted with the optional Mark Levinson stereo which is superb.
There are finer driver's cars around, for those wanting the optimum dynamic experience on the occasional trips out with their car. However, the LC500h is a better pick for someone that wants to use their coupe every day. It's comfortable but sharp enough to be enjoyable, powerful but frugal, and its a car that feels special each time you get in it.
Model tested: Lexus LC500h Sport
Engine / CO2: 3.5 litre V6 and electric motor / 150 g/km
Trim grades: 500h, 500h Sport, 500h Sport+
On-road price: From £76,595. As tested: £81,270
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars