Can this 5-liter V8 Luxury GT truly be a High-MPG Vehicle?
When Clean Fleet Report first reviewed the Lexus LC 500h back in January of this year, we wondered if the LC 500 was a car anyone really needed or wanted.
Keeping with our mantra of being the source for news and reviews of electrified vehicles, we chose to do an extensive review of the V6 Hybrid version, but wondered what it would be like to slide behind the wheel of the hairy-chested 471-horsepower V8. Was it a worthy option to the more economy-based V6 Hybrid? Lexus was happy to entertain our curiosity and delivered an “arrest me” Infrared Red LC 500 V8.
As we initially noted the LC 500’s stunning design, with a chassis made of composite and aluminum components unique to the 2018 Lexus LC 500. It’s a big car, in the style of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, BMW’s 6-Series and even the Porsche 911.
The coke-bottle style of the body envelops a classic front-engine V8 rear wheel drive monocoque chassis. The V8 is set behind the front wheels to give it a 54/46 weight distribution, with the seats almost dead on the center of gravity in the 4,435-pound, 133-inch wheelbase chassis. Make no mistake, this is a big, wide car with a track of more than 75 inches. Maneuvering it in tight spaces is difficult, and parallel parking is for experts only. The fuel economy numbers: the V8 ends where the V6 Hybrid begins–26 mpg on the highway (16 city and 19 combined) compared to 26 city/35 highway/30 combined for the V6 Hybrid.
A Paradox on Wheels
The LC 500 is somewhat of a paradox, as a full-sized car with four seats and a trunk, but the rear seats are so cramped that it is hard to imagine anyone actually sitting in them. The good thing about the rear seats is that while humans don’t fit very well, an ice-cooler and snack bag fit perfectly. As with most luxury GTs, the trunk is “golf bag” sized, so pack carefully.
We wanted to see how the LC 500 would perform on a weekend getaway, so we took a drive from the SF Bay Area down to Los Angeles and Malibu to see how it handled the drive.
We were quite pleased with how smooth and quiet the car is at cruising speeds. Setting the adaptive cruise control at an illegal setting made sure that we stayed with traffic on Interstate 5, and the throaty V8 make quick work of getting around the road boulders that insisted on plodding along in the left lane.
The LC 500 has six different drive modes, from Sport S+ to Eco and Snow. We found the best combination of performance, and economy was selecting the Comfort mode. Not only did it provide a silky ride, but excellent handling, and performance from the 5-liter V-8. When summoned, the 471 horsepower V-8 delivered full performance, while the rest of the time it loafed along in 10th gear to achieve an observed 28.6 mpg.
Designed for a driver and their passenger, the interior of the LC 500 is world-class. The seats cradle you and are both heated and cooled. Setting the seats on automatic, they respond to individual temperature settings for cooling or heating the driver and passenger. While this seems attractive, individually controlling the seats is a cumbersome multi-step process, navigating several menu items on the infotainment system. The infotainment system brings up the almost universal gripe about the LC 500. The infotainment system user interface is something straight out of the 1990s. Control is by a touchpad on the center console that is impossible to use when the car is in motion. It took us three days to figure out how to control it reliability, and even with that, it would change its settings every restart. That, combined with the lack of Apple Carplay or Android Auto, made it even more awkward. It is so far out-of-date that it identified my iPhone as an iPod. Clearly, Lexus has some catching up to do in this area. But, once you had the inputs and settings on the infotainment center figured out, the Mark Levinson 13-speaker, 915-watt sound system was absolutely stunning.
In summary, our time with the V8 version of the LC 500 was delightful in the same way it was for the V6 Hybrid version. The body is stunning, the ride is marvelous, the rear seats unusable for humans and the infotainment system is outdated in need of a major rework.
A Missing Halo
One odd thing is that Lexus does not seem very interested in promoting the LC as a halo vehicle. On several occasions we had people walk up to us and swoon over how beautiful the car was and heap compliments on it, but were surprised that it was a production Lexus and not a one-off show car. That lack of awareness certainly has been reflected in the low sales numbers for the car, which on any given month is less than 150 vehicles sold.
That begs the question–who is this car built for? Perhaps someone who aspires to a big Mercedes or BMW coupe, but wants something that has the Toyota/Lexus reliability and ease of service? Or is it someone who has driven Corvettes as their boulevard cruiser, but now has the money to upscale? It’s hard to say who the LC 500 customer is.
At a starting price of $92,000 and topping out at $103K+ as our tester did, it’s a very narrow segment. But it is a segment that is a beautiful one for discriminating drivers who want something unique, something under-the-radar, and something that makes everyone look twice.
Thank goodness that Lexus built the LC 500 instead of starting up yet another SUV. And thanks to all the well-heeled folks out there that have bought the LC 500 for keeping the classic high-performance V8 luxury coupe alive.
In order to give you the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Road Test Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h (Steve’s view)
Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h (John’s view)
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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