Breathtaking Design, More Power Than You Need, 35 MPG
Lexus’ 2019 LC 500h hybrid luxury grand tourer is deadly gorgeous, unworldly comfortable and blessedly fun to drive. If that’s not enough to get your attention, how does 35 mpg highway and 26 mpg city sound?
The LC 500h and its V-8 powered variant is the automaker’s answer to quell criticism that its cars are boring and too close in styling to the more mainstream cars of parent company Toyota. Design, borrowed from the 2012 LF-LC concept car, was the blueprint to change buyers’ impression of Lexus and compete with high-end luxury coupes and sports cars in the $100K price range.
For similar money, buyers can choose everything from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe, an entry-level Porsche 911 or Jaguar’s F-Type R. The LC tries to split the difference between pure sporty luxury cars and pure sports cars, handling both jobs competently well.
While other choices may be more focused on performance, luxury or fuel efficiency, the LC 500h is the only one that does all three.
Designed To Excite
Visually, the LC 500h is more than just eye candy, it’s a treat for the senses. It looks like a concept car rolling down the road, which is no accident. The overall design is aggressive with voluptuous sheetmetal. This bold coupé starts strong in the front with swept-back headlights and huge scoops, then narrows through the door line before widening to a pair of athletic rear haunches and a two rectangular exhaust pipes.
The now signature Lexus “spindle grille” is in perfect proportions to the rest of the car, compared to some other Lexus vehicles. It is very recognizable, unmistakable, with styling that can be seen from a far distance. And then there are small details such as door handles that pop out to attention, giving credence that the LC is the Lexus flagship coupe.
Inside, the cabin’s styling isn’t as aggressive as the exterior, but a two-tier dashboard design looks as thoroughly modern as the exterior and integrates the central display screen and relevant controls in a clean way. The look and feel are modern and luxurious with a digital instrument cluster, leather-swathed surfaces and Alcantara-covered door panels. Our test-drive car featured semi-aniline leather-trimmed front seats with an Alcantara headliner.
While other automakers rely on touchscreens, voice recognition or rotary click wheels, Lexus continues to use its “Remote Touch Interface,” a track pad similar to what you’d expect to find in a laptop. This setup makes it difficult to navigate through the array of menus needed to access different functions while driving. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto would cure some of those problems, but they aren’t available on the LC.
The driver and passenger will be relatively content as the seats are supportive and well-bolstered. While there is plenty of space in front, the rear seats will not accommodate full-size adults. However, they are adequate for small children or as extra luggage space.
The only complaint about the interior was voiced by my grandson Gherit: “Except for the hood, you can’t enjoy the beauty of the exterior.” I agree.
At just 4.7 cubic feet, the trunk isn’t exactly cavernous. It’s a tight fit, but a week’s worth of grocery shopping for two or a weekend for two can be accommodated.
A New Take on a Hybrid System
Beyond its knockout styling and gorgeously outfitted interior, the 2019 Lexus LC 500h has a new hybrid powertrain that Lexus calls Multi-Stage Hybrid. The company redesigned its two-electric motor hybrid system by mating it to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a four-speed automatic transmission. The big difference in Multi-Stage from the older transmission is the additional four-speed planetary gearbox attached at the CVT’s output. This combination provides the crisp shifts of a conventional 10-speed automatic.
The internal combustion engine is a new version of the 3.5-liter V-6 that runs the more efficient Atkinson cycle exclusively and makes 295 horsepower at 6,600 rpm. With one of the motors drawing electricity from a compact, air-cooled 44-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, the LC 500h produces a maximum of 354 horsepower.
Compared with the standard version’s 467 horsepower 5.0-liter V-8, the LC 500h’s zero-to-60-mph sprint takes 4.8 seconds, just 0.2 seconds slower than the LC 500. So, the question becomes, why would you even consider buying the gas-powered edition that can only serve up 26-mpg highway and 19-mpg city? What, you need the auditory thrills of the V-8?
Like other Lexus models the LC 500h has an abundance of configurable drive settings: Eco, Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport, and Sport+. But choosing one is quite simple, just select one from the stalk mounted above and to the right of the steering wheel on the instrument cluster cowl.
A Truly Pleasurable Driving Experience
Whether running down the road of a two-lane highway, freeway or driving in town, the 2019 Lexus LC 500h is a pleasure and delight to drive. The really impressive thing is how seamlessly all of the pieces work together. The car effortlessly switches back and forth between gasoline and electric power, providing smooth power delivery throughout. Full-throttle acceleration provides a nice punch from the rear wheels, and the LC 500h can cruise serenely on electric power for short bursts, even at 80 mph.
The cabin felt roomy and, despite the narrow window openings, even offered decent outward visibility. The front seats provided plenty of bolstering to keep me and my passengers in place during hard cornering.
From behind the wheel, the LC 500h always felt like a pretty big car, but it was remarkably easy to place on the road. Along with powerful brakes, that gave me the confidence to really attack corners. Responses were crisp and the car was eager to change direction, with sharp turn-ins from the nicely weighted steering. It was a joy to maneuver on back roads.
Over the course of nearly 400 miles of mixed driving, our LC 500h averaged 31.7 mpg according to the onboard trip computer. You won’t find another sports tourer that delivers anywhere close to that fuel economy and satisfies your need to drive an exciting and pleasurable car.
The Car For you?
Our test car was equipped with several performance-enhancing options, including $1,440 for 21-inch wheels wrapped in run-flat tires, a $390 limited-slip differential and the $5,960 Performance package that brings a carbon-fiber roof, an active rear spoiler, rear-wheel steering, and variable-ratio steering. That brought our LC 500h as-tested price to $101,445. Yes, that is by no means cheap, yet it looks as if it costs double that.
The 2019 Lexus LC 500h offers a combination of performance and luxury that should put it on the radar of any buyer who can afford it. While other cars shine by focusing on a specific area, the LC 500h aims for a broader appeal without feeling diluted. Plus, the LC 500h has a secret weapon called miles-per-gallon.
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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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