Lexus LC 500h: a sports car for every day
This test could not have taken place, since some time ago I was almost ready to order a Dodge Challenger from the USA. But colleagues advised to take a closer look at Lexus. And despite the opposite philosophy of these models, according to the criteria for having a rear-wheel drive and being used as a weekend car, I could easily afford to compare them. That’s how it all started.
It should be noted right away that I am not a fan of the Japanese car industry, and indeed I have never thought about such a car as the Lexus LC. However, I wondered what he was. In addition, the opportunity arose to take this LC for a long-term test. Looking ahead, I will say that this coupe surprised me a lot. Especially given the conditions in which I had a chance to test it.
During the test, I really wanted to understand what class this car belongs to: supercar, sports car or Gran Turismo? It was also interesting to know if this coupe is suitable for use as an everyday car, or is it still an option for “special occasions". I also wanted to find the advantages (or disadvantages) of this Lexus over Porsche or Maserati, and also to understand whether it makes sense to compare it with Mercedes or BMW.
To answer all questions, I decided to try this Lexus on a family trip to the Carpathians. Yes, things of two adults and two children in the trunk of 175 liters, of course, did not fit. Therefore, we took everything we needed with us, and the rest of the luggage went by delivery service.
Too lazy to read? Watch video test Lexus LC 500h :
Given the specific shape of the body, I was not sure that even the children in the back would be comfortable. Especially in the context of the upcoming long journeys. But the younger passengers, sitting in their child seats, did not feel any inconvenience on the road. Such cars are more focused on those who sit in the front, but the rear sofa here is still equipped with Isofix mounts, so there were no problems with installing child seats. Even before I went on a long trip in a Lexus LC, I was worried that huge 21s and low ground clearance could become a problem and prevent me from getting where I want to go. It’s all about hiking in the mountains. But just the clearance pleasantly surprised me, although more on that later.
Origin of the model
The history of the Lexus LC began at the end of the 2000s. At that time, the brand showed the world the concepts of its first LFA supercar with a Yamaha V10 engine. With the release of this model, the Japanese manufacturer proved that motorsport for Toyota is far from the past.
From a commercial point of view, the venture with the release of the LFA model was a failure. All 500 produced supercars were sold at a loss. Nevertheless, the company’s image skyrocketed. Taking advantage of this circumstance, in 2012 Lexus showed the LF-LC concept. Many saw it as a civilian successor to the LFA supercar. Four years later, with virtually no changes, the LC model was launched into the series.
Engines and technologies
First, a 5.0-liter V8 engine was installed under the hood, which produced 477 horsepower. Then the line of power plants was replenished with a more modern sports hybrid. This is the engine our test car, the LC 500h, is equipped with. It should be noted right away that a completely different hybrid technology is used here (compared to the “ordinary” Lexus). At least because there are two gearboxes.
But the main thing is that even then the public had an important question, the answer to which is still unknown. What kind of car is it anyway: a supercar, a sports car or a Gran Turismo? The manufacturer initially stated that this coupe should be classified as a luxury GT. After all, the relatively modest dynamics does not give the Lexus LC a chance to compete directly with the ultimate sports cars. But at the same time, Japanese engineers have equipped this car with so many ultra-modern and expensive technologies that this coupe, it seems to me, is somehow cramped among the “road yachts” of the Gran Turismo.
The body here is half made of carbon fiber. The chassis is fully controlled, like BMW and Porsche. Also, the Lexus LC has an almost perfect axle weight distribution and a low center of gravity, like the LFA model. And there is also a Torsen limited-slip differential in the rear axle and steering with variable sharpness. The icing on the cake can be considered a unique suspension with adaptive dampers, which can give a sporty drive and a comfortable ride at the same time. But the main thing is that all of the above are not empty words: the car really drives great and tenaciously clings to the road. At the same time, it is superbly controlled and gives emotions that we have not expected from the Japanese car industry for a long time.
I wonder why this seemingly almost flawless Lexus never became a bestseller? After all, it is much rarer than any Porsche 911, Audi RS or BMW M-series. In my opinion, the Japanese simply do not want to play by the general rules here. After all, you must admit, they could equip this car with some kind of sports, but jerky "robot" and launch-control. As a result, LC could show acceleration to 100 km / h in some 4 s (and not 5, as it is now). But Japanese engineers decided to focus on comfort and reliability. But the target audience did not understand this idea, drawing attention to the relatively modest dynamic performance.
Moreover, with marketing, it seems to me, they have not been finalized either. Indeed, in order for this car to be noticeable not only in Japan, it had to be shown in some blockbuster like one of the Bond films or in the next Fast and Furious series. But the blue LC 500 appeared only in the next film adaptation of Marvel’s sci-fi comic Black Panther.
And the cost of this car rolls over. Which is logical, given the technology that engineers have introduced here. Therefore, the price here is certainly not lower than that of the historical leaders of this class. As a result, most potential buyers have either not heard of this model at all, or simply did not expect anything really outstanding from Lexus. In our market, due to high duties on 5.0-liter LCs, they asked for about 120-140 thousand dollars per car. Now, something has changed, and a well-equipped LC can be purchased at a price of 88 to 115 thousand (at the time of the test release – Infocar.ua). So it turns out that the price of this Lexus is no more than that of some Mercedes E-Coupe or BMW 8 Series, but only with base engines.
It has a different hybrid setup than other Lexus models. The engineers were tasked with building Toyota’s first sports hybrid, and in a sense, they succeeded. The hybrid setup from the Lexus GS with a 3.5-liter gasoline engine and a planetary variator was taken as the basis. But here, between this bundle and the wheels, another box was added – a four-stage torque converter. In addition, the electric motor and battery were replaced with lighter, more compact and more efficient ones. The result is the world’s first Multi-Stage Hybrid.
All this resulted in faster gear changes, and the range of gear ratios became much wider. With a relatively small power of 360 liters. with. the car demonstrates improved dynamics and lower consumption. But it is also important that the Lexus LC received those very cherished sounds and jerks when switching, which are so lacking in conventional hybrids. Each of the four gears of the torque converter is, as it were, multiplied by three virtual gears of the variator. In fact, this technology allows us to state that the total number of gears here is 12. But it seems that the Japanese were too shy, and therefore only display values up to ten on the dashboard. Probably, in order to emphasize in this way: the hybrid LC is practically not inferior to the gasoline one, where a ten-speed “automatic” is actually installed.
But in the dynamics of a special breakthrough did not happen. For starters, it’s worth saying that before that, the fastest hybrid in the Lexus lineup was the GS 450h. That car accelerated to the first “hundred” in 5.9 s. Of course, the hybrid LC significantly improved its performance, accelerating (according to the passport) in 5 s. But many expected more from such technologies and a considerable price.
I managed to accelerate to 100 km / h on the LC 500h in only 5.5 seconds, but this was during a period of 30-degree heat. In any case, there is a very big loss at the start, which, again, could be compensated for by a super-rapid “robot” and launch control. Yes, two tons of hybrid mass makes itself felt (even despite the use of magnesium and carbon in large quantities). On the other hand, as soon as the car picks up 30 km / h and the signal of the working traction control goes out, we get something completely different. Now it’s not like a hybrid at all. The LC 500h accelerates very juicy, shifting gears rhythmically, and the pleasant sound of the engine frantically buzzes in the speakers. The hybrid coupe is ready to exchange 200 km/h in 22 seconds.
During the launch of this model, Japanese engineers said that this is the first hybrid Lexus that is ready to drive the tires into slip. But the intelligent settings of the electronics are not completely turned off, and the complex scheme for transmitting torque to the wheels, alas, does not allow turning the Lexus LC into a real drift car. Apparently, the Japanese simply do not understand why the hybrid has such a feature. After all, he is destined to conquer a more mature, intelligent audience in Europe. Probably, for the same reason, the exhaust system was fundamentally muffled here.
Of course, there are many connoisseurs of this approach, but a hybrid car will never become the dream of yesterday’s yard hooligans. There is another LC for them, a 5.0 liter one. Here there are already specially tuned exhaust system dampers and a sound moderator at the intake create a completely different effect. In addition, a V8 with almost 500 hp is installed under the hood. with. Unlike a hybrid, this "monster" easily confirms its acceleration in 4.7 seconds to 100 km/h. It accelerates to 200 km/h in less than 20 seconds. Of course, fuel consumption is already more than 20 l / 100 km, and on a full tank you are unlikely to drive at least 600 km. But with 540 Nm of torque and, so to speak, the direct connection of the engine to the wheels, this car is already a serious contender for the tire destroyer.
This car attracts the eyes of everyone around: both pedestrians and drivers. And in general, it seems to me that this is the best car painted by the Japanese in the last decade. There is some inexplicable magic in LC. I don’t know how to explain it, but unlike most of the expensive cars I’ve driven, this coupe doesn’t attract hate, but positivity. Everyone takes pictures of LC, looks after him and escorts him with a smile. The secret of such behavior of others is unknown to me.
But the main thing is that this coupe looks very expensive, even in white. The appearance is successfully complemented by forged wheels of size 21 (on different-wide tires), from under which you can see the calipers of reinforced brakes. I also note the carbon roof, complex body shapes, and, of course, diode optics that are unlike anything else. True, the headlights here are still with an ordinary automatic high beam, without the Blade Scan matrix proprietary for Lexus. But they are very bright.
As a result, the only competitor in attracting the views of others in this class, I would call only Maserati GranTurismo. But the Italians have already removed this model from the assembly line, and the last such cars have long found their owners. You can also include Aston Martin here, but the brand’s models cost at least twice as much. But Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, with all due respect, have long ceased to be something exclusive with us.
Perhaps, for a complete image picture, there are not enough opening doors a la BMW i8. But on the other hand, where did you see this among the Japanese? Probably, when creating the LC, they deliberately abandoned pop ostentation just for the sake of practicality. This, of course, can be a cause for criticism, but it makes the car more convenient in everyday use. For example, the clearance here is as much as 14 centimeters. I am sure many (like me at first) will be surprised by this indicator. After all, this is even more than some "crossovers" and luxury sedans. Not least thanks to the clearance, I managed to overcome difficult sections in the Carpathians, especially during heavy rains, which took us by surprise during the trip. And when you add to that the fact that the LC is equipped with an adaptive suspension that virtually eliminates sway in Sport mode,
After completing this difficult trip, I specifically drove to the service station to see if everything was in order with the bottom of the car. As a result, no problems were found: everything is whole, without damage and stands in its place. By the way, the bottom of the car is soundly protected by various materials: aluminum, steel and felt.
The weakest point in the LC from below, I would call a rather long front overhang. The fact is that there are no all-round cameras here, so the front clearance is practically not felt. But you can take it back confidently: there is a camera there.
I think the hybrid LC is the perfect travel car. Firstly, the average consumption for the entire trip I had was 12 l / 100 km. At the same time, it should be said that the speed of my movement was high, and I overtook almost everything that was noticed. The power reserve with a tank volume of 82 liters with a quiet ride is almost 1000 km. In comfort mode, the car is quiet and smooth.
The main detail of the interior, I would call the door cards. When you first look at them, you immediately want to touch them. They are simply incredible in their appearance and materials. Therefore, when you just sit inside, you are already under the impression. The seat upholstery feels more like suede than Alcantara. I think it is a key element in the interior design of the LC. After all, it is so pleasant that it makes you not notice other, not the most luxurious details. Like, for example, inexpensive-looking leatherette on the top of the front panel.
On the other hand, there are relatively few plastic parts that are unified with other models of the brand. Each element is carefully sheathed with some kind of material. At the same time, everything is accompanied by a perfectly even line, and the assembly is monolithic and strong. But again, do not forget that this is a car from a Japanese manufacturer, so in some places you can (and even need to) find fault with the design, selection of colors and, of course, the multimedia system.
At the Lexus dealership, you will be assured that the “multimedia” is understandable and logical here. It just takes a little time to get used to it. But the fact is that for a month spent with LC, I did not manage to get used to the algorithm of the settings of this system.
There is also good news – all the main functions are placed on hard-buttons, so you do not have to resort to using the display often. Once you only need to connect your phone via Bluetooth, and also activate the automatic seat ventilation mode. True, Apple CarPlay is not yet available (this feature will appear only on 2020 models). As for me, this is a big drawback, because it is very inconvenient to use regular navigation here.
But as for the audio system, everything is in order here, to put it mildly. The sound of songs in the Lexus LC 500h is incomparable thanks to the Mark Levinson audio system By special order from Lexus, its components are specially lightened by 30% compared to other models. Each speaker dropped 100 grams of weight, but such a diet did not affect the sound quality. Making a small cabin sound good is just as hard as making an extra-large one. But in this case, the engineers did a great job.
The digital instrument cluster is equipped with a dynamic "well" like the LFA model. This is a signature Lexus feature that looks really cool. But I have complaints about the fonts on the panel.
It’s great that the entire middle vertical part of the dashboard is covered with glass. It looks interesting, while the glass does not create glare and is not scratched. And the salon has a very delicate lighting.
With a height of 193 cm, in many coupes I have problems with the fit either in height or in width. But the interior of the LC is very well thought out in this regard, so I easily found a comfortable position. Even despite the fact that the chair is equipped with a rather small (compared to the same Porsche) number of adjustments. Nevertheless, it is comfortable to sit here, and the ventilation works excellently.
For the incredible balance of driving performance, I just love this car. Considering its class, I will say that moving around on the Lexus LC is comfortable, even despite the huge size of the rims. That being said, the coupe handles well and holds onto the pavement as tightly as you might need it in 99% of situations. For example, during my trip along the difficult roads of the Carpathians, I never ran into the limit of the suspension and brakes. Of course, I did not test the car in super-extreme situations and did not try to go too far (and the dynamics of this car is still not comparable with supercars). But at the same time, he did not deny himself the pleasure. Of course, it feels like the hybrid is heavy, but this feeling adds to the perception of the car as a solid one.
From Lexus, I initially expected comfort. But I was sure that the engineers would completely spoil the whole drive with the same comfort. And as a result, this car became something else for me, and not just a Lexus. Some other dimension.
The suspension handles big bumps really well. It happens that even with acceleration you fly into some kind of hole, but there is no feeling of a breakdown. Also, small shagreen leaves unnoticed. But occasionally, when you get to some average profile (especially in the city), you start to think that the 21st diameter of the disks is still a bit too much. An alternative to it are the 20s – basic – wheels, and they are also forged. And this is a huge advantage in the fight against unsprung masses.
How can I praise the LC like that if I know what a Porsche is and drove a 992 body? Everything is very simple. The Porsche 911 is the ultimate sports car. Though the most everyday of the top sports cars. And the Lexus LC is the most beautiful everyday car with very good sports car capabilities.
Of course, Lexus will lose to Porsche on the track. The Japanese car is heavier, and it simply will not catch up with the "German". He will not enter the Porsche in one turn and will not have time to brake as effectively. It is precisely for this confidence that many choose Porsche, but later pay with an overly sharp steering wheel and gearbox, as well as a (relative) lack of sound insulation.
All this can be endured if you drive such a car two days a month or if you have the opportunity to drop into some kind of race track like the Nurburgring. But of these two cars, I would not choose the 911, for example, for travel. And not because Porsche is significantly more expensive. I just would like to get behind the wheel of such an extraordinary car more often, which, of course, would always be in the spotlight. And while enjoying the drive, I want to enjoy everything else, not compromise.
The situation with the competition between Lexus and BMW is interesting. The fact is that the Japanese began to develop the LC model at the end of the 2000s. Just at that time they took the BMW 6 Series as an example. They did not hide the fact that they were inspired by this particular German model. But only Japanese engineers wanted to make their LC better – softer and more comfortable, taking into account all the shortcomings of BMW.
But, as is often the case with the Japanese, the process dragged on, and the Bavarians managed to launch the 8th series on the market. And now the situation is developing in such a way that never before have Lexus and BMW in the same class been so close to each other. Of course, they are far from the same, and in some aspects there is still a whole abyss between them. Especially with regard to the multimedia system, which in BMW is almost perfect. But the thing is that now BMW has become much softer and more comfortable than before.
At the same time, there are a number of advantages in the arsenal of the German coupe. For example, the presence of an ultimate engine in the M850i version. This is a 4.4-liter V8 that accelerates the car in 3.7 seconds, which Lexus can not do.
But arguments like that break down over the price difference. The fact is that prices for the 8 Series coupe in an absolutely basic configuration with a 3.0-liter engine, rear-wheel drive and dynamics, like the Lexus LC 500h, only start at 100,000 euros. For the M850i version, you will have to pay at least 120 thousand euros. And if you complete the model commensurately with the Lexus LC, you will get 140-150 thousand euros.
And Lexus has one irrefutable advantage. The prices for official service for this car are simply ridiculous. Only about $ 200 will cost you MOT for 15 thousand mileage. For MOT for 30 thousand, which includes the replacement of all filters and fluids, you will pay about $ 600. And let me not even say how much Porsche maintenance costs! ..
Add to this list also the reliability of Lexus, which has always been a cut above that of competitors. I think this is the only car in the class that can drive at least 150 thousand km without any problems. Although idealizing the brand in this regard is also not worth it, because now absolutely everything is breaking down, and even Lexus is no exception.