COMPARO: 2018 Lexus LC 500 vs Lexus LC 500h

Lexus LC 500
By Shari Prymak

It’s not very often that an automaker comes out with something truly special and exciting. When it comes to Lexus, those moments are even scarcer. The company is more or less known as a builder of high-quality boring cars, and that’s something they aim to change. It started with the LFA, an outrageously wonderful Japanese take on the supercar. Then came the RC F and GS F, a pair of high-performance road cars with a bit of track capability. And now we have the LC, a flagship grand-touring coupe that’s about as far from boring as humanly possible.

In terms of design, the LC is a total stunner. It’s wild, spaceship-like appearance stops people in their tracks, drawing attention everywhere it goes. Every detail, from the razorblade LED headlights, to the Aston Martin-like pop-out door handles, is breathtakingly stylish. And, more importantly for Lexus, It redefines how people think of Lexus, stirring interest in the brand.

Lexus LC 500

The interior too is just as sumptuous as that eye-catching styling. Every surface looks and feels incredibly luxurious and is fitted with the precision and attention to detail that you’d expect from a Lexus. The switchgear feels amazing when actuated. The driver-centric controls and instrument cluster have a cool LFA-inspired look. The driving position and front seats are excellent, and the backseats can even accommodate a pair of kids. The infotainment system has been updated and improved over previous Lexus products, but it is still too distracting to use on the move. Overall though, the level of substance, opulence, and craftsmanship are top notch.

Underneath the layers of supple leather and futuristic-looking sheet metal is a refreshingly old-school take on the grand-touring coupe formula. As opposed to every competitor, the LC 500 uses a snarling, naturally-aspirated V8 engine that drives the rear wheels. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Maserati Granturismo are the only comparable GT cars to share a free-breathing V8 and rear-wheel drive. Once they are replaced, the LC 500 will likely be the last of its kind.

Lexus LC 500

The 5.0L V8 engine has been tuned to produce 471 horsepower and 398lb-ft of torque. That isn’t much by modern standards, and the straight line pace reflects that, but the sound and feel is unmatched by any competitor’s turbocharged engine. It has to be revved towards its 7300rpm cut-off to give its best, and the reward is an intoxicating, high-pitched snarl that only a big, naturally-aspirated V8 can deliver. It’s such an enjoyable engine. The only knock is the 10-speed automatic transmission, which is geared a little too tall to fully enjoy it. Two upshifts with the paddle hitting redline and you’re already hitting illegal speeds with eight more gears to go. At least the gear changes are satisfyingly quick.

Gearing issue aside, the LC 500 delivers as a fast GT car that’s also agile and communicative on a windy backroad. The steering is precise with some genuine feedback. The suspension is nicely-tuned for both solid body control and a comfortable ride. With a hefty curb weight of 1935kg, the LC 500 won’t scare a Porsche 911 on a race track, but then that’s not its purpose. This car is at its best driven briskly on the open road with the occasional sweeping bend and a few bursts to redline to hear that engine sing.

Lexus LC 500

Those who are less concerned about cornering speed and a howling engine note might be interested in the hybrid-powered LC 500h, though I’m not sure why. The 5.0L V8 is swapped out for a 3.5L V6 paired to couple of electric motors for a total system output of 354 horsepower. Yes, it is more efficient – I averaged 10.0L/100km in the LC 500h versus 17.0L/100km in the LC 500 – but that’s about the only upside. In exchange for a notable price premium, the LC500h trades away the additional pace, unreal engine sound, and overall excitement of the LC 500 for the docility and restraint of a hybrid mode. No thanks.

Like the Audi R8 or Acura NSX, the LC is meant to be a halo car for the brand. Unlike those other cars, however, it isn’t priced like some unattainable supercar. The high-tech LC 500h comes fully equipped with an MSRP of $118,750. Even better, the more desirable LC 500 can be had for $101,600. At that price, nothing else comes close to delivering such exotic looks combined with an exciting, yet luxurious, driving experience. It also has a level of exclusivity to it that some cars costing twice as much don’t have. From the moment you open the elegant door to when you fire up the roaring engine, the LC 500 reminds you that it’s something special. Remember what you used to think of Lexus? Yeah, time to rethink that.

For more details, please visit the Lexus Canada website.