We drove the Lexus LC 500 h: a Gran Turismo coupé of absolute superlatives

A beauty from the east has come to our shores… 

Unique and truly standing out, this is how we can fittingly describe this beautiful coupé. Brilliant engineering gives this hybrid gem its performance and panache. The stylists also pulled all the stops and tested the boundaries of shaping and form techniques to produce a Lexus with an absolutely brilliant personality and presence. With the LF-LC concept car in 2012 we had already a preview of this stunning car, and at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit it made its public debut.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We seldom walk admiringly around a test car at first as we mostly are too keen to get straight away behind the wheel. But things are different when you meet such a beauty.

We simply could ‘t resist to feast our eyes to the well balanced shapes of this Gran Turismo Coupé. Every detail, every line, every contour is just timelessly elegant and well proportioned. The photos tell only half the story. One should see it in the flesh.

We just tell you here that during our test, we never met so many admirers for our test car. Passers by grabbed their smartphone to take a photo, bikers were turning heads in admiration, it happened every single day we drove it.

The feast continues in the interior. The instrumentation and the dashboard and console layout is unique, the shapes of the seats, the fluent lines of the door panels, with soft touch alcantara put in the places where your arms and elbows meet the doors and cabin, all this seduces totally.

The love for big round clocks and more especially rev counters, which we found already in the very early and first Toyota sports cars is kept well alive in this Lexus, and the theme is further honed to perfection. Even when you select the “Eco” driving mode, a big rev counter stares you in the face. This is a thoroughbred Gran Turismo, let there be not a shade of doubt about this. Your ears are awakened by the beautiful sound of a high revving six, which can mount to 6,600 rpm, if you let it.

Even in “Eco” mode, the rev counter is prominent, with speed indicated digitally.

But it can also purr along, with a barely audible refined growl, or just stop, while you accelerate gradually further, with the green EV telltale light flashing on besides the rev counter. Your elegant coupé now further whispers along on E-power, as a hybrid befits. Lexus has been building them for the last 13 years, and this vast experience shows in this LC 500h.

Things get more dramatic in the “sport+” mode… 

Lexus developed a new Multi Stage Hybrid System specifically for the LC 500h. Like other Lexus hybrid configurations, the Multi Stage Hybrid System teams the gasoline engine with two electric motor/generators, but similarities end there.

The Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine uses D-4S direct fuel injection, and the lightweight valvetrain allows as we said a 6,600-rpm redline, with Dual VVT-i ensuring ample torque across the engine speed range.

A unique 10 speed transmission, actually a CVT combined with a four speed auto…

The new system keeps the planetary-type continuously variable transmission from Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive and also adds a four-speed automatic transmission. Working in concert, the two gearsets alter output in four stages to utilize the V6 engine across the entire speed range. The CVT offers three gear ratio’s or “steps”, combined with the first three speeds of the auto box, this then results in 9 gears.

The tenth gear is effectively the fourth gear of the automatic transmission, and this is a very, very high gear indeed. At 120 km/h cruising speed, the rev counter just hovers at around… 1,000 rpm, making cruising utmost relaxing. If this is not enough, driving in “Eco” or even the “Normal” mode, more often than not the engine simply shuts off at these constant speeds and lets the E-engines do the work.

This happens for cruising speeds up to 87 mph, or 140 km/h. One feels not the slightest jerk, and the only thing one notices is that the rev counter drops to zero. The mechanical and acoustic refinement of this LC 500 is just incredible, and truly stands out.

At both sides of the steering wheel, which lies ideally in your hand, there are long gearshift paddles, to let you change manually like a master, only you don’t need to do this at all. The box is much faster and more clever than you ever will be in choosing the right gear. Just put you foot down, and in milliseconds, without the slightest shock, the right gear pops up, and under a beautiful staccato, you get going.

And this the car truly does: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 4,7 seconds. The top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. The beauty lies in the totally effortless way all this is done. Total system power for this 2,4 tonne car is 264 kW or 354 HP. The V6 engine itself is good for 220 kW or 295 HP at 6,600 rpm, with torque being 348 Nm at a very sporting 4,900 rpm.

Of course, you can use the gearchange paddles to storm up and down mountain passes, when you want to have more control over engine power and benefit also from engine braking, or, well, use them just for the fun of it.

The hybrid layout will deliver very good economy, considering the car’s weight and size, and in the “eco” mode, in a long tour through Holland at legal speeds, we averaged between 6,5 and 7,7 liters/100 km, which is no small feat! Last but not least, this is also the first Lexus hybrid to use a compact, lightweight lithium-ion battery. The battery pack fits neatly between the rear seats and the luggage compartment and has a high power density, with its 84 cells producing 310.8 volts.

Crisp and predictable handling, combined with Gran Turismo comfort

The front seats have a new two-part construction technique where the main part of the seatback drapes the over the shoulder area and then wraps around the seat back. Bolsters in the shoulder area help hold the driver securely in cornering maneuvers. Then there is the handling, like we said, crisp and precise, with loads of feedback from the road surface. The solution the engineers adopted was a double ball joint front suspension that allows for control of the smallest movements from driver inputs and the road surface, yielding more precise steering response with better initial effort.

Indeed, The LC driver feels the immediate response at initial turn-in, controlled body motion and precise, linear response that creates a rhythmical and smooth driving experience. A delight in corners, this Gran Turismo really is.

Exemplary infotainment

Of course, this Lexus has it all. It integrates the brand’s latest audio, navigation and connectivity technologies, the center console features the latest-generation Remote Touch Interface touchpad controls. But the cabin is also absolute heaven for music lovers. Lexus’ 15-year partnership with Mark Levinson has yielded an optional reference-quality 13-speaker system tailored to the LC cabin. Clari-Fi music restoration technology enhances playback by automatically analyzing and improving the sound quality of compressed, digitized music sources… need we say more?

Everyday practicality

With its refined mechanics and drivetrain, the LC 500 is a delight to use in everyday town and country driving, and is a very useable coupé for two. The rear seats are meant for small (grand)children, and yes, owners of senior age can be responsible (grand)parents taking the (grand)children along for a very safe and exhilarating ride…

Rear and boot space are more than ample enough for those long Gran Turismo trips too.


3-D rear lights give a stunning view to those who follow you …

If you want a very exclusive, stunning, elegant looking Gran Turismo, blessed with a technology which reaches uncanny levels of pure refinement, offering yet massive performance, all this combined with a flawless “green” score and unparalleled economy with last but not least excellent service friendliness, then this Lexus LC 500h is the car for you.

It certainly was one of the highlights of our car testing year, let there be no doubt about it.

Hans Knol ten Bensel