Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 16, 2017
What Lexus did would be unimaginable a few years ago: to combine drop dead gorgeous supercar looks with such a frugal and fuel-saving powerplant. This is the LC 500h, the hybrid cousin of the LC 500, the latter of which was a mighty and bewildering V8-powered screamer. The LC 500h on the other hand is a little more expensive, a little more complicated, and a little less powerful, but the hybrid technology under its epidermis is a technical milestone when it comes to what is possible in today’s world of innovative creations.
When it used to be the simple answer of the Porsche 911, we now have multiple entries from a wide array of competitors in the luxury sport coupe market like the Jaguar F-Type and the BMW M6. Lexus is the latest to join the fray, but with a unique hybrid 2+2 made out of batteries and audacity.
Instead of a V8, the LC 500h uses a run-of-the-mill 3.5-litre V6 engine that you can also find in your grandmother’s Camry - if it makes you feel any better, it’s the same engine Lotus uses in the Exige. However this one has been revitalized with new cylinder heads and software tuning. There are also two electric motors mated up to a 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery that results in a net output of 354 hp. Not complicated enough yet? Just wait.
Lexus also incorporates what they call a Multi Stage Hybrid system, which utilizes not one transmission, but two. The LC 500h uses a CVT in addition to a four-speed automatic, which allows it to operate with essentially ten gears, like the LC 500. It works well in application, faithfully mimicking ten ratios, and it’s definitely the most exciting CVT-like CVT I’ve ever used.
The best part about it all is that even though the LC 500h is so complex underneath the sheetmetal, when you get behind the wheel, it’s no harder to drive than a Lexus RX 450h. The V6 fires up and switches off in a seamless manner, while the electric motors tag in, in what feels like a masterfully choreographed dance. In fact, the only way you’ll even know the engine has turned on is by looking at the gauges or listening to the accompanying ignition growl. The driver is completely tuned out and oblivious to all the wizardry happening beneath.
Seamless it may be, but it also transforms this sexy and alluring LC 500h into somewhat of a sober affair. The LC 500 was a satisfying grand tourer that combined intoxicating exhaust noises with delightful steering and a solid chassis. The LC 500h zaps out all of that driving emotion and leaves drivers with a hollow yet fuel-efficient shell of transportation.
When cruising at parking lot speeds, the LC 500h is deafly quiet. It can run using only electricity for short bursts of time under low power demands. If you don’t want the V6 to automatically ignite (there’s no way to manually tell it not to turn on), you have to be driving incredibly slow or feathering the gas pedal as if there were a carton of eggs underneath it. So the best way to utilize the EV mode is to simply accelerate up to speed using both motors, take your foot off the throttle, and let the EV mode take over so you can cruise with nothing but rainbows coming out of the tailpipe.
Piloting the LC 500h almost turns into a game of how well you can modulate the throttle to keep the electricity on and the combustion off. It’s quite fun actually, as opposed to the V8 where you played the game of how fast you could reach the redline and hear that bellowing and stimulating snarl once again.
And that’s not to say the LC 500h is slow. In fact, it’s only 0.2 seconds slower from 0-100 km/h than the V8 (4.7 and 4.5 seconds, respectively). The batteries help propel the LC forward instantly off the line, while the naturally aspirated V6 motor revs, tags in, and catches up. It’s certainly saying something when you can break traction and get the rear wheels loose in second gear at full throttle. The rear happily wags its tail too when you turn off traction control.
Braking is inconsistent at low speeds, with a firm pedal that softens and springs up the deeper you press it. The steering is well weighted but rotate it quicker and it lacks feedback. Your fingertips don’t feel as connected to the powertrain like the regular LC 500 - almost like you’re using a Playstation controller hooked up to a Virtual Reality segment of your morning commute. It’s realistic and convincing, yeah, and is enough to earn my attention but it still lacks in the soul department, with its beating heart replaced by a tree-saving battery.
With the way the gearing of the two transmissions is set up, the LC 500h fires off gear changes like rapid fire, bang bang bang, accompanied by a high pitched wail. It’s the younger screeching brother of the burly and muscular V8, exactly what you’d expect, like a Camry on full tilt with juice packs bolted through its frankenstein skull. It sounds pretty good, from the inside at least thanks to engine noise being piped through the speakers. From the outside the soundtrack is rather forgettable. Check out our Exhaust Notes video to have a listen yourself:
On the bright side, the V8 tradeoff means that the LC 500h is exceptionally fuel efficient. In fact, we averaged 760 km on a single tank of fuel and netted a consumption score of 9.9 L/100km. Not bad for the world’s sexiest Playstation controller. And speaking of which, the soft driving experience does serve as a stark contrast to the LC 500h’s supercar styling. Lexus’ fluid 2+2 sports car breaks necks wherever it goes, and though it might not have the vocals to back it up, it’s unquestionably beautiful.
The black interior on our tester didn’t accentuate the finer details as well as the Ocher brown colour in the LC 500, but it’s still a magnificent place to spend some time in. Just don’t mind the Frankenstein bolts protruding out the driver’s gauges, or the door handles that look like a toilet flushing lever. Other minor annoyances we came across was the constant beeping every time you put the vehicle into reverse - an odd feature of many Lexus hybrids that we’ve tested before like the CT 200h. The deep bucket seats are very comfortable and exceptional for long distance journeys, however getting over those bolsters and into the seat can pose as a threat for those whose spines don’t bend like they used to. There’s also less trunk space than the LC 500 due to the real estate required by the hybrid tech.
The Lexus LC 500h doesn’t offer the same thrills as the LC 500 - it talks the talk but walks a different walk. But it’s a fuel saving grand tourer that glides effortlessly and smoothly at a quick and hypotensive pace. But if it were my hard earned dollars at stake, the V8-powered LC 500 would still be the way to go.
型号 Model: 2018 Lexus LC 500h
顏色 Paint Type: Atomic Silver
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $118,750
試車售價 Price as Tested: $118,750
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,870
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,760 / 1,920 / 1,345
車重 Curb weight (kg): 2,130
引擎 Powertrain: 3.5-litre V6 + two electric motors + lithium-ion battery
最大馬力 Peak Output: 354 hp
波箱 Transmission: CVT, 4-speed automatic transmission
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 8.9 / 7.0
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.9