2018 Lexus LC 500h Review - Good Design, Bad Design
2018 Lexus LC 500h
There’s no denying that the Lexus LC is a sexy-looking car.
Sure, there will be some detractors – no design is universally loved – but there is little wrong, at least to my eye, with the Lexus’ looks.
At least on the outside.
Step inside, and the perspective shifts. The cockpit also looks good – but that form comes with a functional cost. One that could have been avoided, perhaps.
I speak of two things: the seemingly out-of-place control stalks that mar the edges of the instrument cluster and the continually confounding touchpad infotainment system controller.
Questionable design decisions are a shame, because even in hybrid form, the LC is a fun sport coupe to play with. I didn’t get to drive it as hard as I’d like, mostly due to cold weather, but when I tromped the gas, it roared and leapt forward in a promising manner. Even urban driving showed that the LC has the steering/handling setup needed for hard driving on the right type of road.
[Get new and used Lexus LC 500h pricing here!]
On balance, performance matters more than a few misplaced control stalks and an infotainment controller that deserves a rethink. And this is where the LC shines.
The hybrid powertrain combines a 3.5-liter, 295-horsepower V6 and electric motor for 354 total system horsepower. It’s a torquey little thing – kick the gas, give it a second, and whoosh, scenery flies by at a fairly quick clip. One note: Lexus doesn’t list total system torque (I asked), but the V6 is rated at a tick under 257 lb-ft. That number feels low, so I suspect the electric motor is playing a large role.
You also get rear-wheel drive and a “multi-stage hybrid” automatic transmission, which has four gear ratios listed in the spec sheet.
The steering feels dialed in, with about the right amount of feel and weight, and, while low-slung looks don’t always translate to a harsh ride, you will feel the worst of road imperfections and potholes. Speed bumps/speed tables are also not pleasant, and while I didn’t attempt to navigate a curbed driveway during my time with the car, it appears that those curbs and the LC’s fascia won’t mix well.
Kept away from potholes and the worst road scars born of Midwest winters, the LC was stiff but fine during commuting duty, though I confess I probably have a higher tolerance for tightly wound vehicles than most.
The Lexus’ front seats are helpful here. I don’t mention seats much in reviews, but these thrones hold occupants firmly in place while remaining comfy for longer stints.
Of course, this is a 2+2 sports coupe, meaning the rear seat is pretty much useless – getting back there for photos was an exercise in gymnastics, and I can’t imagine most adults being able to sit there for more than a few minutes. I’m sure LC buyers know this going in, but it bears repeating – your only passengers will be parcels, and maybe small children.
Question Lexus’ decision to offer the LC with a hybrid powertrain if you want, but it doesn’t detract from performance. Not in the way odd design decisions cut into this car’s interior looks.
It’s not just a looks thing – both the stalks and the touchpad are a bit of a pain to use. It’s one thing for function to follow form, but another to have it led blindly around. It detracts from the user experience. Not a lot, but enough to make me grumpy.
Especially given the cost involved here. My test car based at $96K, and options (an all-weather package including heated steering wheel; head-up display; Convenience Package including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, plus park assist; and a Touring Package including upgraded leather seat surfaces, Alcantara headliner, and premium audio) brought the total to a tick over $100K. If I’m dropping that kind of coin on a sexy sports coupe, I don’t want to be let down by the interior.
Another auto journalist I know said the hybrid powertrain “neuters” the car in his review. I disagree with that contention – the LC is still a blast to drive in hybrid guise. It’s just a shame that operating the interior controls is an exercise in frustration that takes away from an otherwise good design.
Sexy design is great, but drivers still need to use the controls. Lexus will do well to remember that come refresh time.
[Images: 2018 @ Tim Healey/TTAC]
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100 grand for a V6 hybrid doesn't resonate with me, but seems about right for the V8 considering what BMW wants for the 650i and Mercedes for the S560.
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