Lexus has never been afraid of going bold when it comes to car design even back to its very early days with the IS200 that had those fantastic clear rear light clusters that sparked an aftermarket revolution in copycat creations all the way through to the wonderful LFA, arguably the companies peak. One of its boldest designs of late has to be the LC500 which was launched in 2017 as their flagship coupe. Ever since I first saw the car it wowed me with its looks and whilst subjective, for me at least, it is one of the most beautiful cars on sale today. Thanks to the guys of Vantage Motor Group I was given one of these wheeled works of art for a few days to really get to know what this car is all about.
It has to be said, Vantage Motor Group know how to make you feel special when you visit their showrooms and on arriving at the Wolverhampton dealership I was greeted by a stunning white Lexus LC500h which was spotlessly clean and glistening in the sunlight with a sign alongside reading ‘I am reserved for The Supercar Stalker.’ Everyone I spoke to there from the Friendly Receptionists all the way through to the Dealership Principle could not have been more accommodating. Joel showed me around the car and explained everything I needed to know and I was quickly on my way.
The car in question was the LC500h in Sport + trim with the upgraded Mark Levinson sound system. This top spec model comes with pretty much every piece of tech or equipment you could ever require from Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist to the beautiful leather and suede interior and carbon fibre roof, doors and sills. The LC500 comes with a choice of two engines, the 5.0 V8 which boasts 464 HP and 540 NM of torque as well as the car I was given which receives Lexus’s Self Charging Hybrid combining a 3.5 V6 petrol engine and electric motors to give a combined output of 359 HP and 500 NM of torque.
On pressing the start button there is little sign of that performance potential as it beeps into life with no hint of engine sound. It starts in electric mode and you pull away in near silence and at town speeds the petrol engine kicks in with a seamless transition so smooth you rarely notice the switch. I found myself regularly needing to check the rev counter to see if I was in full electric mode or not although there is a light on the dashboard which illuminates in EV mode. Once out of town and cruising at motorway speeds the car is often running on the electric motors with the engine just idling to keep the batteries charged with the petrol motor supplying power only under load or at much higher speeds. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I was parked on the curse that is the M6 around Birmingham but this quickly highlighted one of the main advantages of the hybrid system, stemming waste. Yes, Stop/Start functionality features across the industry these days but stopped for more than a couple of minutes ‘normal’ cars exhaust the stored battery power and are forced to return to burning fossil fuels until the battery is replenished. There is something hugely rewarding about knowing the hybrid system can allow you to sit for long periods without requiring anything from the petrol motors and even moving the few meters between starts and stops completely on the electric reserves. This is the sort of scenario that will demolish fuel economy figures in a petrol or diesel car but the hybrid excels here.
Having some time to sit meant I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Lexus infotainment system. Initially, it is a little daunting with so many options and a laptop style mouse pad which seems fiddly to use but you quickly realise the system houses one of the most customizable interfaces on the market. There is a huge number of settings to change how things look, how things work and how things sound in a way I’ve not seen from another manufacturer and you soon get used to where the things you need are located and the mouse pad becomes intuitive the more you use it. The Mark Levinson sound system is excellent and well worth the upgrade especially as the LC500 is such a premium product and it feels every bit a premium product with sumptuous leather, carbon and machined aluminium as far as the eye can see.
I spent my time with the LC500 using the car as I tend to use my car which includes running the family around, leisure drives and a day out to the mountains to enjoy some good roads and some beautiful scenery. Once I had cleared the traffic, I spent a short time driving the car and getting to know its controls but didn’t get much chance to exploit its sporting credentials. Thankfully, day two had a bit of everything as I headed to Wales and the mountains of Snowdonia.
The drive from where I live is a 60-90 minute largely uneventful motorway cruise and being tired and suffering a bit of man flu could have been a bit of a chore but the LC500 is such an easy car to cover miles in. Its super comfortable supportive seats, heated and cooled, matched to the smooth ride and one of the best adaptive cruise control systems I’ve used to date mean you really can just sit back and munch the miles. 35 mpg was easily achievable on a cruise and the car is super quiet even at high speeds.
Leaving the motorways and main A roads and conditions became more challenging thanks to the super wet winter we have been having. A lot of mud on wet roads and temperatures below freezing lead to a lot of icy stretches especially off the beaten track. What it did provide though was an opportunity for me to experience how seamlessly the traction control system works, adjusting in the background with only a flashing light on the dashboard to indicate that it is doing anything at all. Driving a powerful rear wheel drive car in these conditions can often be a hairy experience but the Lexus coped with ease and left me in no doubt that this is a car you could use all year round whatever the weather.
A rotary nob controls the driving modes with comfort, sport and sport plus available with a push button on the side to select normal and custom modes. There’s also a little button on the centre console for full EV mode. I made good use of the custom setting on the drive modes especially on this part of the trip because whilst in sport plus the suspension was still far from uncomfortable, with some extremely poor road surfaces it allowed me to soften back the suspension whilst maintaining sporting settings for the motors etc, delivering an even smoother experience. This being the part of the trip where the roads turned twisty allowed me to experience how flat the car corners despite its size and the fact it undoubtedly resides at the comfortable rather than the hardcore end of the GT car spectrum makes this feat seem even more impressive. It’s easy to find a rhythm through the bends and it delivers its power smoothly with a silky smooth V6 engine note to enjoy and at the top end of the rev range shifts this big car with some impressive pace. Throwing the car around some bends really flatters the beautiful leather and suede sport seats which really do hold you rigidly in place without ever feeling uncomfortable even for a larger driver.
Beyond Bala the roads start to smooth out and switching into full Sport Plus mode removes the tiniest bit of body roll there was before. A lot of hybrids are fitted solely with a CVT transmission and the Lexus LC500h comes with an industry first combination of a CVT box with a small traditional automatic gearbox bolted onto it to effectively producing a ten speed automatic transmission. In automatic mode it behaves much like a stepped CVT but switching to manual mode and you can shift ratios as you would with a torque converter auto or dual clutch gearbox, through the paddle shifters. Ten speeds is a lot of ratios and it does mean you need to keep the revs high to get the most power from the motors but in reality you only use 4 or 5 of the steps when pressing on if you want to stay close to keeping your driving license. You still don’t get the sharp crisp gear changes of the most sporty cars on the market but it shifts up and down smoothly and it really suits the relaxed nature of the LC500h. With the sun now shining and the roads dried out I enjoyed a few hours of bliss enjoying this wonderful car in stunning surroundings on some of the best roads the UK has to offer stopping occasionally to admire the views and take some of the photographs you see here. This part of the world in the wilds of Snowdonia really is a bit of paradise for a petrol head with the keys to a nice car. I would love to return here with the LC500 in its V8 form because I have a feeling its more hardcore nature and traditional big engine and automatic transmission would make these roads even more of an experience.
Where I have no doubt the V8 wouldn’t be as accomplished is in its day to day usability. The hybrid powertrain gives the LC500 the perfect mix of economy and useable performance that buyers of this car will undoubtedly be looking for. It’s always smooth and refined wherever you drive with that real turn of pace for when you want it. Whilst I suspect the V8 would be even better for that blast down an amazing road, I think the hybrid will be the more rounded car you use every day.
After returning from Wales I used the car as a family car. With my wife and daughter for company, I tested out whether the rounded drive train lives in a body that has the practicality to use every day. First impressions on looking at the gap between the back of the front seats and the rear seats you’d be forgiven for thinking not, but with plenty of room in the front to move forward a fraction and seat bases in the rear that are much larger than most 2+2 GT cars and there is plenty of room for kids to spend time in the back. The boot is big enough for a weekend away or your shopping even though the hybrid loses some space to the V8 model thanks to the battery pack placed behind the rear seats. Of course, there are compromises to be had for having a beautiful two door coupe over a performance saloon but if you are considering a car of this type then the compromises aren’t as big as you might fear.
As a daily proposition the LC500h is fantastic. The fact it is so quiet, whether it be on a motorway or city street, and the ride is always smooth leaving you feeling calm happy when the rest of the world is going mad around you. It still feels agile should the need arise to nip around traffic or side streets thanks in part to the rear wheel steering that comes as standard with the Sport Plus specification and never feels lazy or unresponsive and that combination gearbox is so smooth during the daily grind. Lexus have been doing hybrids for a long time and it shows in how smoothly the transition between power sources is, particularly around town and it gives it the kind of fuel consumption that most performance cars wouldn’t get close to in the stop start traffic we face every day. The interior quality feels extremely robust and more than up to regular family use providing you are careful with the suede seat inserts and carbon fibre door sills which could be easily scratchable without care.
With Lexus consistently around the top of reliability charts despite their complexity you can rest assured that in addition to the LC500’s fantastic everyday usability, it isn’t going to let you down which is just the icing on a compelling package. Whilst the bold styling may not be for everyone it creates a huge amount of attention with people staring as you drive past trying to work out what they have just seen and that is down in no small part to exclusivity. There aren’t many of these cars on the roads in the UK at least and everyone I have spoken to about the car tells me they have seen only a couple of the roads if any at all.
So, the LC has exclusivity, a bold and modern design, high quality interior full of the latest technology and all made with the very best materials. A choice of a V8 engine or a hybrid powertrain means you can prioritise performance or the environment and has the credentials to be both a comfortable proposition to use every day or on a long journey whilst still feeling rewarding and accomplished when you want to enjoy a great road and all in the knowledge you aren’t going to be left stranded on the hard shoulder afterwards. The only questions that really remain are why this car is so exclusive and why more people aren’t enjoying this beautiful car? You don’t know what you are missing out on!
I want to say a huge thank you once again to everyone at Vantage Motor Group for allowing me the time they did with this car. Let me know what you think of the Lexus LC500 and be sure to subscribe to my blog.
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