Although both the V8-powered and hybrid versions of the new flagship Lexus LC coupe may wear identical price tags, the differences when driven back-to-back couldn’t be more pronounced.
There’s no real surprises there given the vast technical differences between a free-revving naturally aspirated V8 and an electrically-boosted drivetrain system better known for its green credentials rather than its performance merits.
But whichever version of the LC you choose there’s no escaping the polarising looks - where once a Lexus might have been the low-key luxury choice, this latest prestige two door is unmistakable from any agle.
Vehicle Style: Luxury coupe
Price: $190,000 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 351kW/540Nm 5.0-litre 8cyl, 220kW/348Nm 3.5-litre 6cyl hybrid | 10sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 11.6 l/100km (V8) 6.7 l/100km (hybrid)
There’s only one specification of LC coupe, though you have a choice of two engines of course: the LC 500’s V8 or the LC 500h’s V6 hybrid. Both are paired to a 10-speed transmission but in different ways - a traditional hydraulic auto for the LC 500 and an unusual four-speed auto plus an electrically-driven CVT unit in the LC 500h that operates through 10 steps to give a more ‘traditional’ shift feel.
Both are priced from $190,000 plus on-road costs, with a single option package in the Lexus Dynamic Handling Package which adds a further $15,000 to the price and adds goodies like Alcantara interior trim highlights, a carbon fibre roof, four-wheel steering, an active rear spoiler and a limited slip differential for the LC 500h (it’s already standard on the LC 500).
- Standard Equipment: Semi-aniline leather trim, 12-way power front seats with heating and ventilation, keyless entry with push-button start, 8.0-inch digital instrument display, adaptive cruise control, powered steering column, LED headlights, 21-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 10.3-inch colour screen, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, DVD player, satellite navigation, 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio
- Cargo Volume: 197 litres
Although the LC may be one of Lexus’ more bold styling statements, the interior is awash with traditional Lexus items that should make owner's stepping out of an LS or GS sedan feel right at home, things like the digital instrument cluster, less-than-simple to use touchpad-controlled infotainment system, and the sensible button layout all follow the rules set out by lesser Lexus models.
The pair of additional dials poking through the top of the instrument cluster may look a little odd, but the clever dashboard with its sharp graphics bring a proper high-tech ambience to the cabin.
Lexus prides itself on the handcrafted nature of the interior, and that’s obvious once seated inside the plush cabin surrounded by quality materials and a high level of fit and finish.
Buyers are able to select from basic black, a two-tone black with ‘dark rose’ highlights, or a new Ochre trim colour that packs the interior full of multiple hues of brown - it’s a little unflattering in photos but tends to work a little better in person, if brown is your thing.
While the exterior dimensions may be imposing, the interior isn’t as capacious as it might appear with the rear seats squeezed for head and legroom, however the seats themselves are still generously proportioned.
Luggage space under the hatch is also tight - around half of what you’d find in a BMW 6 Series or Jaguar F-Type coupe - making that compact rear seat all the more crucial if you’re planning on using the LC as getaway grand tourer for anything more than a weekend at a time.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 or 3.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid V6
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic or 10-stage multi-mode CVT automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Four-wheel independent suspension with adaptive dampers
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, 338mm front, 308mm rear
- Steering: Electrically-assisted power steering
Starting out in the hybrid LC 500h we discovered a coupe that fits the luxury bill perfectly with high levels of refinement, low levels of noise, and just enough muscle to convince you you might have got your money’s worth.
It isn’t until you really push the LC 500h to its limits that the hybrid’s trick gearbox starts to show its limitations and the stretchy variable gearing betrays it as something different.
With fuel consumption rated at a very polite 6.7 l/100km and the ability to dash from 0-100 km/h in 5.0 seconds the LC 500h should appease both your sensible side and your uncompromisingly brash nature.
In fact the only thing that stops the LC 500h from seeming like a very good car indeed is the fact its LC 500 sibling is crammed full of high-revving, growling, far more enjoyable V8 goodness.
The LC 500’s 351kW/540Nm V8 is the same naturally-aspirated engine as used in Lexus’ smaller RC F and GS F performance cars, with a delightful sound and a true willingness to rev all the way to its 7100rpm redline - but in something as large and comfortable as the LC, which isn’t really a sports car, there’s time where the engine doesn’t always feel at home.
Certainly, the first-ever Lexus 10-speed automatic (a ‘real’ 10-speeder in the case of the V8) is as smooth and silken as a luxury coupe demands, with rapid gearshifts for an uninterrupted swell of power.
Flicking the transmission into its racier Sport+ mode doesn’t tend to improve things the way it ought to, sometimes overriding manual gear change requests, or offering a lethargic kickdown response when left in drive, but when it does get it right the rev matched downshifts are an aural highlight.
With standard 21-inch wheels and run-flat tyres the LC’s adaptive suspension does a commendable job of keeping the ride comfortable and controlled, a sensation no doubt helped out by the interior's active noise cancellation which helps make things feel even more serene.
A little time spent around the race track at Phillip Island proved that Lexus has nothing to hide with its new coupe, and while it feels fast and flows well around the circuit (with the optional Dynamic Handling Package fitted to the cars we drove) the car doesn't offer the kind of thrilling involvement that invites you to hammer it around, being just too heavy and too comfortable to be a full-blown sports car.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With subtle hints of Lexus’ excellent LFA supercar evident in the LC’s styling, and the way it drives, this flagship coupe is an excellent indicator of where Lexus sees itself in relation to its more familiar German competitors.
Although turbocharging is the propulsion method of choice for a modern Euro car, it’s somewhat refreshing to see Lexus stick with a broad-chested atmo V8 and back it up with the different, but still convincing hybrid V6 counterpart.
Unlike the LFA the LC is no new performance benchmark for the brand - comfortable and luxurious? Yes. Eyecatching? Without a doubt - but as a sports coupe the LC range is a little closer to the way Lexus has always been, and not quite where the brand wants to be.
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