What Car? says...
The Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h are the striking result of a brand throwing away its rule book. Fed up with fighting against German premium car makers, Lexus bosses decided that they would do everything they could to get noticed.
The LC therefore has the capability to carry a couple of occupants and their baggage in generous comfort over a long distance – or four people over a much shorter one. Rivals range from the Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type to the BMW 8 Series.
Buyers can choose from two engine types. The LC 500 is powered by a whopping great old-school naturally aspirated 467bhp V8 with a 10-speed automatic gearbox. The more efficient alternative is the LC 500h, a hybrid model that links a 295bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine to an electric motor to deliver a total power output of 354bhp.
There are three trim levels: standard, Sport Pack and Sport Plus Pack, with each step dialling up the characteristics of the car in the way that their names suggest.
Read on over the next few pages to find out how the LC compares with its rivals and which version we’d choose. If you've decided it's the car for you, check out our New Car Deals service for great new sports car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The V8 in the is the best engine option for the Lexus LC 500, but not a perfect one. It is strong at high revs – with a wonderful sound at the top end – and a lot of fun when you want it to be, but feels a little short of torque to move this two-tonne car as effortlessly as you’d like if you put your foot down at low revs. A 0-62mph time of 4.7sec attests that this is a quick car, but it can’t match the Jaguar F-Type R or BMW 8 Series M850i, both of which will dispatch the same sprint one second quicker. In part, that’s because both of those rivals have four-wheel drive that helps to put their power down from a standstill; the rear-wheel drive LC can struggle to deploy all of its power on a standing sprint.
The LC 500h offers alternative engine choice in the form of a V6 hybrid. It’s more economical, but the way it transitions between electrical assistance and engine power isn’t always that smooth, especially when you’re pushing on. It sounds far more subdued than the V8, too, which is relaxingly hushed at low speeds but always ready to crank up the drama in the exhaust note as you increase the speed. And Lexus’s attempt to make the 500h more exciting by filtering imitation engine noise through the stereo speakers becomes irritating after a while. Things aren’t helped by the whine of the electric motors that augment the V6 up front.
Plus, although the hybrid is only a little slower than the V8, covering 0-62mph in 5.0sec, it isn’t as dynamically exciting as the 500due to the extra weight of its batteries and electrical system. It’s not in a straight line where you notice the extra weight, but when cornering, where the 500h is less willing to change direction than its sibling. As a result, the 500 is the more entertaining car to drive on a flowing road.
The LC’s steering is rather light and disappointingly short on feel, but opting for the top-spec Sport Plus Pack gives you a different steering setup that can vary its directness depending on your speed. It also adds a rear-wheel steering system and a limited-slip rear differential that helps transfer power to where it’s needed. With these fitted, the LC feels more agile and better tied-down in bends than the standard car. Still, it doesn’t match the dynamic ability of the Porsche 911 or BMW 8 Series. Being neither quite as balanced nor as engaging through bends.
It is very easy to manoeuvre this big car at low speeds, though, and in more subdued driving, the LC is a decent companion. Fitted with run flat tyres as standard, the LC’s ride can feel a little wooden over really testing lumps and bumps, especially around town. Thankfully, it gains better fluency at higher speeds, but you’re always aware of road imperfections – although they never become uncomfortable. It’s very quiet at low speeds and nicely hushed at higher speeds, but the LC is rather short of the smoothness and refinement you expect from a long-distance GT car.
The LC 500 V8 has an automatic gearbox with an almighty 10 speeds; this might sound like a gimmick, but it works well when left in its automatic mode. You’re wise to use the steering wheel-mounted paddles and revert to manual mode for more spirited driving, but it gets tricky keeping track of so many intermediate ratios. The Hybrid LC 500h, meanwhile, uses 10-speed CVT automatic gearbox that’s smooth around town and does a fairly good impression of a conventional automatic at a cruise, but once you start to push on, the revs flare and the V6 sounds rather coarse.
That said, the hybrid is worth considering if you are buying the car based solely on its long-distance GT credentials. Its range on a full tank will be greater than the V8’s, thanks to the improved fuel economy – and you can read more details on that in our Running Costs section of this review.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Slide into the LC and you are left in no doubt that it is a focused GT. The seats are set low, the digital instrument display has a clear, sporty look and the pedals are nicely spaced and in line with your body. But, above all else, it still feels luxurious.
From the sculpted doors with intricate stitching through to the classy analogue clock in the middle of the dash, this is a car that oozes quality and craftsmanship. Like the exterior, the highly stylised look may not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no question that it is executed to an extremely high standard. The plush seats are comfortable in all trim levels, and the sports seats on the higher trim levels add extra bolster to hold you in place.
For such a low, big car visibility is good, too. The weak point in this respect is, obviously, the view out of the back because of the sharply angled rear windscreen as a result of the sloping roofline – but big door mirrors, parking sensors and a rear-view camera help to mitigate this issue.
The big 10.3in screen is stylishly recessed into the dashboard, but unfortunately its flash looks are by far its strongest feature. Apart from some shortcut buttons that simplify certain operations, in the main it’s controlled via a fiddly touchpad system that isn’t nearly as easy to use as those with a proper touchscreen or a rotary controller, such as that of the BMW 8 Series’s iDrive system. Over bumpy roads in particular, it can be very hard to select the icon you want. In fact, the infotainment system is one of the most complicated and frustrating on sale today – and there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Space up front is generous, with the LC’s long body allowing for plenty of leg room, and there’s enough head room for tall adults as well. There’s also plenty of storage areas for odds and ends inside.
The taller those in the front are, though, the tighter it’ll be for anybody in the back, where head and leg room are severely limited. In fact, only young children will be able to sit in relative comfort, due to the LC’s aggressively raked roofline – the BMW 8 Series is similarly cramped back here but the Porsche 911 is a little better, although it would still be a stretch to call that car ‘comfortable’ for those in the rear.
The LC 500 V8’s boot is roughly similar to that of the 911 when it comes to boot space, it’s just about big enough for two carry-on suitcases and some soft luggage, but the hybrid’s is slightly smaller. The BMW 8 Series and Jaguar F-Type both offer comfortably more space. The boot is also shallow and a rather awkward shape, with a narrow aperture and a lumpy, uneven floor – although it does make up for this in terms of length. Many owners will choose to travel two-up and use the rear seats for additional luggage space.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The LC 500 V8 and LC 500h hybrid are priced almost identically. Sport Pack and Sport Plus Pack trims, of course, hike the price up, but not by a ludicrous amount. Still, we’d stick with the standard car to maximise value for money, and the car is well equipped whichever trim you go for. Even if you opt for a fully loaded LC 500 it’s cheaper than the majority of its equivalently-specced rivals, including the BMW 8 Series, Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 911.
Lexus has an impeccable record in reliability, ownership and dealership surveys, suggesting that top-notch customer service and trouble-free motoring should be realistic expectations. While the LC did not feature in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey, Lexus as a brand was ranked top out of 32 manufacturers.
As for running costs, while the V8 emits far more CO2 than the hybrid, both cars still in the top benefit-in-kind tax bracket. So those hoping that the hybrid will be a cheap company car will be disappointed.
Similarly, if you’re hoping the hybrid 500h will save you a fortune in fuel bills – the difference isn’t hugely substantial in real-world driving. Official figures claim that the 500 will achieve 24.3mpg, while the 500h will manage 34.8mpg.
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|RRP price range||£98,960 - £116,000|
|Number of trims (see all)||6|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||24.3 - 34.8|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£7,126 / £8,428|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£14,252 / £16,856|