The very first thing anyone seemed to notice about this particular Lexus LC 500h is the interior. It’s bright orange, from the suede headliner to the asymmetrical door cards. Combined with the rich blue exterior, the stunning color combination makes the LC look even more exotic than the absurdly stylish exterior design could on its own. Waiting outside a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn before looking for tickets Road & Rail’s Hudson Quattrocento rally, it was a magnet for looks and questions. One observer even shouted down from a balcony to ask. Not the car in general, the color of the interior in particular.
Lexus calls the color Manhattanhenge and unfortunately I think it is a must. The entire interior treatment is part of a Lexus Bespoke Build, a more exclusive configuration program that is even hosted on a different part of the website than the standard LC configurator. Here, Manhattanhenge’s exclusive interior options cost $3,600 on top of everything else. In return, you can always brighten the day of everyone around you. The orange adds warmth to an already well-lit interior and gives you a nice distraction every time you have to remember that this car has a touchpad-based navigation system for some reason. In a car that’s already so indulgent, it’s the right way to go.
And the LC is indulgent. This is an exceptional Grand Tourer to ride and live with, better at that particular job than the current Aston Martin DBS when tested weeks apart, but at one level a Grand Tourer is for other people. These are cars that are made to be driven in a very specific way, but they are also cars that are made to be seen in. The LC is a particularly good place to be seen, with distinctive styling that still raises the same question as when we first drove the LC in 2017: “What? is that?” Every time someone asks, you get to explain again that Lexus does indeed make this, and the person who asks learns all over again that this is a car that exists.
In this particular car you may explain something else. This is the LC 500h, a hybrid. A hybrid with two cylinders less than the base car, that is.
Yes, the long-acting 2UR-GSE Lexus V-8 is not in this car. Considering it’s a particularly good engine, a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated thing with variable valve timing, it’s already a pretty significant loss before you get to the horsepower difference. In fact, while the hybrid starts at a base price of $6000 higher, the combined power of the gas and electric systems of 354 horsepower is significantly lower than the 477 horsepower that the base car has.
Does the hybrid system add anything that the V-8 LC lacks? Unless fuel economy is a major concern, no. Unsurprisingly, the car gets exceptional mileage with the hybrid compared to the naturally aspirated V-8, an advantage of 10 MPG in the combined cycle. The hybrid wins that one, 29-19. Here it meant a whole first day of tough driving without stopping once at a gas station.
It’s hardly a surprise, but anyone familiar with the V-8 LC will find the hybrid’s sound particularly disappointing. The 2UR-GSE V-8 in the LC 500 is one of the best sounding engines in the world, not just in its price range or for a mass production car, but anywhere. The 8GR V-6 in the LC 500h is shared with a Lexus LS and still sounds like it would fit in a first luxury sedan.
While neither car is particularly fast compared to some of the absurd performance bargains at this price point, the V-8 LC is significantly more competitive in the segment. However, both are excellent cars to drive, and neither is slow enough to keep you from enjoying yourself.
There is something to be said for the sheer novelty of a truly great performance car that happens to be a Lexus hybrid. It is an exceptional representative for the brand in this form, proof that Toyota can do everything it does with its decades-defining hybrid cars and apply them to a truly great traditional car in a segment never before helped by electric assistance. . If you’re trying to figure out why the LC 500h actually exists, here’s your answer.
In a world where Lexus doesn’t make a V-8 LC, we would consider the V-6 hybrid LC a triumph. This is still an exceptional GT car and still a lovely place to spend an entire day, capturing in a new and new way what Toyota does best. Unfortunately for the LC 500h, Lexus will sell you this car with my ideal engine for this segment, for less upfront money, and you can get it as a convertible. If it’s not the best Grand Tourer of the modern era, it certainly is the best you can buy today, hands down.