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2018 Lexus LC 500h: Not Your Daddy’s Boring Hybrid

2018_Lexus_LC_500h_lowresDriving around town in the 2018 Lexus LC 500h is a unique experience, one I’ve been privileged to enjoy this week. Not only do you easily roar past every other car on the road, you get to watch their envious glances in the rearview mirror as you slide by in this oh so stylish Atomic Silver coupe.

I picked up my daughter, who was staying at a downtown hotel, to be my plus one for a fancy Margarita reception. When we arrived at the venue, valet parkers scurried to move the cones and park us out front. It’s been a while since I was able to impress my daughter, so that made me love the LC even more.

The Lexus 500 is the winner of multiple EyesOn Design awards for its next century styling, somewhere between a spaceship and a sleek luxury vehicle. Good looks aside, the LC performance coupe out-performs expectations. With its 471 HP V8 operating on a 10 speed automatic transmission, the flagship LC 500 produces the kind of satisfying roar enthusiasts love to hear.

The LC 500h is quieter, but no less powerful. Pioneers in the luxury hybrid segment, Lexus brings an innovative, multi-stage hybrid powertrain system to power their new entry. The system teams the gasoline engine with two electric motors. An Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 engine uses D-4S direct fuel injection. Lightweight valve train components allow a 6,600-rpm redline, with Dual VVT-i ensuring ample torque. This system uses the continuously variable transmission from Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive while adding a four-speed automatic transmission.

The above technical language is taken entirely from Lexus news releases. For those of us who weren’t STEM stars, exactly how the gear sets work to utilize the V6 engine, allowing a driver to shift through 10 ratios with paddle shifters, can be a tad confusing. This driver was content to stay mostly in automatic mode, and let the AI shift control match gear selection to driving conditions.

While the sport + mode was definitely the most fun, I also used the ECO mode a lot for driving around town. The Multi Stage Hybrid System allows for more electric assist at lower vehicle speeds, so you can keep the gasoline engine off at speeds of up to an astonishing 87 mph. (Not that any of us would drive that fast, especially in a vehicle that draws so much attention).

Power from the V6 engine and the electric motor can be amplified by accelerating. The LC 500h is the first Lexus hybrid that can actually spin its rear wheels. Its lightweight lithium-ion battery pack fits between the rear seats and the luggage compartment, with a high power density producing 310.8 volts.

The LC 500h interior lives up to expectations with luxurious touches and craftsmanship throughout the cabin. Hand stitching adorns the leather-wrapped gearshift level, along with custom draping on the Alcantara door panel trim. The low instrument panel with easy to reach driving controls and information displays reduce eye movement. Comfortable seats with shoulder bolsters keep the driver securely in place while cornering.2018_Lexus_LC_500h_interior_low

The LC 500h features Lexus Safety System, using a camera and radar to monitor the road ahead for hazards. A pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and vehicle sway warning plus intelligent high beam system are all included.

All this luxury and innovation comes with a price, of course. The MSRP for the 2018 Lexus 500h is between $101,000 and $102,000. The test model I’ve been driving is a pre-production model so exact pricing wasn’t available.

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