Auto focus

Lexus LC 500h: Exclusivity and practical luxury on four fast wheels

S. Muralidhar | Updated on September 27, 2019 Published on September 27, 2019

Every line on the LC 500h’s body starts with a purpose, flows into others (even inside the cabin) and meets with its logical conclusion.

At the rear of the LC 500h, the spindle theme is mirrored in the design of the active rear wing and rear fender   -  ANIS_SHAIKH

With its triangular, wraparound design and layered LED tubes, the lamps are signatures that are great to look at during the day and the night.

The cabin exudes the classic 2-seater supercar vibe with its spacious and driver-focussed layout   -  IshaanBhataiya

In the market for a sports car? Wait for the Lexus LC 500h

Fukuoka is considered the economic and political centre of Northern Japan. It is the capital of Kyushu island and is culturally rich with a history in weaving and hand craftsmanship. It is also the birthplace for some of the world’s most luxurious cars. Located in the prefecture, Lexus’ Miyata plant manufactures popular models from the Japanese luxury car brand. It is also the training ground for the company’s famed ‘Takumi’ craftsmen.

A few weeks ago Lexus India took a bunch of Indian motoring journalists to get a curated experience, a sort of peek into the brand’s world. And the meat I was waiting to lay my hands on was not at the meal in Fukuoka’s only Michelin star restaurant approved by the Emperor’s chef himself, but it was parked outside, and on four wheels.

 

Getting to drive the Lexus LC 500h was supposed to be the highlight of the trip. The fact that this Lexus flagship is coming to India next year, just made it even more interesting.

Design

Despite the shared alphabet, the LC 500 is not really a successor to the legendary LF-A — the limited production supercar from the brand that ended its run in 2012. But, it is the most capable sports car that you can buy from Lexus today. What I was being offered a spin in was the LC 500h with its V6 Hybrid engine (compared to the other one’s V8). With its long hood, low, aerodynamic, sports car profile and rear-set passenger cabin, the LC 500h is one sensuous flagship coupe. Lexus calls its design theme ‘seduction and technology’. I found it also to be a mix of beauty and purpose, very typical for many Toyota and Lexus cars.

One thought in my head before I got to see the LC 500h in the flesh, was how would the brand trademark spindle grille sit on a low slung sports car. Often overbearing, the execution of the spindle grille is so good that it is a surprisingly great fit for the LC 500h’s front design.

With a graded mesh that is tightly woven at the top and curves to take the shape of the car’s nose at the spindle’s waist, it then widens to a broad weave at the bottom. This also serves the purpose of delivering more air where it is needed. A thick chrome lip that surrounds the grille on three sides leaves the top open to merge elegantly with the lines of the hood.

The stance of the LC 500h is the taut, sporty, aggressive presence you’d expect from a sports car capable of a 0-100 kmph sprint in five seconds. The broad haunches at the rear, however, makes it look slightly awkward when viewed from a front three-quarter angle. But, that again has a reason; with the sculpted pulled-in doors contrasting with the wider tread at the rear and the flared fenders to aid in performance. Every line on the LC 500h’s body starts with a purpose, flows into others (even inside the cabin) and meets with its logical conclusion. Its silhouette is classic sports car with the rear set driver position and the sharply sloping roofline merging into the lines at the rear.

From this angle, it is also clear how focussed the car is when you realise that the axis of the underbody lies below the top of the 21-inch tyres.

The LC 500h has been built on a new platform called GA-L meant for front-engined, rear-wheel drive vehicles. The car gets an extra dose of light-weighting with an increase in the use of aluminium, high-strength steel and carbon fibre. At the rear of the LC 500h, the spindle theme is mirrored in the design of the active rear wing and rear fender. The tail-lamps also attempt duplicating the sharp, tear gland style configuration for the headlamps. With its triangular, wraparound design and layered LED tubes, the lamps are signatures that are great to look at during the day and the night. The other exterior design highlights are the tri-projector LED headlamps and the unique diffuser and mufflers at the rear. Extreme focus on aerodynamic efficiencies shows in the addition of retractable door handles.

Cabin

The LC 500h’s cabin exudes the classic two-seater supercar vibe with its spacious, yet driver-focussed layout. The warm light brown leather upholstery and stitched leather panels makes the interior extremely luxurious and welcoming. A thick central tunnel with a separator wall for the driver’s side makes it seem even more cockpit-like.

For a company that obsesses over the smallest gains to be had from improving the movement efficiencies of employees at the shopfloor, it is not surprising to find the placement of switches and controls to be calculated for least distraction to the driver of the LC 500h. The gear shift knob is also set high on the central console and right next to the wheel so that the driver’s reach needs the least amount of effort.

More proof of that focus can be had from the position of the rotary knobs for the drive mode selection and vehicle stability settings. The knobs stick out like horns on either side of the instrument binnacle right behind the steering. The instrument display is an 8-inch LCD with a moveable ring that acts as the Odo and Speedo. The display changes based on drive mode selected; elongated paddles right behind the wheel allow manual gear selection.

Performance

The LC 500h gets a self-charging hybrid powertrain with a total system output that is more than the regular petrol V8 engine of the LC 500. The 3.5-litre, naturally-aspirated V6 petrol engine delivers 295hp and the remaining 59hp is brought in by the electric motor of the hybrid system. The engine features multiple technologies including intake and exhaust side variable valve timing and direct to cylinder injection system with secondary port injectors. But the more complex stuff is sitting in the multi-stage hybrid system and the 10-speed gearbox. The engine sounds rather tame if you are going to be staying on part throttle most of the time.

Assisting the engine deliver better efficiencies are two electric motors — one behaves like a generator and the other like a motor. The battery for the electric motor sits at the rear and near the fuel tank for better weight distribution. But, predictably its electric only range is not much. It’s parallel assistance performance is better thanks to a power split device and its planetary gear set.

The transmission is the combination of a 4-speed box paired to the power shift device amplifying torque while it is embedded within a CVT (continuously variable transmission). The effective number of gears that can be manually selected is 10. This complex construction could make for a greener footprint for the LC 500h, but it probably won’t be used to potential by its owners. Keep a heavy right foot, stay in the lower half of the gearbox’s slots and you’ll be able to discern the rewards at the seat of your pants and in your ears.

Bottom Line

The drive route selected going out of Fukuoka and onto a resort island nearby wasn’t the most varied in terms of terrain and speed limits, but I have no doubt that the LC 500h’s handling at limit will be lagging any of the other competing sportscars in the same segment. The Lexus Dynamic Handling package adds dynamic rear steering for sharper response to driver inputs depending on vehicle speed. There is also adaptive variable suspension that varies the ride quality based on the mode selected, though it is still quite firm even in comfort mode. Run-flat tyres add an extra bit of firmness to the ride and may be the irksome bits for Indian road conditions.

The LC 500h is going to be the addition that Lexus’ portfolio has been waiting for in India. It will be the exclusive, capable sports car that discerning buyers will want to add to their garages. I expect it to be priced at about ₹1.5 crore.

Published on September 27, 2019
  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.