The 2018 Lexus LC 500h literally turns heads. People ask about it. Friends who don’t usually car much about cars want to get a glimpse of it. The contractors who are rebuilding a third of my house gave me suggestions for twisty roads to test it.
“Is it as fun to drive as it looks?” they asked.
“Oh, yes. Yes it is,” I answered. “And it’s a hybrid.” This invariably raises the asker’s eyebrows. The LC 500h does not look like a hybrid. It looks like a luxury sports car because that’s what it is. But it also has Toyota’s special hybrid sauce under the hood, with a gasoline engine and two electric motors powered by lithium-ion batteries.
The Electrified Part
I knew it was a hybrid when I requested the car for a week of test driving time. But even I was surprised as how well the system worked. As I cruised along at an even speed on a state highway, the EV indicator came on in the dashboard. That is how I learned that the LC 500h is capable of cruising along using only electric power. When I looked it up at home, I learned that it can do so up to 87 mph.
Lest you think the LC 500h is all virtue and no vice, it lives up to its performance billing. It has quick acceleration with a satisfying exhaust note and excellent handling in the twisties. It’s a sports car with a heart of green.
The Elegant Part
It’s also a luxury Lexus. The caramel-colored leather interior felt as rich as dulce de leche. The seats were comfy but low, which is common in a performance car. And the back seats were so tight as to be silly. I don’t know why sports cars even bother with rear seats instead of the time-honored parcel shelf.
There was plenty of technology on board. The test car had the upgraded 10.3-inch screen, which is huge, though not as massive as the one in a Tesla. Some functions, like seat heaters, are buried in menus on the touchscreen, which makes turning them on and off on the fly difficult. You’re better off setting everything up in your driveway and then hitting the road.
To be fair, my test car was a pre-production model, which means some little things might not be totally dialed in yet. For instance, the car should have been able to recognize speed limit signs. They did show up in the navigation panel and in the head-up display, but they were incorrect — by as much as 30 mph. Doing 55 mph in a quiet neighborhood with a school is probably a bad idea. I assume, though, that these are the kinds of fixes that will be made before anyone actually buys their own LC 500h.
The LC 500h came with the Lexus Safety System+, which adds a layer of high-tech safety. It includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic cruise control, lane keep assist, and lane departure alert with steering assist. This last feature means that if you drift out of your lane, it will warn you and subtly steer you back to the center of the lane. It’s not at all autonomous, but it does count as driving assistance technology.
The Expensive Part
You get a lot of car with the 2018 Lexus LC 500h, and you will pay a lot for it. It’s starting price is around $96,500. My test car, which had a few extra packages and options, was priced at $99,450. My question, in driving this car around for a week, was, “Is this a $100,000 car?” I think it is. The combination of luxury and performance isn’t anything new, but the electrification element means this car will be competitive with other electrified sports cars that are coming soon. Polestar, watch your back.