Lexus LC500 review: the slickest Lexus this side of the LFA | CAR Magazine

Lexus LC500 review: the slickest Lexus this side of the LFA

Published: 01 May 2023 Updated: 15 May 2023
The new Lexus LC coupe: it's CAR magazine's UK review
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► Testing the new Lexus LC coupe
We review LC500 V8 and hybrid
Jaw-dropping looks, slick drive

You’re looking at the Lexus LC, a car that’s offered in both with hybrid power or with a fire-breathing V8. That’s quite an unusual mix in the sports GT market – and it’s good enough in petrol-electric form to be one of the best hybrid cars on sale today.

Just look at it. You’ll never mistake the LC for anything but a Lexus, from that monster contoured grille, to the sharply defined headlamp jewellery and creased origami bodywork. It’s an eye-grabbing aesthetic and now we’ve driven it in the UK we’re all the more revved up by it. It’ll turn heads aplenty and in LC500h form, it’s one of the best luxury hybrids on the market.

You have two choices if you step into a British Lexus showroom and dare to be different. UK prices stand at:

  • LC 500 £76,595
  • LC 500h £80,595

Or, put another way, you could land one of these on your driveway for £799 a month, with a £22k deposit on a Lexus PCP and interest charged at 5.9% APR. Although you can obviously push those numbers up and down, depending on the size of your deposit and monthly payments…

Which Lexus LC should I buy?

Brits are splitting their attention evenly, according to Lexus. UK director Ewan Shepherd told CAR magazine that almost half of the early deposits laid down for the LC went towards the 500h, despite its lesser performance against the brawnier V8, despite similar price tags.

We’re not talking Ford Fiesta volumes here, mind, with the UK allocated just 250 of Europe’s 1000 total units. At the time of writing, 162 orders had been placed over here. This will be a rare sight on our roads.

Lexus LC 500 V8

It’s interesting to note that while the majority of V8 LC 500 buyers have gone for the most athletic Sport+ package, most 500h customers have ordered (still very well-equipped) base-spec cars. There’s a curious dichotomy forming between the two approaches that we’re keen to watch play out to fruition. Which LC will prove most popular once the dust settles?

The V8 LC 500: tested in the UK

The V8 is a rather wonderful thing; we’ve now driven the 500 in Europe, the US and back home in Blighty, and can report it’s a proper, long-legged GT to rival anything Europe can offer. Most of the time it fulfils its Lexus brief perfectly, wafting comfortably along, with a surprisingly absorbent ride (considering the huge, highly polished alloys ours rode on, see picture above).

The multi-adjusting seats are comfy, the drivetrain truly refined, road and engine noise properly suppressed, as you’d expect in Toyota’s range-topping luxury brand.

But flick into Sport mode and the moving, interactive dials beef up, the V8 gets a bit more burbly and performance is effortlessly fast. Lexus quotes 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and it feels every bit as quick; there’s a pleasing slickness to the handling and drivetrain, too – we can’t remember such a fine-handling Lexus since the LFA supercar, and that’s praise indeed.

The auto transmission lever is a bit fiddly at first, but once you work it out you’ll be fine; the finger-tapping paddle-shifts work well once you’re on the move.

Just make sure you can stomach the V8’s 263g/km CO2 rating and a gobbly appetite for unleaded. If you’re more frugal, you should investigate the 500h hybrid, whose 148g/km CO2 rating and 43.5mpg combined fuel economy may appeal more. 

Read on to see what the hybrid Lexus LC is like.

The LC 500h hybrid: here comes the science lesson!

Let us introduce you to a driveline with a difference. A CVT-equipped hybrid with 10 gears – though not all are physical – and not a turbo in sight. 

Yes, one of the cleverest things about the Lexus LC 500h is its powertrain. Lexus’s Multi Stage Hybrid system is all-new for the LC, and at its heart is a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 with electrical assistance in the form of a 132kW (177bhp) motor – but that’s simply too crude an explanation.

To do the job, an all-new hybrid transaxle has been introduced. This comprises an E-CVT with three distinct ratios (CVTs can have infinite ratios, which originally was one of the advantages of using such a transmission, but here a trio are specified) coupled with a four-speed ‘shift device’ (essentially a conventional automatic gearbox) that adds flexibility.

Lexus LC 500h

The result is the simulation of 10 gears. The three from the E-CVT are multiplied by three from the shift device for nine, and the final ratio from the latter performs as an overdrive gear, meaning the LC can cruise at high speeds with relatively low engine rpm. And there we have it: 44.1mpg on the combined NEDC alongside a total of 354bhp.

What’s more, with a 6600rpm redline for the motor, 31mph is attainable in first gear. This helps make the five-second 0-62mph time possible.

What’s really impressive here isn’t the hardware, though – it’s the way the LC’s software is configured to manage all this variation across the axle and provide the driver with the optimum gearing for the situation at hand.

What about the hybrid’s battery?

The extra weight and size of the hybrid system has necessitated a move away from the nickel-metal hydride batteries found in earlier Lexus and Toyota hybrids.

Lexus LC 500h

This car uses an 84-cell lithium-ion unit instead, weighing four fifths as much as its predecessor while taking up 20% less room.

It’s situated between the rear seats and the boot, unfortunately meaning luggage space is at a premium in the LC. We squeezed a couple of small cabin bags in there but there wasn’t much room left for oxygen.

The LC 500h sounds very clever, but does it work on the road?

That depends on what you benchmark against. If you’re used to traditional approaches like the Maserati Granturismo’s ageing but appealing engine-gearbox-LSD set-up then to start with you’ll be disappointed with the lack of theatre and apparent loss of predictability.

On initial evaluation we found the LC 500h’s driveline erratic and at times disappointingly still afflicted with the dreaded CVT elasticity we’ve grown to dislike so much, made worse by the V6’s less-than-inspiring engine note. The V8 LC 500 is streets ahead here.

However, taken in isolation it’s highly accomplished, if you realise one very important caveat: you need to get to know your LC.

It takes two to tango, and the car needs to familiarise itself with the way you drive, taking into account driver inputs such as the severity of throttle and steering movements to adjust the way the ‘gears’ are served up.

Lexus LC 500h

During our test, the system didn’t quite get a fair chance to calibrate itself, especially given that we were sometimes driving in an atypical way to assess chassis response. As a result, gear changes occasionally felt jerky and far too numerous.

Meanwhile the adaptive cruise control seemed to completely befuddle the hybrid system. If it sensed a vehicle in front and slowed by even 10mph the car appeared to struggle to find a ratio to get back to our chosen speed, instead ‘swapping gears’ three or even four times before meaningful acceleration occurred.

Given more time to gel, things started to improve dramatically. And talking about drama, let’s touch on those looks for a second. Borrowing heavily from the LF-LC concept it’s based on, children stop, stare and drop their ice creams when you pass.

But that’s only if they notice you, because the LC 500h can travel in absolute silence for a mile or so before the V6 has to come to the rescue. This is a very cool thing to behold. From the outside it genuinely looks like you’re driving the future.

What’s the Lexus LC 500h’s cabin like?

The interior design is equally likeable, with Lexus’s now-trademark exceptional build quality making for a seriously refined cockpit almost devoid of exterior noise at motorway speeds.

Lexus LC interior and cabin

The seats are fantastic too, but we were less enamoured with the fiddly multimedia system. We’re happy the ‘pillow’ control system of yore has been consigned to the history books, but the touchpad still isn’t as slick or intuitive as the rotary one employed by the likes of Audi and BMW. 

The problem is confounded on right-hand drive cars, as the majority of the population – right-handers will struggle to operate the sat-nav and infotainment system with their left hand. It’s seriously the worst part of this car, a real negative when compared with those Anglo-German rivals we mentioned earlier.

And on the subject of baffling interior design, if you’re on a fun route you’ve got the option of Sport S and Sport S + modes to liven up the drivetrain, suspension and steering, but they’re controlled via odd rotary stubs mounted on the top corners of the instrument binnacle, roughly at the driver’s eye height. They don’t obstruct vision but they’re located too far from our favoured driving position, necessitating a bend forwards in the seat to switch modes.

This could be far easier – a simple button by the gear lever would work much better, or even one on the steering wheel itself for an even more ergonomically pleasing solution.

Still, we’re nit-picking somewhat here because overall the new LC is a bit of a design triumph. We love the ruched Alcantara sweeping around the door cars; this is a feelgood cabin, alright.

Lexus LC 500h

Get your specs on

After leaving the autobahn (top speed: confirmed), we had a chance to test the Lexus LC’s handling on some sweeping mountain roads. Keen drivers will want to be wary of this particular LC 500h, because along with the engine sounding and performing far less interestingly than the V8 option, it’s also in the wrong spec: Sport.

Choose a Sport + and you’ll get the variable-rate steering, rear-steer and LSD that transform the LC into a far more accomplished thing in the handling stakes.

And while the LC is an incredibly comfortable car in both Sport and Sport + specifications on the 21-inch wheels, we’d like to try the standard car’s 20s to see just how much better it could get. The car we’re testing here sits between the two bookends of the LC range, being neither one thing nor the other.

Oh, and make the upgrade to the 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. It’s genuinely among the best hi-fi systems we’ve tried – far better-sounding than the hybrid’s drivetrain…


By offering the hybrid LC 500h for the same money as the V8, Lexus is polarising its customers. The hybrid will appeal to early adopters and those who like the idea of a relatively environmentally friendly GT car that’ll cover serious mileage in comfort. The V8 is the better drive. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

Ours is a V8 Sport + thanks…

More Lexus reviews by CAR magazine


Price when new: £80,595
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 3456cc V6 + 132kW electric motor, total 354bhp @ 6600rpm, 348Nm @ 4900rpm
Transmission: E-CVT/4-speed auto with 10 perceived ratios
Performance: 5.0sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 43.5mpg, 148g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1985kg/steel/aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4770/1920/1345mm

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