The 2018 Lexus LC500h is a sumptuous sports car made to be driven, says auto writer Greg Rubenstein

Brand Halo 

The 2018 Lexus LC500h is a sumptuous sports car made to be driven, says auto writer Greg Rubenstein.

What is beauty, and at what price? Loaded questions to be sure, but by one finite measure, Lexus has provided the answer: $106,605 for its new LC luxury coupe. In the LC, Lexus has created the most stunning—and affordable—piece of mass-produced automotive art to grace the road since the 2005 Jaguar XK.

Sure, there are other high-end autos with similarly brilliant curb appeal, but aside from an entry price at least double the LC, exotics from Ferrari, Lamborghini, or other bespoke manufacturers involves an ownership experience disassociated from practical daily-driver duty.

After a week test driving Lexus’ latest flagship, what became most obvious—aside from the frequent thumbs-up, smiles, and requests for a closer look attention it attracts—is that storing the LC as a rarely-driven garage queen would be a shame—and an absolute waste of driving bliss. Especially in the as-tested, hybrid-enhanced LC 500h version, this sumptuous sports car was made to be driven and, better yet, driven every day.

As wide, low, and gorgeously chiseled as the LC is—and photos do not do this car justice, it must be seen in person to be truly and fully appreciated—outward visibility is unexpectedly good. Add in blind spot monitoring, available as part of the Convenience package, and there is simply zero in-traffic driving drama, as you’ll always be able to see and know your surroundings. If there were ever an exotic designed for the commute, this is it.

The LC is offered in two drivetrain configurations—a 354-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine with integrated battery assist, or a 5.0-liter, 471-horsepower V8 engine. Furthering support for driving utility, both power plants are mated to a wondrously smooth 10-speed automatic transmission. There are no jolts, clunks, or lurching while shifting, a trait not infrequently experienced with dual-clutch manual drivetrains typical in high performance sports cars. Lexus opted to use a traditional automatic transmission for smoothness, and this setup delivers. Turn the driver-selectable vehicle performance knob from Eco or Comfort to Sport +, however, and a laid-back tourer becomes ferocious (but still creamy smooth), serving up ridiculously fast, breaking-glass crisp up-shifts and predictive rev-match downshifting.

The LC’s drive is nearly telepathic, and thanks to a variable gear ratio system, steering is always nimble, with the perfect amount of feel and feedback. Turn-in is crisp, braking capability is far higher than all but the most ardent driver will ever dare—especially for a 4,435-pound vehicle (4,280 in V8 trim)—and acceleration is stout, hitting zero to 60 mph in just under five seconds (4.4-seconds for the V8).

Range is another LC standout, thanks to a combination of 21.7-gallon gas tank and EPA-estimated 26 city mpg, 35 highway mpg, and combined 30 mpg rating. A week of spirited driving returned an observed 33 mpg, translating to 700-plus miles between fill-ups. The V8 LC is EPA-rated at a still-respectable 19 mpg combined (16 city/26 highway).

The LC is no vacuous vessel, boasting electronically enhanced driving aids, which boost safety and performance. Standard interior features include a 10.3-inch center console touch-screen infotainment display, eight-inch multi-information instrument display, drive-mode selection knob, color multi-function programmable head’s up display, and magnesium steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Standard safety equipment includes a collision warning system and all-speed cruise control. The collision warning system is semi-autonomous, and in addition to providing audible alerts, will apply braking when other cars or pedestrians are at risk. The radar-enhanced cruise control is semi-autonomous as well, and, in tandem with the active steering assist lane keep system, the LC can essentially drive autonomously on predominantly straight sections of freeway.

In addition to the Convenience package, the sampled LC 500h included the Performance package and Mark Levinson premium sound system. The latter plugs in a 13-speaker, 7.1 architecture surround sound audio system cranking out 835 watts at less than 0.1 percent total harmonic distortion from 20-20,000 Hertz. Performance package features include carbon fiber roof and doorsills, active rear steering, variable gear ratio steering, 10-way power heated and cooled front seats, plus Alcantara upholstery throughout, including headliner and rear kids seats.

It’s hard to find fault in the LC, but the trunk is tight, offering 4.7 cubic feet in the hybrid (5.4 cubic feet in the V8 model), which is enough to pack groceries or a golf bag, but not much more. Still, there are back seats sufficient for supplemental cargo or kids. Guaranteed, stuff a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old back there on booster seats, and you’ll get nothing but cheers of encouragement. Faster, dad! Also, the multi-function infotainment system is controlled by a touchpad instead of the more typical knob-mouse, and the pad takes a lot of getting used to.

If you aren’t enamored with the exterior style, the meticulously crafted interior will draw you in with equal allure. Hit the road and there will be no way to avoid falling hard for this beauty. Lexus hasn’t just built another brand halo, it’s created a success of rarely matched combination: style, luxury, and performance. A new definition of beauty, indeed.

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