by Michael Butler
Lexus tends to build board-room approved luxury sedans for a decade or so, and then drop a bomb with creations such as the hyper-cool V10 LFA, and, more recently, the jaw-droppingly beautiful LC coupe. The LC Hybrid takes everything we love about the standard gas-powered car - its good looks, balanced chassis, excellent build quality, and impressive standard features list - and adds better fuel economy to its character traits, making it a sultry GT car that's kind to the polar bears.
To say that we're in love with the exterior styling of the LC is an understatement: swooping triple-beam LED headlights and 20-inch forged alloy wheels, and a body shape that looks like the car equivalent of a supermodel, has us sold, no matter the high $93,975 asking price. Out on the road, the LC Hybrid is an elegant cruiser which prefers not to be hurried along - the LC Hybrid is best enjoyed in the slow lane, or at a complete standstill, but this suits us just fine. Just look at it!
Lexus has kept things more or less the same for 2020: mechanically, the LC Hybrid remains identical to the previous year's car, but now comes with a "Check Fuel Cap" light. Also, the reverse warning sound changes to a single tone from the previous intermittent notification. Flare Yellow joins the color palette, and blind-spot monitoring is now a standard driver assistance feature. Unfortunately the Hybrid model misses out on the limited-edition LC Inspiration series trim which is available in an exclusive Nori Green, and a drop-top version will be joining the lineup in 2021.
Lexus has drawn from their LFA supercar to come up with the beautifully elegant LC Hybrid, a car that is poised to feature on top 50 collectible modern classics in the coming years. There's a distinct assertive look to the LC, with its prominent hourglass-shaped grille, angular premium Triple-Beam LED headlamps, and low-slung body. Exterior features for 2020 include 20-inch forged alloy wheels, adaptive variable suspension, flush exterior door handles, and dual exhaust outlets.
The 2020 Lexus LC Hybrid is classified as a grand tourer, and measures 187.4 inches in length, stands 53 inches tall and is 75.6 inches wide with the windows folded in. The magnificent show rolls on a 113-inch wheelbase, meaning that all dimensions are identical to the gas-powered variant. But the svelte body design hides a dirty secret: the additional hybrid powertrain and battery system push the LC Hybrid's curb weight up to a hefty 4,435 pounds, 155 lbs heavier than the standard non-hybrid version.
The LC Hybrid, as the name suggests, makes use of a combination of traditional gas and modern electric power to deliver smooth and confident performance. Dirty power is provided by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with variable valve timing and is mated to a high-output, permanent-magnet, electric-drive motor which is connected to a 1.1-kWh lithium-ion battery for a total output of 354 horsepower. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission paired with four-speed automatic transmission, which convincingly fools the driver into thinking that it's a ten-speed auto. The result is seamless power delivery that provides a convincing shove but won't impress traditional sports car drivers too much at higher speeds despite its rather impressive zero to sixty sprint time of 4.7 seconds. At least it retains its rear-wheel-drive setup from the standard model.
The LC Hybrid carries itself with the poise of a true grand tourer and performs at its best when the driver is mindful of this classification. Under the gorgeous bodywork, Lexus has provided all the necessary hardware to make the LC offer a smooth and drama-free driving experience that can be dialed up if the need arises. The adaptive variable suspension system on the LC Hybrid truly comes into play once the driver selects Sport S Plus mode on the Lexus Drive Mode Select system: with 650 levels of adjustment, the LC Hybrid adapts to most driving surfaces in mere moments and comfort mode does an exceptional job of reducing the intrusion of vibration and shock through the suspension. The available active rear steering system makes the LC Hybrid feel more responsive when tackling tighter corners, but it can't shake the weight gain caused by the addition of those hybrid batteries.
This is where the LC Hybrid starts making true sense. You'll be hard-pressed to find another car that looks as good as the LC, accelerates to sixty in 4.7 seconds, and will return an EPA-rated 27/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined. What makes these numbers even more impressive is the fact that the LC Hybrid weighs as much as a three-row SUV, thanks to its weighty powertrain. The non-hybrid LC, which is powered by a large naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 and weighs 155 pounds less, will only manage 16/25/19 mpg. The LC 500h is fitted with a 22.2-gallon fuel tank, which should see it cruise along for up to 666 miles on a single tank of gas.
The two-door grand tourer Lexus LC Hybrid will seat four average-sized adults with a bit of planning, but the idea of getting in and out of this low-slung sports coupe will put most off the idea of even trying in the first place. Headroom comes in at a low 37.2 inches in the front and 32.2 inches in the rear, while legroom is measured at a generous 42 inches in the front, shrinking to a tight 32.5 inches for back seat passengers. The heated and ventilated front seats are power-adjustable, and while they might not offer supercar levels of bolstering, the front seats in the LC Hybrid are supportive in the same style as the great GT cars of Aston Martin.
The 2020 Lexus LC Hybrid is a grand tourer through and through, and can stick with the best of them out on the open road. But the big Lexus eco-bruiser will limit the journey to a two-person only experience if you need to stash a lot of cargo, thanks to its minute trunk space of only 4.7 cubic feet. That's only enough space to fit two weekend-away bags, a few bottles of wine, and a scattering of fancy cheeses - anything more will have to go on the back seat. The back seats don't fold down either, but then again, most cars in this segment suffer from the same problem.
Inside, you can store your stuff in the slim front door pockets, a small center storage nook, as well as driver and front passenger-cargo nets mounted at foot level.
As can be expected of Lexus, the LC Hybrid is flush with modern tech and luxury features befitting of its place in the Lexus lineup. Starting with the exterior, you get standard adaptive variable suspension and automatic LED headlights. Luxury features such as a glass roof with sunshade, and flush exterior door handles gives the LC Hybrid an ultra-modern feel, as do those stunning premium triple-beam LED headlamps. Inside is where most of the magic happens: all 2020 LC Hybrid vehicles come standard with blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone automatic climate control, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, power-adjustable front seats that are both heated and ventilated, as well as SmartAccess, which features push-button start. Lexus' Safety System Plus is included, with lane keep assist, dynamic cruise control, intelligent high-beams, and pedestrian detection.
The standard-issue infotainment system found in the LC Hybrid gets a smaller display screen when compared to a car like the Lexus GS F but still offers impressive performance. The standard 10.3-inch color LCD multimedia display in the LC Hybrid gets SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radi, Bluetooth, and integrated navigation, which is backed up by a one-year subscription to Lexus Enform Destination Assist. More good news is that the system is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and you get a one-year trial for onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Apple CarPlay is included, but there's no trace of Android Auto to be found. The System is controlled via a decent voice command system, steering wheel-mounted controls, or a rather distracting touchpad system. Sound flows through a premium 12-speaker sound system, which can be upgraded to a 13-speaker surround sound system by Mark Levinson.
The LC 500 has proven to be a reliable beast and hasn't suffered a single recall, which is a testament to Lexus' reputation for building ultra-reliable luxury vehicles. Lexus covers its grand tourer with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which includes an eight-year/100,000-mile hybrid component warranty, a one year/10,000-mile maintenance plan, and four years worth of roadside assistance.
The exotic Lexus LC has not been tested by the NHTSA or IIHS as it is a low-production and highly specialized car with a price tag to match. Nevertheless, those in the market car rest easy knowing that the LC will most likely be one of the safer cars on the road. The standard Lexus Safety System Plus package includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure, and lane-keep assistance, adaptive cruise control, and intelligent high-beam assist. Blind-spot monitoring and a rearview camera are also equipped, and the standard ten airbag system includes front knee, side curtain, and front seat-mounted airbags to further set your mind at ease.
The 2020 Lexus LC Hybrid is in the strange, but fortunate, position of having a guaranteed place in the garages of serious car collectors worldwide, with many claiming the svelte Japanese grand tourer to be one of the most beautiful cars to come out of Japan in recent years. The LC is gaining popularity purely because of its strikingly good looks, but it deserves praise for its balanced chassis and beautifully composed road-holding ability. Under the hood, the 3.5-liter V6 gas engine and electric drive system produce enough power to get the LC Hybrid up to sixty in well under five seconds and will return an amazing 27/35/30 mpg - impressive for a sporty car that weighs as much as your ordinary SUV. The interior of the LC Hybrid feels refined, and occupants are wrapped in a bubble of luxury as soon as they step inside, with modern luxuries such as 4G LTE Wi-Fi and Apple CarPlay being standard features. The small trunk and annoying infotainment system might be downsides, but if you're after an eco-conscious GT car with supermodel looks, the LC 500h is as good as it gets.
Perhaps the LC Hybrid's biggest con is its high asking price of $97,460, which excludes delivery, processing, and handling fees of $1,025. The gas-powered version of Lexus' grand touring coupe will cost you $93,975, over $4,500 less. For many, the problem with this asking price is the fact that you're nearing Porsche 911 territory, and for that type of money, there are a number of other more powerful options available. Fully loaded with the upgraded sound system, performance package, head-up display, and other goodies, the LC Hybrid will cost closer to $112,595.
3.5-liter V6 Hybrid
The 2020 Lexus LC 500h is a standalone model, so what you see is what you get. There are, however, a few tasty optional packages that transform the dynamics of the standard car from grand tourer to fast fastback in a matter of credit card swipes. The standard LC Hybrid comes from the factory with a set of forged 20-inch alloy wheels, but for the sake of showmanship and drama, we'd go with the optional $1,440, 21-inch staggered-width five-spoke forged alloy wheels which are finished off with gloss-black accents. Inside, new owners are treated to dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats as well as LFA-inspired instrumentation including a G-meter. We would include the $1,790 Touring Package, which adds perforated semi-aniline leather-trimmed front seats, a 13-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, and sumptuous Alcantara headliner.
The Lexus RC is a compact two-door coupe that is aimed at Captain Corporate who's looking for something sporty that will still drive with the predictability of his old Lexus LS. The RC is powered by either a 2.0T four-pot developing 241 hp, or a 3.5-liter V6 developing 311 hp. Lexus claims an EPA rated 21/30/24 mpg for the 2.0T in RWD guise, and 19/26/21 mpg for the top of the line 3.5-liter AWD. The RC offers a massive 45.4 inches of legroom in the front, but can only provide 27.3 inches of room in the rear, rendering the back seats essentially useless.
The RC looks and feels like a toned-down version of the LC, and that translates to its interior, refinement, and price tag. Starting at $50,905, you'll almost be able to bag two RC's for the price of one LC. It all boils down to whether or not you want to own a modern classic or a modern also-ran. The LC is simply worlds better than the RC.
The Porsche 911 is the quintessential sports car according to many, and the 2020 911 Carrera is as potent as it is pretty. Stacking the Lexus LC Hybrid up against this German bomber might seem a bit unfair, but the internet seems to be interested in seeing how these two stack up, so…
The Porsche is powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six engine producing a staunch 443 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, so it overpowers the LC by a significant margin, which it pays for in fuel economy ratings of 18/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined - a whopping ten mpg less than you get in the Hybrid LC. Both cars cater to the front seat passengers, but those in the rear should forget about having a good time in the Porsche. The trunk space is also minimal. Where the Lexus trumps the Porsche is in terms of standard safety and tech features; Porsche keeps most of the good stuff on the options list. On the road, the Porsche is the better driver's car and will go toe to toe with the LC in terms of long-distance driving comfort. Both are poised to be future classics, but the LC is the more intriguing choice.