Lexus LC 500h: A hybrid that wows

Images by Jason Isley

Lexus LC 500h: A hybrid that wows

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Lexus LC 500h: A hybrid that wows

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“Sporty” is rarely used to describe a hybrid. With few exceptions, most vehicles that combine gas and electric propulsion might be better classified as appliances — getting you where you want to go in relative comfort while sipping the least amount of fossil fuels possible. But it needn’t be this way. And to prove it, Lexus has arguably produced the best response to a world of boring hybrids with its LC 500h.

The hybrid variant of the LC shares the same edgy styling as its 5.0L V8-powered sibling, so if you’re a fan of that beast, you’ll quickly warm up to its hybrid sibling. In fact, we first got to know the all-gas LC 500 back in 2019, and the vehicle’s bones have changed little since we sampled that flagship. Consequently, when the opportunity came to take another look at the LC, there was no hesitation.

Our test model was a 2021 model year, and there were a few minor improvements over the past iteration. Revisions to the electronic dampers offer enhanced driver feel and help smooth out the bumps, while new tubular swaybars and aluminum lower control arms shed some unsprung weight.

The electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission paired with the automatic transmission package received some tweaking, with the engineers updating the downshifting model on the 500h Multi-Stage Hybrid System, as it will now downshift into second gear instead of third to allow for smoother operation and more robust acceleration out of hairpin turns. More on that transmission later.

Also new for 2021 are two exterior paint colors, including Nori Green Pearl and the Cadmium Orange our tester was sporting.

Power for the 500h comes via an Atkinson-cycle 3.5L V6 gasoline engine utilizing D-4S direct fuel injection and a lightweight valvetrain with Dual VVT-i. The combined system output of the 500h is 354hp and 369ft-lbs of torque. With the Multistage Hybrid System, the power from the V6 engine and the electric motor can be amplified by the four-speed automatic transmission (yes, you read that right), generating much greater drive power when accelerating.

The 500h uses a compact, lightweight lithium-ion battery for its electric motor. The battery pack fits neatly between the rear seats and the luggage compartment and has a high power density, with its 84 cells producing 310.8 volts.

While the 500h gives up some 117hp to its V8 sibling, the instant grunt offered by the hybrid system meshes well with its gearing to motivate the car in short order.

Weighing in at 4,420lbs, which is surprisingly only 80lbs heavier than the V8 version, the 500h can reportedly sprint 0-60mph in a respectable 4.7sec and achieve a top speed of 155mph. While the acceleration to freeway speed may only come 0.3sec slower in the 500h vs. the 500, it’s during this journey where you discover one significant difference between the two models: the sound. The 3.5-liter V6 pales compared to the glorious quad-cam V8 growl of the standard LC 500.

Outside of the missing eight-cylinder soundtrack, the driving experience of the 500h is nearly identical and leaves little to be desired. And if you can live without the V8 rumble, you will be rewarded with a massive increase in fuel economy, citing 26mpg in the city and 34mpg on the highway, up from 16 and 25 for the non-hybrid.

With an as-tested price of $109,910, the LC 500h is well outside of the “appliance” category of hybrids, but without a doubt, the 500h offers the level of comfort, style and performance worthy of its six-figure price tag.

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