First Look and Review: 2018 Lexus LC 500h and LC 500

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DRIVING THE 2018 LEXUS LC 500 AND LC 500h

Numbers may not lie, but while the LC 500’s horsepower and torque figures may not be as impressive as the competition’s, the car moves gracefully from a standstill to 60 mph (96 km/h) in a mere 4.5 seconds The hybrid is only slightly slower at 4.7 seconds.

Another number is the new ten-speed transmission standard on the V8. Why ten speeds? Lexus explained that having ten speeds makes for even spacing between each gear, for example so that second and third gears aren’t drawn out for too long and the tenth gear is intended for high-speed driving at a lower rpm. But that’s not all. The new transmission uses artificial intelligence to select the optimum gear based on its knowledge of the driver’s preferences and intentions, based on past driving history, as well as vehicle speed and acceleration.

It seemed to have trouble finding the right gear to settle into at times but the cars we were driving in Kona were pre-production models so it’s likely Lexus will have this sorted out by the time buyers see the car in the showroom.

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The LC 500h, on the other hand, has an impressive “multi-stage” transmission that is somewhere on the spectrum between continuously variable and direct shift, paired to a V6/electric motor-power train that delivers a 354 horsepower. The Multi Stage is essentially a CVT bolted to a four-speed planetary gearbox and the net effect is that this expands the hybrid operating range, allowing the LC 500h to accelerate at high rpm in lower gears and also to cruise at higher speeds at lower rpm, à la overdrive.

The LC 500h is the first production car from Lexus to use a compact, lightweight lithium-ion hybrid battery. Relocated to the trunk area and 20% smaller than the nickel-metal hydride battery in the current LS, its 84 cells produce 310.8 Volts. The only hint, other than its badge, that it’s a hybrid is the dual exhaust

Lexus expects that ten percent of LC 500 sales in the United States will be the hybrid variant while other markets including Europe may see as much as 90%. I actually think the automaker is overly conservative and that the relatively small hybrid premium (it’s $4,000), the significantly better fuel economy, and that it’s only 0.3 seconds slower (4.7 versus 4.4 for the V8) will at least double that figure.

Click here to continue to Page 5Why We Love the Hybrid LC

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