Hi-tech Lexus luxury coupe piles on the style to take on the Mercedes SL and BMW 8 Series

Lexus has never shied away from a challenge, pitching itself against the big German premium marques right across its model range. Now it’s taking on big coupes like the Mercedes SL and BMW 8 Series with the LC – and it does it rather well.

We love the hi-tech approach to making a hybrid powertrain and CVT gearbox work smoothly, while the V8 engine is a joy to drive hard, but it does need revs to really deliver.

The handling is pretty impressive, too, with plenty of grip and poise, even if the steering lacks a Porsche 911’s precision, which is what the engineers were aiming for. There’s also a fair amount of comfort and refinement when cruising, confirming the LC’s credentials as a grand tourer - indeed, Lexus has been at pains to say that the LC is 'absolutely not a sports car'.

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As in all Lexus models, the quality is outstanding – inside and out – but, at the same time, the cabin is a mess of buttons and controls, while the Remote Touch infotainment controller is way behind rivals’ systems for usability.

This also isn’t a particularly practical GT – even calling it a 2+2 would be stretching it a bit, as the rear seats are best used for putting bags on, especially as the boot isn’t exactly cavernous.

But as a complete package, Lexus has made a compelling alternative to the established German GTs.

Our Choice 
Lexus LC 500h

While the market for luxury grand tourers is small, that hasn't stopped Lexus putting the LC on sale. This Japanese GT majors on style and technology, as it features the company's distinctive design cues, as well as its latest hybrid engineering and luxury equipment in the cabin.

There are two versions of the Lexus LC on sale: the LC 500 and LC 500h. Both feature a traditional front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, with the LC 500 coming with a 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine, and the LC 500h fitted with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine combined with an electric motor and battery pack. Inside, the LC has a 2+2 seating layout, with a spacious front cabin and only occasional seats in the back.

Under the skin, the LC was the first model to benefit from a new rear-drive platform that also forms the basis of the Lexus LS limousine, the replacement for the GS, the ES executive saloon, as well as the next IS compact saloon.

Lexus LC 500h vs Mercedes SL 400

Prices start from around £76,500, and the V8 and hybrid models cost the same, so you can choose between power or efficiency. The V8 model is less advanced than the hybrid, although it still features a trick 10-speed auto gearbox. The 500h features this gearbox as well as a CVT box. This keeps the revs at a constant point, whether for maximum performance or optimum efficiency, while the 10-speeder is essentially a conventional four-speed auto that changes its output in stages to provide a wider spread of usable torque.

At full throttle, the CVT box is in use, but in normal driving, the 'regular' auto makes the LC feel more natural to drive than a CVT-equipped car. This arrangement all but eliminates the 'rubber band' feeling of traditional CVTs, while being quick to change and enhancing the performance of the car: the hybrid is only 0.3 seconds off the V8’s 4.7-second 0-62mph time.

4.3
4.3/5
Both V8 and hybrid have plenty of punch, but neither is scintillating. Otherwise, the LC does the GT things well, with close to sports car agility
3.7
3.7/5
The hybrid's 44mpg is pretty impressive in this sort of car, but you’ll be lucky to get the claimed 24mpg from the V8
3.2
3.2/5
Build quality is strong, but design is a mixed bag – from the minimalist door panels to the ergonomic mess that is the dashboard
3.2
3.2/5
Rear space is limited in the LC, so the car is best suited to two people – and it has boot space to match
4.8
4.8/5
Given Lexus’ consistent high scoring in Driver Power, you’d expect an LC to keep owners satisfied. There's a strong roster of safety kit, too

As the LC is a halo model (in some ways it's a higher volume replacement for the LFA supercar), it's very well equipped, with a 12-speaker stereo, sat-nav, rear camera, 20-inch wheels, LED headlights, a glass roof, 10-way adjustable climate seats in leather and adaptive suspension all included. There's lots of safety kit, too, including blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert and Lexus' Safety System+ package.

On top of this, you can add Sport or Sport+ packs, with the former adding Alcantara and leather sports seats, 21-inch wheels and a carbon fibre roof - Sport+ adds rear-wheel steering, a limited slip diff, retractable rear spoiler and carbon fibre scuff plates. Finally, the Limited Edition model has a Mark Levinson stereo and a colour head-up display. This model is the most expensive version available, weighing in at around £92,000.

The market for large luxury coupes is smaller than most, and the LC's only real rivals at a similar price are the BMW 8 Series and ageing Maserati GranTurismo. The Mercedes SL can be counted as a rival with a folding hard top, but it's only a two-seater, while cars such as the Mercedes S-Class Coupe, Aston Martin DB11 and Ferrari Portofino are quite pricey 2+2s in comparison. Other models worth considering, but which have a sportier edge, are the Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type, although again the latter is a two-seater only.

This car scored 3.8 on our sister site DrivingElectric

Last updated: 
4 Sep, 2018