Lexus, the luxury brand associated with Toyota, is known for a number of things. The brand has a good reputation for durability, for value pricing, and for making new technologies standard earlier than many luxury rivals. The name isn’t immediately associated with performance. However, there are some signs that this may be changing.
We were intrigued by the idea of a hybrid sports car and wanted to see how it measured up to the LC coupe and LC convertible. Here’s what we found out.
The Importance of the Right Build
A good sports car starts with its build. Engineers have learned that it needs a 50/50 weight distribution. The LC Coupe comes close with a 54/46% weight distribution. The convertible’s distribution is even better at 52.5/47.5%. The hybrid is the best of the bunch at 52/48%.
The body has clearly been sculpted to allow air to pass over with less resistance. For directed airflow, there are four forward-facing intakes up front. To create downforce, there are aero ducts at the rear.
Lexus used carbon fiber and other strategies to keep the weight down, another key element of a sports car. The brand offers a speed-activated rear wing. This was inspired by aviation. Race pilot Yoshihide Muroya helped design this feature that is meant to improve aerodynamics and agility.
The cars were clearly designed for the driver and not the passengers. However, Lexus keeps it realistic by having only four seats in a 2×2 arrangement.
Speed and Horsepower
Coupes and convertibles have a track speed of 168 mph (270 km/h). The sprint time is 4.4 seconds for the coupe and 4.6 seconds for the convertible. The standard coefficient of drag is 0.33. The top-down coefficient of drag is 0.34.
The hybrid is only a smidge slower, with a 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds. It has a track speed of 155 miles (250 km) per hour. Like the others, the coefficient of drag is 0.33.
The LC 500h powertrain creates 354 combined horsepower controlled by a multi-stage electric transmission. Alone the V6 engine creates 296 horses. The torque rate is 256 lb-ft. Lexus utilizes a permanent magnet synchronous motor to control engine speed and a secondary motor to drive the wheels. It also benefits from regenerative braking, which captures energy when the vehicle is slowing.
On the other hand, the regular LC models have a 471-horsepower engine with a remarkable 10-speed automatic. The torque rate is 398 lb-ft at 4,800 pm. Rear-wheel drive is standard across the LC lineup at luxury car dealerships.
All three of these LC models are definitely designed to thrill. You can add more to them in order to make them even racier. There’s a Torsen limited-slip differential that helps it hold curves at speed better. Active rear steering really makes you feel like it’s a racecar. A carbon-fiber roof can be added to reduce weight. The rear wing, another option, can deploy at 50 mph.
The hybrid fuel economy is 29 mpg combined, while the regular LC earns 18 mpg. That’s a big difference at the pump.
Lexus has done a good job of helping the lower-horsepower hybrid keep pace by improving the weight distribution and dropping weight off the total package. It weighs 300 pounds less than the LC. Still, the coupe does have more horsepower and a higher track speed. It’s just hard to beat its 398 lb-ft of torque controlled by the slick 10-speed transmission.
So, is the LC 500h a hybrid sports car? Yes. Can it keep up with the other members of its family? Almost. Does that make it worth a spot on the road? We think so. After all, sports cars need to evolve along with the rest of the fleet, and that means taking advantage of hybrid and electric technologies that can make them faster and more fun.