2022 Lexus LC 500h review: it's great, but...
2022 Lexus LC 500h review by Mitchell Weitzman and The Road Beat
What is it?
Lexus' LC 500 grand tourer of extravagance, now a half-decade old, and marching on here in hybrid form. Denoted by the 'h' moniker at the end of LC 500h, what we have here is a 295HP 3.5L naturally-aspirated V6 engine that's further bolstered by a pair of electric motors. Total output is a modest 354 horsepower and 369 pounds of torque connected to a strange continuously-variable transmission. A unique case of trans-ception, it’s a transmission within a transmission (there's a four-speed auto inside of a CVT. Weird, right?). But, most significantly, this is an ultra-luxury GT machine designed for dining on miles in total serenity and style. It costs $115,285 as equipped, so it better be nice.
Now, this is going to be a different kind of review, simply because there's so much that's right with the LC 500 in general, but there are glaring frustrations abound, too. At the core of it, though, this is a fabulous machine - it's strikingly beautiful, has an interior that's worthy of a $200,000 price tag, and it's supremely comfortable. It feels special to put it plainly. Lexus' LC is the type of vehicle that just climbing in and sitting down instills a dreamy sense of marked occasion. You want to look and feel cool and a Porsche or BMW just doesn't do it for you? Here you go. Now, I know what might be thinking, but rest assured that if orange isn’t for you, you don’t have to have an orange interior. As a Bespoke Build packaged car, there’s also lots of carbon fiber including the roof and the rear spoiler to go with the unique interior color.
Driving dynamics have been a hallmark feature of the LC since its birth, with accurate and confident, though not entirely feelsome steering. While weight is certainly an issue, with the tires burdened by some 4,440 estimated pounds, handling is shockingly good and has a sporting intent when you desire. Switch the car into sport+ for improved responses and you can carve canyons to your heart's content. At 7-8/10ths, things are very controlled and comfortable - and thoroughly enjoyable - but, push harder and the experience does become sloppy as the tires and soft suspension just can't cope with the weight. It's happy to cruise, but this is a car that's also happy to play – to a certain extent.
And cruising is what it does best, munching miles like a gourmet salad bar. Leather, and leather worthy of HRH Prince Charles' personal armchair in his study, is abound everywhere, and those seats are oh so comfortable; The entire cockpit encompasses you in an intimate way as the ambience casts a spell on you. Because it's a hybrid, fuel economy is pretty decent for a vehicle that looks as wild as this, with myself averaging 32 MPG on a 200-mile trip to Walnut Creek and back (with lots of traffic, mind you), and about 26 MPG overall.
This is the third LC 500 I've tested now, and while I do genuinely like the car, more and more has stood out to me that hinders the real livability of the car, and especially because you expect more from something of this prestige.
Speed isn't everything, but the LC 500h just isn't quick enough to match its looks and rivals. 0-60MPH is a rapid 4.5 seconds, but that doesn't tell the whole story. It's only that quick to 60 because it gets off the line well with lots of electrical assist from the hybrid system. After 50 MPH, things really slow down, with real-world, in-gear acceleration only similar to that of a Nissan 370Z. For comparison, BMW’s M850i will annihilate the quarter two seconds quicker while traveling 20(!) MPH faster. A base Porsche 911 Carrera will blast through the quarter mile with a trap speed some 15 MPH faster, and the V8 model of the LC even with nearly 10 MPH more velocity.
This hybrid is too slow sadly, leaving one always wanting more when you put your foot down, with very little happening below 4,000 RPM due to the V6 engine's lack of flexibility. The truth of the matter is the car isn't fast enough in relation to what it costs. And especially based on looks alone, you might expect it to be a rocket ship, but it isn't. The V8 also lacks outright power next to rivals, but it is at least enjoyably enough in its own right due to the snarling character of its motor.
The odd CVT transmission is rather junk, too. When driving spiritedly, the virtual shifts are slow both up and down, and there are too many ratios to click through when using the paddles behind the wheel (very nice items, by the way). If you want to downshift for a decent braking zone, you'll have to pull the left paddle some six or seven times - it's just too many. I also didn't like the car's insistence to downshift on any slight downhill slope (this is without initiating cruise control). Instead of coasting in top gear, it will choose 3-4,000 RPM instead, which causes excess engine noise (annoying) when you're wanting to just cruise, and it's also not smooth - you feel the gears adjust abruptly. At times, I would pull the right paddle to choose a taller ratio in this exact instance to defeat this nonsense, but then the car just downshifts right back on me! It freaking immediately overrode me - DENIED - every single time unless I moved the actual console shift lever into the 'M' manual mode first. What trash programming that is.
Going hand in hand is an inconsistent cruise control. I experienced bad cruise control on another Lexus hybrid, the LS 500h sedan, and it carries over here, too. Say you select 72 MPH on the highway. Well, the actually operating range will be anywhere from 70-74; How is it so hard to just maintain one speed? And to go over my set speed? And no, it doesn't exceed your set speed downhill, but uphill. It actually caused me anxiety as I passed a CHP at a risky speed on one occasion, but it was the car that went faster on its own than I had asked it to. Further, the distance control for the radar portion is too much of an on/off switch, meaning that the car never will coast up to a vehicle in front, but rather just aggressively hit the brakes and downshift - zero, and I mean zero, intelligence involved there. I found it so annoying that I drove most highway journeys without cruise. $115,285 and the cruise control isn't functional enough. Ha.
There are a number of oversights on the inside of the car that affect usability, including a serious lack of trunk space. For a grand touring car, the type where you say, "hey, let's go Palm Springs for weekend!"you'd expect some decent space for your luggage and golf clubs, but you will have to pack light. Luckily, you can use the rear seats for extra storage since no human will actually want to ever sit back there.
Lexus is moving away to a new infotainment system in some models, but that leaves the LC still with the tumor that is its infamous track pad. Even after time in a multitude of cars with it, it belongs in an incinerator. Clunky and distracting, it's like no one actually ever tested it before it went into production. The ideology is there - make it like a laptop, sounds great?! - but it lives in yikesville alone. While there might be several physical controls for music and climate, lots of essentials are buried within the computer. The most frustrating of which is the A/C button. Yes, to turn air conditioning on and off, you have to do three to four clicks at times to toggle it on and off inside the mainframe. Same goes for seat warmers and coolers. Also, the car would randomly default to recirculated air at times when I had previously had it selected to outside air the last journey.
I also didn't like that this car has a rearview camera seemingly from 2005 (is that like 240p resolution? lol), but also has a lack of surround-view/360-degree cameras. This is a big car, with a long nose - it sure would helpful if this $100,000+ car had a freaking camera that some $40,000 Toyotas now come with. Yeesh.
Let's see, there's also no wireless charging that I could find (though most are rubbish anyways these days since phone's camera bumps/arrays cause weak charging), and the center console has a weird functionality that, to open fully, you have to push and then pull at two different points - not very well designed and cumbersome. The shifter is clunky to use, and then also there are certain beeps and bongs that happen at strange times. If you have a door open and then completely turn the car off, it will beep endlessly. But if you turn it off and then open the door, it won’t beep at all. This sounds like a dump complaint, but why wouldn’t it be the same? The car is off – don’t beep!
Like other Lexus models, you have to be completely stopped to turn off traction control. Lame.
Wait, so you hate it?
No, I don't hate the car. It's just that, after testing three different LC 500s now over the years, there are things that start to stick out. And because I like the core of the car quite a lot, these annoying bits are a disappointment that I really, really want Lexus to address. Forget the hybrid model, too. It costs too much over the V8, isn't as fun, and the gas savings vanish anyways because of the significant price reduction for the ‘standard’ V8 version. It's the better car full stop, and has better cruise control and noticeably improved automatic transmission. Still, the other aspects that trouble me remain. Am I nitpicking? Perhaps, but you have to when it costs this much because of the associated expectations.
The LC 500 is a fabulous car in many ways, but it's getting long in the tooth. With faster, more technologically advanced (not to mention well-thought-out) rivals abound, the shortcomings are more noticeable than ever because it's just harder to make a case for it now. Great car, but in need of several updates to stay as fresh as it still looks.
2022 Lexus LC 500h
As-tested price: $115,285
Pros: Lovely to look at, lovely to be in
Cons: Not that fast. Expensive. Frustrating tech bits
Verdict: It could be a masterpiece, but attention is needed to do so