The evening crawl home is always pretty bad but it’s far worse this time around — and I’m beginning to suspect that the reason for it is the car I am driving. I’ve piloted all sorts of supercars in the past which have got their fair share of stares but this time my steed is causing a tailback. That’s a first and with 354 horses under my right foot waiting to be unleashed but no room to gallop, I take the nearest exit off the E11, loop around and head back in the opposite direction for another ride — even though I have just spent the best part of the afternoon testing this all-new LC500h on the outskirts of town but that hasn’t satisfied my lust for this oh so gorgeous coupé. I just can’t bear the thought of getting out and doing something else. All I really want to do is drive.
With a clear road ahead of me, I bury the throttle and sting the V6 hybrid drivetrain into action once again and the ever so sleek LC charges ahead. It’s accompanied by an exhaust note that isn’t the most pleasant as the revs begin to rise but hey, this is an electrified V6. It’s not nearly good enough to warrant winding down the windows; I’m sure I would in the naturally-aspirated V8, the other variant that I’d be more inclined to opt for, and allow the bellow of the 5.0-litre to enter the Alcantara swathed cabin, but I suppose that it is rather fitting that this car — which looks otherworldly — features not only fancy hybrid tech but also the debut of a new multi-stage hybrid system transmission (it’s basically a CVT and anyone who knows me knows I hate these units...) which is very, very clever. More on that later and even though this hybrid isn’t as potent as the V8, it is the more efficient of the two (it has a claimed 7.8 litres per 100km — it also has a bigger fuel tank...) and it has enough poke to deliver the goods. It can even reach 140kph in pure electric mode. And anyway let’s face it, the good old combustion engine is nearing the end of its time — electric and hybrid cars are going to dominate the future. This might sound rather depressing to some traditionalists out there, and I include myself in that bunch, but if cars of tomorrow are as good as this one is today, then the sadness won’t last too long at all.
Even though this hybrid isn’t as potent as the V8, it is the more efficient of the two and it has enough poke to deliver the goods.
It has more than just good looks and a luxurious cabin on its side, it offers a quiet and very refined ride when you just want to cruise, which is what you’ll be doing most of the time to allow everyone else a chance to take in its beauty. It looks a lot like the LF-LC concept, shown at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and Lexus made sure to preserve the concept’s adventurous appearance here. As you’d have already gathered, there are two variants of this all-new LC which happens to be the first production vehicle that rides on Lexus’s new Global Architecture Luxury platform (it will also underpin the upcoming LS saloon) and with a front-engine rear-wheel-drive layout, the two-door doubles up as sporty GT one minute and a smooth, boulevard cruiser the next.
I think we’d all be in agreement that it is absolutely gorgeous; the iconic spindle grille hasn’t always been everyone’s cup of tea but it looks fab up front on this. The sharp LED headlights are complemented by the signature arrow LED daytime running lights, a low bonnet, swept back windshield, low roofline and fastback rear which makes for an extremely stylish look. The doors are long and they tuck in at the waist, but the rear fenders look pumped up and stick out – but the best bit of the exterior is the back. The high horizontal taillights and big trapezoidal dual exhaust tips demand your attention and I spend a good deal of time back there digesting all the little details. What a looker this one is — well it was bound to be; it was built at the place the LFA was born and that’s at Lexus’s Motomachi plant in Japan. They sure take fit and finish seriously over there — there’s not a hint of a misaligned panel or wavy paint to be detected no matter how closely you look.
I pop in at the supermarket and when I come back to the car, it’s surrounded by people taking selfies with it. I don’t have the heart to drive off, not when it’s causing so much hysteria so I sit back and watch the onlookers excitedly soaking up the details of the car. On the road, it’s the same story — it sure causes a buzz and our tester, finished in bright yellow, is impossible to miss. Responding in like to all the thumbs up it’s getting is going to wear me out very quickly so I head off back to Al Qudra Road towards Bab Al Shams where it’s nice and quiet for some more foot to the floor action.
It’s all rather complicated and you need a degree in engineering to really understand what’s going on, but take it from me, it works really well...
The V8 makes 471 horses and if I was choosing between the two, it’s the one that I’d want — not that there are times when I wish the hybrid had more legs; the 3.5-litre V6 coupled with a pair of electric motors do their best to keep the performance lively and what stands out from my time with the car is how smart this drivetrain is. One of the electric motors works as a starter motor and generator and the other sends power to the rear wheels and also handles the energy from the regenerative brakes. And it gets even cleverer when you throw the transmission into the mix; the aforementioned multi-stage hybrid system, which has two electric motors, is a CVT (it has six virtual ratios) with a four-speed automatic tacked on. Yes, that’s two transmissions — and it doesn’t scream like it’s stuck in first gear like conventional CVTs do (in Manual mode it feels like a normal geared 10-speed auto) and what’s more it allows the electric motor to boost the petrol engine’s output. It’s all rather complicated and you need a degree in engineering to really understand what’s going on, but take it from me, it works really well and aside from a little hint of CVT hesitation, it snaps through the gears when you press it into action with Sport Plus engaged (the drive mode button is poorly placed at the top of the dash behind the steering wheel…) and when you take matters into your own hands and flick the magnesium shift paddles (they provide a satisfying ‘click’ each time you do) the LC500h proves ample fun. As for the 84-cell lithium-ion battery for the electric motors, it is stored between the rear seats and the luggage compartment and it doesn’t seem to affect handling whatsoever. The Lexus weighs a touch over 2,000kg but you don’t really feel as if you’re carrying that much in spite of the electric motors, the battery pack, that complex transmission and the V6 upfront. It still manages to feel nimble when you show it a corner and that’s because of the firm suspension and tight electric steering. There is literally no body roll at all no matter how aggressively you treat it in the bends, and it changes direction in a sharp and confident manner. Having said that, I can only imagine how much better the lighter V8 would handle.
The Lexus weighs a touch over 2,000kg but you don’t really feel as if you’re carrying that much in spite of the electric motors...
The interior is elegant but a tad overwhelming; nestled deep in the comfortable leather seat you feel as if the dash and centre console are at head height. It’s a little claustrophobic in there but the more time spend in there, the quicker that sensation subsides. The dash houses a 12in infotainment system, there’s a round analogue clock to the right — a nice little nod to Lexus heritage — the chunky steering which fits snugly in your hands is bundled with a host of controls and switches and it’s got a terrific sound system too. It makes up for the muted exhaust but as mentioned, the position of the drive mode selector switch leaves a lot to be desired. Why not place it next to the gear lever? Well because that’s where the all-important ‘seek’ button for the radio sits. Leg and headroom is good up front but if you can squeeze in the back you’ll soon want out; anyone that isn’t the size of a gnome will suffer back there. The materials used are top-notch; the dash is covered in hand-stitched leather and inlaid with carbon fibre and the maroon Alcantara trim on our tester is very fetching indeed.
This is a GT that you’ll love driving and that others will love seeing on the move, and er, parked. When it comes to performance and handling it scores favourably and when you factor in its jaw-dropping looks and a luxurious cabin that’s loaded with tech, the LC sure signals an exciting new direction for Lexus. Right, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off for another drive...