Lexus LC 500 launches new hybrid engine technology

Exterior view of Lexus LC 500 bonnet
Lexus LC 500 features the world’s first four-stage Multi Stage Hybrid System.
(Image credit: Sam Christmas)

The ‘super coupé’ is a car typology with a long history. Two doors, a long bonnet, big engine and plenty of space for bodywork flourishes makes for a compelling package, and from the 1920s onward, the grand coupé body shape was synonymous with luxury and grace. So much so, that it continues to have old world/old money associations right up to the present day, with cars like the Bentley Continental GT and Mercedes S-Class Coupé epitomising the pace, grace and space of their predecessors, only with all the available cutting-edge technology under the skin.

Lexus doesn’t have this kind of design heritage. Despite being an off-shoot of Toyota (founded in the 1930s), Lexus only dates back to 1989. Yet what the company lacks in volumes of automotive evolution, it more than makes up for in a go-getting, pro-technology, avant-garde attitude. When these were paired with its parent company’s fearsome engineering skills, Lexus entered the world fully formed.

We’ve often marvelled at the quiet perfection of these cars, which do their thing with effortless efficiency (including an admirable commitment to hybrid power). That’s as good a definition of luxury as any, yet Lexus is never content to stay behind the scenes. As a result, the company’s design team has gone to great lengths to ensure its cars are seen.

Lexus LC 500 dashboard and cockpit

(Image credit: Sam Christmas)

This doesn’t always work, particularly in the case of Lexus’s SUV range, the NX, RX and RX L, three brutish machines that are great to sit in but not to look at. Launched last year in Ibiza, in amongst a cavalcade of superstar DJs and theatrical distractions, the Lexus LC 500 is the company's new flagship. When it came to cresting the summit of automotive excellence, did Lexus muster the chops to pull off a proper super coupé? We are happy to report they did, because the LC 500 is one of the best-looking Japanese cars of the past few decades. It’s one of the best-looking cars, full stop, with Lexus’s self-conscious angularity finally finding the right proportions in which to do its thing.

Inside and out there’s not a line wrong, with the dashboard doing a good job of conveying the bucket-loads of tech beneath the skin, and the taut, elegant shape concealing the fact that this car has four good sized seats. The rear lights are especially successful, great chromed forms that appear to have carved themselves into the car’s flanks.

Lexus LC 500 dashboard and gearstick

(Image credit: Sam Christmas)

Sampling the LC back in British, its attractions are instantly clear. The LC comes in two flavours, a 5.0-litre V8 petrol and a 3.5-litre V6 mated to an electric motor, a system Lexus describes as the world’s ‘first four-stage Multi Stage Hybrid System’. In layman’s terms, that means a car that’ll run on pure electric power up to about 88mph, deliver impressive fuel economy and even allow the car to glide around in near silence when the combustion engine isn’t needed.

A handy dial puts the driving modes close to hand, all the way round to a raucous Sport + setting. Battery-assisted acceleration is a thing to behold in a sporting car, and the big Lexus whooshes impressively off the line. You can of course dial everything down into a timid ‘Eco’ mode, which artificially hobbles the power to save fuel. No bad thing at all, and don’t forget that you’re still sat in that entertainingly futuristic cockpit, with oodles of connectivity and excellent entertainment to keep you amused.

Split character cars like the LC are becoming increasingly popular, as enthusiasts search for machines that can snap between extremes at the push of a button. Lexus’s hybrid system goes head to with BMW’s i8 in the high tech stakes, although each car offers a very different approach to styling and ethos. As the next decade dawns the super coupé typology will celebrate a century of style. You can expect the next generation of beautifully bold machines to follow the LC’s lead and turn technology into their greatest asset.

Exterior view of Lexus LC 500 driver door

(Image credit: Sam Christmas)

Reverse view of Lexus LC 500

(Image credit: Sam Christmas)

Lexus LC 500h, from £80,595. For more information, visit the Lexus website

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.