As part of its latest update, Lexus swapped the V8 in their range-topping LC coupe for a hybridised V6 powertrain. Some new tech, reduced thirst and improved handling should compensate for the loss of the sonorous V8, however.

Lexus South Africa has announced the 2024 update for their high-end LC coupe, with refreshed in-car technology to go with a new power unit. But, while customers will welcome the tech updates, they may be less thrilled by the disappearance of the high-revving and acoustically pleasing 5.0-litre V8 engine.

In its place is a smaller, efficiency-minded V6 with electric assistance, losing the aural signature but adding improved refinement and sharper handling. Lexus also went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the expected driving feel and performance are maintained, thanks to a clever new transmission system and detail chassis revisions. So, while the V8’s charm was obvious, the hybrid should still tick most of the boxes despite its lower cylinder count.

Goodbye, V8. Hello, hybrid.

Apart from its slinky styling, the outgoing LC 500 had a unique drawcard: In a world of downsized and turbocharged engines, it offered a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 that revved well past 7 000 r/min. Sure, its outright output figures were merely class-competitive at 351 kW and 540 Nm, but it was mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox that allowed it to sing whenever the driver’s right foot met the plush carpeting.

That engine sound alone must have been enough motivation for well-heeled buyers searching for something unique to sign on the dotted line, so the decision to drop its really unique selling point in favour of a considerably less exciting hybrid V6 is quite perplexing. To add insult to acoustic injury, the hybrid drivetrain has less power and torque than the V8 offered, and it drives through the combination of a CVT (constantly variable transmission) and a four-speed automatic. This won’t matter as much as you’d think, though, for reasons that will soon become apparent.

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Lexus LC 500h mechanical specifications

Petrol power in the Lexus LC 500h is provided by a 3.5-litre V6, which delivers 220 kW and 350 Nm on its own. It’s an advanced power unit, even if there’s no forced induction, with both direct- and port fuel injection and a variable valve timing system that allows operation in either the efficient Atkinson cycle or the power-productive Otto cycle. It’s also reasonably rev-happy, with its power peaking at 6 600 r/min and peak torque only arriving at a lofty 5 100 r/min, even if it still won’t howl as the V8 did.

This V6 is augmented by an electric motor, which adds its contribution inside the familiar eCVT for total motor outputs of 264 kW and 500 Nm. Lexus got clever on the way from the eCVT to the rear drive wheels, however, and added a 4-speed automatic gearbox behind the eCVT for this sixth-generation hybrid and christened it the “Multi Stage Hybrid System”.

The eCVT is programmed to simulate 3 stepped gear ratios, and, by combining these steps with the 4 ratios provided by the automatic transmission behind it, the engineers managed to create a transmission that offers 10 predetermined gear ratios. All those ratios and none of the rubber-band effect that destroys any semblance of driving pleasure in a normal CVT? Sounds like a good, albeit complex, idea.

The contradictory requirements of smooth operation and quick gearchanges were both prime objectives for this hybrid drive system, which is claimed to be as smooth as a normal automatic but also offers sub-100 millisecond shifts when needed. And, thanks to the possibility of fully-electric operation, the LC 500h should be quieter than the V8-engined model in gentle driving conditions. It will also be considerably less thirsty than the V8, which is known to have a serious drinking problem.

Related: Check out the selection of beautiful colours available for the Lexus LC 500h in this online brochure.

Lexus LC 500h performance

Despite the drop in absolute outputs, Lexus says that the LC 500h maintains similar performance to that of its V8 predecessor. Thanks to the combined efforts of instant electric torque and the torque multiplication offered by the 4-speed automatic, the overall driving experience is said to be as responsive as the old V8/10-speed combination was.

With a claimed 0 - 100 km/h sprint in 5 seconds flat (0.3 seconds slower than the V8), the LC 500h is quick enough, and that clever transmission and electric motor should fill in any torque gaps in the V6 engine’s operating range. In fact, according to chief engineer Koji Sato, the LC 500h is the first hybrid Lexus capable of spinning its rear wheels on take-off. Sure, no V6 will ever sound as good as the howling V8 did, but the ability to run in EV mode up to freeway speeds, albeit with very gentle accelerator inputs, should improve overall refinement levels in compensation.

Improved driving experience

The smaller engine and hybrid system hardware also change the LC’s weight distribution. Its centre of mass is located further rearwards, thanks to the 1.1 kWh hybrid battery’s location under the front seats, and the lighter engine sits further back in the engine bay to reduce the weight load on the front axle. This will sharpen turn-in and improve the dynamic balance and driver feedback when the road gets twisty, along with recalibrated suspension tuning and detail changes to the steering system, brakes, and engine mountings.

New forged 21-inch alloy wheels refresh the 2024 Lexus LC 500h exterior.

Overseas reviews certainly have no issue with the real-world performance on offer, and are even impressed by the hybrid drivetrain’s ability to feel nothing like a hybrid at all. It has even been said that most buyers won’t be able to tell this eCVT installation apart from a modern torque-converter automatic, and videos of the rev counter jumping as the transmission goes through its many simulated and real gear ratios seems to bear out this assertion.

Other 2024 Lexus LC 500h upgrades

New 21-inch forged alloy wheels are the most visible exterior additions, but the 2024 Lexus LC 500h also features a new “Lexus Interface” infotainment system with a 12.3-inch colour touchscreen inside, positioned closer to the driver than before. This gets rid of the infernal touchpad-type interface used before, and, combined with improved voice recognition, it should greatly simplify operation.

The new infotainment system is not only easier to use, but also cleans up the Lexus LC 500h interior design very nicely.

Smartphone integration is provided as before, but Apple CarPlay is now wireless although Android Auto still requires a cable. Safety also receives a boost, with the “Lexus Safety System +” suite gaining enhanced pre-collision detection, and a road sign assistance system which automatically adjusts the cruise control to prevailing speed limits.

2024 Lexus LC 500h prices start at R 2 542 800, and include a warranty and maintenance plan for 7 years or 105 000 km, along with a hybrid battery warranty for 8 years or 150 000 km.

Martin Pretorius

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