New Lexus LC 500h 2017 review

Lexus LC 500h - front

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8 Dec, 2016 4:00pm Steve Fowler

The striking new Lexus LC 500h takes an innovative approach to hybrid performance

A high performance grand tourer is not the most obvious place to find the usually languid combination of a hybrid engine and CVT automatic gearbox. But Lexus has persevered with both over the years, so it’s no real surprise to see them on offer in the stunning new LC 500h. But with a twist.

First, let’s just drink in what is a design that’s sure to turn heads. It’s not traditionally beautiful – there are too many sharp edges and intersecting lines for that – but from the low spindle grille, shallow LED headlights, front wings that sit so low over the front wheels, floating roof and 3D-effect rear lights, there’s plenty to keep you (and passers by) interested. 

Lexus hasn’t really hit the high notes with its sportier models, since the LFA supercar in 2010. But there’s a determination about the team behind the LC (led by Toyota CEO and Lexus ‘master driver’ Akio Toyoda) that we haven’t seen before.

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There’s a V8 version for the traditionalist, but this hybrid will surprise a few people and keep tech fans happy – it really is very clever.

So let’s deal with the CVT gearbox and it’s oft-criticised ‘rubber band feel’.

Even Lexus folk agree it hasn’t been perfect: “There are some aspects that I myself as a CVT user wish were different,” Koju Oshima, LC Hybrid System Engineer told us.

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Of course, when it comes to efficiency and allowing an engine to work at its optimum level, a CVT is ideal – it just doesn’t sound or feel very nice.

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So Oshimasan and his team have added a four-speed transmission to the back of the CVT box. With three ‘engineered’ steps in the CVT for each of the first three gears in the standard box, plus the fourth being effectively an overdrive, it means, in essence, you get a ten-speed gearbox – just as you do in the V8. 

Lexus calls it a multi-stage shift device, but does it work? Surprisingly, perhaps, yes it does. Where you used to floor the throttle and wince as the engine revs rise and stay there, the four-speed box will change down a whole gear (that means going from ninth to sixth on the ten-speed scale) and move through the gears much the same way as a traditional auto would. It even offers slightly slicker changes. 

There’s still a slight hold of the revs before a ‘ratio’ is swapped, but along with a lovely engine note that’s enhanced and fed into the cabin mechanically rather than electronically. It adds to the enjoyment of the car – especially if you get a kick out of knowing how the tech is working under the skin. 

Performance-wise the 0-60mph sprint is only a fraction slower than the V8. The extra weight of the hybrid system also seems to make the ride a bit firmer, but not uncomfortable, whether you’re in Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport or Sport + modes.

For a GT, the hybrid can be hustled well. There’s plenty of grip, the steering is accurate if not alive with feedback, and the rhythm that Lexus’s engineers talk about is there in abundance as you flow from corner to corner and punch through the (mostly artificial) gears. 

It bodes well for other models that will use the LC’s new GA-L (Global Architecture Luxury) platform, starting with next year’s new LS limousine, as well as the new GS and IS models.

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The LC’s interior is a mixed bag of delightful details – like the door panels that flow through to the bonnet lines and on towards the grille – and ergonomic mishaps. There are too many buttons and Lexus’s infuriating Remote Touch control for the infotainment system remains.

Quality is exceptional, though, and the seats are really comfy, whether you go for this Luxury spec with material that flows over the seat shoulders like Superman’s cape, or the grippier seats in Sport and Sport+ models. Sport also changes the roof from glass to carbon fibre, while Sport+ adds a limited slip differential, rear-wheel steering and active aerodynamics (basically a lift-up rear spoiler). 

With the car not expected in the UK until next summer, it’s tricky to estimate pricing given varying exchange rates, but Lexus expects prices to start from around £80,000.

Sometimes the use of new-fangled technology can detract from the driving experience. But that’s not the case with the new Lexus LC 500h. It’s a great grand tourer, and borders on a being a good sports car. The hybrid engine and innovative CVT gearbox might not be a traditional approach to this type of car, but techies will love it. And with the usual Lexus attributes of quality, refinement and comfort, it’s an exciting pointer to Lexus’s future.
Model: Lexus LC 500h Luxury Price: £80,000 (est) Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric hybrid Power: 354bhp Transmission: 10-speed CVT automatic, rear-wheel drive
0-60mph: 4.7 seconds Top speed: 155mph Economy/CO2: 44.0mpg/149g/km (est) Equipment: Alloys, keyless go, climate control, sat nav On sale: Summer 2017
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Motorway speed limits near roadworks could be raised

M6 motorway traffic lights

The Government has announced new plans to raise speed limits near roadworks on motorways to cut congestion

2016-12-08 11:20

Motorways and trunk roads could see faster speed limits introduced near roadworks under new plans to cut down on congestion.

The Department for Transport wants to raise speed limits near roadworks from the current maximum of 50mph, and has tasked Highways England to determine whether this can be done "safely." 

The agency is currently running a trial on a four-mile stretch of roadworks on the M1 with a 60mph limit. If the trial is declared a success faster limits could appear throughout the country. 

Transport minister John Haynes has also asked Highways England to limit roadside works to no longer than 10 miles, as well as increasing the number of lanes open during roadworks.   

The reforms are much needed as the latest traffic predictions by the DfT estimate a potential 55 per cent rise in traffic numbers by 2040. The next few years will also see a rising number of roadworks as Highways England is currently busy converting over 4,000 miles of the motorway network into new ‘smart’ motorways. Smart motorways will use the hard shoulder as an added lane during busy periods as well as variable speed limits to cut congestion. 

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Haynes said: “I have asked Highways England to look at shortening the length of roadworks to reduce the impact on road users.

“Following my discussion with them, Highways England are working towards utilising shorter lengths and looking at whether they can safely increase speed limits through roadworks, which will improve the overall customer experience and minimise disruption.”

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “If you look at sections like the M3 from the M25 to Basingstoke, you have 25 miles of roadworks with a 50mph limit.

“It’s very difficult for drivers to concentrate over a period of time at those speeds. Shortening the length of those roadworks would make it safer and mean less people are caught out.”  

What do you think of the plans to raise speed limits near roadworks on motorways? Tell us in the comments below...

Martin Saarinen
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Citroen C5 to be reborn in futuristic style

Citroen C5 - front (watermarked)

Exclusive images show bold new look for the Citroen C5 as brand bids to take on premium models in 2018

2016-12-08 09:50

In a bid to keep its model range as diverse as possible, Citroen will radically reimagine the C5 saloon in 2018 with an all-new model based on the C-Xperience concept revealed at September’s Paris Motor Show. And our exclusive images show how it could look.

As traditional family saloons such as the Ford Mondeo struggle in the sales charts against crossovers and SUVs, Citroen will develop the C5 into a more desirable and attractive proposition; Vauxhall has used a similar technique with its more upmarket Insignia.

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Speaking to Auto Express, Maxime Picat, executive vice president Europe for the PSA Group, explained: “We have to reinvent it. And that is exactly what Citroen tried to do with the C-Xperience – and to explain that there is still a future.

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“There will still be customers who will want us to reinvent it – with more dynamism, more efficiency and aerodynamics. So there is a clear future for this type of car.”

Another key reason why Citroen will persevere with the traditional large family saloon is that Picat also sees a need to have alternative products in the range when inevitably, he says, the current SUV boom ends. “We all know that the SUV trend will at least slow down some time, for the simple reason many people buy SUVs today [as] it’s about differentiating,” he added.

“But in one or two years this customer at the traffic lights will see SUVs all around them,” Picat added. “They will look for something else because differentiation will always be the quest for the customer, so there might be something after the SUV.

“Interestingly, some [customers] tell us ‘please make an attractive car for us; we are fed up of having SUVs and boring sedans’.”

The C-Xperience concept that debuted at the Paris Motor Show will influence the all-new model. As our images show, the same fastback tailgate, cab-rearward design and intricate LED lighting will move it on from the forgettable silhouette of the old C5.

Mechanically, the next-generation saloon will be based on a modified version of the EMP2 platform – the chassis technology also used on the new Peugeot 3008. The platform has already been developed with electrification in mind; a plug-in hybrid model is understood to be in the pipeline. However, a range of conventional diesel and petrol engines will also be offered.

Another innovation will be new progressive hydraulic suspension. The system has been developed as part of Citroen’s Advanced Comfort programme, aimed at improving everything from ride comfort to customer satisfaction. The system will feature hydraulic cushions as well as conventional shock absorbers to soften and smooth body movements.

Big improvements in in-car tech and design will further boost its appeal. A new digital instrument cluster and array of HD touchscreens will remove a whole host of buttons and dials to create a clean and slick cabin.    

Do you like the look of the new Citroen C5? Let us know in the comments section below...

Jonathan Burn
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Citroen CEO explains why French brand will offer an 'SUV with a twist'

Linda Jackson has pushed to reinvent Citroen since taking the brand's helm two years ago.
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EU plans action against Germany, UK over VW emissions scandal, report says

The EU will take action against seven nations including Germany and the UK for failing to police car emissions rules, EU sources said, after the Volkswagen cheating scandal showed suspicious behavior in the industry.
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