Lexus is riding the wave of excitement generated by the LC 500 coupé with a hybrid version
Unveiled at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, the Lexus LC 500h is identical to the LC 500 from a styling point of view, but instead of the latter's naturally-aspirated V8 mill, it features a more environmentally-friendly powertrain.
The 2+2 coupé sources its power from the brand new "Multi Stage Hybrid System," which is Lexus' name for its next generation of hybrid powertrains specifically designed for performance vehicles.
The hybrid powertrain combines a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine with a powerful electric motor, a lithium-ion battery pack (a first for a Lexus full hybrid), and a four-speed automatic gearbox mounted at the rear of the hybrid CVT transmission. Yes, you read that right: while the LC 500 features a 10-speed auto, the LC 500h gets a CVT plus a four-speed automatic transmission. Lexus says the two gearboxes combined offer the sensation of a 10-speed auto for the driver, using "virtual gears."
When developing the Multi Stage Hybrid System, Lexus had opposing goals in mind – "to create a hybrid with a more sporting and engaging driving experience by closely aligning engine speed with throttle inputs, and to achieve the best possible balance of power and fuel consumption."
Performance-wise, it looks like they made it. The 3.5-liter V6 Atkinson cycle gasoline engine derived from the GS 450h delivers 295 hp at 6,600 rpm and 257 lb-ft (348 Nm) of torque at 4,900 rpm while the electric motor produces 44.8 kW (60 hp). With a combined output of 354 hp, the LC 500h is capable sprinting from 0 to 100 km/h "well into the sub-5 second range."
Lexus says the electric motor generates better acceleration feel than a conventional engine, with the addition of physical gears "more closely aligning engine rpm with the driver's inputs." A better way to describe the LC 500h is that it will be Lexus' first hybrid capable of spinning its rear tires on dry asphalt.
Another first for the Multi Stage Hybrid System is the "M" Mode – the first driver-initiated gear shifts offered on a Lexus full hybrid powertrain. That is no doubt good news for drivers who associate hybrids with a numb experience behind the wheel.
Despite the added mass of the automatic transmission, the Multi Stage Hybrid System weighs the same as the automaker's current hybrid powertrain. That is possible thanks to the new lightweight and compact electric motor and the lithium-ion battery that tips the scales at just 50 kg (110 lbs).
As for fuel economy, no estimates were offered. We'll have to wait a while for LC 500 and LC 500h, though, as they are expected to launch in the second half of 2017.