Lexus set enthusiast hearts aflutter last month by unveiling the sleek LC 500, targeted to churn out 467 hp from a 5.0L naturally aspirated V-8 when the 2-plus-2 coupe goes on sale next year.
Today in Europe, Lexus introduces the car’s fuel-efficient twin, the LC 500h, equipped with what the automaker says is the world’s first multi-stage hybrid system.
Lexus is not the first automaker to pair sexy good looks and high performance with fuel-saving hybrid-electric drivetrains. Porsche, Lamborghini, BMW and Mercedes are among premium automakers with high-output hybrids, along with Acura and its long-awaited NSX supercar arriving soon.
But Toyota’s luxury division counts the LC 500h drivetrain as truly unique, relying on a 3.5L gasoline V-6, a powerful electric motor and a 44.6-kW lithium-ion battery pack paired with a 4-speed automatic gearbox mounted at the rear of the hybrid transmission. The engine is located in front and drives the rear wheels.
The goal with the multi-stage hybrid system is to save fuel by closely aligning engine speed with throttle inputs, without sacrificing power and torque. An electric motor can generate quicker acceleration than a conventional engine, and Lexus says adding physical gears more closely aligns engine speed with the driver’s inputs.
The automaker expects this approach to result in a more direct connection between the accelerator pedal and driving wheels, as well as 0-62 mph (100 km/h) times in less than 5 seconds. Total system output is 354 hp.
A new lightweight and compact electric motor and 110-lb. (50-kg) battery offset the weight of the added automatic transmission, so the new system weighs the same as Lexus’ current hybrid powertrain.
The new system also features “M Mode,” which enables driver-initiated gear shifts for the first time on a Lexus full hybrid powertrain.
Like its non-hybrid twin, the LC 500h springs from the all-new GA-L global architecture and will ride on an ultra-rigid, lightweight chassis with a multilink suspension. The underpinnings will become the blueprint for future front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Lexus models.
The body consists of aluminum front fenders and hood, aluminum door skins mounted on a carbon-fiber structure, a carbon and glass composite trunk lid and aluminum front suspension towers. Extensive use of high-tensile steel body structures improves weight distribution and increases body rigidity.
Run-flat tires also are used to eliminate the extra weight of a spare.