Surprise! Lexus LC 500h Revealed

A luscious, eco friendly performance coupe

Lexus LC 500h

When Toyota’s president and CEO, Akio Toyoda, introduced the stunning LC 500 Coupe at the Detroit Auto Show, it was a given that other powertrain variants would follow in the future. At the time, we were willing to bet that the next version would be a Lexus F Sport model that would take the car’s big, raucous 5.0-liter 467 horsepower V-8 to a higher level. We figured this coming at the LA Auto Show would be the perfect venue.

Then, Lexus sent us a short press release stating that the world premiere of the LC 500h luxury performance coupe with a next-generation “Lexus Multi-Stage Hybrid System” would take place at the Geneva Motor Show. Well, that was quite a surprise, and we added the car to our Geneva coverage list, wondering what their new hybrid system was all about.

At a special press event in the Netherlands, Lexus unveiled the new hybrid to the European media and released not only photos but detailed information about the new hybrid powertrain. We couldn’t wait the 10 days until the Geneva show to tell you about the car; here’s what we know.

Lexus Multi-Stage Hybrid System

Like its powerful V-8 brother, the Lexus LC 500h is a front-engine, rear wheel drive car. Unlike the LC 500, electric motors enhance the gasoline engine’s output. As with other Lexus hybrids, regenerative braking energy is captured as electricity and stored in a battery, reusing it to help propel the car.

But Lexus considers the LC 500h’s hybrid system as genuinely unique, and with good cause.

As a general rule, hybrid systems don’t offer exhilarating performance because the driver doesn’t have direct control over power output. To overcome that deficiency and make the LC 500h satisfying to enthusiast drivers, Lexus engineered a four-speed automatic transmission into the driveline to complement the existing electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT).

The four-speed gearbox is grafted onto the back of the e-CVT and coexists in one package. The e-CVT makes things efficient and the automatic expand the capabilities. This combination of two transmissions is what Lexus is calling a Multi-Stage Hybrid System.

The engineering goal of the 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 gasoline engine, and the automaker says adding physical gears more closely aligns engine speed with the driver’s input.

Lexus engineers created this system after carefully considering a dual-clutch automatic, but for ultimate smoothness, practicality and durability the multi-stage setup was used instead. The gear change times of the system are said to match those of a dual-clutch automatic, but it is said to be more compact and lighter.

The car’s 3.5-liter V-6 engine puts out 295 horsepower and 257 pounds-feet of torque, which climbs to a total of 354 horsepower with the electric motor added in. Lexus says the LC 500h will have a sub-five second zero-to-60 mph time, which puts it close to its V-8 powered sibling that will make the run to 60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds.

Adding the fixed gears allows the LC 500h’s gas engine to stay shut off at speeds of about 87 mph compared to existing Lexus hybrids that top out at around 62 mph. That means electric highway cruising without the engine operating.

Another benefit of the added transmission is the ability to manually shift gears, a first for a Lexus hybrid. Also a first for Lexus is the employ of a 44.6- kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery rather than a nickel-metal hydride battery.

Sexy, Alluring, Pulse-Quickening Looks

Whether or not you are into cars, you have to admit that the Lexus LC 500h is an impressively designed motorcar with bold, seductive styling. From the large “spindle” grille, in Lexus lexicology, over the sweeping roofline that tapers between muscular wheel arches, to the rear spoiler, the racy sophistication of the sheet metal dramatically stands apart from other performance coupes.

The cabin is no less satisfying with a high-quality finish of upholstery, hand-stitched leather center console and dash and drape forming Alcantara door trim. These reflect a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that could easily delight a Rolls Royce owner.

There’s also the latest high tech such as the digital instrument cluster, a touchpad interface, and the next generation Lexus infotainment system. And for audiophiles, a Mark Levison sound system is an optional extra.

Final Word

Lexus is not the first luxury automaker to pair up racy exterior styling and performance with fuel-efficient hybrid electric powertrains. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche already have high-output hybrids and Acura’s NSX hybrid supercar arrives soon.

Toyota’s luxury division has attempted to break free of its conservative performance character, and cars that carried the F-Sport badge haven’t done the job. But on paper, the LC 500h and the V-8 powered LC 500 look promising to crack the performance ceiling and compete with their European rivals.

However, we have to wait when the LC 500h arrives at dealerships to check out its performance. In the meantime, we just have to lust over the photos.