The reception for the Lexus LC 500h and its new hybrid propulsion system has been fairly positive since the car made its debut at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show.
With a total output of 359 PS, the LC 500h is able to hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in under 5 seconds, which makes it only half a second slower than the V8-powered LC 500.
Of course, when it comes to hybrid models, the focus is always on efficiency as much as it is on performance and according to chief engineer Koji Sato, the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
“In the past, people associated hybrid with ‘eco’. We wanted to change that perception and create a true high-performance package,” said Sato during a recent interview with Lexus Europe.
“We’ve taken our pioneering Lexus Hybrid Drive to the next level, combining a V6 petrol engine and motor generator with an automatic transmission. This was how we could engineer a system that responds much more directly to driver inputs, while still delivering all the smoothness and efficiency characteristic of a Lexus full hybrid.”
And yet, this hybrid & eco association has all but gone extinct now that we know of several hypercars that showed us how efficiency no longer has to be the enemy of performance.
When asked what he expects new LC 500h drivers to experience the first time they get behind the wheel, Sato went on to praise the car’s dynamic abilities.
“The car will do exactly what the driver wants. If they are in a sporty mood, they can take advantage of the instant and linear torque delivery. In fact there is more torque at start-up than with our V8 hybrid and you can drive at higher speeds on electric power, thanks to the Multi Stage Hybrid System.”
He interestingly points out that “this is the first Lexus hybrid that can spin its rear wheels which is a sign of the amount of power on demand,” which is exactly the type of thing sports car enthusiasts love to hear.
When quizzed about the four-gear transmission, Sato explained that with the LC 500h, rhythm was everything. “We wanted the LC 500h to have the same fundamental philosophy as the V8-powered LC 500 (which uses a 10-speed automatic transmission). We We came up with 10 speeds as the result of our search for the perfect rhythm – it could have been 11 or nine, but 10 felt best during the many test drives we made.”
As for the prospect of having the new Multi Stage Hybrid System end up on other Lexus models, Sato won’t confirm it in so many words, but he did say that his company expects the drivetrain to be “used on larger front-engine/rear wheel-drive Lexus models in the future.”