Lexus overhauls hybrid system

Lexus will feature its new hybrid technology in the LC 500h sports coupe to be unveiled next month at the Geneva auto show.

TOKYO — Lexus is improving its hybrid drivetrain lineup with a new-generation system that adds a four-speed automatic transmission and semi-manual shifting for a sportier feel.

The new technology, which the luxury brand dubs the Multi Stage Hybrid System, will debut in the Lexus LC 500h hybrid sports coupe to be unveiled in March at the Geneva auto show.

The hybrid version of the LC 500 shown at the Detroit auto show mates the gasoline engine to an electric motor and lithium ion battery, as do previous hybrids in the brand’s hybrid-heavy lineup.

Now Lexus adds a four-speed automatic gearbox, which the company says will more closely align the engine’s rpms with the driver’s input.

The direct connection pushes the car from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (roughly 0 to 62 mph) in less than five seconds, the company said.

The Multi Stage Hybrid System also features an M mode that allows the driver to shift gears for a more responsive feel.

To offset the added weight of the four-speed automatic transmission, Lexus engineers devised a lighter, compact electric motor and lithium ion battery. The combination allows the new hybrid system to weigh the same as the outgoing one.

The hybrid version gets a 3.5-liter V-6 engine largely based on the powerplant in the latest-generation RX crossover. The base gasoline version LC 500 gets a V-8 engine.

Shedding more pounds from the LC 500h, the car gets an aluminum hood and front fenders, aluminum door skins mounted on a carbon fiber structure, a carbon and glass composite trunk lid, aluminum front suspension towers and compact LED headlamps. Forged alloy wheels and a carbon fiber roof are options.

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