Lexus sheds more light on its lightweight hybrid sports coupé
Toyota's luxury brand on Thursday confirmed that the LC500h teased as a concept car ahead of its Geneva debut is actually the real deal. It's a full production car and will be going only sale later this year after its official unveiling on March 1.
The LC500h is meant to signal a new direction for Lexus in terms of design, emotion and performance. What's more, as a flagship sports coupé it will also be the platform for showcasing the company's latest innovations. Therefore at the heart of this car is a multi-stage hybrid system that Lexus is describing as a hybrid ‘world first'.
Although Toyota and Lexus brands popularized the concept of hybrid power, the new system in the LC500h is the first one the company has developed specifically for accentuating driving pleasure and sports performance.
It mates a 3.5-liter V6 with an electric motor and a lithium ion battery for a combined 354bhp. Together they ensure the car can accelerate from 0-100km/h in under 5 seconds.
The driver involvement comes from doing all of this via a gearbox. This is the first Lexus hybrid to offer the driver control of gear changes and the transmission even rev-matches the engine. And to make every shift an occasion, the paddles are made from magnesium alloy.
Even though the gasoline engine is naturally rather than force aspirated, Lexus says that the electric motor working in concert with or ahead of the fossil fuel engine results in even faster acceleration and control response.
However batteries and transmissions add weight. To ensure nothing gets in the way of performance, Lexus has used carbon fiber for the roof, carbon and glass composites for the trunk lid, aluminum for the hood and door panels and carbon fiber for the door frames. Even suspension mountings are aluminum in order to lighten the load and boost handling.
It's also why the driver sits so low in the vehicle. Lexus has paid obsessive attention to lowering the center of gravity and on centering the car's mass so that there is 50/50 weight split over the front and rear wheels. A big challenge.
Nevertheless, the company has managed to sit much of the car's components behind the front axle so that in the corners, the car feels closer to being mid-engine to front engine.
According to Lexus: "In combination, these chassis and suspension development measures offer an entirely natural, non-taxing driving experience which combines sharp responses, exceptional handing balance and straight line stability with the ride comfort appropriate to a Lexus flagship coupe."