It’s two months since the Lexus LC 500 was launched at the 2016 Detroit auto show but already the automaker has a hybrid version on its stand at the same year’s Geneva event.
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The Lexus LC 500h coupe is moved by the brand’s “next generation” (strange phrase, that… how can it be the next generation when it’s already here?) hybrid power system, “offering an enhanced driving experience with increased performance and efficiency”.
This petrol-electric model joins the five-litre V8 model, each driven through what is claimed to be the world’s first 10-speed auto transmission in a luxury vehicle.
“The all-new interior of the LC 500h,” Lexus says, “reflects the dynamic exterior design with an elegant and sophisticated cabin shaped to spread towards the front.”
The cross-section of the car’s new steering-wheel has been changed, Lexus says, to accommodate variations in grip and twisting of the driver’s wrists, and the alloy paddle-shifters are larger. Vehicle information displays are arranged in order across the driver’s line of sight according to importance.
The instrument pod carries a variation of the moving centre ring from the Lexus LFA supercar and there’s a (again, next-generation!) touchpad to control what Lexus says is upgradeable and uses “faster, more flexible, software and updated graphics.
A Mark Levinson audio system or Pioneer audio system is on the choices list.
Seat upholstery involves hand-stitched leather, as do the car’s centre console and facia. Door trim uses Alcantara.
All the above, of course, is merely decoration: what really counts is the hybrid propulsion. Lexus claims to be a leader in hybrid drive – conventional engine plus electric motor(s) – and indeed the LC 500h has a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, powerful electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack, the latter with a four-speed auto gearbox behind the hybrid transmission.
The electric motor produces acceleration superior to that of a conventional engine (maximum torque is instantaneous) and adding the four-speed auto aligns it with engine rpm. Acceleration to 100km/h comes in well below five seconds – what seems to be the current performance-car benchmark.
The Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System includes ‘M’ Mode – the first driver-initiated gear-shifting on a Lexus full-hybrid powertrain to treat the electric drive to accelerative gearshifts.
The LC 500 and LC 500h each ride on an all-new rear-wheel-drive platform, a blueprint for future front-engine/rear-drive Lexus models, the automaker says. Most of the vehicles’ mass – including passengers – is set as low and central as possible.
The cars have run-flat tyres to eliminate the weight and weight distribution penalty of a full-size spare wheel.
The LC 500 is expected to launch in South Africa in the first quarter of 2017. The LC 500h? Lexus SA isn’t sure yet. Watch this space…