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Geneva show: Lexus gears up LC500h

All four it: Lexus' LC500h luxury coupe uses a highly unusual multi-speed transmission bolted to the back of its hybrid powertrain for more performance without adding overall weight.

LC500h pioneers four-speed gearbox for Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid system


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19 Feb 2016

LEXUS has revealed that its enigmatically-named Multi Stage Hybrid System combines a high-output electric motor with a four-speed automatic transmission, heralding the company's “next-generation” hybrid.

The car's petrol-powered LC500 cousin set a new standard in luxury car gearboxes when it rolled out with a ten-speed automatic transmission at the Detroit motor show in January, but the use of a four-speed auto specifically for an electric motor is even more unusual.

Just like a combustion engine, adding ratios allows torque multiplication for improved performance, “more closely aligns engine rpm with driver inputs” and “superior acceleration” says Lexus.

Only BMW's i8 sportscar uses a multi-speed transmission in combination with an electric motor, with two ratios sending power to the front axle, but this is first time GoAuto has heard of a four-speed application.

A 220kW/348Nm 3.5-litre V6 provides the petrol-powered part of the hybrid system and combined with the juice from a 310-volt lithium-ion battery, for a total system output of 264kW and “sub-five second” zero to 100km acceleration.

With that figure the LC500h is fast but not quite up with its 5.0-litre V8-powered sibling that cracks the benchmark in “under 4.5 seconds”.

Despite the addition of the extra hardware, Lexus says the system weighs no more than previous hybrid system versions through the use of a lightweight motor and 50kg battery.

In addition to the ground-breaking transmission the Multi Stage Hybrid System also brings an M mode to allow drivers to manually select gears – a first for any of its full hybrid models.

Beyond the sophisticated hybrid powertrain, the LC500h shares much of the technology and features of the LC500, with power sent to the rear wheels thanks to Lexus' GA-L platform that will provide the basis for future front-engine rear-drive models, including the next-generation LS.

Wheels will measure 20 inches when made from cast alloy or 21 inches when in optional forged alloy and the use of exotic materials continues throughout the car, with aluminium alloy suspension components and body panels, except the roof which is carbon-fibre.

The steering wheel paddle shifters a crafted from a magnesium alloy.

Its interior is a “comfortable and welcoming place”, according to Lexus, with hand-stitched leather for the dashboard and Alcantara finishes for the doors, while the sound system is a choice of either Mark Levinson of Pioneer.

The driver's instrument display has the moving ring design similar to the information prioritising system found in the LFA supercar and current IS and RC models.

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