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Lexus backs hybrid over turbo, despite low sales

Earth choice: Lexus says it is committed to hybrid power, despite most competitors using turbocharging in their sportscars.

Invisible market for hybrid sportscars no deterrent for Lexus

Lexus logo8 Jun 2017

By DANIEL DeGASPERI

LEXUS Australia chief executive Peter McGregor has backed the Japanese company’s selection of hybrid powertrains to lower emissions in its sportscar range, despite admitting that barely 10 per cent of LC coupe buyers would choose a V6 hybrid variant over the identically priced petrol V8.

While rivals for the $190,000 plus on-road costs sportscar use turbocharged power to reduce fuel consumption, a chasm exists between the 5.0-litre V8 (11.6 litres per 100 kilometres) and 3.5-litre V6 hybrid (6.7L/100km), compared with the meagre three-tenth difference in 0-100km/h acceleration (4.7 seconds versus 5.0s respectively).

Despite the hybrid seeming the more ‘balanced’ option between performance and economy, however, Mr McGregor accepted that traditional sound and acceleration virtues would more closely resonate with LC buyers.

“(Hybrid) doesn’t have quite the same note as the V8 has, but it is still very enjoyable,” he told GoAuto at the national media launch of the Lexus LC in Tyabb, Victoria.

Asked whether Lexus Australia considered not offering the LC500h hybrid given it is expected to only make up 10 of the 100 LCs set to be sold in full-year 2018, Mr McGregor replied: “Not really, no.

“I think the multi-stage hybrid makes a statement to the market about the future of Lexus as well, about being able to provide people a choice, and in this market choice is very important,” he continued.

“And it speaks to the quality of the franchise, because if you look where the franchise is headed in the future, the fuel efficiency, the emissions, will require us to be looking at all sorts of alternative technologies.”

That could soon mean the end of the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8, which in the LC500 is 3.0L/100km thirstier than the faster (by a tenth 0-100km/h) BMW 650i 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, its closest rival.

“I imagine at some point it might (have to be dropped) but I don’t know what it is yet,” McGregor said of the 5.0-litre V8’s future.

“We’re talking about emissions deadlines that potentially go out in the corporation’s planning to 2050, and so we’re all going to be in a far different place in 2050 than we are today.”

Mr McGregor had earlier acknowledged in a presentation that, “like every great brand Lexus must shape its strategies for a changing consumer mindset and the shifting competitive environment”.

But Lexus LC chief engineer Koji Sato explained that the company wanted to move directly into the performance hybrid space, until now only mostly occupied by hypercars such as the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder.

“In the past, people only associated hybrid with ‘eco’,” Mr Sato said in a statement.

“We wanted to broaden that perception and create a true high-performance powertrain.”

Lexus Australia product planning manager Sajid Hasan added that one of the reasons turbocharging was not selected for the company’s flagship coupe was because, “that wasn’t fitting the profile for the LC”.

“The engineers wanted to create and engaging driving experience and the response and the sound is only something that you can get from the naturally aspirated V8,” he continued.

“Of course turbocharging would improve the fuel consumption, but first and foremost was the engaging driving experience which is why they chose the naturally aspirated engine.

“For a naturally aspirated V8, 11.6L/100km is very respectable, and if customers want the additional fuel consumption they can opt for the V6 hybrid.”

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