It’s quick, luxurious, and it looks good – and oh yeah, it’s a hybrid, too

Attention all you lovers of the naturally aspirated, un-electrified internal combustion engine: your days in the sun are numbered. Yep, the hybrids are coming, and in a big, big way, too. What started as a means to extend the range provided by the liquefied dinosaur juice known as gasoline has now turned into a full-fledged assault across all segments. First it was with commuters, like the Prius. Then we got outrageous hypercars like the LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder. Then it was SUVs and wagons, and now, Lexus has added hybridity to the premium sedan niche with the new LS 500h.

The big reveal just occurred at theGeneva International Motor Show, and was preceded by similar announcements from other makes also going hybrid. Porsche is one example of this, giving us the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, a top-shelf sports sedan laying down a whopping 680 horses thanks to its battery-boosted twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. Check out our full review on the new range-topping Panamera by clicking here.

Now we get this, an electrified iteration of Lexus’ brand-new four-door flagship. We first got a look at the new LS in 500 guise earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show, boasting 415 horses from a twin-turbo V-6. Meanwhile, the 500h gets all the good stuff as the more traditional LWB luxury sedan, but with addition of hybrid power under the hood.

Of course, anyone who’s familiar with the history of the LS nameplate shouldn’t be all that surprised. The model has traditionally been a bastion of new technology and innovation, but I feel like this model is indicative of a larger trend in the industry to, well, hybrid all the things. Continue reading to see what I’m on about.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why It Matters

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Exterior
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The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Exterior
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The 2018 Lexus LS 500h is clearly more than a one-trick pony.

If you had a time machine and could send pictures and specs of the Lexus LS 500h back to the late ‘90s, most folks would have a hard time believing it was a gas-electric hybrid. Back then, the Prius was pretty much the only game in town for the hybrid powertrain type, and although it got impressive gas mileage, the little Toyota four-door wasn’t exactly good looking, well equipped, all that comfortable, or even very high-tech (beyond the engine, that is).

2005 Toyota Prius
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From humble beginnings, the first-gen Toyota Prius eventually lead the charge for hybrid consumers.

But times have changed, and while critics might still have a word or two to say about the Prius’ styling, the onboard equipment, ride quality, and technology have all improved massively.

Which leads us to the 500h. This thing looks the part of a premium offering through and through. The exterior, while polarizing, is certainly a striking thing to behold, with sharp lines, daring curves, and the proportions of a coupe-ish four-door.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Interior
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The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Interior
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The cabin space of the Lexus LS 500h is an example of the way in which the perception of hybrids is changing, away from money-saving devices, and towards premium offerings.

The interior is even more impressive. When it debuted in Detroit, the new LS snagged the EyesOn Design Award for Design Excellence thanks to its gorgeous cabin space, and it’s obvious why – combining traditional Japanese build quality with the philosophy of omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality, the interior of the LS is a fantastic place to be, with superior high-end materials front to back, seats with a heating, cooling, and massage function, and extended rear leg room with a raised ottoman. And with a 123-inch wheelbase, there’s more than enough space, as well.

Paired with the fresh bones of Lexus Global Architecture – Luxury (GA-L) under the skin (the same underpinnings as the LC), a multi-link suspension set-up, a dynamic handling system, and advanced safety tech like Intuitive Pedestrian Detection and Active Steering, and this is clearly more than a one-trick pony.

Speaking of that one trick – under the hood is something called the Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid system. Essentially, this powerplant mates a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, Dual VVT-i variable valve timing, and two electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery. All that gear combines to create 354 horsepower of peak output, which is routed to the ground by way a four-stage CVT shift system. This CVT is programmed to simulate the feel of a 10-speed gearbox, and it offers paddle shifter operation for a little extra control for the driver. The 0-to-60 mph sprint is completed in 5.4 seconds – not face melting, but certainly quick for a car of this size and weight.

Okay, So It’s A New Age For Hybrids. How Did We Get Here?

2016 24 Hours Of Le Mans - Race Report
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A hybrid prototype racer killing corners at Le Mans.

If you don’t like this industry-wide trend towards hybridization, then blame motorsport. No, seriously. Sure, you could blame the tree huggers and Al Gore and melting polar caps, but the fact of the matter is motorsport vetted this tech, making it not only more effective and more powerful, but cool as well. And those three characteristics open it up to a wide variety of consumer niches, from sports cars to luxury sedans.

Between the Le Mans Prototypes that compete in the World Endurance Championship, to the modern Formula One car, it certainly doesn’t look like hybrids are going anywhere any time soon. In fact, we’re already seeing the next evolution to fully electrics, particularly when it comes to racing series like Formula E and the top competitors at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

But perhaps this is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, with nothing like the trickle down effect I’ve describe above. Perhaps hybrids and EVs are just the natural development of the automobile, and neither an inconvenient truth nor the KERS system is to “blame.” Maybe cars like the Lexus LS 500h are just the inevitable result of more than 130 years of automobile evolution.

It’s hard to say. But we wanna know – is the hybridization of the industry a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Does it even matter at all? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Press Release

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h, the full hybrid version of Lexus’ new flagship sedan, was unveiled today in Geneva.

The model, which follows the world premiere of the twin-turbo gas V6-powered LS 500 at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, is a further manifestation of how Lexus has reimagined the luxury sedan, presenting bold design, enhanced performance and a sophisticated appeal to capture the imagination of forward-thinking customers.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Exterior
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The car’s design successfully brings together the virtues of a long-wheelbase four-door sedan with a low, coupe-like profile, positioning the LS perfectly across the growing sedan and coupe segments.

The cabin has benefited from an equally new approach, focusing on “progressive comfort,” interpreting Japanese aesthetics and craftsmanship traditions in the context of an advanced, luxurious and innovative vehicle interior such as the unique door trim ornamentation. Notably, the LS 500 was honored at the NAIAS with the EyesOn Design Award for Design Excellence – Interior Design.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Exterior
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Conceived as the new global pinnacle of the Lexus brand, the LS goes beyond what the world expects from a luxury car. Chief Engineer Toshio Asahi explained: “Developing such a flagship model required a massive paradigm shift. Rather than being bound by the conventions that had defined luxury cars in the past, we aimed to create a car with innovative, emotional and sensual appeal that would draw customers’ eyes away from other luxury cars and provide entirely new values.”

The LS 500h is equipped with the new Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System, which provides enhanced responsiveness and linear acceleration, particularly when accelerating from a full stop. The powertrain features a 3.5-liter V6 Dual VVT-i V6 gasoline engine and two electric motors, together delivering maximum system power of 354 hp.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Exterior
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The LS 500h is built on the new Lexus Global Architecture – Luxury (GA-L) platform, which is shared with the all-new LC. This platform ensures a low center of gravity and optimum weight distribution, contributing to the car’s essential stability and handling agility, which in turn deliver increased driver rewards. The fundamental high rigidity of the chassis allows the new multi-link suspension to be tuned to achieve enhanced handling performance and the supreme comfort for which the LS is renowned. The car’s dynamic performance also benefits from the coordination of braking, steering and stability systems through Lexus Dynamic Handling.

Advanced technologies are further used to deliver impressive safety performance. The LS 500h’s available Advanced Safety Package features the world’s first Intuitive Pedestrian Detection system with Active Steering within the lane.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Exterior
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Omotenashi, expressing the unique sense of Japanese hospitality, defines the LS 500h’s whisper-quiet and luxurious interior. Supreme comfort is provided by front and rear seats with multiple power adjustment, heating, cooling, and massage functions. There is also an optional rear seat arrangement that includes an extending leg ottoman and the most generous leg room of any LS generation. At 123 inches, the wheelbase of the new LS is in fact 1.3-inches longer than on the current long wheelbase LS 600h L.

Lexus Takumi craftsmanship also contributes to the special quality of the LS 500h’s cabin, in luxurious new trims, materials and detailing, including a new pleating treatment and Kiriko glasswork on the inner door panels.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Drivetrain
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IMAGINATIVE TECHNOLOGY

Full hybrid powertrain with 3.5-liter V6 Dual VVT-i gas engine
The LS 500h’s Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System combines a 3.5-liter V6 Dual VVT-i gas engine with two electric motors, together delivering a total output of 354hp. The engine makes optimal use of Dual VVT-i (intelligent variable valve-timing), with timing precisely gauged in line with driving conditions, helping to secure high torque at all engine speeds. Measures to reduce friction losses and thus improve engine efficiency include the adoption of narrow, lightweight roller rocker arms and low-friction timing chains, while D-4S direct fuel injection helps create optimum combustion conditions, contributing to enhanced fuel economy.

Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System
The new LS 500h is equipped with Lexus’ Multi Stage Hybrid System, a breakthrough technology that enriches the hybrid powertrain performance experience and is also seen on the all-new LC. The system adds a four-stage shifting device to the Lexus Hybrid Drive combination of a 3.5-liter V6 gas engine and two electric motors. The result is more direct response to driver inputs while maintaining the characteristic smoothness and efficiency for which Lexus hybrids are renowned.

In a conventional full hybrid vehicle, engine output is boosted by the electric motor via a reduction gear, but with the new Multi Stage Hybrid System the power from the V6 engine and the hybrid battery can be amplified by the four-stage shifting device, allowing much greater drive power to be generated when accelerating from stationary and achieving a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds.

The design of the system places the multi-stage shift unit immediately behind the power split device, on an axis aligned with the engine crankshaft. Although the unit has four speeds, the D range has a simulated shift control pattern that delivers the feel of driving with a 10-speed gearbox. As vehicle speed rises, engine speed increases with a linear, direct and continuous acceleration feel, free from the “rubber band” effect witnessed in some continuously variable transmissions. In the 10th gear range, the CVT control allows for high-speed cruising at lower engine revs for quiet, smooth and fuel-efficient performance.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Drivetrain
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The transmission further benefits from an improved version of the artificial intelligence shift control found in conventional automatics. This enables intelligent, optimum gear selection to be made in line with driving conditions and driver inputs, for example when going up or downhill. By reading the vehicle’s acceleration, deceleration and lateral G trajectories, the system can adjust gear shifts to suit the driver’s style and behavior, without the driver having to select a different drive mode to get the kind of performance they want from the transmission.

Thanks to the Multi Stage Hybrid System’s design, the driver is able to take advantage of an M mode to select and hold gears manually, using paddle shifts mounted behind the steering wheel – a function not previously available on a Lexus hybrid. Thanks to the coordinated control of the Power Split Device and the gear shifting mechanism, the gear shift will start instantaneously with the computer receiving the signal from the paddle shift, giving an exceptionally quick response.

Lithium-ion hybrid battery
The LS 500h is fitted with a compact, lightweight, lithium-ion hybrid battery. It is 20 percent smaller than the nickel-metal hydride unit featured in the current Lexus LS 600h, yet has a higher power density. Using lithium-ion technology has also reduced the component’s weight, helping reduce the car’s overall mass, thus supporting overall fuel economy, emissions performance and handling balance.

It is the first Lexus hybrid battery to feature a satellite construction design, in which the cell voltage monitoring function has been made separate from the battery ECU. This allows for efficient use of what would otherwise be empty space inside the battery pack to house the wiring harness and battery cooling blower, thus reducing the unit’s overall dimensions. The cooling blower itself has been made more powerful and thinner in size.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Interior
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LUXURY INTERIOR INSPIRED BY OMOTENASHI
Omotenashi, the Japanese concept of hospitality, is a common thread that has run through all LS models. In the context of a luxury automobile, it means taking care of the driver and passengers, anticipating their needs, attending to their comfort and protecting them from hazards.

Takumi Craftsmanship
The quality, precision and pride in perfection that define Lexus’ Takumi craftsmanship are richly evident in the luxury detailing in the new LS, as befits a flagship sedan. Lexus has produced a unique aesthetic for the new LS which can be witnessed in elements such as the interior lighting and an exceptional attention to detail in the finish and appearance of everything you see and feel.

Inspired by Japanese culture and traditions
Natural woodwork and the application of sophisticated sliced wood and laser cutting technologies have been used to produce new interior finish options, including Art Wood/Organic, Art Wood/Herringbone and Laser Cut Special. The grain pattern of Art Wood is achieved by combining different color woods and is an original Lexus design, created using Takumi craftsmanship skills. The LS’ new cross grain finish is larger with sharper contrasts between light and dark, creating a more vibrant effect. The new Laser Cut Special trim emphasizes the contrast between precise metal lines and natural wood.

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h Is Further Proof That The Hybrids Are Taking Over High Resolution Interior
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Hand-pleated door trims were inspired by origami, the Japanese art of creating three-dimensional forms from a single piece of paper. The door panels were originally rendered in paper by a skilled fabric artisan. The finished three-dimensional pattern captures the Lexus “L” motif in its intricate and precise folds, conveying a different effect when seen in daylight or the cabin’s night-time illumination.

For the ornamentation panel, the aim was to express Lexus’ Time in Design philosophy. To achieve this, the team called on the skills of Kiriko artisan glassworkers who produced hand-carved designs that capture the contrast created by light and shadow. Through painstaking trial and error, a design was chosen that looks beautiful and sensual from any angle. Although fragile in appearance, the glass has been treated using reinforcement technology to ensure it is robust for use in a vehicle interior. The hand-carved design was reproduced using advanced glass production technology, which precisely scans and digitizes tens of thousands of facets. In the next step the glass ornamentation undergoes a series of treatments such as polishing and strengthening conducted by specialized Japanese Takumi craftsmen.

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