Toyota’s latest luxury car is powered by the world’s first commercially mass produced hybrid system that’s especially designed for rear-wheel drive vehicles.

The Japanese automaker said Thursday the Lexus GS450h, powered by an electric motor and gasoline engine, will go on sale in North America and Japan in April and in Europe in May.

Toyota Motor Corp., which leads the world in the new market for energy-efficient hybrid cars, is targeting global sales of 5,700 vehicles this year — 2,000 vehicles in North America, another 2,000 in Europe, 1,500 in Japan and 200 elsewhere.

Toyota initially developed its hybrid system for the front-wheel drive Prius compact car, and some design changes were needed to adapt it for the Lexus GS450h, which Toyota said gets an average of 34 miles a gallon.

This latest hybrid debunks the image that ecological vehicles can’t zip around powerfully like sports cars, company officials said.

The new Lexus has a 3.5 liter engine but delivers the driving sensation of a 4.5 liter engine on a standard vehicle as well as the mileage of an equivalent model with a 2 liter engine, they said.


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