Described by the Japanese brand as signalling “the next phase in the evolution of Lexus”, the LC500h is front-engined and rear-wheel drive, and is said to “deliver the sharpest and most refined drive yet from a full hybrid”.
The car is powered by a so-called Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System. The new hybrid powertrain mates a 295bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with a four-speed transmission, and an electric motor that utilises an infinitely variable CVT transmission, which is programmed to deliver six physical gearchange sensations to the driver. Those sensations are matched to the engine's revs to deliver instant acceleration - unlike on current CVT systems. The two systems combine to create, in effect, a 10-speed set-up. The gearchange times of the system are also said to match those of a dual-clutch automatic, but it is said to be more compact and lighter. Total system output is rated as 354bhp, meaning the LC500h can reach 62mph in less than five seconds.
Lexus Europe boss Alain Uyttenhoven said: "The engineers promise me that this will be a hybrid that will spin its wheels - even the LC's 21-inch ones - on dry asphalt. This is a hybrid system with instant torque and drivability."
The new model measures 4760mm long by 1920mm wide, with a height of 1345mm and a wheelbase of 2870mm, and sits as standard on 20-inch alloy wheels, although 21-inch rims are also available. Those dimensions make it longer, wider and lower than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé. Lexus says that despite the hybrid system’s extra technology, it weighs no more than the firm’s current hybrid set-up because of the use of its lightweight electric motor and lithium-ion batteries.
Like the LC500, the 2+2 interior of the LC500h sits on Lexus’s new GA-L platform, which features high-strength steel and aluminium suspension components to reduce weight, as well as a multi-link front suspension system. Other weight-saving tech includes the use of aluminium mounted on a carbonfibre structure in the bonnet and wings, and carbonfibre in the roof.
The car’s sporty credentials are underlined by a driver-focused interior, which takes inspiration from the Lexus LFA supercar. Highlights include having all of the major controls cited around the driver, who is sat as low and centrally as possible. Chief engineer Koji Sato revealed that the seating position was modelled on that of the Porsche Cayman. Gearshifts are via magnesium alloy paddleshifts located behind the steering wheel, while the instrument binnacle is a faithful interpretation of that in the LFA.
Among the technology included with the car is a pre-crash safety system, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and automatic high-beam assistance.
The LC500 is powered by the same naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine that is already used in the RC F and GS F. The engine produces 467bhp and 389lb ft of torque - enough to get the LC500 to 60mph in less than 4.5 seconds. Drive is sent to the rear wheels through a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
Lexus says the launch of the LC line-up "marks the beginning of a new phase for the Lexus brand, with a shift in engineering processes and design ideologies".
Uyttenhoven has also confirmed that a convertible LC is possible, saying: "Some people like convertibles - I'm aware of that. But that's all I will say now".
Meanwhile Sato also confirmed the hybrid system could handle more torque if Lexus were to produce a faster 'F' version of the car. "Multi-stage hybrid could be applied to any engine, and has more torque capacity for this transmission if we choose," he said.
Uyttenhoven admitted that both the hybrid or V8-powered versions of the LC could be produced in 'F' trim, saying: "I would love to go further. I could imagine a faster hybrid or V8 model of the LC. Both have appeal - a super-performance hybrid could have great brand benefits, but I guess most hearts would lean towards working on the V8."
The LC is based on 2012's LF-LC concept and has been in development since then, and although Lexus has yet to confirm the LC's pricing - only saying that it will sit between the £59,430 BMW 6 Series and the £76,412 Porsche 911 Carrera - order books for both the LC500 and LC500h will open next spring. Lexus is predicting that 70% of LC sales will be taken by the US market, where the V8-engined LC500 is likely to be the bigger seller.
Lexus and Toyota boss Akio Toyoda has previously said he sees the LC range as embodying the firm's brand transformation, especially through its expression of styling and performance.