The Hybrids of Lexus: A smooth, efficient (and powerful) drive to the future

In 1989, Lexus redefined the way people saw (and made) luxury cars. Less than two decades later, in 2007, Lexus redefined hybrid luxury cars, thanks to the ground-breaking LS 600h. Not only was the LS 600h the world’s first V8-powered hybrid sedan, it was also the first hybrid that could accelerate as strongly as pure petrol-engine sports cars with its 5.5-second 0-100-km/h acceleration time—astounding for a 2.5-ton automobile. And this was 14 years ago.  

Lexus launched the world’s first self-charging luxury hybrid in 2004. Today, the majority of luxury self-charging hybrids on the road are Lexus. With almost two million of Lexus’ luxury hybrids sold globally, Lexus is the only premium brand with over 15 years of experience in sales and servicing of hybrid cars. It has the widest range of self-charging hybrids available, with five different models ranging from compact to SUV, sedans and coupés in the Philippines.

Maximizing fuel efficiency and lowering emissions was the goal, and sophisticated hybrid technology—which combined motive power from the gasoline engine and the electric motor, which are proportionally engaged depending on driving conditions—became available to the public through mass production. Clever engineering and out-of-the-box thinking also led to other innovations that reduce energy loss. For example, the engine automatically shuts off when the vehicle is at a standstill; and energy is regenerated by converting the vehicle’s kinetic energy into electrical energy during deceleration and braking.

A timeline of world-leading green technology

Hybrid technology would continue to develop through the years, and the major milestones would soon follow. In 2005, it expanded use of this system to power-demanding SUVs—the Lexus RX 400h being the first in the genre.

Following the debut of the RX 400h, Lexus gradually grew its hybrid lineup by launching the first luxury hybrid sedan, the GS 450h in 2006, and in 2007 the aforementioned LS 600h, the most powerful hybrid luxury sedan of the time. In 2009, the HS 250h was introduced, followed by the first luxury hybrid compact, the CT 200h, in 2011.

The CT 200h compact hatchback was actually the first hybrid Lexus in the Philippines. I got to drive one to Baguio and back in 2012 and it proved to be a highly spirited yet comfortable and fuel-efficient drive, the hatchback body style proving to be very versatile in carrying a weekend’s worth of gear for me and some Philippine STAR colleagues.   

The ES 300h midsize luxury sedan was launched in 2012, then the compact IS 300h and GS 300h midsize sport sedan in 2013, and the first luxury midsize crossover, the NX 300h, in 2014. The first luxury hybrid sports coupe, the RC 300h, was launched globally at the end of 2015.

Fast forward to 2016 and Lexus International would announce that it has sold over one million hybrid vehicles since the world’s first luxury hybrid vehicle, the RX 400h, went on sale in April 2005. Today, Lexus sells 10 hybrid models and is the luxury brand with the widest hybrid lineup.

Luxury green motoring in the Philippines—clean yet exciting

Today, the LS, IS, RX, and NX hybrid variants are available locally. The LS 500h flagship model is equipped with the new Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System, a technology that transforms the performance and driving appeal of hybrids, delivering sporty responsiveness and more rewarding, linear acceleration, particularly when moving off from stationary.

The sensational new IS 300 Hybrid Premier and the IS 300 Hybrid sport sedans were born and bred at the Shimoyama Technical Center —where the toughest and most challenging roads in the world have been recreated. The outcome was an IS lineup that is agile and scintillating. The IS 300h—while boasting hybrid technology—thoroughly embodies the Lexus DNA.

The RX 450h, the pioneer in luxury SUVs, makes a bold and completely new statement in this segment while building on and staying true to the pioneering values of previous hybrid RX generations.

The NX 300h also features the Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System bringing a new level of technology and a more sporting driving experience to a Lexus crossover.

The cutting edge of Hybrid Drive Technology

Lexus’s Multi Stage Hybrid System was developed with opposing goals in mind: to create a hybrid with a more sporting and engaging driving experience by closely aligning engine speed with throttle inputs, and to achieve the best possible balance of power and fuel consumption.

The new Multi Stage Hybrid System marries the elements of a traditional full hybrid powertrain―usually a powerful petrol engine, a powerful electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack―to an automatic gearbox mounted at the rear of the hybrid transmission. The electric motor generates better acceleration feel than a conventional engine, and adding physical gears more closely aligns engine speed with the driver’s inputs. The result is a much more direct connection between the accelerator pedal and vehicle acceleration, resulting in blistering zero-to-100 km/h times.

The Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System also features ‘M’ Mode, which gives drivers the ability to initiate direct and responsive gear shifts for the most exciting and inspiring drive yet from a Lexus hybrid. A new lightweight and compact electric motor and a lithium-ion battery offset the weight of the added automatic transmission, and so the Multi Stage Hybrid System weighs the same as the current hybrid powertrain―an amazing feat of engineering.

The future of Lexus Hybrid

Lexus has positioned Hybrid Drive as its key technology in addressing environmental issues in the 21st century, and it intends to enhance its hybrid lineup while encouraging the widespread use of hybrids. Lexus’s core vehicle technology will help reduce CO2 emissions while providing a pleasurable driving experience. Ambitious goals have been set by Lexus for 2050, and even more Lexus models will be available with hybrid technology before then—helping pave the way for a greener future.

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