I'm sensing a shift in how we're going to view hybrids. Putting a hybrid system into a new performance coupe means there's much more to the genre than cutting MPG. It has always been the case that you could steer the system towards power rather than frugality. One of the problems with that, however, was trying to match transmission response to the greater output of power.
Basically you risked, and mostly got, a time lag, plus lots of boom as your Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) struggled to catch up.
Lexus appear to have mastered that with the LC500h hybrid version of their stunning looking LC performance coupé. I saw it in Detroit and thought it exceptional to look at. I saw it in The Hague and I think it might be exceptional in other ways.
I'm prompted to say that because this front-engined and rear-wheel driven coupe has what they call a Multi-Stage Hybrid system. I spent a lot of time listening and talking to experts and I think it all comes down to this.
Up to now you had a CVT trying to bite off more response to engine/battery power than it could chew in one go. Now they have sort of sliced up the way the power is handled from the 295bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and battery pack (total system output 354bhp).
There is now a 4spd transmission which creates instant bite-size chunks of power as well as a CVT system that's programmed to create the sensation of six gear changes. Because all these are matched, through the central power control technology, in effect you get a 10-speed gearbox around a continuously variable transmission. That is something. Gear-change times (via magnesium alloy paddles behind the steering wheel) closely match those of dual-clutch automatics.
The result is much faster reaction and acceleration - 0-100kmh in around five seconds, they claim. And if you absolutely floor it from the start you will spin the rear wheels and burn rubber such is the deluge of power it instantly transmits.
The car will get here late next spring and I reckon will cost from €110,000. There will be a 5.0 V8 version too (467bhp) which is what we saw in Detroit. That engine is in the RC F and GS F too. But the hybrid will sell best. Key rivals include the BMW 6-series, Jaguar F-TYPE, Porsche 911, Maserati GT etc.
They were five years developing the new GA-L platform and we'll see it in lots of other models. The coupe is 4,760mm long, 1,920mm wide, 1,345mm tall with a 2,870mm wheelbase.
A new lightweight electric motor and lithium-ion batteries mean the addition of the new 4spd box maintains weight in line with existing hybrids.
Lexus says the LC line-up marks the beginning of a new phase for the brand with the multi-stage hybrid technology applicable to any engine. I think there's a lot more. I think Lexus are only showing us part of what they have. This is game-changing stuff.
Also on view was the new LF-FC fuel cell flagship which we'll see by 2020.