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New LS gets the most advanced hybrid drivetrain Lexus has ever developed

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Lexus is making big improvements to its hybrid flagship sedan to fend off competition from German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The hybrid version of the brand-new 2018 Lexus LS will be presented to the public in March during the Geneva Auto Show. Named LS 500h, the gasoline-electric model will serve as a more fuel efficient alternative to the standard, V6-powered LS 500.

Toyota’s luxury division has confirmed what we suspected all along — the LS 500h receives the same hybrid drivetrain as the LC 500h coupe. That means its main source of power is a 3.5-liter V6 engine rated at 295 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque that works jointly with a pair of electric motors.

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Together, the two power sources send 354 horses to the drive wheels via two transmissions that form what is known as a Multi-Stage Hybrid System in Lexus-speak. In layman’s terms, the engine shifts through both a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a four-speed automatic gearbox, a setup that provides up to 10 gear ratios. The system sounds complicated, and it is, but Lexus promises it effectively eliminates the rubber band-like feeling often associated with CVT-equipped cars while maximizing fuel mileage.

Lexus’ big hybrid sedan is equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack and it’s capable of driving on electricity alone for short distances at speeds of up to 87 mph. The Multi-Stage Hybrid System makes it quicker off the line than the outgoing model, too.

The only official picture of the LS 500h currently available suggests it looks just like the V6-powered LS 500 save for discreet “HYBRID” emblems in front of the rear wheels. The interior is also carried over from the 500, though the hybrid model likely receives a drivetrain-specific instrument cluster that provides key data such as how much electricity is left in the battery pack.

We’ll learn more about the 2018 Lexus LS 500h in the coming days, and we’ll be on location in Switzerland to bring you live images of it as soon as it’s unveiled. Like the non-hybrid LS, the 500h model will arrive in U.S. showrooms by the end of the year. Look for a pricing announcement before then.

Updated on 02/22/2017 by Ronan Glon: Added official technical specifications.