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Lexus is taking aim at Tesla with new hybrid sedan

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Lexus's newest hybrid sedan is aimed squarely at Mercedes-Benz and Tesla.

[NEW YORK] Lexus's newest hybrid sedan is aimed squarely at Mercedes-Benz and Tesla.

The LS 500h that debuted Tuesday at the Geneva Motor Show is an electric- and gasoline-fueled version of Lexus's flagship sedan.

But where Tesla's US$70,000 Model S comes with an all-electric engine system, and the Mercedes S Class 550e hybrid boasts a 436-horsepower V6 engine and plug-in hybrid electric motor, the Lexus hybrid has a V6 gasoline engine paired with two electric motors, a small lithium-ion battery, and the equivalent of 354 horsepower on a multi-stage hybrid transmission that acts like a 10-speed gearbox. It will go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds.

Lexus hasn't released the price, but expect it to compete directly with the Model S at a base level and go near US$90,000 on the top end.

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The LS 500h looks identical to the standard version, which made its world premiere at this year's Detroit Auto Show and comes in a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 gasoline engine.

The hybrid is a strong step forward for the Toyota-owned luxury brand, which has struggled in recent years with over-styled and under-performing vehicles.

The new LS 500 and accompanying LC ranges are the brand's best-looking offerings in a decade or more. They still have the unique, Lexus-style gaping front grille, but it's been paired down and pinched into more of a refined aesthetic. What's more, the 123-inch wheelbase of the new LS is 1.3 inches longer than on the current long wheelbase LS 600h L.

Long, sweeping lines from front to rear evoke the feel of a soft breeze over the coupe-like profile. The rear tail lights use high-def red lines that form a sharp corner at each end, providing an edge to counter the curves.

They're not as sleek as the Tesla Model S, but they are arguably just as attractive.  Inside, Lexus has used the concept of omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality, to define the environment.

Front and rear seats have power adjustment, heating, cooling, and massage functions. Plus there is a leg-extending ottoman option for the rear seats.

Wood grain and laser-cut detailing runs throughout, with new interior finish options including "art wood/organic," "art wood/herringbone," and "laser cut special." The 2018 Lexus LS sedan goes on sale late this year, with the hybrid rolling out soon after.