History of Lexus transmissions

The shift lever may be a simple device that helps connect car and driver, but beneath the gate lies complex mechanicals and technology that form the transmission system of your vehicle.

Without such a transmission it would not be possible for the engine or motor to transfer torque to the wheels – and there is little fun to be derived from a stationary car. What’s more, the transmission plays a vital role in generating the overall driving experience.

In view of these facts, we felt that a comprehensive, fact-filled post on the subject of transmissions was in order. Scroll down to discover what transmission types have been fitted to UK-specification Lexus models and how have these developed over the years.

Lexus Manual transmissions

The only model Lexus UK has ever specified with a manual transmission has been the IS saloon. A six-speed manual gearbox was standard equipment for all first-generation IS models, a feature that was unique within the compact executive car class at the time of its launch.

All derivatives of the second-generation IS were also equipped with a manual transmission as standard until the petrol-powered IS 250 became an automatic-only model from the 2011 model year onwards. Diesel models were only ever available with manual transmissions.

Lexus transmissions IS 200

MODELYEARGEARBOXGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
IS 2001999>J1606Only car in class with six-speed gearbox
IS 2502005>RA626Triple-synchro mechanism from first to third
IS 220d2006>RA636Rearward driveline developed from LS 430
IS 200d2011>RA636Closely related to RA62 in IS 250

Automatic transmissions – saloon

The vast majority of Lexus models that have ever been produced feature a self-shifting gearbox of one kind or another. Before the introduction of Lexus Hybrid Drive and its associated E-CVT technology, that meant the application of traditional torque converter type automatic transmissions.

The variety within this field of transmissions is astounding, yet it is possible to apply a couple of broad facts across the entire range. First, all of these automatic transmissions were developed and produced by partner Aisin AW in Japan. All variations come under the same ‘A’ family umbrella but use additional coding to differentiate specific variations. These include the number of gears and whether the unit is designed for rear- or all-wheel drivetrains.

LS400 gearbox

MODELYEARGEARBOXGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
IS 2001999>A45DE4‘Intelligent’ technology learns driver’s style
IS 3002001>A650E5E-shift push-button gearchange system
IS 2502005>A960E6Sequential manual mode via paddle controls
IS F2008>AA80E8Lock-up technology from second gear onwards
IS 2502013>A960E6Faster shift speeds and downshift throttle blips
IS 200t2015>AA81E8First Lexus saloon to shift in line with G-forces
MODELYEARGEARBOXGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
GS 3001993>A341E4Electronic control, shared with the Lexus LS 400
GS 3001998>A650E5Shift time reduced by 46% over outgoing A341E
GS 4302001>A650E5Internals uprated to cope with torque of V8
GS 3002005>A760E6Lock-up control from third through sixth
GS 4302005>A761E6AI-SHIFT alters gears to match road and driver
GS 4602008>AA80E8Smaller and lighter than outgoing A761E
GS 2502012>A960E6Features sequential manual shift mode
GS F2016>AA80E8Shifts in line with G-force and throttle data
MODELYEARGEARBOXGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
LS 4001990>A341E4Reduces torque between gears for smoothness
LS 4001995>A340E4Revised gearing, more efficient torque converter
LS 4001998>A650E5Lock-up allowed in low gears, gate-type lever
LS 4302000>A650E5Automatic selection of lower gears downhill
LS 4302003>A761E6Closer ratios, wider range, sequential shift mode
LS 4602007>AA80E8World’s first eight-speed automatic transmission

Automatic transmissions – coupe/convertible

SC 430 transmission

MODELYEARGEARBOXGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
IS 250C2009>A960E6Faster gear changes in sequential mode
MODELYEARGEARBOXGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
SC 4302001>A650E5Line pressure optimised to engine output
SC 4302005>A761E6Closer ratios, wider range, sequential shift mode
MODELYEARGEARBOXGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
RC 200t2016>AA81E8Directly derived from unit in RC F
RC F2014>AA80E8Operates in five driver-selectable modes

Automatic transmissions – SUV

RX 300 transmission

MODELYEARTrANSAXLEGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
NX 200t2015>U661F6Communicates with engine to calculate torque
MODELYEARTRANSAXLEGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
RX 3002000>U140F4Transaxle with integrated front/centre diff
RX 3002003>U151F5Multi-mode system offers sequential changes
RX 3502006>U151F5New shift control logic reduces gear change times
RX 200t2016>U661E6Reduced-friction clutch and thrust bearings

Automated sequential gearbox

As you might expect of a Lexus hypercar, the LFA’s automated sequential gearbox (ASG) is unique and unrelated to any previous Lexus model. It uses both an electric motor and advanced hydraulics to deliver the pressure and high fluid volumes needed to actuate the transmission and concentric clutch slave cylinder. Gearchange times are adjustable in seven stages – from 0.2 seconds for intense track work to 1.0 second for smooth cruising.

LFA transmission

MODELYEARGEARBOXGEARSDEFINING FEATURES
LFA2011>RB60M6Advanced electro-hydraulic actuation

Electronically-controlled continuously variable transmissions

Electronically controlled continuously variable transmissions (E-CVT) offer an infinite number of gears within a broad range of ratios, and simultaneously handle inputs coming from the petrol engine and electric motor.

Lexus E-CVT and hybrid

The intelligence of E-CVT is evident by the fact that it selects the optimal – that is, most efficient – gear ratio for any situation by constantly analysing vehicle speed, road conditions, engine power and driver input. When that split-second passes, it moves imperceptibly to the next calculated ratio through a clever combination of planetary gears.

In order to increase the functional range of E-CVT, powerful GS 450h and LS 600h models use an additional two-stage speed reduction device (see image below) behind the output shaft of the electric motor, which allows the vehicle to offer rapid acceleration, relaxed high-speed cruising and higher top speeds. This device is directly related to the Multi Stage Hybrid system that will be found in the new Lexus LC 500h.

GS 450h transmission

Below we have defined each E-CVT as either a gearbox or transaxle. Essentially, transaxle transmissions transfer torque from one direction to another, such as from the crankshaft to the front wheels in front- and four-wheel drive models. A traditional gearbox, on the other hand, usually follows the same longitudinal direction and directs torque to a separate rear differential.

MODELYEARTransAXLEDEFINING FEATURES
CT 200h2011>P410Lightweight casing similar in size to conventional gearbox
MODELYEARGEARBOXDEFINING FEATURES
IS 300h2013>L210Sequential shift function via steering wheel paddles
MODELYEARGEARBOXDEFINING FEATURES
GS 450h2006>L110World-first E-CVT with sequential shift function
GS 450h2012>L110Two-stage speed reduction gears for optimal performance
GS 300h2013>L210Four selectable drive modes, including EV mode
MODELYEARGEARBOXDEFINING FEATURES
RC 300h2016>L210Six-step sequential gearchange function with paddles
MODELYEARGEARBOXDEFINING FEATURES
LS 600H2007>L110FTwo-stage speed reduction gears for optimal performance
MODELYEARTransAXLEDEFINING FEATURES
NX 300h2014>P314Torque control reduces pitching motion when off-road
NX 300h2014>Q211Rear traction motor with transaxle assembly
MODELYEART’AXLEDEFINING FEATURES
RX 400h2005>P310Ball bearings and low viscosity oil reduce friction 30%
RX 400h2005>Q211Rear traction motor with transaxle assembly
RX 450h2009>P313First adoption of AI-SHIFT control on hybrid vehicle
RX 450h2009>Q211Rear traction motor with transaxle assembly
RX 450h2016>P313New water-cooled transmission oil cooler
RX 450h2016>Q211Rear traction motor with transaxle assembly

Multi Stage Hybrid transmission

2016.02.08

The latest transmission development from Lexus is the Multi Stage Hybrid drive system, which will make its debut in the new Lexus LC 500h. It features all the elements of a traditional full hybrid powertrain, including a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, a powerful electric motor and a lithium-ion battery, together with a four-speed automatic gearbox, mounted at the rear of the hybrid transmission.

Multi Stage Hybrid will provide Lexus with its first ‘M’ transmission mode on a full hybrid vehicle, allowing the driver to make direct and responsive gear changes and enjoy the most sporting and engaging drive yet from a Lexus hybrid.

To learn more about how Multi Stage Hybrid drive works, watch the video below.

Learn more: History of Lexus vehicles

16 comments

    1. Hello. Thanks for commenting. RX 450h features an E-CVT, this is an intelligent transmission that has an infinite number of gear ratios at its disposal. By constantly analysing vehicle speed, road conditions, engine power and driver input, it selects the optimal (most efficient) gear ratio for that precise moment. For this reason we are unable to provide a rev range. When it is safe to do so and our showrooms are open again, we would advise you to test drive the RX 450h to experience the transmission for yourself. Thank you.

    1. Hello Mohammed,
      Thanks for contacting us. We would recommend getting in touch with Lexus in your region for further help with your query.
      Thanks.

    1. Hello S,
      Thank you for your comment.
      If you could please provide us with your UK registration, we will then be able to look into this for you.
      Thanks.

  1. Hey! Thanks for the detailed explanation!

    I watched some videos that talked about Toyota introducing a new CVT enhancement where it adds a “launch gear” into the CVT to make the vehicle more efficient and responsive when accelerating from stop. I’m curious what models have that kind of CVT? Specifically, I’m curious if the 2021 RX 450h is equipped with this kind of transmission.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Daryl,

      Our understanding is that the direct shift CVT is available on some non-hybrid models in other markets. Here in the UK, this transmission is not available. We recommend contacting Lexus in your region for more information.

      Thanks

    1. Hello Matthew,
      Thank you for getting in touch.
      We would recommend contacting Lexus in your region for further help with this.
      Thanks.

    1. Hello Aleksey,
      Thanks for contacting us. We would recommend getting in touch with Lexus in your region for further help with your query.
      Thanks.

    1. Hello Kal,
      Thanks for contacting us.
      The transmission in a UK specification 2011 RX 350 is a 6 speed automatic.
      However, we would recommend contacting Lexus in your region for more specific information.
      Thanks.

  2. Good Day

    My IS250 Lately started with shifting problems almost like have this rubber band effect when engaging. I contacted Lexus and they referred me to transmission repair sites as replacing the whole one is too expensive for old car but the repair site asked if its a BE or BF and i only know that its the A960E. What are they referring to with these two derivative

    1. Hello Deon,
      Thank you for getting in touch with us.
      We are only able to advise on UK specification Lexus vehicles.
      Please contact Lexus in your region for further advice on this.
      Thanks.

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