2011 Lexus CT 200h PremiumPosted on November 2nd, 2011
Compact hybrid sedan is eco-friendly
By Nina RussinThe Lexus CT 200h is the second pure hybrid to enter the Lexus family, following the HS 250h. It is obvious from first glance that product planners were targeting a younger, more image conscious audience with the CT. Its edgy styling is reminiscent of some Scion models.
Like the HS, there is a focus on sustainability which extends beyond the car’s fuel-thrifty powertrain. Eighty percent of the vehicle is recyclable. Recycle marks on the front, rear and tailgate trim make it easier to dismantle and recycle the car. A new interior fabric called NuLuxe resembles leather, but is actually made from recyclable materials.
Power comes from a four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine which operates in concert with two electric motors: an 80 horsepower drive motor and a second motor which triggers the engine starter and functions as a generator to recharge the battery pack. Together the gasoline engine and electric motors yield 134 horsepower. The CT 200h accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 9.8 seconds.
Buyers can choose between a standard and premium grade. Pricing for the premium grade (tested) begins at $30,900 excluding an $875 delivery fee. Options on the test car include a premium audio upgrade which also adds an electro-chromic rearview mirror ($1125), LED headlamps ($1215), leather seating ($1330), a cargo net ($75) and illuminated door sills ($299), bringing the price as tested to $35,819.
Head-turning exteriorI first drove the CT 200h at a media program in Palm Springs last year. At the time, I found the car’s exterior so appealing that I was concerned about what the new compact sedan would mean for sales of the HS 250h. In my limited experience, buyers of hybrid cars want to be known as self-thinkers. They don’t want to blend into the crowd.
While I found the HS 250h styling a bit pallid, the CT 200h makes a bold statement about the person behind the wheel. It is youthful without being overly trendy. I believe it will withstand the test of time.
Refined hybrid technology
Both Toyota and Lexus have a long history of developing and perfecting gasoline electric hybrids, which benefits the end user. The hybrid synergy drive system is as bulletproof as any technology I’ve experienced. Taxi companies use Priuses in their fleets: need I say more?
Lexus has built upon this basic formula for its upscale audience by adding a unique sport-tuned suspension and four performance modes which modify throttle response according to the driver’s wishes. Normal mode delivers linear throttle response, while sport mode offers more dynamic acceleration. Eco mode adjusts the air conditioning settings and softens the throttle.
An exhaust heat recovery system speeds engine warm-up. This enables the engine to go into feedback mode faster after start-up, which significantly improves gas mileage in cold weather.
The CT 200h can operate in pure electric mode at low speeds for short distances. New for 2011 is a proximity notification system which warns pedestrians of the car’s approach with an audible signal.
A display in the gauge cluster lets the driver know if he is driving for fuel efficiency or performance. A separate light illuminates when the sedan is operating in pure electric mode.
Compact and maneuverable for city drivingI spent the past week behind the wheel of Lexus’ new compact hybrid in Phoenix. The sedan’s entry level price tag combined with its small footprint should put it on the consideration list for commuters in the market for an eco-friendly luxury car.
The five-door design gives the CT 200h a more versatile interior which will function for some buyers with active lifestyles. With the second-row seats folded flat, it’s possible to put a road bike inside the car. I was also impressed with the amount of legroom in the rear seats, considering the sedan’s small wheelbase.
Gasoline electric hybrids have the advantage of developing peak torque at low speeds which enhances acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into highway traffic. They are also ideal for stop-and-go driving, since the gasoline engine shuts off when the car is stopped at a traffic light. According to the EPA, the Lexus CT 200h averages 43 miles-per-gallon around town.
The electric power steering system saves weight under the hood as compared to a conventional hydraulic setup and also reduces parasitic power loss. A 36.8-foot turning circle makes it easy to maneuver in and out of parking spots on the street and perform the occasional U-turn.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone setup in the back. The compact double wishbone suspension is minimally intrusive to optimize space in the cargo area.
Standard 17-inch wheels with V rated tires give the CT 200h an ample footprint for high-speed driving. Since V-rated tires are relatively hard, buyers in four-season climates might want to consider a separate set of winter tires for the cold weather.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion. Regenerative braking recharges the battery pack on the go.
The sedan’s only drawback in city traffic is the large blind spots to the back of the vehicle created by its thick rear pillars. A backup camera is available as one of two options: within an electrochromic rearview mirror, or as part of the navigation package. I would strongly recommend one of the two for drivers who will plan to use the vehicle in congested urban areas.
Driver-focused interiorSince the CT 200h is marketed towards driving enthusiasts, it’s no surprise that the interior wraps around the driver in a manner similar to sports cars. The shift mechanism for the continuously variable transmission is similar to that in the Toyota Prius. A small lever on the instrument panel to the right of the steering wheel shifts the car between drive, reverse and neutral. “Park” is a separate button beneath the shift knob.
The electro-luminescent gauges are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions, as is the digital display in the center stack. Redundant audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.
The ten-way adjustable driver’s seat includes a power lumbar support, making it comfortable on longer trips. Standard dual-zone automatic climate control in combination with heated front seats keep both the driver and front passenger comfortable in temperature extremes.
The moonroof on the test car brings a welcome dose of ambient light into what is a rather dark interior. It makes a big difference for passengers in the second row. The four-door configuration eases access and egress to the second-row seats.
The cargo area is smaller than crossovers due to the sedan’s compact dimensions, but it is also versatile. The low lift-over height makes it easier to load large items in back. A tonneau cover conceals items in back from prying eyes.
The Lexus CT 200h comes with front, side, side curtain, driver’s and front passenger knee airbags. Other standard safety features include antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Lexus safety connect includes roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location and notification of police and EMTs if the car is involved in a serious collision.
The CT 200h is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A stylish compact hybrid sedan which is eco friendly and offers superior fuel economy. Despite its small footprint, the sedan’s cargo area is large enough to function for some buyers with active lifestyles.
Dislike: Large blind spots created by the sedan’s rear pillars.
Model: CT 200h Premium
Base price: $30,900
As tested: $35,819
Horsepower: 98 Hp @ 5200 rpm*
Torque: 105 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 9.8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 43/40 mpg city/highway.
Comment: *Net horsepower for the gasoline and electric motors is 134.
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