2011 Lexus CT 200h
Given the direction competitors including Infiniti, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi are taking, it wasn't a bad idea. What it was, though, was a rush to market. Critics quickly derided the HS 250h as a Prius in a fancy suit, with a designer price tag to match. Sales flat-lined pretty much out of the gate, while the third-generation Prius got all the glory, what with nearly as many amenities, far better fuel economy, and a much better price.
2011 Lexus CT 200H Front View
The Lexus CT 200h, on paper, is the car the HS 250h should've been: a proper luxury car with real hybrid credentials, not a mechanical compromise with an uncompromising price tag. At face value, the CT 200h is a much more attractive offering than the HS 250h, literally and metaphorically. Under the surface, it appears to be a combination of the best attributes of the Prius and HS 250h.
2011 Lexus CT 200H Front Three Quarter
The CT 200h is built on a "highly modified existing platform," which appears to be Lexus PR-speak for the HS 250h platform, if the components are any indication. Both ride on a MacPherson strut front suspension and a double-wishbone rear suspension not shared with the Prius, have similar dimensions, and will be built on the same production line at Toyota's Kyushu plant, next to the Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUV. Lexus promises, though, that the CT 200h's suspension has been thoroughly revamped with lightweight and low-friction components to improve handling and efficiency.
Where the CT 200h and HS 250h depart significantly is under the hood. Though often chided as a tarted-up Prius, the HS 250h actually derived its powertrain from the Toyota Camry Hybrid, sourcing its larger 2.4-liter engine to compensate for the HS 250h's portlier curb weight. The CT 200h, though, weighs about the same as a Prius -- some 600 pounds less than the HS 250h -- and therefore sources the Prius' even more frugal 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with its variable valve-timing and its 98 horsepower. Under the hood of a Prius, it makes 105 lb-ft of torque, but Lexus hasn't announced torque numbers for the CT 200h yet.
The magic, of course, is in the hybrid drivetrain. Here, too, the CT 200h more closely resembles the Prius in sourcing its 60-kilowatt electric motor, good for 80 horsepower and 152 lb-ft of torque. Together, Lexus puts peak output at 134 horsepower, just like the Prius. Power is fed from a 27-kilowatt battery stashed under the cargo floor and ahead of the rear axle for optimal weight balance. Power, regardless of the source, goes to the front wheels through a CVT automatic. Should it come from the battery only, Lexus says the CT 200h can travel up to one mile at up to 28 mph on the electric motor alone, which can also act as a generator to recapture braking energy to replenish the battery.
2011 Lexus CT 200H Headlight
Altogether, Lexus says the CT 200h will run to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds, or about the same as a Prius. That is, of course, more than a second slower than the HS 250h, owing to the HS 250h's larger engine and its 187 total horsepower. What the CT 200h gives up in performance, though, it makes up in fuel economy. Lexus estimates 42 mpg combined, which is significantly better than the HS 250h's 35 mpg combined and not that far off the Prius' 50 mpg combined. The real differentiator, though, is in the software. Lexus says the CT 200h's drivetrain will be smoother and more refined than the other two.
Furthering that goal is a new driving mode selector parsed into two "driving moods," Relaxing and Dynamic. "Relaxing" covers the first three driving modes, including EV, ECO, and Normal. Normal, of course, is self-explanatory, with ECO, predictably, muting driver inputs and the power of the climate control system. EV mode, as you might expect, restricts the powertrain to the battery and electric motor only for low-speed city driving, relegating the gasoline engine to generator duty once the battery is depleted. Emphasis in all these modes is on ride comfort, powertrain smoothness, and Noise/Vibration/Handling.
If you're in a "Dynamic" mood, switch the drive mode over to its last setting, Sport. Free of the ice cap-saving nannies, the CT 200h's throttle and steering response sharpen up while the gauges dissolve from a soothing blue color to a sporty red and the Hybrid Power Indicator becomes a tachometer. Meanwhile, the traction and stability control are put on light duty so you can have a bit of fun. There isn't any apparent effect on the suspension or handling.
2011 Lexus CT 200H Rear View Static
That's not to say that the suspension doesn't have a trick or two up its sleeve. Lexus wants buyers to think of this car as a sporty hybrid, so the suspension tuning is biased towards more aggressive driving on its 17-inch wheels. The most interesting aspect of the design, though, is the new Lateral Performance Damper System. Rather than affix rigid braces between the front strut towers and the rear suspension mounts, Lexus has fitted a damper in each location, similar to the shock absorbers hiding behind your wheels. Though not as firm as solid braces, the dampers resist chassis flex and soak up vibrations from the road for a smoother ride.
2011 Lexus CT 200H Front View Static
Aiding the suspension's mission is a chassis made of high-strength steel and a hood, tailgate, and bumper reinforcements made of aluminum. They ride on the aforementioned lightened suspension components, and, taking it to the nth degree, Lexus went so far as to hollow out the brake pedal to save weight. The stereo, meanwhile, uses speakers made with bamboo charcoal resin and bamboo fibers in the diaphragms that are claimed to be 10- to 15-percent lighter and 20-percent stiffer than traditional speakers.
Complementing the weight savings are a host of aerodynamics and power-usage tweaks to further improve efficiency. The air conditioning and power steering are both driven by electric motors and most of the exterior lighting comes from LEDs, including the headlights if you check that option box. The body, meanwhile, is sculpted to smooth out airflow as much as possible and includes underbody panels to reduce drag, and a very un-Lexus spoiler on the hatch. The car slips through the air with an impressive 0.29 coefficient of drag, which nonetheless tails the Prius at 0.25 and the HS 250h at 0.27, but bests its doppelganger, the Mazda3 hatch, at 0.31.
2011 Lexus CT 200H Cockpit
You see it too, right? The Mazda3-hatch-with-a-Lexus-IS-nose look? It's more than skin-deep. The CT 200h is nearly identical in width to the Mazda3, slightly shorter in height, and 7 inches shorter in length. The wheelbase is an inch-and-a-half shorter and the curb weight is nearly identical. Though the CT 200h easily bests the Mazda's fuel economy, the Mazda is a second quicker to 60 mph and edges out the Lexus in interior space with more head, hip, and shoulder room in front and rear, and 3.5 inches more rear-seat legroom. In fact, the CT 200h also has slightly less interior space all around than either the HS 250h or the Prius. And while the CT 200h has more cargo space with the seats up than the HS 250h with 14.3 cubic-feet, it can't match the longer Mazda3 or the even more spacious Prius.
What some may call a dearth of interior space, Lexus calls a sport-oriented cockpit. The company spent a great deal of time working on the driver's seat, going so far as to lower the hood for better a better view from the driver's seat with its low H-point. Both steering wheel and pedal angles were optimized for sporty driving, and the CT 200h gets thickly bolstered seats to keep you planted. Driver amenities include adaptive cruise control, an optional back-up camera, standard traction and stability control, and a Pre-Collision Safety system that warns you of an impending collision and prepares the brakes and seatbelts.
2011 Lexus CT 200H Center Console
Other nifty features include a hard-drive-based navigation system with 40 gigabytes of onboard storage and a voice recognition system that understands English, French, and Spanish. A six-speaker stereo is standard, as are USB and auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth, and steering wheel controls. An optional premium stereo adds a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, 10 speakers and an eight-channel amplifier that's tuned for the quieter environment of a hybrid interior and uses less power than similar systems.
Following its production debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show at the end of September, the Lexus CT 200h will enter production in late 2010 before going on sale in early 2011, likely as a 2011 model. Pricing hasn't been announced, but Lexus says the car was designed with a younger, hipper European audience in mind, one that appreciates sportiness, practicality, and the environment. The company also says the CT 200h will be the new entry point for the Lexus brand, making it likely that the starting price will fall below the HS 250h's $35,525 entry point after delivery charges when it goes on sale in the U.S.
|2011 Lexus CT 200h|
2011 Lexus CT 200h
|2011 Lexus CT 200h|
2011 Lexus CT 200h
|2011 Lexus CT 200h|