She Says, He Says: Lexus CT 200h

A Lexus Hybrid for the Fun of It

Palm Springs, Calif.

Barbara ? The evolution of a new vehicle category is always interesting to watch.? First a company creates a new type of vehicle ? for example an SUV, crossover or hybrid.

Soon after the new vehicle shows sales success other manufacturers suddenly create their own interpretations, and then the escalation begins.? More power, more luxury, more sportiness, more features, better styling?and the race is on.

Hybrids are immersed in this ?more? race now, and Lexus has taken the leading role in the movement with the introduction of its fifth hybrid, the CT 200h.

Bill ? With five distinctive hybrids in its lineup by the spring of 2011, Lexus advances its leadership in the segment.? The latest hybrid, the CT 200h, with the CT standing for Compact Touring, takes completely a different approach than the other hybrids offered by the luxury brand.

The CT takes many of its elements from the top selling Toyota Prius, but adds new levels of luxury, performance and handling not typical of vehicles in the segment.? Plus with pricing starting below $30,000 the CT also becomes the least expensive Lexus model offered.

Barbara ? As a five-door hatchback the CT 200h has a youthful European look. ?The exterior has a distinctive Lexus styling, which they refer to as L-finesse, and it is especially noticeable in the sculpted front grille and fascia area.? The styling is sophisticated and I especially like the complex ?C? pillar treatment that is unlike any other hatchback.

We both fell in love with standard NuLuxe seat fabric.? The CT is the first car we?ve seen with the eco-friendly material that feels like thin, soft leather.? We were told NuLuxe is also more durable than traditional fabrics.

The interior has a high quality feel with a sculpted dash accent in brushed aluminum trim.? The broad center console is finished with what looks like hand- sewn padded edges.? The console is ?control central? for the CT with the shift control mounted far forward, audio controls, electric parking switch, the handling dynamics control panel, controls for the heated seats and the Lexus exclusive Remote Touch controller which works like a computer mouse. ??The Remote Touch control is an active control that incorporates reaction feedback for a better feel when controlling the functions displayed on the eight-inch screen.? When activated, the screen rises out the center of the dash above the center console to control navigation, climate, phone, vehicle set up and in cludes redundant audio controls.

Bill — The newest Lexus hybrid is powered by a 1.8-liter 98-hp four-cylinder Atikinson cycle gasoline engine married to an 80-hp electric motor, which together net 134-hp.

The CT 200h is a full hybrid, which means it is capable of operating on electricity or gas alone, or in a combination of both.? The electric motor, generator and power split device are all housed in a compact unit about the size of a conventional transmission.? It drives the front wheels through a shift-by-wire, Electronically Controlled continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT).

A unique energy management system maximizes performance while maintaining a low level of noise and vibrations.? Lexus says it accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 9.8 seconds and has an EPA fuel economy rating of 43 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

For a typical hybrid press introduction, the drive routes selected are usually through flat or rolling hills that don?t challenge the power but do enhance the fuel economy.? The CT drive route was much more challenging.? Driving southeast on State Route 74 up Cariso Grade out of Palm Desert, the road squiggles into the Santa Ana mountains toward the San Bernardino National Forest.? I switched the dynamics control to the Sport mode to maximize performance and agility.? In addition to changing the vehicles dynamics, it also changes the instrument cluster color from blue to red and the hybrid power indicator changes to a tachometer.

The controls offers both a Dynamic and Relaxing driving mode in conjunctions with the hybrid?s EV, ECO, NORMAL and SPORT, ?on-demand? drive modes.

The CT has a sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension, with a rigid body and low center of gravity that give the CT driving characteristics more consistent with a sports car than a high-fuel economy hybrid.

Barbara — The CT 200h pricing starts at $29,120, including the destination charge, and includes features like SmartAcess with push-button start/stop, Bluetooth?, satellite radio, USB/iPod? connectivity, 17-inch alloy wheels and dual zone automatic climate control.? In addition to a full range of electronic safety equipment, the CT is equipped with eight airbags.?? The Premium version pricing starts at $31,775 and adds a moonroof and access to several option packages including leather, navigation, LED headlights, pre-collision warning and a rear view camera.? Adding all these interesting extras will jump the final price to near $39,000, but they do give it most of the features we?ve come to expect on a premium model.

Bill ? Lexus gets extra points for the concerted effort to make the CT greener by using abundant environmentally friendly materials and processes.? For example the NuLuxe seats, the lightweight and energy efficient LED lighting and audio amplifier, plus the speakers are made from bio-sourced materials and bamboo charcoal.

They also made a better environment for the passengers and especially the optimized driving position which combines a low hip point height with enhanced lateral and lumbar support.

Owners who purchase the Premium CT 200h get one year of access to a suite of 24-hour emergency and navigation called Safety Connect and vehicles purchased with the optional navigation system get access to the Lexus Enform which keeps owners up-to-date about local events and exclusive owner benefits. They also get access to the XM Nav Traffic?, XM Nav Weather and XM Sports and Stocks through a paid subscription.? The services are similar to the OnStar package offered on General Motors vehicles.

Overall, the CT 200h is an impressive package with the typical high quality Lexus fit and finish along with an innovative package that allows the driver to be environmentally responsible, and still have fun driving.? We both give it high marks for value and luxury, too.

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