Auto Review: Lots of luxury, little appetite for fuel
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Sep. 8, 2011
Cars are huge investments, and you really need to shop carefully for an automobile that will supply your long-term transportation needs. Said transport also needs to be easy to live with, for let’s face it: a lot of us spend a sizable chunk of our working day in our car. Another big consideration (and tropical storm Irene’s wrath robbing gas stations of power put a spotlight on this) is fuel economy, because you never know what the price of gas is going to do next, not to mention the rare, yet problematic, shortage of fuel that a crisis can generate.
Toyota’s Lexus division has released a new luxury model that is kind of unique: it has a very frugal gas-electric hybrid powertrain, yet is also chock-full of the kind of amenities that the Lexus brand is famous for (and fortunately, it finds itself in the more affordable wing of the upscale car market). All these things combine to make the CT200h a very intriguing car, and one that is certainly worthy of consideration as a long-haul companion.
The powerplant consists of a highly-efficient 1800cc Atkinson Cycle Inline Four, and this is coupled with an 80 kW electric motor/generator powered by a Nickel-Metal hydride battery pack under the rear cargo floor for a total output of 134 horsepower. The lone gearbox is an Electronically-Controlled, Continuously-Variable Transmission (ECVT). As is typical Lexus Hybrid Drive fashion, the car is propelled by the gas engine, the electric motor, or both together, depending on conditions. In addition to the normal drive setting, there are three selectable modes to the system, including Eco, Sport and Power, and to tailor drivetrain response.
The CT 200h is designed to be fun to drive, and includes what Lexus describes as a Lateral Performance Damping System: “In lieu of conventional fixed bracing, this system features a front performance damper connecting the left and right front suspension towers, and a rear damper connecting the left and right sides of the rear structural frame.” The CT is no rocket by any stretch, but this technology insures that the ride is firm and the cornering flat, so this is indeed a Hybrid with a sportier feel.
The interior of the CT200h is a lesson in both comfort and build quality, supplemented by the latest in electronic goodies. Workmanship is top-notch, with a variety of high-quality materials, and front seat support and comfort are excellent. The optional Navigation System includes a Remote Touch multi-function control device, and like Audi’s MMI and BMW’s iDrive, it uses a knob to mimic a computer mouse’s ability to navigate through various systems. Rear seat comfort is a strong point, and while the cargo area is modest compared to some other five-door machines, it’s still quite usable. Beautifully-built, fun to drive and really easy on fuel, as well as the environment, the smallest Lexus has a lot going for it.
The 2011 Lexus CT200h is EPA-rated 43 MPG city/40 highway and has a base price of $30,900. With options, our MSRP came to $38,239. www.lexus.com