The CT series sedan was introduced by Lexus in March of 2011. Last week I tested a 2012 model of this hybrid vehicle, a “Premium” edition with a Nebula Gray Pearl paint job. Since its introduction, I have been paying a little extra attention to the car, mostly because it resembles a favorite of mine, the Toyota Matrix. Also, the Pontiac Vibe was based on this configuration, and it stood out in the moribund Pontiac lineup prior to the demise of Pontiac’s nameplate in 2009.
After it arrived, Ruth and I grabbed the CT200h and headed south for the IKEA store in Centennial, with a stop in Denver to pick up our three girls. Thus, we were able to see how the Lexus performed with five adults on board, and the answer was, “Fine.” Also, we got to learn a new phrase while at the place – “IKEA glaze.” It’s the condition that sets in about the time that shoppers arrive at the bulbs and lamps in this gigantic store.
Power for the CT200h is provided by a gas (98 hp) engine and two electric (80 & 36 hp) motor/generators that combine (through a planetary gearbox and continuously variable transmission) to power the wheels. Electric motors are actually generators, and vice versa. Put the juice to a motor, and you get motion. Crank the generator, and you get electricity. So these motor/generators in a CT200h serve the dual purposes of wheel power and battery charge. And gasoline is the element that makes the car go – no gas, no go. When you leave a stoplight with a CT200h, electric power gets you rolling and gasoline power takes it from 15 mph. When you slow down for a light, the weight of the car turns a motor/generator and charges the nickel-metal hydride battery. You can select “EV mode” on the console and creep around with electric power only, for instance in a hotel parking lot at night. You can push a “power” button, too, and get maximum acceleration with max gas power.
The fuel economy associated with the CT200h is not on a par with the Prius that shares the drive train with it. That is because the Lexus is less aerodynamic and heavier. Weight, in fact, is 3,130 lb., length is 170”, and wheelbase is only 102.4”. Fuel mileage ratings are 43 and 40, city/highway, and my observation was the 43, in mostly city driving. You may recall that my Prius tests resulted in mileage readings of closer to 50 mpg. But this is a Lexus; plush, quiet, and luxurious – better styling, too.
The CT200h I drove was loaded with equipment, including moonroof, nav, deluxe stereo with 6 CD changer, Nuluxe seating surfaces (like leather), tilt/telescope, power locks/windows/seats, Bluetooth, USB connector and backup camera. Total M.S.R.P. was $39,940, including freight, F-Sport badging and aluminum pedals. A similar Prius would be perhaps $2,000 less expensive.
Driving the Lexus was nice, with its 17” alloy wheels, 215/45R17 radials, 4-wheel independent suspension and electric power rack-and-pinion steering. Acceleration from zero to 60 is reportedly ten seconds with a top speed of 113 mph. All this is accomplished with a hybrid drive train that is not particularly quiet, but wind noise inside the car is acceptable.
This Lexus is not as pretty as the big ones (I know, I bragged on the looks), but for a few extra bucks the Prius shopper can get a little classier ride, big shot nameplate and styling that is superior to the Toyota. I know I liked the car, and enjoyed being in possession of it for a few days.