2011 Lexus CT 200h Road Test Review
New Lexus "driver's" hybrid leaves guilt in the dust
by Martha Hindes
Talk about split personalities. Bordering on brash, yet still subdued, the new 2011 Lexus ct 200h lays claim to a pure, undefiled image while teasing the need for speed. A five-door (sic hatchback) compact done in Lexus' new "L-finesse" design language, it's meant to add zip to the brand's longstanding understated luxury image. The result, a sleeker, more defined premium sporty car that's a fuel-miserly full hybrid to the core. Whether it contends with blast-your-socks-off driving is another story.
Our Lexus-sponsored test drive at Florida's Delray Beach had slow roads bordering the Atlantic Ocean and a way of life so relaxed a local cop rode (and fell from) a dual-tire Segway. Not exactly a place to mash an accelerator in an expected flat-out run challenge with the likes of Mazda, Audi or Volvo. We'll defer to specs for that. The 1.8-liter, 98-hp four cylinder engine and 80-hp, 60-kW electric motor can morph into sport mode when enthusiastic driving's a must, gas stingier EV, ECO or normal when it's not.
We found it eager to a point, supple and charismatic enough to add some buzz, and firmly comfortable. But we think promised driving thrills could benefit from additional oomph. It delivers about 42 guiltless combined MPG (probably not enough to legally drive some HOV lanes solo like its Toyota Prius cousin). Available Pre-Collision and Radar Cruise Control can boost standard safety features. Initial $29,995 pricing (add $8K fully loaded), shouldn't break an entry-level luxury bank -- especially with fewer fill-ups.
Why buy? A truly good looking, snazzier shape than historic Lexus models with sufficient, refined interior room for four -- maybe five -- plus luggage, earth-friendlier "bioplastic" interior touches and enough tech to thoroughly digitize and colorize functions. Road handling is responsive, with sporty car flash and enough dash to give a respectable kick in the pants.
Editor's Note: I personally tested this car in Los Angeles recently and have to say that I was thoroughly impressed. Low and sleek, it felt like a street rod more than an upscale hybrid luxury brand although it did have all the accoutrements one would expect from a Lexus. Loaded with power, performance and pizzazz, I was tickled pink to drive around in what sometimes felt like a 'tuner' ride. As an added bonus, the gas needle barely moved in the 250-some-odd-miles I drove throughout the week to the point where I began to wonder if it was working. But finally, it eked out by a hair.
The inside is small, perfect for two adults, but the back seat is more for storing your stuff or stuffing two little tots back there. Our test car color left something to be desired, not my first choice, but the 'Daybreak Yellow Mico' as Lexus calls it, sure did attract attention in the sea of black and gray cars that lined the streets of Los Angeles. When parked, people actually came knocking on my window to ask more about it.
Would I buy this car for my kid, even myself? Without hesitation. It's all that and more. My guess is that Lexus can expect hefty sales with this sassy and sexy little streetster. Courtney Caldwell, Editor.
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