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2011 Lexus CT 200h Premium Hybrid Review & Test Drive

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‘LEXUS SCORES ANOTHER LONG RUNNER’ 

The all-new 2011 Lexus CT 200h hybrid is Lexus’s fifth hybrid and second dedicated hybrid.  While all other hybrids from auto manufacturers, including Lexus and Toyota have been either hybrid sedans or sport utility vehicles, the all-new CT 200h is a versatile compact, five-door sport wagon that continues the brand’s commitment to unparalleled quality, sophistication and technology.

The CT 200h’s size, packaging, full hybrid technology and ultra-low emissions perfectly meet the requirements of a young, highly discerning, environmentally conscientious customer base.  Yet it offers no compromise on the refinement and driving pleasure which hallmark the progressive luxury inherent in every Lexus vehicle.

Available in standard and Premium models, I tested the Premium model, the CT 200h boasts remarkably low fuel consumption and has an impressive combined EPA-estimated fuel economy of 42mpg, 43mpg/city and 40mpg/highway utilizing regular 87-octane gasoline.  Moreover, the CT 200h can be operated in a switchable EV mode which generates zero emissions.

The CT 200h’sLexus Hybrid Drivefeatures a unique energy management system paired with a 1.8 liter four-cylinder gas engine.  Through the application of brand-specific engineering solutions and software tuning, Lexus engineers focused on enhancing both the environmental and driving performance of the full hybrid series/parallel system, as well as its Ultra-low Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) levels.

Utilizing the most recent generation hybrid system, the CT 200h takes advantage of Lexus’ continuous engineering advances to maximize fuel economy, minimize emissions and deliver fun-to-drive pleasure inherent in all luxury vehicles.  A highly efficient engine design, an exhaust heat recovery system, major efforts to reduce parasitic losses, an evaporative emissions system and driver-selectable driving modes all make notable contributions.  Significant efforts were also made to minimize engine noise.

An Atkinson-cycle engine design was chosen to its high efficiency and compatibility with hybrid operation in the CT 200h.  The twin-cam engine uses four valves per cylinder and Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i) on the intake side.  The engine is undersquare, with a 3.17 inch bore diameter and 3.48 inch stroke, and has a relatively high compression ratio of 13.0:1.  Peak output equals 98hp and in combination with the hybrid drive motor, the CT 200h generates 134 total system horsepower.  The CT 200h will accelerate to 60mph from a standstill in just 9.8 seconds.

Careful design of the intake system reduces engine pumping losses and its twin resonators minimize intake noise.  The cooling system uses a modular construction that combines an aluminum engine radiator, hybrid system radiator, A/C condenser and fan into a single assembly for minimal weight.  Plus, the electric fan speed is controlled via Pulse Width Modulation to reduce energy consumption and noise.  Careful ducting of the cooling system helps prevent hot engine air recirculation that tends to occur at low speeds and while idling, further enhancing efficiency.

One of the keys to lower fuel consumption involves heat.  The CT employs an exhaust heat recovery system that captures the heat of spent exhaust gases to speed engine coolant warm-up and allow the hybrid system to stop the engine earlier and more often in the driving cycle when it’s not needed, for example in low power demand conditions in city driving.

Using a two-motor hybrid system, the CT200h uses an 80hp drive motor that combines with the gas engine.  (Note that the sum of the engine and motor power are not equal to the total system power as the operation of the engine and motor cannot be maximized in the same operation range).  A second motor in the hybrid system serves as both engine starter and generator to charge the hybrid battery pack.

The efficient two-motor system also uses an Electronically-Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT) that is a model of efficiency, simplicity and compact size with extremely smooth and quiet operation.  A motor speed-reduction planetary gear unit helps provide high power output in this small package.

An electric transmission oil pump eliminates another source of parasitic loss to further increase efficiency.  Electronic operation allows a control strategy that involves the oil pump only when needed, and since the oil also flows over the drive motor, overall efficiency of the motor and transmission are improved.

For fun-to-drive excitement, the CT 200h also incorporates a drive-mode selector that allows you to toggle between four distinct modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and EV.  Each mode changes the rate of throttle opening for a given throttle-pedal angle.  Normal mode has an essentially linear throttle response that gives naturally progressive power.  Sport mode can be selected when you want a more dynamic experience, much like a gasoline only vehicle.  In Eco mode, A/C settings are adjusted and the throttle response is reduced relative to the pedal angle to emphasize fuel economy.  Under certain circumstances, the EV mode can allow you to drive the car a short distance using only the electric motors.

You can also see the change on the instrument cluster as when the mode selected is Sport, the left side power/charge gauge changes into a tachometer giving the cluster a look like a regular gasoline engine vehicle.

Agile handling, excellent body control and a smooth ride in the CT 200h begin with a stiff body structure.  The CT body is designed with superior stiffness overall with added focus in strategically located areas that have the greatest effect on ride, handling and noise.

Setting a new benchmark in premium compact segment ride comfort and handling, the CT 200h features a unique suspension design which combines a MacPherson strut front setup with a fully independent double-wishbone rear suspension.  The compact double-wishbone rear suspension design uses low-mount coil springs that help improve cargo space.  As in the front suspension, rebound springs are used to aid both handling and ride, while all mountings and bushings are optimized to help provide an excellent combination of ride, handling and low noise.

Introduced for the first time on a Lexus, a unique lateral performance damper system has been designed to absorb and minimize body vibrations to offer a more linear steering feel and further enhanced ride comfort.  In lieu of conventional fixed bracing, this system features a front performance damper connecting the left and right front suspension towers, and a real damper connecting the left and right sides of the rear structural frame.

With construction similar to that of a typical monotube suspension damper, the front and rear performance damper assemblies differ according to the variations in body rigidity, noise and vibration of their surroundings, optimizing their ability to absorb body torsion, flexure and fine vibrations.  Their installation has reduced vehicle floor vibrations across a wide frequency range, reduced body flex in left and right front suspension tower displacement, and even lowered audio system white noise levels.  Not only is the CT 200h a breakthrough in hybrid technology and flexibility, it ventures into new fully independent suspension geometry.  Amazing!

Aerodynamic work was conducted with both computational fluid dynamic (CFD) analysis and wind tunnel evaluation to identify noise sources, assist designers to create appropriate design elements and prove countermeasures.  As a result, strategically placed seals, barriers and insulation material are used to eliminate noise paths and insulate passengers from noise sources.  Equal attention has been paid to underbody airflow management, the minimization of the vehicle’s coefficient of lift essential to both fuel efficiency and handling stability.

The CT 200h employ’s Lexus’s experience with Electric Power Steering (EPS).  Its energy saving and lightweight design characteristics make it ideally suited for use in conjunction with theLexus Hybrid Drivepowertrain.  The vehicle-speed sensitive steering has been optimized to provide ideal steering feel at any speed.  Inertia compensation control, friction feedback and recovery control assist in tailoring the steering feel and effort.  The EPS system also helps improve fuel economy by reducing parasitic losses.

Like all Lexus vehicles, the CT 200h braking system is comprehensive with standard ABS, EBD, BA, Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control, and as a Lexus hybrid it is augmented by regenerative braking which also helps recharge the hybrid battery pack and improve fuel economy.  The electronic controlled brake (ECB) system actuator is managed by the ECB computer and acts on the system’s hydraulic brake components.  The ECB computer also controls the interaction between the four-wheel disc friction brakes and the regenerative brake system.  All four wheels have power-assisted discs, 10 inch vented discs up front and 11 inch solid discs in the rear.  Each is clamped with single-piston calipers.

The all-new 2011 CT 200h rides on standard 17X7 inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with 215/45R17 all-season tires, and all wheels feature the direct-type tire pressure monitor system.

In sport mode riding on a fully independent suspension you will feel like you are behind the wheel of a luxury sport wagon yet passing filling stations on your way out of town.

The CT 200h’s designers created a unique combination of elegance and excitement.  The front of the CT 200h is the new embodiment of L-finesse, expressing the perfect balance of precision and power.  The grille is pushed forward of the headlamps for great visual integration with the bumper mid-section below.  It incorporates a deeper, more sculpted interpretation of the L-finesse signature arrowhead motif.  The upper and lower grilles combine to form a unique ‘spindle’ shape, bringing both bold simplicity and elegant dynamism to the very apex of the vehicle.  The grille is flanked by headlamp clusters clearly positioned on a high plane than the grill itself.  This is a unique characteristic of Lexus models, focusing the eye at the very apex of the vehicle to give the design a resolute look and strengthen the impression of speed and agility.

To enforce this defined expression, the headlamps themselves focus on piercing, single halogen or optional twin LED low beam lamps.  Integral, arrowhead-shaped daytime running lamps feature advanced LED headlight technology, making the CT 200h instantly recognizable at first glance.  The deep front bumper and sharply sculpted front airdam flow into clean, muscular front wings which reinforce a purposeful, wide-tracked stance hinting at excellent agility and high speed stability.

The CT 200h’s sweeping lines mimic the natural flow of wind over and around the bodywork, creating a dynamic yet elegant design that combines beauty with aerodynamic efficiency.  The result is a coefficient of drag of 0.29, which both maximizes fuel efficiency and minimizes wind noise to further enhance the exceptional quietness of the Lexus full hybrid’s cabin.

In profile the steeply raked windshield A-pillars, long flowing roofline, the unique Lexus slingshot window graphic and full perimeter chrome strip combine to create an elegant and highly distinctive silhouette.  New compact and aerodynamic door mirrors with an integral LED side turn signal lamp feature a two-tone finish for a slimmer appearance.  The long roof and sweeping character lines of the door form a tapered cabin shape which naturally curves in at the rear to follow the movement of air as it flows into the vehicle’s wake.

At the rear, a pronounced step in the tailgate section flows from the muscular rear wheel arch shoulders, emphasizing the wraparound rear window design.  Anchored by sweeping taillamps incorporating a Lexus-unique L-shaped motif first introduced in the LS, this step combines with a broad rear bumper design to reinforce the new full hybrid’s wide, firmly planted stance.  The flow of air away from the rear of the CT 200h is carefully controlled through the finely honed trailing edge of the deep roof spoiler, aerodynamic fins at the corners of the rear windows and the sharp, near vertical junction of rear wind and bumper.  Careful aerodynamic detailing of the lower bumper and finned rear undercover smoothes airflow from beneath the car, further improving both stability and fuel consumption.  Like I said earlier, the CT 200h is like no other luxury hybrid on the market looking and acting like a compact luxury sport wagon with more functionality.

Lexus’s latest adaptation of the L-finesse philosophy is carried into the interior of the

CT 200h.  A powerful simplicity of form harmonizes with the hand-crafted quality feel of even the smallest details to create a uniquely efficient, elegant and spacious cabin design.

The dashboard is divided into two distinct zones: an upper Display Zone with an eight inch LCD multi-display screen located at an ideal distance for at-a-glance viewing, and a lower, Operation Zone, which allows access to the uniquely designed shift lever and system controls such as the optional Remote Touch.

The clear division of zones creates the CT 200h’s unique fusion of an airy, spacious cabin and a sporty cockpit which places the emphasis on a snug, comfortable and highly focused driving environment.  The front seats feature pronounced side bolsters engineered with internal wire framing for additional lateral support during high-G cornering.  Functional driving components are consolidated in the driver’s seat surroundings, combining outstanding ergonomics with advanced Human/Machine Interface technologies.

The flattening of the center of the 60/40-split folding rear seat bench, the thinning of the front seatbacks and the flat floor of the CT 200h’s platform result in a cabin which offers rear seat passengers roominess with spacious legroom and headroom.  With the compact hybrid battery located low beneath the loadspace floor and the adoption of a fully independent double wishbone configuration minimizing suspension component intrusion into the luggage compartment, the CT 200h offers a spacious and versatile cabin and surprisingly large cargo space.

The extensive use of metallic finishes and dark, soft touch materials reinforces the premium quality of the interior.  The shape and form of each interior component has been carefully designed to express the true form of the materials, such as the brushed finish of door handle bezel and the highly tactile shift lever, seemingly carved from a single billet, and generously bound leather.  It is true Lexus luxury and ergonomics all the way.

Standard luxury and convenience features in the Premium model, not mentioned above, include one-touch open/close sunroof, heated seats, NuLuxe trim interior, tilt/telescoping/three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and cruise-control, 10-way multi-adjustable power driver seat with 2-way power lumbar, smart access with push-button start/stop, electroluminescent Optitron gauges, automatic dual-zone climate control, 4-mode drive mode select, driver information center with trip computer, Lexus Audio System with automatic sound levelizer, 6-speakers, single in-dash CD player, USB input, mini plug auxiliary input for MP3 player, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth technology, power windows all one-touch up/down, power door locks, Lexus personalized settings, tonneau cover, carpeted floor mats, integrated foglamps, intermittent wipers/washers, rear wiper/washer, power remote sideview mirrors with turn signals, self-dimming rearview mirror, dual map lamps, grab handles above each door and remote release for rear hatch and fuel filler door.

Standard safety features include advanced front airbags, and driver/front passenger knee airbags, front side impact airbags, side curtain airbags, 3-point safety belts for all seating positions with force limiters/pretensioners up front, Safety Connect with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assist button (SOS), with enhanced roadside assistance, LED daytime running, front/rear crumple zones, and steel beams in each door.

COPYRIGHT:2011:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price: $31,450.00
  • Engine: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder & 2-motor electric Hybrid Synergy Drive – 132 horsepower @ 5200 rpm 142 pounds-feet torque @ 4000 rpm
  • Drive: FWD (Front-Wheel-Drive)
  • Wheelbase: 102.4in.
  • Total length: 170.1in.
  • Total width: 69.5in.
  • Total height: 56.3in.
  • Headroom: f/r-37.8/37in.
  • Legroom: f/r-41.5/32.9in.
  • Ground clearance: 5.7in.
  • Track: f/r-60/59.8in.
  • Fuel tank: 11.9 gallons
  • EPA interior volume: 100.4cu.ft.
  • Cargo volume: 14.3cu.ft. all seats up
  • Curb weight: 3,130lbs.
  • 0-60 mph: 9.8 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 43mpg/city, 40mpg/highway
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