2011 Lexus CT 200h

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Lexus is finally accomplishing with the new CT 200h what it set out to do with the 2010 HS 250h, build a luxury level hybrid. The 250h has proven to be a bit of a bloated albatross for Lexus.

It is overly complex, too costly, heavy and an unsure design direction, mediocre mpg and unable to deliver the goods, all proven by dramatically slowing sales numbers.

The CT 200h five-door hatch has definite design character, possibly the best outside of the SC class cars and far better than the benign vanilla of the balance of the primary market Lexus lineup.

Add to that a smart use of available platforms to piece together a taut, well balanced car that has been engineered to luxury standards with a better than average suspension aided by stiff cross members and performance dampers; plus grabbing onto a powertrain that is already attractive and accepted by interested hybrid consumers and Lexus may have finally figured out the right formula for a luxury hybrid befitting the brand.

Where the HS had every conceivable techno contrivance that ran up the price, the CT has the basics. Sure, it has made some of the trick stuff available, but they’re not shoving it down your throat. Starting price should be a reasonable $30,000 including destination charges. 

That pricing is expected to broaden Lexus’ customer base.
Included in that $30,000 is the 134-hp Prius drivetrain with three mode selections – normal, eco or sport; 17-inch wheels, an electronic CVT, electric steering that gets a bit weightier in sport mode for better steering feel and quicker inputs. A push button starter, Bluetooth connectivity and dual climate controls are also included.

Several stand alone options are available along with four packages. The smart package selection is the audio/moonroof/navigation group that includes voice activation and backup camera. The large navigation screen which rises from the top of the IP was very readable without the need for our usual reading glasses. Pricing was not available.

In a strenuous mountain drive using all the mode selections the Lexus was very capable, stiff enough to make the handling fun and compliant enough to make the ride comfortable. The EPA tells us that the combined city/highway fuel economy should achieve 42 mpg.

We expect that number is attainable with mostly eco and normal drive time and a more limited use of sport mode.

Lexus has reached a sweet spot with the CT – price, performance and economy – sure to be a winning combination.

— Ted Biederman