New luxury Lexus
version of Toyota Prius hybrid. Excellent mileage and driving range of nearly 500 miles before a fill up. Compact wagon loaded with luxury frills.MINUSES:
Rear seat room.
If memory serves, it was General Motors that developed the "car for every purse and pocketbook" strategy that lead to putting different grilles and different price tags on the same cars and then calling them either Chevrolet, Pontiac, Olds, Buick and Cadillac.
Now it's Toyota's turn, as it takes the gas/electric hybrid Toyota Prius and tweaks the sedan into a gas/electric hybrid wagon marketed as the new for 2011 model year Lexus
CT200h, a new entry level offering for its luxury division.
Prius and CT200h basically share the same 5-passenger compact platform with a 102.4 inch wheelbase and 170.1 inch overall length. They also share the same power train, a 1.8 liter 16 valve four cylinder engine teamed with a CVT automatic transmission and an electric motor brought to life with a nickel metal hydride battery pack. The two systems develop a combined 134 h.p.
One difference between the two. Since it is the luxury model laden with more amenities, the CT200h is rated at 43 m.p.g. city/40 m.p.g. highway while the blue collar Prius is rated higher at 51 m.p.g. city and 48 m.p.g. highway, though in doing so it sacrifices electro luminescent optitron gauges and NuLux interior trim.
As expected, however, with more frills, the CT200h costs more, starting at $29,120 versus $22,120 for the Prius. Such is life in the luxury lane.
We tested the CT200h and found like Prius, it runs in gas, gas and battery, or battery mode only. While battery mode only burns not a drop of expensive gasoline and produces not even a whiff of harmful exhaust in either solid or vapor form, to enjoy being propelled only by nickel metal hydride batteries you must accept traveling no further than 1 mile at no faster than 28 m.p.h.
So why even offer battery only mode?
"Say you come home at night from the office at 4 a.m. and don't want to wake the wife when pulling in the driveway at that hour," a Lexus
spokesman confided to us. "With the quiet electric mode you don't have to wake her up."
Don't know about you, but no matter how quiet battery mode is, when coming home at 4 a.m., chances are the wife is going to be waiting at the front door and the wise move would be to kick the pedal and activate the gas engine for a speedy departure to a safe haven until she calms down.
In addition to traveling a whopping one mile in battery mode while careful to hold speed to less than 25 m.p.h., we were able to coax the machine to run on battery power alone and nix the gas when coasting down hill as well as briefly running at moderate speed along straightaways. And at red lights, the gas engine shuts off rather than waste fuel idling.
The result is a 43 m.p.g. city and 40 m.p.g. highway mileage.
The high mileage rating means the vehicle is designed more for economy than off the line performance, even with the battery pack providing an added power boost for the gas engine. Steep hills also required a little patience getting up to speed. It's the long, flat stretches that give the CT200h the chance to sprint.Lexus
says the wagon will go from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 9.8 seconds, which means you won't smoke the radials at launch. Top speed is 112 m.p.h. though we can't imagine why anyone would attempt that fete in a hybrid wagon. If you need to play, you can turn the dial and put the CT200 into a sport or performance mode for quicker take offs and more spirited passing or merging, though, again, if you wanted a car for 40 m.p.g. plus mileage traveling through the city why would you want to burn rubber as soon as you reached the expressway---as if the annual construction season barricades would actually let you take flight on the highway.
To keep the CT200 planted to the highway, it comes with stability and traction control as standard, as well as offering side curtain air bags front and back, just in case.
The cabin is cozy and the seats comfortable and supportive. The test car came with perforated leather seats. The Premium package on the car adds heated seats, but not cooled seats, which would be a welcome option on a luxury Lexus
, as well as power moon roof.
Rear seat head and arm room is good, but leg room is tight unless driver and front seat passenger are short and move their seats forward. One gripe is that the roof is low and slanted fastback style, which means you have to duck the melon when entering or exiting to avoid a bump.
The cargo hold is more than adequate and there are a few nooks under the floor as well as a well along the right of the floor to store small items. You can lower rear seat backs flat to expand the cargo hold. To ensure the seat backs fold flat you press the head rest release levers and they fold out of the way.
The car comes with a security shade for the cargo hold which does the job in keeping contents out of sight, but if you load up with lots of cargo, the shade has to go when you fold the rear seat backs flat to keep it out of the way.
The car also came with an optional ($75) cargo net, which normally serves as an obstacle that things get stuck in or on when loading or unloading. With the CT200, the net strung securely along the back of the cargo hold like a wall that allowed us to haul a lawnmower with the tailgate lid open without the mower rolling around. Nice touch.
Up front, a 120 volt power plug and a USB/auxiliary plug connection are housed in the enter console, along with the mandatory cupholders, with one of the pair large enough to hold the biggest cup Mickey D's offers. There's also bottle holders in the front doors and some stowage space under the center arm rest.
Noteworthy features include a special holder you can attach to the center console to handle cell phone, iPod, or portable GPS system and keep them close to the power and USB ports on the console; push button start/stop; bamboo charcoal-based resin diaphragm speakers in the audio system to cut weight by 15 percent; and an exhaust heat recirculation system to help heat the cabin and defog the windows in the winter to minimize the fuel economy loss in the winter when first starting up the car.
The CT200h starts at $29,120, while the upgraded Premium with heated seats and power moonroof starts at $30,900. Upgrade the audio system for $1,100, add self leveling LED headlights with washers for $1,215, replace cloth with leather seats and rain sensing wipers for $1,330, acquire illuminated door sills that light up blue at night for $299, and install a navi system for $2,445 that includes a small backup camera and satellite traffic and weather reports, and you top $37,000 mark. With freight, the test car topped $38,000, which means the tab could read $40,000 after tax.
Actually, it could even go $1,500 higher if you added the optional pre-collision safety system that taps the brakes, lets out a warning buzz, and prepares the air bags to deploy if you are in the path to collide with another vehicle coming from the front or side and fail to turn the wheel or brake to avoid impact.
expects the take rate on the pre-collision system will be low, even less than those opting for a navi system.
While some debate spending $22,000 for a hybrid that gets 51 m.p.g. in city driving, you could spend about $40,000 for a hybrid that gets 43 m.p.g. in city driving.
Why spend that much? Lexus
hopes it's because it has that "L" in the grille.2011 Lexus CT200h PremiumWheelbase:
102.4 inches Length:
170.1 inches Engine:
1.8 liter, 16 valve gas engine with nickel metal hydride battery pack powering electric motor with combined 134 h.p.Transmission:
CVT automatic. Mileage:
43 m.p.g. city/40 m.p.g. highway. Base price:
$30,900. Price as tested:
Add $1,100 premium audio package with in-dash CD changer, autyo dimming rear view mirror, and Homelink transceiver, $1,215 auto leveling headlights with headlamp washers, $1,330 leather package with rain sensing wipers, $2,445 navigation system with backup camera and weather, traffic sports and stock price updates (90 day trial basis), $75 cargo net, $299 illuminated door sills, and $875 freight.