The luxury segment has just taken its first step over the 40-mpg line.
Toyota announced over the weekend that the all-new 2011 Lexus CT 200h—the first luxury hybrid hatchback—will be rated with a combined city-highway mileage of 42 mpg.
For comparison, the Audi A3 TDI clean diesel hits 41 mpg on the highway while only managing 30 mpg in the city. The upcoming Lincoln MKZ Hybrid will reach 41 mpg in the city, but is rated at 36 mpg on the highway. The EPA has not released official numbers for the CT 200h, but according to Toyota, it will become only the fourth car on the U.S. market that has a combined rating above 40 mpg. We expect city mileage close to 45 mpg.
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid—like the 2010 Toyota Prius—features a 1.8-liter 98-horsepower gas engine and 80-hp electric motor for total system power of 134 hp. It’s capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in 9.8 seconds and can reach a maximum speed of 112 mph.
Pricing for the new Lexus hybrid, which goes on sale next year, has not yet been announced.
Keywords: Efficient, Luxury, Compact, Hatchback
With the CT 200h, Lexus combines sporty attributes, luxury features and class-leading fuel economy. Honda made a similar but less successful attempt in the entry-level category with the Honda CR-Z. Whereas the CR-Z sacrificed on practicality (just two seats) and fuel economy (only 37 mpg combined), the Lexus CT 200h could illustrate that a gas-electric car needs to earn its hybrid badge by reaching at least beyond 40 mpg. Again, we don’t yet know about pricing for the CT 200h, so it’s hard to comment on value for the money.
The decision to emphasize dynamic driving or eco-friendliness is somewhat up to the driver—thanks to four different driving mode selections. Sport mode maximizes the CT 200h’s performance and handling. Engine revs are held higher, and throttle and power steering settings give a faster response to driver inputs. ECO mode maximizes mileage, but minimizes throttle response from the accelerator pedal, and reduces power of air-conditioning.
The Lexus CT 200h also offers “EV mode,” which promises a full mile on electric power alone, at speeds less than 25 miles per hour. As we have reported, the value of EV mode on conventional no-plug hybrids is overrated. Sure, it’s fun to go EV for a few blocks, but you pay the efficiency price when the gas engine chugs gas to recharge the batteries. Nonetheless, it is a convenient feature for creeping through parking lots.
Normal mode strikes a mid-way balance between ECO and Sport. Yet, even when in normal or ECO mode, the Lexus CT 200h tries to offer a sports-like driving experience, due to careful interior design. Lexus describes it like this: “A low driver’s seat with enhanced lateral and lumbar support, a sporting, wide grip steering wheel and a driver-focused instrument binnacle housing large, high-visibility, triple dials.”
The Lexus CT 200h gets high marks for aerodynamics. The drag of coefficient is 0.28, the lowest in the compact luxury category—yet not as good as the appliance-looking Prius. Lexus says the aerodynamics of the Lexus CT 200h are not only to support efficiency, but also the quality of its handling, ride comfort and stability at high speed.
The production-ready full hybrid Lexus CT 200h—the fifth hybrid offered by Lexus—will be unveiled at the Paris motor show on September 30. U.K. sales are scheduled to start in early 2011, and in the U.S. later in the year.