Road Test: 2012 Lexus CT 200h

After zooming around Germany’s Autobahn with no speed limit in a 400 hp Mercedes Benz, coming back and driving my V8 BMW on Hawaii’s heavily congested roads seemed to be a complete waste of horsepower and gasoline. And with today’s ever-rising gas prices, I pay about $600 a month and burn up a quarter tank of gas per day just going to and from work! So when the lease runs out on my Bimmer, I’m determined to purchase a hybrid. Since the Lexus CT 200h first came out last year I continually hear great things about it. I wanted to try it out for myself, and thanks to the folks at Servco Lexus, I was able to take one for a spin last weekend and geek out with it.

I drove a matador red CT (love the color) with the Premium Package, which included a driver’s seat memory system, leather seats, auto-dimming side and rearview mirrors, backup camera, rain-sensing wipers, a 10-speaker audio system, navigation system and Bluetooth. The first thing I did was pair my iPhone via Bluetooth with the car so I could play music off my phone (including Pandora), and sync my address book for phone calls. I remember the days when this was uncommon, but now it’s almost standard in most cars.

There is one microphone for the car’s Bluetooth speakerphone located near the rearview mirror. The audio seems decent on phone calls, except if you have the air conditioner vents pointed upward. If you don’t point the vents down, the person on the other side will hear loud wind noise. As for the backup camera, it makes it easier to reverse out of a parking space, but there are no sensors on it for you to gauge how close you actually are to an object. Controlling the navigation system/audio interface screen is intuitive and easy with active feedback using the touch, mouse-like controller. There also is a built-in USB charger and auxiliary audio input.

As far as driving the car, it has four driving modes: EV (Electric Vehicle), Eco, Normal and Sport. EV is great for heavy traffic (basically makes the car a golf cart). The throttle response in Eco is manipulated to give you the best possible fuel economy and is definitely useable the majority of the time on the lower speed roads through downtown or even on the Pali. Normal gives you smooth acceleration and is perfect for freeway driving. Putting it into Sport mode tightens up the steering, and gives you a nice boost while going up a hill or passing. The back lighting on the console changes to red (normally blue) and a tachometer appears when you switch to Sport mode. It’s also a first in any Lexus hybrid.

Under the hood is a variant of the Prius powertrain with an efficient Atkinson cycle 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 98 horsepower (hp). Adding on the 80-hp electric motor, a generator, and a 202-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack, bringing the total to 134 hp. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a zippy little car, and it had no problems going up the H-3 without a struggle. According to the car’s calculations, I was able to get 50-60 mpg on some trips.

Base pricing for the CT 200h starts at around $29,000. Visit Servco Lexus to check it out!