Test Drive: 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F-Sport

?Environmentally sensitive, and fun -?A practical full Hybrid with attitude

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The 2011 Lexus CT 200h represented the new gateway to the Lexus brand. It introduced the company?s unique and harmonious blend of quality, sophistication and advanced technology to the premium compact segment for the first time, while focused on appealing to younger customers.

The CT 200h was designed and developed with the European market in mind, with its size, packaging, full hybrid technology and ultra-low emissions perfectly meeting the requirements of youthful, highly discerning, environmentally-conscientious customers. But in so doing, it offers no compromise on refinement and driving pleasure that hallmark progressive luxury inherent in the Lexus brand.

The 2012 CT 200h represents the synthesis of five key Lexus attributes which offer customers an unprecedented experience in premium compact motoring: Lexus Hybrid Drive and the Lexus Must haves; a unique driving character; dynamic and elegant styling typical of Lexus? L-finesse design philosophy; Lexus? manufacturing quality and attention to detail; and traditional customer service synonymous with the Lexus ownership experience.

The CT 200h?s Lexus Hybrid Drive system was developed in accordance with a rigorous set of development standards known as the Lexus MUSTs, which include over 500 items that set strict guidelines for raising the dynamic and environmental performance of the new full hybrid.

The CT 200h is based on a highly modified existing platform that incorporates several exclusively developed body, chassis and Lexus Hybrid Drive powertrain control system engineering applications. It combines a low center of?gravity with a high-rigidity bodyshell, a unique lateral performance damper system and a new double wishbone rear suspension, all delivering high-speed stability, smooth, precise handling, rewarding agility and compliant ride comfort.

The driving experience is enhanced by a highly focused driver?s environment that provides an efficient, elegant and spacious cabin design. The CT 200h also features a low ergonomically pleasing driving position.? The Lexus L-finesse design philosophy is readily apparent with a bold new frontal design, sweeping lines, which reflect the natural flow of wind over and around the bodywork surfaces, along with a purposeful, wide track stance.

The grille is pushed forward of the headlamps for greater visual integration with the bumper mid-section below, incorporating a deeper, more sculpted interpretation of the signature arrowhead motif. The upper and lower grilles combine forming a ?spindle? shape, blending bold simplicity and elegant dynamism to the vehicle?s apex. The grille is flanked by headlamp clusters positioned on a higher plane than the grille itself. The deep front bumper and sharply sculpted front air dam flow into clean, muscular front wings. The profile displays a blacked out ?B? pillar with a chrome cabin glass surround that emphasizes a reverse ?kink? in the ?C? pillar or sail panel for a unique effect that suggests forward motion.

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?L-finesse visual impact is carried into the interior, in a powerful simplicity of form that harmonizes with the hand-crafted quality feel of the smallest details, creating an efficient, elegant and spacious cabin. The dashboard is divided into two separate zones: an upper, Display Zone, with an eight-inch, LCD multi-display?screen located 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 Remote Touch that resembles a computer mouse pad.? The steering wheel features a sporty, wide grip and instrument dials are highly visible.

The use of metallic finishes and dark, soft touch materials reinforce the premium quality, with the shape and form of each interior component designed to express the form of the materials, such as the generously bound leather and brushed finish of door handle bezel and the highly-tactile shift lever that appears to have been carved from a single billet.

Propelling the CT 200h is Lexus? proven Hybrid Drive powertrain ? a unique energy management system which consists of: an Atkinson cycle1.8-liter 98 hp (73kW VVT-i) Atkinson Cycle gas engine and 80 hp (60 kW) electric motor for total system power of 134 hp (100kW). The system delivers low fuel consumption, low emissions with almost no NOx or particulate emissions. It features EV, ECO and SPORT ?on-demand? drive modes for distinct, Dynamic or Relaxing driving moods, with?? additional Energy Saving and Environmental Performance Measures. The transmission is of the Continuously Variable Transmission variety, delivering propulsion to the front wheels via Normal, Eco, EV or Sport modes. The CT 200h is a full hybrid, offering all the benefits of series/parallel powertrain architecture. It is capable of operating in gas and electric modes individually, as well as in a combination of both, delivering the energy-saving benefits of a series hybrid combined with the performance benefits of a parallel hybrid.

My test 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F-Sport 5-door hatch wore a Starfire Pearl metallic (White) finished exterior with a Black leather interior and a base price of $31,250. As equipped, my test vehicle?s total price came to $37,009. After adding: the Premium Audio Package; F-Sport with NuLuxe Interior; HDD Navigation System; the Accessory Package and Delivery, Processing and Handling fee.

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SUMMARY: The 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F-Sport is an extremely appealing and attractive 5-door hatch or mini-wagon. It is also very comfortable and stable. Acceleration was indeed adequate for a full hybrid vehicle ? it may not win many drag races, but then, that?s not its intended purpose. The various drive modes performed as expected, delivering the anticipated response levels of performance. Both Normal and Eco modes display an Eco gauge, while selecting the Sport mode switches the gauge display to a Tachometer. The new Enform connectivity system is highly intuitive and simple to operate, utilizing a computer mouse-like controller.

The handling attributes were more sport-sedan like – above than what one would traditionally expect from a five-door hatch or mini-wagon. It stays flat even through exaggerated, higher-speed turns. The interior ambience is luxurious, with a high degree of attention given to detailed craftsmanship, fit and finish.

The CT 200h makes for an ideal entry level Lexus, delivering not only increased operational economy, but fun-to-drive performance and versatile functionality as well ? with room for passengers and their gear. Given the Japanese manufacturer?s vast experience in producing hybrid Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles, the CT 200h is an intelligent choice for consumers looking for an economical, yet affordable, entry level compact luxury vehicle with high reliability and dependability ratings.

The F-Sport option is available only on Premium models and adds a mesh upper and lower grille, a larger rear spoiler, a Black headliner, aluminum sport pedals (accelerator, brake and left footrest), perforated leather trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, F-Sport exterior fender badges, metal front door sills and scuff plates, metal tone instrument panel trim and Sport-tuned suspension.

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