California Autos Examiner

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Toyota makes it official: Lexus CT 200h hybrid will be sold in the United States

Lexus CT 200h (Courtesy: Lexus)
Toyota officially announced that its Lexus CT 200h hybrid hatchback will be sold in the USA and will make its North American debut at the New York International Auto Show.

The announcement ends months of "Will they?  Won't they?" speculation on whether or not the premium hatch will join the Lexus HS 250h as Lexus' second dedicated hybrid and fifth hybrid vehicle its United States line-up.

You can view a nice gallery of exterior and interior Lexus CT 200h photos in the slideshow below this linked slideshow.

The new CT 200h is arguably much better looking than the HS, but some petrol heads have wondered out loud if a premium Lexus hatch would resound with US buyers.

Conditions seem to be changing in the US market when it comes to hatchbacks.  One has MINI to thank largely for the acceptance of premium hatches here in the United States although a supporting case can certainly be made for the Volkswagen GTI.  Over the next few years, many well-equipped hatchbacks will be pouring into showrooms from a wide variety of manufacturers, a great development for US buyers.

A premium Lexus hatchback has been rumored since 2005 and was envisioned by master auto illustrator Mark Stehrenberger in this drawing (please note that while Autoblog used this picture in 2009, Mark actually penned it years in advance). 

If you read this forum thread dating back to 2005,  it is interesting to read so many comments about how a Lexus hatchback would likely never be sold in the USA.  It is a testament to how far this market has come in five years that few question the decision today.

Full Toyota press release is quoted below:

The all-new Lexus CT 200h premium compact hybrid will be on display for the first time in North America at the 2010 New York International Auto Show March 31 through April 11.  The sporty and versatile five-door, which had its global premiere at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show today, will be Lexus’ second dedicated hybrid and fifth hybrid vehicle in the line-up in the U.S.
“When the all-new Lexus CT 200h enters the market it will be the only hybrid vehicle in the emerging premium compact segment,” said Mark Templin, Lexus Division group vice president and general manager. 
“The CT 200h combines luxury features, eye-catching styling, and driving excitement that we know will attract a whole new buyer to the Lexus brand.”
The Lexus CT 200h evolved from the LF-Ch concept unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show and was styled with optimum aerodynamic efficiency.  Its size, packaging and hybrid technology meet the requirements of the discerning, environmentally-conscientious consumer in the emerging premium compact market.  It offers no compromise on the quality, refinement and driving pleasure which hallmark the progressive luxury inherent in every Lexus.
Lexus has offered consumers hybrid powertrain technology since 2005.  Marking the introduction of Lexus Hybrid Drive technology to the premium compact segment for the first time, the all-new CT 200h not only reinforces the company’s clear leadership in hybrid technology, but also the unrivalled breadth of Lexus models available as a hybrid.
The CT 200h features a 1.8-liter gas engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), a high performance battery, power control unit, transmission with an electric motor generator, a power split device to re-allocate power from the engine and electric motor generator according to operational requirements.
Four drive modes enhance the capabilities of the CT 200h’s Lexus Hybrid Drive technology and change the rate of throttle opening for a given throttle-pedal angle.  EV mode allows for ultra-quiet running on electric motor power alone.  Normal mode has an essentially linear throttle response while Eco mode reduces throttle response relative to the pedal angle and adjusts air conditioning settings to emphasize fuel economy. 
The new CT 200h has been specifically developed to combine superior handling agility and a sporty driving experience with the ride comfort expected of any Lexus. The Sport mode provides a more responsive throttle and modifies the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) settings to give a faster response to driver inputs.
In the interest of maximum fuel efficiency, particular attention has been paid to the aerodynamic efficiency of every aspect of the CT 200h’s design. The front and rear corners have been pulled in tight to improve the flow of air down the sides of the vehicle and minimize wind turbulence within the wheel arches. The sides of the cabin have been tapered, the rear edge of the roof lowered and even the lower body painstakingly detailed to optimize airflow. Completing the look are unique 17-inch alloy wheels and blue badging specific to Lexus hybrid vehicles.
The interior offers unprecedented levels of refinement in this segment.  Efficient and elegant, the cabin combines superior ergonomics with hand-crafted, premium quality materials to create an outstanding driving environment.  The extensive use of metallic finishes and dark, soft touch materials reinforces the luxury experience.
Despite the compact package, the CT 200h does not compromise interior roominess. Its long, 102-inch wheelbase offers front and rear seat passenger accommodation that is amongst the most spacious in the segment
“Lexus has been at the forefront of luxury hybrid technology for the last five years. The CT 200h is just another example of our commitment to developing cars that are innovative and different from what’s already out there,” said Templin. “With its exceptional fuel economy, ultra-low emissions, dynamic handling, and beautiful styling, the CT 200h is a car that doesn’t sacrifice excitement for efficiency.”

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