Sheep in wolf's clothing
There was a time when "hybrid" and "sustainable energy" (is anybody else as sick of that buzzword as I am?) would send a shiver of distaste through most enthusiast's souls.
But as Dylan said, the "times, they are a-changing'".
Even the deep-pocketed are feeling the pinch of soaring fuel costs, and devoted fans of big horsepower are realizing we've got to do something to lessen our impact on the planet.
Necessity truly does lead to invention. Major breakthroughs in traditional combustion engine efficiency and more user-friendly hybrid and electric vehicles have rekindled hope for those of us who truly love automobiles. And while I applaud the Prius for having blazed the way, there's not a chance in hell that I'd suffer its bland mediocrity as a daily driver.
And now Lexus, luxury builder of well-crafted, yet ultimately soulless vehicles, has introduced a compact hybrid that chief engineer Osamu Sadakata claims is "designed to be fun to drive."
Oh, it certainly looks the part. Visually, my tester is like Mazdaspeed3-meets-STI in burnt mustard. The sharply carved Lexus face and slab sides work really well with the truncated rump and jaunty spoiler, especially riding on large, multi-spoke rims.
But have you ever met someone who looks interesting, different… fun, even? Intrigued, you decide to get to know them better, only to find that every witticism, every double entendre you drop falls flat on the floor. Instead of sparkling banter, there's a dry monologue on the virtues of financial frugality and sensible living.
Clearly, thrill-seeking and deep connection are not a priority here. Meet the Lexus CT 200h.
Inside that cheeky little hatchback beats a heart completely lacking in spontaneity, and the soul of a bean-counter. Oh, it handles well and has a first-rate interior to go with those looks, but performance car it isn't.
Based on the same underpinnings as the Lexus HS 250h hybrid, Scion tC and the Toyota Corolla, the CT 200h is the smallest Lexus in the lineup. It's also the lightest, with the hood, hatch and bumpers all formed out of aluminum. That slippery outline is not only rakish, it's also quite aerodynamic, with a 0.29 coefficient of drag.
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