Saturday, July 30, 2011

CT 200h - how powerful is the h, really?

Was out and about on a lazy weekend, and decided to finally give the much acclaimed (and awaited) Lexus CT 200h a spin. The first time I met the hybrid was during its debut in Tokyo Motorshow a good few years back when like the A1 Metropolis, it was good thinking on paper, great looking in prototype. Now that it's finally here, let us see if it lives up to its game - a luxurious sporty hybrid that it was born to become.

I must say that any normal Joe would be impressed at its high-tech functionality when it comes to simple routine such as locking and unlocking your door. Slide here to lock, touch there to unlock, our first greeting seemed promising. And then you get into the vehicle, and immediately feel a sense of pressure to act smart. This CT 200h at first introduction can be quite intimidating. I've been driving for so many years, and learning about so many cars, yet I feel stupid when I am finally behind its wheel. It felt as though my driving brain has escaped me, not knowing where all the buttons, switches and levers are. This like the Prius is a vehicle which you need to unlearn your driving skills and be reborn as a high-tech sophisticated tree junkie. While keyless entry and start/stop function will soon (we foresee) to be standard features in all vehicles in the future, I was still amaze at the cocktail of buttons and knobs presented on the instrument panel. The switches may take awhile to familiarize but certainly not rocket science. However, due to the change of this driving configuration, I'd assume many retirees would rather pick the Honda Insight instead of this, even though they could afford it. Well, at 60 and after battling hard wars, you just wanna GO and not figure HOW TO anymore.

Back to our drive. At our first handshake, the CT 200h came to life. Silence. Which to be fair, is not uncommon in all hybrids be it Prius or the Honda Insight. Petrol guzzlers will be amazed. It's like magic... :) I didn't quite fancy the dash nor the display panel though - somehow, it didn't seem as premium as I thought it should be. We backed out from the parking lot with ease as I had the high-spec model which comes with a reverse camera but soon I realized that I needed to readjust my foot strength on the brake pedal. A lot. It's strange because you either release the pedal, or you step on it and I think most of us are used to adjusting the torque from standstill by balancing our foot strength. Although I'm not sure of the system (hydraulics and regenerative I know) but there's a tiny sound of 'pssssss' every time I brake. Strange. I did asked the Sales Advisor if it was normal and he replied, not to worry, it's adjustable. Hmm.

CT 200h and I took a run around Kota Damansara area with a short sprint on Penchala Link to try the Sports mode. This car with the same engine as the 1.8cc Prius is a joy to drive on urban roads. Easy handling, responsive and zippy. But when it hit the highway, there was certainly a delay before power comes in to aid acceleration. I like how the display panel's blue glow turned to red when Sports mode is engaged, but I'd prefer the car to perform rather than to show. As we revved up to about 100km/h, the power fully settled in and it became quite fun to curve around. Unfortunately, I could only enjoy about 10 minutes of this in a mild and controlled setting because we spotted a police roadblock. Dang.

In terms of fuel-efficiency, I was told that you could fill a full tank with RM80 and run the car for about 800 to 1000km. Wow. Now, that's probably the most impressive piece of fact I've absorbed so far about this hybrid. We can't compare apple to apple with the other two available hybrids in Malaysia since the drive train and system as well as the build of the vehicle are different. But that is really a very impressive mileage to clock. I was told also that, more ladies are attracted to the CT 200h because of its sporty and stylish good looks, compact, powerful enough for its segment as well as more importantly, the real fuel-economy deal (a word I try to skip most of the time, because it's so compromised!). Guys? Nah... Unless, they are your rich boy-next-door who are planning to save earth for his unborn children. Kudos to them, this car will serve them well. At least, it looks really sporty and when you're stuck in a jam, who cares if it can't really sprint right?! (again, I'm referring to same segment drives okay, please do not compare this to current available compact sedans because it WILL outrun them :P).

There are currently two variants available - the entry level and the high-spec model. Both offers the same performance package. What's different is the swanky features and controls such as the smart entry system, rain sensor wipers, auto turn lights, navigation system and a whole bunch of other knobs and buttons that really put the haute back into the CT 200's h which if you skim the trim, you'd end up with a luxury badge without the real substance :/ But this substance would set you back an additional RM40k. Oh well, like I said earlier, in a traffic jam, who would know if your seats are not powered right? :)

All-in-all, I have actually considered this car. Not in a 'I wanna buy this car' way, but 'will I ever buy this car' sort of way. Initially, the answer was skewed towards a favourable 'yes'. And I would if it was a lot more sportier as it has trumpeted to be. My expectation was really high. Having said that, don't misunderstand me, it doesn't lack any horses. With a combined maximum output of 134hp from both engine and motor, it is more than sufficient for zipping urban roads and cruising on suburban ones. The drive is comfortable and composed, even if it's the sports mode, it doesn't misbehave. This is probably as naughty as Lexus can ever get and that to me, is the problem (oh hang on a minute. They do have the LFA...).

Anyway, if you are over 30, female or a metro male (and everyone in between), don't mind paying more for something that's truly unique and unconventional and at the same time, needing to satisfy the very practical left side of your brain in terms of overall running cost, the CT 200h is for you. Wait no more. Entry-level model starts from RM171k and the high-spec variant is priced at RM202k.

No comments:

Post a Comment