Introducing the Lexus CT Hybrid

By dancurranjr On December 22nd, 2010

Lexus is going to try to sell the CT as a value proposition. “For just $1,000 more than the cost of a non-luxury hybrid, buyers can indulge in a CT 200h with our proven Lexus Hybrid Drive technology,” said Mark Templin, group vice president and general manager, Lexus Division. He says Lexus hybrids currently make up 90% of all luxury hybrid sales in the U.S.

Hybrid Namplate

Let’s break down that name. The “ES” portion is obvious enough, as is the appended “h,” which is attached to the end of every Lexus hybrid nameplate. We can safely assume that the “300″ in between—like the digits in other Lexus hybrids—refers to a faux engine displacement. Fearless prediction: an ES300h would use a four-cylinder engine paired with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system. This could either be a straight swiping of the
Low Cost Of Entry

In some ways it’s not surprising that the Lexus CT 200h bears such a low cost of entry. The vehicle is clearly youth-oriented, in a way that only the brand’s IS sedan, coupe and convertible have been up until this time, and its small dimensions would also seem to suggest a more affordable sticker. However, the CT 200h is a hybrid, and in the luxury world gasoline / electric automobiles are almost always saddled with higher than average price tags. Not only that, but the CT 200h is also positioned as a hybrid that offers an engaging, even sporty driving experience, qualities that frequently command a premium. This combination of affordability, enthusiast-oriented design and hybrid drivetrain serve to mark the Lexus CT 200h as a unique player in the eco-luxury segment.


However, seeing as it’s the power that Lexus is boasting about, we pretty much have to focus on how the new engine improves the LS 460. Umm, it doesn’t, actually. It’s still as great as ever, not noticeably any quicker, and as quiet and pampering as you’d expect. Maybe the six-and-a-half second sprint to 100kph should mean something to me, but I spent all my time with the LS 460 as any normal owner would; wafting about at quarter-throttle and nodding off at every traffic light. I did like the ‘eco mode’ feature, but that’s always been there, and even with it on you hardly save any fuel shoving a 1,945kg heap of steel down the highway.


Sweet VW Diesel Hybrid Gets 70 MPG

By dancurranjr On December 11th, 2009

VW UP SeriesVolkswagen keeps teasing us with diesel hybrids, and its latest flirtation is a sweet ultralight, ultra-aerodynamic diesel-electric that gets 70 mpg on the highway.

VW rolled into the Los Angeles Auto Show with the Up! Lite (and no, we don’t know why there’s an exclamation point in the name). The super-slick hatchback is the latest in VW’s Up! series, and though it’s just a concept, it looks like it could easily segue to production. It isn’t the most efficient concept we’ve seen from VW — that would be the radical Volkswagen L1 with a very impressive 170 mpg. But unlike the L1, the Up! Lite is something that could sell in big enough numbers to make producing it economically viable.

While the L1 is handsome car, it looks like an aircraft fuselage without wings and the tandem seating — not to mention tiny size — would make it a hard sell. But the Up! Lite concept looks like something you would see parked on any street, anywhere in the world. It’s an attractive hatchback that made us think of the Honda CRX.

The four-seater features a two-cylinder turbodiesel mated to an electric motor and Volkswagen’s very nice DSG seven-speed gearbox. It’s pretty much the same drivetrain in the L1 wrapped in a more practical package. Aerodynamics is the name of the game when maximizing fuel economy, and VW’s designers have sculpted a car with an aerodynamic drag figure of just 0.237. That makes it more slippery than the 2010 Toyota Prius. The Up! Lite is a tiny car — just 12.5 feet long, 4.5 feet tall and 5.2 feet wide.

CO2 emissions are equally small, just 65 g/km. VW also claims that the overall CO2 footprint makes it the world’s most environmentally friendly four-seater. They don’t call it the Up! Lite for nothing, either. Tipping the scales at just 695 kilograms, the latest VW show-stopper would make
Colin Chapman proud. It takes Chapman’s less-is-more ethos to a whole new level.

Under the hood, there’s a newly designed 0.8-liter TDI two-cylinder engine (the same one used in the L1 Concept) that puts out 38 kilowatts (51 horsepower). There’s also a 10-kilowatt (13.4-horsepower) electric motor that does all sort of interesting things. For one, it’s designed as a “pulse start module” that combines the jobs of starter, alternator and electric drive in one neat package. It also recovers kinetic energy via regenerative braking. The car isn’t very quick — zero to 60 comes and goes in 12 seconds — which is why VW says the Up! Lite is designed for city driving.

Speaking of that oomph, the engine and motor work together at certain times (say, during passing) and will combine their power for a total output of 48 kilowatts (64.3 horsepower). And at other times, like when you’re tooling around downtown, the Up! Lite will run without using the TDI engine at all. If you take your foot off the accelerator and start to coast, the engine shuts off. And over shorter distances, the electric motor will propel the car using energy stored in a lithium-ion battery. There’s even a stop-start system that shuts down the engine when you’re at a stoplight.

We know that’s all very nice, but the thing must be as safe as a soda can, right? Not so, says Volkswagen. It has an electronic stability-control system, is slathered in airbags and the four occupants are ensconced and cosseted by a highly innovative safety frame of aluminum, steel and carbon fiber.

Will VW build the Up! Lite, or something based on it? Who knows. At this point, we’d be happy with the diesel-electric Golf VW showed off awhile ago. It’s high-time VW jumped on the hybrid bandwagon.