The doubters will call this a Lexus Prius, but there's more going on here than that.
Let's drive the 2014 Lexus CT 200H with the F sport package.
Quite different than a Prius.
Now, check the tech.
Okay, what is the CT?
It is definitely a sportier cousin of the Prius.
There's no getting around that.
But it's a very different car, as you can see, both outside and in.
If you're having a hard time wrapping your head around exactly where the CT fits.
Don't feel bad.
It was originally aimed at the European market.
That's where a hatchback of these proportions makes more sense to people.
On the outside, spot the current one pretty easily by the fact that they now have the family spindle grille.
They used to have this more suburban face on these things.
Didn't do it any favors.
And because we have an F Sport, it also has a mesh panel.
On that grill.
Also look for a blackout roof.
it's a dead giveaway.
Hotter 17s on all four corners and more aggressive chin, and a rump bumper.
It's a pretty good-looking car, to be honest.
They finally got it dialed in, I think.
Now, inside this Lexus CT cabin, you get some of the best ergonomics.
Out there, everything falls to your hand exactly as it should.
This is the first car I ever talked about that had every angle on the dash and console, actually naturally matching the way your wrist wants to move, what a thoughtful idea.
If you headed to navigation, your gonna see that things haven't changed much for Lexus, that's pretty standard.
Traffic though is via HD radio.
So you'll get your traffic whether you have an active satellite radio account or not, which is nice.
Under your Lexus app suite, you've got M Form, which is like Toyota M Tune.
What does that include?
If you're new to this, it's Bing for search, but the search results are oriented toward locations.
My Heart radio's Clear Channel stations.
Here's your movietickets.com, Open Table, Yelp, Facebook Places, you're never gonna use that, and Pandora.
You're gonna use that.
That's the most useful in this Lexus in form App Suite is Bing.
Because it's a Swiss army knife.
You can search for just about anything.
Let's try it with voice.
And then once I get my result, I can either say or click on what I want, and I can either call or then say take me there.
Connectivity in this car is through your phone and its data plan.
Not a dedicated onboard internet radio.
But do you see how many clicks I had to go through?
I had to do a list, refine a list, say take me there, say take me there again.
Now right about now after we've been playing with this interface a bit, hopefully you've noticed the thing that distinguishes it, and also drives me nuts.
That little floating marshmallow icon, and this controller that drives it, the Lexus remote touch controller.
I been kind of on the fence on this one for awhile and I've now decided I simply don't like it.
It's an haptic touch, kind of a sliding mouse apparatus.
The problem is, this doesn't make any sense while you're driving.
It's too touchy.
You overshoot and undershoot all the time.
So you're constantly fiddling with it.
It's not a touch screen, so you can't default that way.
You do have voice we'll look into in a minute.
The other big failing on this thing is that they used to have a back button, right over here under your right thumb, in the early editions of this, and they got rid of it.
I want back.
To be quick, simple, and easy to use, and instead I've gotta always go up here and navigate to the back arrow and start that up.
I shouldn't have to play a video game every time I wanna go back.
And in terms of your audio choices, radio still holds primarily radio choices, although it's odd because all you have to do is go up here to source and you'll see all of your media choices.
Why isn't that your main menu?
Why still break it up into radio and media?
It just makes no sense.
AM and FM with HD radio.
By the way if you're an HD radio fan, know that it's only available when you get the navigation package.
CD player, we still have optical disc in this guy.
Here's my iPod interface.
It's a well laid out iPod interface.
Face as it is for most media, but again, this damn controller gets in the way.
Note that for each of your media sources, you've got a separate set of tone settings.
I like that.
So you can bias one different than another, because most sources have a very different bass line tone.
This is good.
Now I've got an iPod Touch hooked up, which we use for our demo purposes.
But if you hook up your iPhone 4S and above, you'll get Siri eyes free.
Which will also respond to this voice button, but take you into Siri, and operate those functions on your phone instead.
Go into reverse, and you've got your back-up camera, which is pretty good.
It's got trajectory and distance markings there.
Nothing fancy beyond that.
No particular different views, and there are no other cams on this car.
If you don't option nav, or at least what they call display audio, the back-up camera gets relegated to a small part of the rearview mirror.
It's also got a curious lack of most driver assistance.
We'll talk about that when we get on the road.
Your shifter's this odd-looking upside down golf putter looking thing and alongside that is a separate button for park.
This is a little bit of nonsense I don't think is necessary, but it distinguishes the car.
But I don't need to have park a separate interface from the gear changes.
That, to me, is just not worthwhile.
This controller over here is your drive mode controller.
Dead on is normal or push to go back to normal.
Go counter-clockwise, you go into an eco mode.
It dials back from auto response.
Crank it to the right, and you get to a sport mode.
Now you're gonna hold shifts longer and also tighten up the ratio on the electric power steering.
Or hit the EV button right here, and that's gonna encourage the car to run on pure electric, with no combustion, as often as possible.
Which isn't that often as we'll find out.
Now, up front we have Toyota hybrid synergy drive, re-branded Lexus hybrid drive, but the same basic technology.
A 1.8 liter.
Atkinson cycle, that's a lean burn inline four, sitting side saddle driving front wheels only in this car.
It accounts for 98 horse power.
There's an electric motor.
A 60 kilowatt electric motor bonded to it that has another 80 horse power, but you can't just add those up in hybrid math.
It doesn't that way.
Instead, total horse is 134.
So you might say, "Oh, electric motor, plenty of torque." Well, Toyota does not quote a total torque number on this vehicle so I can't really tell you.
i can tell you this: 0 zero to 60 for this mere 3,100 pound car is a pokey 9.8 seconds.
So clearly the numbers are not very healthy.
Here's where it is healthy, MPG, EPA rated at 43 city, 40 highway, and as we're gonna find in my experience that aint no lie.
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat.
This car's got less, zero to sixty in nearly ten.
Ten seconds is not a type-o.
There's just nothing under the pedal.
Partly because I believe it's been tuned to be obviously efficient.
We'll talk about that in a minute.
But partly because this CVT is rubber-bandy.
Really elastic and seems to have no byte.
Needs some grit thrown inside the thing.
So it makes for a very non-responsive driving experience, unfortunately.
The pay-off of course is the mpg.
I drove this car for three days primarily on twisty up and down mountain roads and I couldn't get it below 38 miles per gallon.
It really delivers.
But just like I told you I'm craving a back button on this controller.
I'm also craving some way to shift it.
There is really no way.
No paddle, no shifter of any gear ratio.
About all you can do is pop this little lever here into the B mode, the, brake mode which does additional regenerative breaking.
That gives you kind of a, sort of a layer of permanent downshift, but it's not the same as having shift ability or fake shift points.
Once you build that into your expectations, driving the CT is actually quite pleasant.
There's good room in.
Room in here even though I'm 6'2" it doesn't feel cramped at all and we've also got just a great layout of this cabin.
Not just the ergonomics I showed you before, but just the whole quality of it and complete difference from a Prius.
This car has got a very different feel.
Part of that of course is our F sport suspension, which tightens thin up underneath.
I wouldn't say it's harsh.
That's a good thing, because a Lexus can't be.
What is harsh is that constant meandering, wandering.
Engine note of a lean burn four which isn't pretty, and meandering all the time because it's hooked up to that rubbery, slippery CVT.
As I mentioned, driver assistance is kinda sparse.
You have adaptive cruise control, and a forward collision warning and pre-collision technology, but nothing in the area of blind spot tech, lane departure or self-parking.
And so what you have here is a hybrid with far more sporty pretensions and to some degree, execution than a Prius.
But it would sure be nice to have a powertrain responsiveness that remotely matches the suspension upgrades and the pretty hot look inside and out.
Okay let's do a CT Cnet style.
Start off about 33 grand for this car, delivered.
And then just go all the way and spend $6400 for the full package of F Sport technology and premium trim.
Another thousand dollars on sportier sway bars and lowering springs.
That's the car's mission, is to be a sportier Prius and now you're at just about 40 thousand dollars all in.
Some are gonna swallow hard at that price for a car that does zero to sixty in nearly ten seconds, but the CT turns out to be more than the.
Some of its parts.
Undeniably enjoyable as compact, upscale urban transportation, that delivers serious mpg in the real world and cabin tech that is better than most.
But also more frustrating than many.