Lexus turns upthe heat
Hybrid high performance is the goal, writes James Stanford in Paris
WORK on a hot version of the Lexus CT200h hybrid hatch has started even before the standard car reaches showrooms.
Lexus will not bring its new small hatchback to Australia early next year, but the chief engineer of the vehicle is already talking of potential high-performance versions.
The CT200h runs a lightly modified version of the Toyota Prius power pack, which includes a 1.8-litre ecotuned petrol engine and an electric motor fed by a nickel-metal hydride battery back.
It is set up for economy, recording a fuel economy average of 3.8 litres/ 100km in Europe, but the first Lexus hatch is no rocket and takes 10.3 seconds from 0-100km/h.
The car is considered a major model for the luxury brand and Lexus Australia’s chief executive Tony Cramb describes it as ’’the biggest launch for Lexus Australia since 1995’’.
Osamu Sadakata, who has developed several Lexus hybrids, including the original RX400h of 2003, tells carsGuide the company has al- ready played with higher-output versions of the CT.
‘‘We have studied this, but I can’t say when we will produce it,’’ he says.
The first alternative power system is from the hybrid Camry, which will move from the current 2.4-litre engine to a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine working with an electric motor.
‘‘We have tested the 2.4-2.5-litre hybrid and it does fit. It is an option for Lexus,’’ Sadakata says.
But Sadakata seems to be lukewarm on this solution and is keener to talk about a possible plug-in version of the CT which would operate primarily as an electric vehicle, with a petrol engine as a range extender.
‘‘We are looking at a plug-in hybrid,’’ Sadakata says. ‘‘ The Tesla Roadster is a very good idea. The only problem is that the driving range is not too long.
Toyota is deep into development of a plug-in hybrid Prius using using lithium ion batteries rather than the current nickel-metal hybrid type which and are better suited to higheroutput applications.
Lexus is expected to use lithium ion batteries for the first time with the next generation IS, which is the Lexus rival for the 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class and is expected in 2012 or 2013.
It is the last model in the Lexus range — other than the hulking LX LandCruiser clone and SC convertible — to get a hybrid power system.
‘‘The next generation should be a very good hybrid system,’’ Sadakata says with a smile.