Quite appropriately for a very 21st-century premium luxury hybrid compact car like the upcoming CT 200h, Lexus is revealing some interesting commentary and photos on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has devoted three pages of its Lexus Europe's Photos - Wall Photos album to answering questions and comments from CT fans. <A HREF="http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3937660&id=326269989309#!/photo.php?pid=3937638&id=326269989309&fbid=401158639309">Page 51</A> features Takeshi Tanabe, Group Manager for the Lexus Design Division and his answers to four questions on the CT's design posed by Facebook members. Overall, nothing extraordinarily revealing here. Tanabe's comment on "eliminating the 'C' pillar" (this being the roof pillar behing the rear side door and the rear window) is puzzling if taken literally. Structurally, the best any car maker can hope for is a hidden and blacked-out "C" pillar akin to a MINI's. His admission that "as for the Mazda3, I think that several character lines or execution of the details might look similar" was surprising, although he goes on to clarify that "there was no collaboration or benchmarking each other on this type of design...I strongly believe that you will feel the difference of these two vehicles basic design aim and message when you see the CT and Mazda3 driving around in Europe." <A HREF="http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3937660&id=326269989309#!/photo.php?pid=3937660&id=326269989309&fbid=401161664309">Page 52</A> is simply a pointless repetition of Page 51.
<A HREF="http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3937660&id=326269989309#!/photo.php?pid=3972210&id=326269989309&fbid=402271784309">Page 55</A>, on the other hand, is a far more interesting and revealing read, starting with the first "Does the CT 200h use the same electronics and batteries as the new Toyota Auris hybrid?" question. To clarify, the Toyota Auris (not to be confused with the similarly-named Yaris) is, in essence, a rebodied current-generation Toyota Corolla/Matrix that is available only in 3-door and 5-door hatchback body styles and is built in Toyota's Burnaston plant in north-central England. Just as a number of Toyota and Lexus models (Camry, Highlander, GS, LS, RX) are available in hybrid and non-hybrid versions, the Auris Hybrid has just been launched in Europe as Toyota's first locally-built gas-electric model. Lexus' "some specific components are shared to ensure maximum quality levels and manufacturing efficiency. However, you can be sure the new 1.8-litre Lexus Hybrid Drive drivetrain on the CT 200h will deliver all the smooth performance characteristics...you expect from a Lexus Full Hybrid" reply sounds like something of a pat, vague answer, yet it's not inaccurate. When I attended the <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f41/lexus-hs-sybil-automotive-world-391268/">Lexus HS 250h Press Preview</A> back in May 2009, it appeared that Toyota had simply taken its Avensis sedan (a larger-than-Corolla and smaller-than-Camry model also built in England that is, essentially, a 4-door Scion tC), made it more luxurious and transplanted a Camry Hybrid powertrain. Yet, the Press Preview revealed that the Lexus HS received 7 key mechanical upgrades absent from the Camry (Exhaust Heat Recovery System; additional oil cooling capability; the addition of an Inverter to the Power Control Unit; shift-by-wire capabilities; additional Power and EV driving Modes; plus variations in engine mounting and battery layout construction [both due to the different vehicle platform and to allow for additional Lexus-worthy sound insulation measures]), and we'd expect similar variations between Lexus CT 200h and the other Toyotas (Auris Hybrid and Prius) that share the 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder 2ZR-FXE hybrid powertrain.
Geir Huse's "Why FWD? It's a brilliant car, but would've been legendary with RWD" question is an incisive one. The whole notion of a sub-IS Lexus hatchback has been knocked around for years, and is one that this author has followed like a hawk, starting in <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f41/lexus-bs-may-not-b-s-after-all-277239/">late 2005</A> when rumors started of a cut-down rear-wheel-drive Lexus IS akin to the BMW 1-Series that bore the unfortunate Lexus BS moniker. And, that, unfortunately, is precisely what it turned out to be, probably done in by what would've been an uncomfortably cramped rear seat and, above all, vastly inferior fuel economy versus what we can expect from Lexus CT 200h. Here's hoping that, indeed, "the Lexus CT 200h is engineered to deliver all the fun you expect in terms of driving dynamics and refined agility."
Another excellent question is Arild Aukrust's "Will there be a 4WD version of the CT200h?" The first part of the answer, "Currently we are not planning a 4WD version of the CT 200h" may sound discouraging, but in fact, it leaves a couple of loopholes open. First off, it says currently, but who knows what the future holds. Also, bear in mind that Lexus has registered trademarks for CT 300h and CT 400h, implying the possibility that those larger-engined CTs, if they're built, may feature an all-wheel-drive option. Or, perhaps, a full-on CT F may become what <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f41/lexus-c-premium-upmarket-small-car-gets-name-ct-200h-394367/">I once described</A> as "a new-age luxury hot hatch that takes the Subaru Impreza STI / Mitsubishi Lancer EVO ethos to a whole new place or, more accurately, create an unexpected rival to the never-sold-in-North America Audi S3." More encouragingly, the second part of Lexus' official answer reminds us that, "the extreme flexibility of Lexus Hybrid Drive means things like this are - in theory - possible. For instance, Lexus Hybrid Drive on the RX 450h uses a second powerful rear electric motor to give 4WD capability". The weight penalty for this, by the way, is just a reasonable 132 lbs.
David Thompson and Christopher Wai Leung Lam wondered about the Lexus CT 200h's coefficient of drag and why it doesn't follow the Toyota Prius' shape and its ultra-low 0.25 coefficient of drag. With the Prius being a longer vehicle (D-segment, as opposed to the C-segment Lexus CT) with a larger trunk area, it's simply easier to give it more aerodynamic styling that doesn't compromise rear seat or cargo capacity. And while no information is yet available on the CT's drag coefficient, the similarly-sized Toyota Auris Hybrid's 0.28 provides an important clue.
The final question references Toyota's four worldwide design facilities that have styled Lexus models. For the record, CT 200h was designed in Japan's dedicated Lexus studio, while its LF-Ch concept car offshoot was penned in California's Calty studio.
As to the Twitter reference, it was there, in the <A HREF="http://twitter.com/lexus_eu">Lexus Europe Comms (Lexus_EU) page</A> that Lexus first revealed the Brown Spice Mica (or Fire Agate) CT 200h that has appeared in not <A HREF="http://www.ct200hforum.com/forum/lexus-ct200h-pictures/117336-lexus-ct-200h-brown-spice-mica.html">one</A>, but <A HREF="http://www.ct200hforum.com/forum/lexus-ct200h-general-discussion-forum/117335-ct200h-release-europe.html">two</A> CT200hforum.com threads.