Lexus Softens Stance On Non-Hybrid CT and Plug-in Hybrids

While Lexus still has no confirmed plans to add new powertrains to its hybrid-only CT range, local boss Sean Hanley says the company’s Australian operation would eventually like to see a greater breadth of engine offerings for its entry-level hatchback.

Right now just the CT 200h is offered, a petrol-electric hybrid with a 1.8 litre internal combustion engine and an electric motor supplied by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Power peaks at just 100kW, with peak torque coming in at 207Nm.

But right now a turbo transformation is happening at Lexus. the brand’s 2.0 litre turbocharged inline four has already been fitted to the NX crossover and IS small sedan, with the RX, RC and GS next in line to get the punchy small-capacity engine.

With the 2.0 turbo donk making a healthy 175kW of power and 350Nm when mounted transversely, a “CT 200t” could make for a thoroughly entertaining performance hatch.

But when asked by TMR if Lexus was considering equipping the CT with such a motor, Hanley’s response was, “not at this point”.

“I’d never rule out the potential of that possibility in the future, but there’s no confirmed position,” he continued. “There are no plans afoot that I’m aware of to do anything else with CT other than the facelift we launched under twelve months ago.”

Hanley said much the same thing in April last year when quizzed about the potential for a non-hybrid CT, ruling it out while stating that the CT 200h’s hybrid-only status was crucial to reinforcing the brand’s commitment to hybrid technology.

This time around, however, Hanley acknowledged that the CT’s sales volumes were relatively limited and hoped for a more well-rounded powertrain line-up in the future.

“[CT] is an acquisition car for Lexus,” he said. “It’s not necessarily big volume but it’s a good acquisition car and works well in that regard. “However we’d obviously like to see in the fullness of the model cycle some changes in relation to powertrain. Not away from hybrid necessarily, but in addition to it.”

Having launched in 2011, the CT is currently two-thirds of the way through its life cycle. It remains to be seen whether Lexus will see fit to equip it with a new powertrain – let alone its 2.0 turbo four.

Then again, the GS is of a similar (though slightly younger) age and is already getting the 200t powerplant as a replacement for the current 2.5 litre V6.

2015 Lexus IS 200t

2015 Lexus IS 200t

It’s more likely that Lexus will hold off until the next-generation CT arrives before broadening that model’s powertrain range.

A new model with a more diverse array of engines can’t come soon enough though. Currently the CT 200h trails Audi A3 sales by a ratio of nearly 1:8, and is even outsold by the commonly overlooked Volvo V40 – which is priced well above the CT 200h.

Lexus warming to plug-ins?

While corporate cousin Toyota offers a plug-in hybrid version of its popular Prius hybrid, Lexus has doggedly refused to add – or even contemplate – a plug-in model to its hybrid line-up.

Meanwhile, the company’s German rivals are busy paving the way for plug-ins of their own, such as the Audi A3 e-tron.

But while Hanley says while the company’s position on plug-ins hasn’t changed, they’re not entirely off the table either..

“Some would say plug-ins offer environmentally-friendly credentials,” he said, “but we could also argue that may not the case when plugging into a power source that may be coal-sourced. “That may not be the most environmentally-friendly outcome. “However, having said that we have the capability and the technology to go down that route if we need to do it, or if we can see bigger benefits. “[Plug-ins are] not entirely off the radar, but we have the capability if and when we decide that will be the direction we’ll go in.

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