Lexus CT 200h: The Japanese Got Rhythm

April 28, 2011
In my last blog post, I was pilloried by some readers for having made some particularly egregious grammatical errors, which, given my professional past, felt like a proverbial triple poke in the eye with a sharp stick soaked in lemon juice and tabasco. In short, I didn’t pay attention to the details. And those readers let me know it.

Now when I think of obsessive detail-minding, there are few automakers more zealous than Lexus. No matter what you think of their cars and SUVs, Lexus does sweat the details, whether it is sound deadening, sound systems, smooth transmissions or fit and finish. They make an effort to engineer their cars to very high standards.

I have been lucky enough to ride in numerous Lexus cars, always as a passenger (no one smart would trust me with the keys) and the smoothness of these cars was quite remarkable. And gadgets, more than you could shake a stick at. However, these cars all lacked a bit of soul, they didn’t have a sporty edge to them, and you couldn’t get really passionate about them unless your primary automotive mission was either reliability or getting from A to B on a four-wheeled cushion.

However, with the latest Lexus products and concepts, such as the really cool Lexus LF Gh with its aggressive styling, and most recently, the new CT 200h, the boys in Japan are trying blaze a new path -- one that is sorely needed.

Specifically, the CT 200h is an interesting case, especially for North America. A luxury hatch hybrid? That goes from 0-60 in 9.8 seconds? That’s minivan territory. And the exterior styling? I won’t call it ugly, that would be too mean. But that back end borders on hideous, the whole shape just doesn’t work for me. As for the interior, I’m sure it is well screwed together, but it lacks something. It doesn’t come across as new luxury, rather merely as high-tech. But it’s supposed to be a luxury car (that goes easy on the environment). Furthermore, for a Lexus, it also allegedly handles better than anything they have produced, LFA excluded. So it’s a slow, decent-handling luxo-eco-friendly hatch. OK, then.

So how do you promote such a unique beast? With a really cool ad, the one below. Lexus advertising has long used music to inspire potential purchasers and they have already used a drum motif for the IS250. They take the same approach here in a full 60-second commercial. It is one long, very cool drum roll to introduce the new CT 200h. (I have also seen another  commercial where it is referred to as “the dark side of luxury” -- I’ll save that laugher for another post.)

The drum roll build-up is great, then comes the silence of just the Lexus, cruising away in silent, eco-mode, with lots of pics of the exterior, the hybrid badge and the interior. And then a last little drum beat to close out the ad. I love the various drummers, the way they are filmed, the intensity of each drummer building as the commercial moves on. The timing, rhythm and pacing of the ad are excellent, and then the silence makes you focus on nothing but the car and its earth-friendly mission. The details of this ad have been sweated. Enjoy. [Autoblog]

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