• New Lexus CT 200h: Chika Kako interview

    March 3rd, 2014 by Eliott Farr

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Want to know more about the design and development of the new Lexus CT 200h? We spoke to Chika Kako, the first female Chief Engineer for Lexus International, and the woman overseeing the CT’s development, at the model’s press launch in Rome, Italy.

Chika tells us how Lexus is making cars that are more engaging to drive, provides her thoughts on some of the engineering challenges facing the automotive industry today, and reflects on development of the legendary LFA supercar.

Name / Job Title: Chika Kako, Chief Engineer, Lexus International

From: Japan

Toyota/Lexus CV: Joined Toyota Motor Corporation in 1989, transferred to Toyota Motors Europe in 2001. Joined Lexus International in 2005. Assigned to the position of Chief Engineer for CT in June 2013.

Also worked on: RX, IS

Lexus Blog: What were the engineering priorities for the 2014 CT?

Chika Kako: To have the best balance between ride comfort and dynamic performance, and also, especially for Europe – to reduce CO2 emissions. I think those are the most important points.

LB: How did consumer feedback shape the improvements that have been made to the CT?

CK: Some customers complained about the CVT noise, and to solve that, we worked on defining the best balance between engine noise and vehicle speed for a more linear feeling (when moving through the rev range). There has been a big improvement in mpg performance also.

LB: How have you ensured the 2014 is even better to drive than before?

CK: By eliminating CVT noise, and working to strike a balance between making the car fun to drive and comfortable.

LB: Technically, what’s the biggest improvement over the previous model?

CK: I think again, the car is more fun to drive, and there is a good balance between sporty handling and ride comfort.

LB: What steps have been taken to move interior quality and on-board technology forward?

CK:  One improvement is visual refinement, for example the style of the gearshift leather and additional interior ornamentation. Improving quietness has helped interior feeling, along with the sporty (exhaust) note.

LB: What do you regard to be the most successful upgrade?

CK: The sporty-looking exterior.

LB: What part of the car do you like the most?

CK: The sporty handling – I really like that.

LB: What aspect of the CT’s development did you find especially challenging?

CK: Coming back to the first question, having a balance between both (ride comfort and dynamic performance) is really challenging, and we spent time – quite a lot of time – working on this. There are 94 changes on the new CT – for a minor change that’s a huge effort.

LB: What have you learnt during the development process for CT?

CK: We have developed a very strong, iconic exterior for our cars, that started with GS, and have enhanced our focus on making cars that are fun to drive.

LB: What are the key engineering challenges facing the automotive industry today?

CK: Safety demands are making vehicles heavier, so keeping dynamic performance and (simultaneously) improving safety is a challenge I think. Recently, requirements for crash tests have gotten stricter, and we have to come up with a solution to that. We cannot ignore CO2 emissions and the environment too.

LB: How is the CT representative of Lexus’ developmental direction?

CK: The car is more fun to drive, and stylish. My biggest passion is to make a cool interior with innovative solutions and a warm atmosphere.

LB: What Lexus model past or present are you most fond of?

CK: LFA

LB: Would you say that there’s a little bit of LFA in the CT?

CK: Sure!

LB: You’ve been working for Lexus since 2005, what are some of your highlights?

CK: Developing the LFA; that helped shape the Lexus engineering vision of making cars more fun to drive.

For more information about the CT 200h, visit the designated section of the Lexus UK website. If you would like us to arrange a test drive for you, leave a comment below, and we’ll be in touch shortly.

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Have your say

  • IMP says:

    Just recently had a test drive, and after having a CT for the past 3 years I can confirm that the ride is definitely improved and that the new tweaks have made quite a significantly better driving experience, I have ordered a new one on this basis..

    • Bob says:

      I would like to investigate this update but we sold ours after two years, our only complaint being the passenger seat has no height adjustment. I believe the updates have not rectified this. So little point in checking out all the great improvements. Trivial I know, but disappointed.

  • Ingram says:

    A brilliant car and the new touches really enhance it, especially that stunning spindle grille!

  • Ed Koko says:

    I just purchased the 2013 CT200h F Sport. Handles like a champ. Mileage is great! Interior design is laid out well. Passenger seat needs the same features as the driver seat. I miss my paddle shifting from my 2011 IS 250. If you could put those in to work with the sport mode or both modes, that would make the car really hot!

    I really love the F Sport features and the custom black chrome wheels. Also, the tech package works for me. I didn’t get the 2014 because of the great deals on 2013. I think the Lexus nose change looks hot, but I can live with the 2013 look. So far averaging 45+ mpg. Great car for what I need a car to do in my business lifestyle. If you are looking for high performance, then you need to look at other models. I have to admit, I cut my fuel bill by 65% doing the same amount of mileage. Being a business owner and running a lot of sales calls this car is super!

    • David Crouch says:

      Thanks for your post Ed and great to hear your comments about your new CT.
      Appreciate your feedback. This the first time you have driven a hybrid?

  • Ian says:

    From what I have read the update definitely seems to be more than the sum of its parts. I really like the look of the new nose – freshens the car up really well and the F-Sport with rose leather looks stunning. I have a 2013 Luxury which is my first hybrid and love it. In fact I may have to change my car for work later this year and I might just get the new CT and that would be the first time I would ever have got a new vehicle the same make and model as the old one!