When talking about the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, it’s a case of is the glass half empty or half full. For the uninitiated, the Lexus HS 250h is the world’s first dedicated luxury hybrid. It is not based on another model. The car is a rolling technology platform. Upon my first entry into the vehicle I noted the sharpness of the interior and the quietness of the cabin. The car runs almost silently.
My test vehicle was gray and it had a two-toned gray interior that was light, comfortable and made me feel good. That’s the sort of stuff you’d expect from one of the world’s leading manufacturers of luxury vehicles. The Lexus 250 HS had a four cylinder engine, the first for the brand, and a electric motor. Both produced 147 horsepower but the car had a total of 147 horsepower because both engines could not be used optimally in tandem. The car had a continually variable transmission (CVT) and the driver could select from drive modes: normal, power, eco and EV. Each switch position changes the rate of throttle opening for a given throttle-pedal angle. I left it in normal mode.
Toyota says, “Normal mode has an essentially linear throttle response that gives naturally progressive power. Power mode can be selected for a more responsive feel when desired. In Eco mode, air conditioning settings are adjusted and the throttle response is reduced relative to the pedal angle to emphasize fuel economy. Under certain circumstances, the EV mode can allow the vehicle to be driven short distances using only the electric motors.” Acceleration from 0-to-60 mph was, according to Lexus, rated at 8.4 seconds. I only had one quibble. The center stack jutted out from the dashboard somewhat like a pier. That made it easy to reach but also put it unexpectedly in the way – of what I have no idea. Still, the backseats were snug but comfortable. There was good headroom and legroom was adequate. I think two adults could ride back there for some time and not be uncomfortable when the trip was done.
The car was smooth and it handled well. It was not going to scorch the pavement from a standing stop but it would make you an impediment to other vehicles either. The Lexus 250 HS cornered well and the energy gauge would tell me how much it was recharging the battery when I braked. As with most hybrids, I could sense the extra weight the car was carrying in the form of the electric battery pack and the electric motor. But I think that Lexus did a nice job of tuning the suspension to handle the extra girth. I could sense the weight by the way the car went over bumps but I really could feel the extra weight.
Before I forget, the Lexus HS 250h is a small mid-size car. And that’s the half empty part in my opinion. This car is really a test for Lexus’ brand strength. In other words, there are several hybrid sedans out there, the market-leading Toyota Prius, among them from which consumers can choose, if they’re interested in the environmental and financial benefits of driving a hybrid. I think Lexus is attempting to attract environmentally conscious luxury car buyers. Although, the 2010 Lexus JS 250h starts at $34,200 (my test vehicle was $38,687) you can still get a hybrid for less than that. That tells me it’s the upscale buyer that this car as well as every Lexus is targeting. To snare them, my Lexus HS 250h test car was chock full of consumer goodies including a rearview camera, navigation system, satellite radio, voice controls, auxiliary and USB jacks, heated and cooled front seats and Bluetooth.
The best part is that the car had an EPA rating of 35 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the HWY.