2011 Lexus HS 250h

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2010 Lexus HS 250h: Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2012.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.0

Bottom Line:

The Lexus HS 250h is the next logical step up from the Toyota Prius. While it doesn’t offer the industry-leading fuel economy of Toyota, it doesn’t make as many compromises in terms of power, handling or interior luxury. It’s likely to be priced with luxury sports sedans, though, so it will mostly appeal to buyers who want a family car that is both green and comfortable, not fast and sporty.
Pros:
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Lexus quality and reliability
Cons:
  • Engine lacks Lexus refinement
  • No folding rear seats
  • Artificial feel

View Pictures:  2010 Lexus HS 250h

With the Prius, Toyota has won the hearts and money of Americans who want a useful family car that makes a social statement. It is a dedicated hybrid, meaning no other powertrain is offered, and its unique looks let onlookers know it's a hybrid. For 2010, Toyota's luxury brand, Lexus, is following that same formula with the HS 250h, a dedicated hybrid with luxury cachet. The HS isn't as efficient as the Prius, but it improves upon its little sibling in every other way.

Model Lineup
The 2010 Lexus HS 250h is offered in only two trim levels: Base and Premium. Among the standard features are leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, a universal garage door opener, a 10-speaker AM/FM stereo with 6-disc CD changer and Bluetooth audio streaming. The Premium adds semi-aniline leather seats which are heated and ventilated up front, P225/45R18 tires, a power steering column and auto-dimming side mirrors.

The HS has an impressive list of standard safety features, including dual front airbags, front side airbags, rear side airbags, curtain side airbags, front knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, active front head restraints, a tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction control and electronic stability control.

Option packages include the Touring Package with two-tone leather upholstery, sport suspension and sport pedals. The Navigation Package's system has voice command, a Remote Touch controller, a rearview camera and the Lexus Enform with Safety Connect telematics system. Included in the Technology Package are Intuitive Park Assist, Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning and a unique wide-view front monitor that shows a bumper's-eye view and works up to 7 mph. A Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system with 15 speakers, 330 watts of power and DVD audio playback capability also is available.

Under the Hood
The 2010 Lexus HS 250h is basically powered by the same hybrid powertrain as the Toyota Camry Hybrid, but with an added exhaust heat recovery system. Capturing the exhaust heat helps the engine warm up quicker, which lets the engine's start/stop feature work sooner, thus improving fuel economy. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 147 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission with an internal power-split device that sends power to two electric motors, one that acts as a generator and one that supplies motive power. The system's nickel-metal hydride battery puts out a peak 40 horsepower, upping the system's total to 187 horsepower.

EPA fuel economy ratings are 35 mpg city/34 mpg highway, compared with 33/34 mpg in the Camry. The HS qualifies as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV), which means it operates 90 percent cleaner than the average new model year vehicle.

Inner Space
Inside, the HS 250h is reminiscent of a dressed-up Toyota Prius, though without as many functions to encourage efficient driving. The same shift-by-wire electrically activated shifter is located to the right of the steering wheel, and a similar center stack juts out toward the driver.

The materials are a definite step up, though, with more soft-touch surfaces and some nicely stitched faux leather covering the instrument cluster and center stack. Lexus says that 30 percent of the surface trim in the cabin and trunk is made from recyclable ecological plastic made from plants. The plastic appears sturdy and there is no way to distinguish between it and standard interior plastic.

Like the Prius, the HS 250h has a Multi-Information Display that shows such information as average fuel economy, powertrain energy flow and battery charge level. It is also ringed by a bar that can help you drive more efficiently. Keep the needle in the green area and you are being efficient; move the needle to the white area and you're wasting fuel. Opt for the Navigation Package and you also get a larger Energy Flow screen, plus a Consumption screen that shows average fuel economy in one- or five-minute increments, as well as regenerative braking performance over those time periods.

The navigation screen pops up out of the top of the center stack. Its functions are controlled through Lexus' new Remote Touch system. Remote Touch uses a mouselike control pad that provides force feedback so the user can "feel" the virtual buttons on the navigation screen. The controller falls easily to hand and is more enjoyable and simpler to use than the interface systems from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Families will find the interior useful. The front seats offer an upright position, and a standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel helps tailor a comfortable seating position for drivers of all sizes, except perhaps the very tall, who will want more headroom and legroom. Small-item storage is adequate, with a small but deep center console bin, two center cupholders and bottle holders in each door. The rear seat is also useful, with enough room for a pair of 6-foot adults or three kids. A standard fold-down center armrest with a pair of integrated cupholders aids rear-seat comfort.

While the trunk has a fairly large opening and a decent 12.1 cubic feet of cargo space, the rear seats do not fold down to accommodate longer items.

On the Road
The HS 250h shares its basic platform with the Toyota Prius, but Lexus has strengthened the structure and firmed up the ride and handling. Buyers won't confuse the HS with a sports sedan, though. While the car is tighter than the Prius, with less body lean in turns, it feels somewhat heavy and doesn't dive into turns like any of the sportier entry-luxury cars. The electric steering also feels numb and artificially firm, especially when it stiffens up at speed.

The HS is considerably more powerful than the Prius. That's a function of the capable 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which has enough oomph to power the base Toyota Camry by itself. The electric motor provides instant power from a stop, and Lexus claims the HS is capable of reaching 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. The tradeoff, however, is that the engine is rather loud and gruff under throttle, which is unbecoming in a Lexus.

Like other Toyota hybrids, the HS can start out on electric power alone and shuts off the engine at stoplights and in some light-load cruising conditions. Drivers can opt to go with electric power alone by pressing the "EV" button, but the engine turns on if the throttle is used too aggressively and when the car reaches 20 mph. Pressing the "Eco Mode" button produces slightly better fuel economy but dulls throttle response, and using the "PWR Mode" makes the throttle more responsive but harms fuel economy.

Right for You?
The 2010 Lexus HS 250h will appeal to families who want a luxury car but also want to look and go green. It can carry five people comfortably and offers a more refined interior and responsive powertrain than the Prius. If these traits appeal to you, the HS will be a fine choice. However, if you want a sports sedan or a car with traditional Lexus isolation, there are better choices.

Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.

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BB03 - 9/14/2014 9:08:03 PM