Benefiting from the success of the Toyota Prius, Lexus invented the luxury hybrid genre and has continued to grow it portfolio of gas-electric powertrains since the introduction of the RX 400h in 2005.
But this car here, the 2010 Lexus HS 250h is unique and that it was built to be a hybrid and only a hybrid. It’s a front-drive compact sedan oozing with all kinds of cool technology and available in Base and Premium trim levels.
This test model is a Premium with all the options mainly electronic ones and costs just shy of $45,000. A Base HS starts at about $35,000. And I have to say that my expectation level before this car arrived was low, mainly because I thought Lexus was giving me a dressed-up Prius but those thoughts were quickly displaced by this car’s unique nature. I think highly of the new Prius. So starting from that point, it would be a good thing for the HS, but with a larger gas engine, a two-motor hybrid system, a double wishbone rear suspension, nine inches of added length and 600 plus pounds, the HS is its own machine.
Of course, the hybrid drive system is similar in its operation and that the HS can be operated on electricity, gasoline or a combination of both. And it still has various operating modes such as a short run EV mode, an ECO mode, and a Power mode. The 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine, a Lexus’ first, makes 147 horsepower and tagged teams with the 141 horsepower drive motor to provide for torque energy burst which feel anything but hybrid like. The HS accelerates to 60 miles per hour in a reasonable 8.4 seconds, but really flaunts its electric strength and passing maneuvers where it feels downright quick.
But my real test of a hybrid is the harmony of its parts and its ability to mimic the enjoyable driving attributes of a regular car. And based on those criteria, the HS earns very high marks. Lexus didn’t abandoned its ethos, the HS is quiet with a refine drive, usable power and impeccable execution of its litany of technologies, and it looks like a Lexus too, not like some science experiment. When I got into drive it each day, it was possible to forget it was a hybrid. The HS possesses a well-mannered ride with no worthy handling, the hybrid drive is as seamless as possible and even the regenerative breaks feel more organic that you’re accustomed to.
Now I like technology, so the $3900 tech package is right my wheelhouse but be prepared for button overload. With lane keep assist, dynamic radar cruise control, a heads-up display, park assist, and a pre-collision system with driver-attention monitor, you can see why there’s a need for so many controls. I love the Lexus mouse controller, and this was my first experience with a Lexus version of OnStar and the cool Lexus Insider Magazine download. And playing my tunes was never as easy in a car as it was in here by using the Bluetooth audio feature of my PDA.
So, at an estimated 35 mpg city and 34 highway, the HS 250h can’t match the fuel efficiency of a mid-size, much less expensive for a fusion hybrid, and obviously comes nowhere near the 50 mpg rating of the Prius. So it’s greenest while very good in a number of ways including its use of enviro-friendly materials, can be brought into question. But for a luxury nameplate with goodies galore and a nice ride to go, the HS makes an interesting case at the entry point into the Lexus hybrid realm.