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First Drive: 2010 Lexus HS 250h

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2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

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2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

Enlarge Photo

2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

Enlarge Photo

2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

Enlarge Photo

2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

Enlarge Photo

2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

Enlarge Photo

TheCarConnection.com recently spent a day driving the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, which won’t arrive to dealerships until later this summer. We don’t yet know what the HS will cost (around $35k to start, we predict), but we can already say that this little hybrid sedan is much more than the dressed-up Prius that some are calling it.

For one, the powertrain differences are noteworthy; the HS 250h gets its own version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive hybrid system, combining a 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine with a 40-horsepower electric motor system, together making 187 hp. As such, the HS 250h can accelerate to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, according to Lexus, and EPA fuel economy ratings are 35 mpg city, 34 highway—not nearly as hot as those for the Prius, but respectable.

TheCarConnection.com found those figures to be perhaps slightly optimistic, as they often are for hybrids. This editor saw about 30 mpg keeping with fast-moving Orange County traffic, then in a separate loop, we drove the HS aggressively on a short 12-mile stretch of hilly roads and mileage dropped to below 22 mpg. In exceptionally gentle, controlled conditions on level roads, we eked out 46 mpg—about the same that we would have seen from the Prius in normal, with-traffic driving.

The HS 250h doesn’t feel especially perky, but it’s not sluggish either. Thanks to the gasoline engine’s torquey response, coupled with the electric motor’s instant torque, the HS feels responsive in the 20 to 60 mph range and cruises at higher speeds more confidently than the Prius (or the Camry Hybrid). And while the Prius’ powertrain begins to feel unsettled just above 70 mph, we didn’t get that same feeling in the HS until well above 80 mph. Overall, the 2010 Lexus HS 250h is tight and quiet inside, thanks to details like an acoustic windshield and triple-layer door seals, but coarse engine noise makes itself known under acceleration—more than some buyers will expect in a Lexus.

Why the chasm between the fuel economy numbers of these two cars? It’s not just due to the engine difference. Weight is the real issue here; at 3,682 pounds, the HS weighs a whopping 600 pounds more than the 2010 Prius and about the same as the bigger Camry Hybrid—which, by the way, can accelerate faster than the HS.

The Prius is still probably the choice of the two for seating space or cargo versatility, but the HS 250h is now the hybrid for tech goodies, and that's where our indifference about the driving experience was replaced by gadget lust. The HS 250h has enough of the latest tech features to rival all but the brand’s LS 600h flagship. We’ll bring you details on some of the best soon, and in the meantime check out our recently posted Bottom Line on the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, along with pictures, specs, photos, and related news, all here at TheCarConnection.com.

 
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