2010 Lexus HS 250h Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 28, 2009

The new 2010 Lexus HS 250h packs some noteworthy technology features, though those expecting either Prius fuel economy figures or a sportier driving experience might be disappointed.

The 2010 Lexus HS 250h has been test-driven by the editors of TheCarConnection.com, who have assembled this Bottom Line that sums up this new vehicle and compares it to rival hybrids and green cars. A full review also researches reviews from other sources, bringing you some of the most useful highlights.

The 2010 Lexus HS 250 is an all-new hybrid model and the first dedicated hybrid sedan for the Lexus lineup. Though it shares some components with the Toyota Prius hatchback, it has an entirely different body style and doesn’t have in common any body panels with the Toyota. The HS is larger and wider than the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series, or Lexus IS—or about six inches shorter than the Lexus ES and about six inches longer than a Toyota Corolla sedan.

The HS 250 looks somewhat blunt-nosed from the side, with distinct, cab-forward proportions that don’t seem nearly as beautiful in silhouette as Lexus’s IS compact sport sedan, but the attention to details gives the design some pop. A crease leading off the corner of winged headlamps trails to the HS’s waistline, while the hoodline rises higher to the windshield. Small sections of the front windows extend ahead of the front of the doors, and the curvature and angles around the rear pillar are quite elegant, with a tail that ends up looking like an abbreviated form of the LS flagship, with nicely detailed tail lamps. Smooth air management gives the HS a slick aerodynamic coefficient of only 0.27; the grille’s bars actually form a solid surface for guiding air, while the underbody has extensive covers and a diffuser to help with airflow. Inside the HS, the instrument panel groups audio, climate controls, and infotainment into a center stack that wedges outward; models with the navigation system get a pop-up screen and a centerpiece Remote Touch trackball-style controller that’s simpler and more intuitive than other complicated interfaces.

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A version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive hybrid system in the HS 250h combines a 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine with a 40-horsepower electric motor system to produce 187 horsepower altogether. A power control unit manages to recharge the battery while decelerating or braking, or to deliver an electric assist when accelerating. As such, the HS 250h can accelerate to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, according to Lexus. The EPA fuel economy ratings for the HS are 35 mpg city, 34 highway. TheCarConnection.com finds 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 but reached a 46 mpg average in exceptionally gentle, controlled conditions on level roads.

The HS 250h doesn’t feel like a performance car, or even particularly 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 reactive in the 20-to-60-mph range and cruises at higher speeds more confidently than the Prius (or the Camry Hybrid). The electric-assist steering has a rather quick ratio and actually conveys some feel of the road, but soft suspension tuning means there’s plenty of lean (and nosedive when braking); overall the HS handles in an unexciting but safe way. A Touring Package includes sport suspension tuning and 18-inch alloys, firming up responses somewhat.

The 2010 Lexus HS 250h is tight and quiet inside, thanks to details like an acoustic windshield and triple-layer door seals, but engine noise is more present than some buyers will expect in a Lexus. Any even moderate press on the accelerator is met, after slight delay, with a surprisingly vocal drone; we’re surprised Lexus didn’t work more to mute the gasoline engine’s coarse character. The Achilles’ heel of the HS 250h is its roofline; versus the Prius, the sedan loses a little bit of headroom in front and a lot in back. In front, the seats are mounted quite high, and tall drivers such as this one can’t lower them enough. In the backseat, the HS doesn’t feel as roomy as a Camry due to the restricted headroom. Trunk space in the HS 250h is impressive; official capacity is 12.1 cubic feet, but it somehow feels larger. For those who keep track in terms of golf bags, the HS will fit four of them. But those who expect a little more versatility will be disappointed; the HS lacks folding backseats—or even a pass-through—because of battery placement.

Lexus doesn’t hold anything back with respect to safety in the HS 250h, including a class-leading 10 airbags, with the expected front, side, and side-curtain bags, plus several features—rear side seat-mounted bags and knee bags for both the driver and passenger—that are rare even among the most technologically exclusive vehicles. Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, and hill-start assist are also included. A Pre-Collision system—which alerts the driver of an impending collision and primes the braking and safety systems—is included with the optional Dynamic Radar Cruise control.

There’s an exceptionally long list of technology options available on the 2010 Lexus HS 250h. LED headlamps are a segment first, according to Lexus, and paired with Adaptive Front Lighting, Intelligent High-Beam, and headlamp washers. High-tech options include Intuitive Park Assist, a new heads-up display, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, front and rearview monitors, and Lane-Keep Assist, which warns you if you’re straying out of your lane and actually applies a steering correction. As can be expected on a Lexus, there’s a fine-sounding 330-watt Mark Levinson audio system available. Additionally, the HS 250h is the first Lexus available with the “Enform with Safety Connect” system, which combines subscription-based information and safety services. Enform will allow a suite of services, including crash notification and roadside assistance to assistance with programming a destination into the nav system. XM provides live traffic, weather, sports, and stock information—all of which can be accessed through a streamlined voice command system.

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