The 2012 Lexus HS 250h powertrain is essentially taken from that in the Toyota Camry Hybrid, with a 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, including a 40-hp electric motor, for a total maximum power output of 187 hp. The battery recharges while the car decelerates or brakes, and excess engine power also keeps it topped up, allowing the motor to supplement lower engine power or even drive the car solely on electricity at lower speeds and under light loads.
The HS offers a 'power' mode as well as 'normal' and 'Eco' driving options. Most fun by far is the 'power' selection, which takes the 2012 HS out of the realm of sluggish and moves it toward perky, if still far from a sport sedan or performance car. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes 8.4 seconds, Lexus says, which is faster than many compact and mid-size sedans, but slower than the luxury models that may be the most direct competition for the HS. The car is heavy enough (600 pounds more than a Prius) that moving away from a stop doesn't feel all that quick, but in the 20-to-60-mph range, it's better--and the high-speed cruising easily outdoes the Prius in confidence and poise. Its 'Eco' mode is somewhere between frustrating and punishing, however, though it likely delivers better gas mileage.
As in all Toyota products, the electric power steering is quick but largely feedback-free, even if it's nicely weighted. The soft suspension in the HS makes it lean on corners and nose-dive under braking. Overall, its handling is competent enough but unexciting, and far from the sport-sedan feel other Lexus sedans aspire to. The available Touring Package retunes and stiffens the suspension, along with adding 18-inch alloy wheels, making the handling firmer. The brakes are predictable, if again somewhat numb.