Driven Again: 2010 Lexus HS 250h

February 3, 2010

After a follow-up drive with Lexus' compact hybrid luxury sedan, we're still a little underwhelmed.

The 2010 Lexus HS 250h doesn't completely miss the mark in any single way; but it does fail to wow in any conventional sense like performance, comfort, or spaciousness. And that makes it a bit of an odd duck.

Of course, fuel economy is a strength. Lexus boasts that the HS 250h has the highest of any luxury vehicle, at 35 mpg city, 34 highway, but as in our first drive of the 2010 HS 250h, we're left with the feeling that it isn't that much more inspiring to drive than the Prius while returning significantly lower mileage. We saw a decent but not delightful 32 mpg in about 100 miles of driving, split between low-speed urban—most of that time in the Eco or normal driving modes. That's a little bit better than what we saw last spring in Orange County traffic, but 12-14 mpg less than what we've seen in the 2010 Toyota Prius in similar driving conditions.

Provided you drive the HS 250h gently, the powertrain feels adequately Lexus-like, with the 147-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine pretty well isolated and the transitions between power sources often imperceptible. With Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, an electric motor system brings a total output of 187 hp. And cruising at 70 mph is settled and quiet. It's when you need any quick burst of power, or if you're just more of a leadfoot, that you'll find way too much engine noise. Although there's never any discernible vibration in the cabin, it's loud, and out of place from any luxury marque that has had the word 'perfection' in its slogan.

It's also tough to know what to make of the HS 250h in ordinary driving; it has neither the firm, measured handling response of the IS 350 and IS 250 sport sedans nor the pillowy ride comfort of the Lexus ES 350. The ride feels somewhat firm and busy, but pitch it into a tight corner and you get lots of lean; additionally there's an element of bounciness over railroad tracks and particularly rough surfaces, and there's more road noise over rough pavement in the HS than we've experiences in any other Lexus product.

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