2010 Lexus HS 250hPosted on October 28th, 2009
Luxury hybrid sedan
By Nina Russin
When the Toyota Prius migrated from the fringes of the automotive market into the mainstream, it proved to manufacturers that producing hybrid cars could be highly profitable. Since then, Lexus has introduced a hybrid version of almost every model: halo cars that meld environmental friendliness with performance.
This year, Lexus introduces its first hybrid-only model: the HS 250h. The new HS bridges the gap between the Prius’ extended gas mileage and Lexus’ hybrid performance cars. While the new sedan’s average fuel economy of 35 miles-per-gallon lags behind the Prius, it is significantly higher than comparable gasoline-powered models.
The HS 250h is a poster child for other sustainable technologies, such as the use of bioplastic material throughout the interior. The interior fabric is created from plant sources: the first automotive application of its kind. About thirty percent of the vehicle’s interior and trunk are built from ecological plastic, which engineers claim reduces carbon emissions about twenty percent over the car’s life cycle.
Knowing that its audience is technology-savvy, the HS comes with a multi-media package that includes voice recognition, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, and USB iPod connectivity. A mouse device on the center console controls the optional navigation system. With displays including points of interest, traffic, weather, sports and stocks updates, the navigation screen has more interactive graphics than most video games.
An all-new telematics system, available by subscription offers automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assistance and roadside assistance.
Given that the HS has the most environmentally-friendly, technologically advanced interior of any Lexus vehicle, one question remains: what is the new hybrid sedan like to drive?
Test drive in the upper Midwest
I had driven the HS 250h briefly at a media preview in Southern California last spring. The problem with test driving cars in that part of the country is weather: it’s never bad. An extended test drive through Indiana and Ohio at the end of October would reveal how the HS performed in less than balmy conditions.
When my plane landed in Indianapolis, mother nature delivered like clockwork: a large cold front with wind gusts up to 30 miles-per-hour was settling in for the next 24 hours. Visibility was about an arm’s length. Earlier that day, a fuel tanker had exploded on the loop road around the city, forcing the DOT to close part of the freeway, and bringing traffic in that area to a standstill.
When I turned on the ignition, I saw the problem area in living color, enabling me to find an alternate route to my hotel. The rain-sensitive wipers work wonderfully, keeping the front windshield clear, and saving the driver the aggravation of having to turn the wipers on and off.
The sun didn’t rise the next morning as much as dark abated. Since the flag outside my hotel window was standing at attention, I guessed that the winds were still howling. I threw my suitcase in the trunk and got ready to drive to Cincinnati.
A word about the HS trunk: it’s very small. The sedan suffers from the packaging problem that plagues many hybrids. In order to avoid intruding on the passenger compartment, engineers locate the battery pack between the rear seats and the trunk. As a result, the trunk is large enough for a couple of roller bags or a golf bag or two. Since the battery location makes it impossible to extend the cargo area with a pass-through, bicycles, skis and snowboards won’t fit inside.
New four-cylinder engine
At the heart of the HS 250h is Lexus’ first four-cylinder engine: an Atkinson-cycle design that works in tandem with two electric motors. Despite the small engine, the powertrain has an abundance of low-end torque thanks to the electric motors. The sedan accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 8.4 seconds: much faster than one might expect from a 147-horsepower block. Engineers estimate that net horsepower for the gasoline engine and electric motors combined is 187.
The continuously variable automatic transmission allows the HS to accelerate seamlessly, with no shift shock. A brake setting replaces the low gears on a conventional transmission: it increases the amount of regenerative energy to recharge the battery pack, and slows the car down.
Standard 18-inch wheels give the HS a firm footprint for driving and cornering at speed. An electric power steering pump replaces a heavier hydraulic system, and saves space under the hood. In this case, the steering system doesn’t offer the same feedback as a conventional one. It took some getting used to before I figured out how far I could push the car.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car on a dime. Four-channel antilock braking enhances wet weather performance. A fully independent suspension provides a compliant ride, without allowing the chassis to roll too much in the corners.
The sedan’s aero profile presents some visibility problems to the front and back. It is hard to gauge where the bumpers and wheels are. The sedan’s high cowl makes this especially apparent up front.
An optional wide-view front monitor displays a 190-degree view around the front wheels when the vehicle is stopped or traveling at extremely low speeds. A rearview camera, part of the optional navigation package on the test car, solves the visibility problems in back.
Visibility to the sides of the car is good. Designers added a triangular glass insert at the base of each A pillar to keep the post from obstructing the driver’s vision when cornering.
As with all Lexus products, the hybrid sedan is extremely quiet on the inside. During the test drive, I had the chance to sit in both the front and back rows while driving on the highway. There was no problem conversing with fellow passengers in the front or back seats.
What it lacks in trunk space, the HS 250h makes up in the second-row seats. They are much more comfortable than the back seats in the current Prius, with more head and legroom.
Front passengers get heated and ventilated power seats and dual climate controls. I found the driver’s seat very comfortable for drives several hours in duration. A power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag, and a clear forward view.
The brightly-lit gauge cluster is easy to read in all lighting conditions. The left gauge indicates whether the driver is staying within the “eco” mode, or driving for maximum power. Buttons on the instrument panel allow the driver to opt for a pure electric mode (at very low speeds), eco or power modes.
A range indicator is easier to interpret than the standard fuel gauge. The HS 250h goes a little over 400 miles between fill-ups.
A mouse device on the center console is accessible from either front seating position. “Enter” buttons on either side of the mouse allow the driver to use it with his right hand, or the front passenger to use it with his left hand. The mouse controls the navigation system and other infotainment functions. It’s very intuitive for anybody familiar with similar computer controls, and eliminates unnecessary knobs and buttons on the center stack.
A standard 12-volt power point and USB port on the center console interface with USB sticks, iPods and other portable electronic devices.
All passengers have access to ample storage areas throughout the interior. Both front doors have map pockets and bottle holders.
All models come with ten standard airbags, active front headrests, vehicle dynamic and traction control, antilock brakes and a first aid kit.
Base price on the Lexus HS 250h is $36,970, not including a $875 destination charge. The new hybrid sedan is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A technologically advanced hybrid sedan with excellent power, a high level of standard safety features and above-average fuel economy. The front wide-view monitor and rearview camera makes it easy for city dwellers to parallel park in small spaces on the street.
Dislike: Poor steering feedback from the electronic power steering system. Small trunk.
Model: HS 250h
Base price: $36,970
As tested: $46,547
Horsepower: 147 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 138 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.4 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 35/34 mpg city/highway.
One response to “2010 Lexus HS 250h”
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