Test Drive: Lexus HS 250h Premium Review
When you think of a hybrid car, luxury isn’t a word most people would associate with these environmentally friendly vehicles. Instead, you’d associate the term utilitarian to describe hybrid cars on the market. That’s about to change with the introduction of the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, the world’s first dedicated luxury hybrid. I was luck enough to test drive the 2010 Lexus HS 250h Premium for six days and find if it lives up to the Lexus standard of quality and luxury, but in a hybrid vehicle.
Body Design and Styling
The HS 250h looks like a cross between a Toyota Corolla and a Scion tC, but that’s were the similarities end. The design is truly unique with the aerodynamic body of the vehicle that yields a coefficient of drag of 0.27, which make the HS 250h very fuel efficient. The silhouette displays a smoothly flowing line from front to rear; the C-pillar has a unique arrowhead shape; the grille is set low and has no openings for better aerodynamics over the hood of the car. The hood ornament on the front has a clear blue accented frame around the Lexus L logo to signal “hybrid.” It would have been cool if that logo would glow when the headlights were on at night, but that would probably be too distracting to other drivers. The LED headlamps give the car a nice focused look. Overall the body of the HS 250h is a nice departure from your typical hybrid design and you can really tell a lot of effort went into creating a nice distinct shape for their first dedicated hybrid.
Engine and Hybrid System
Fuel efficiency is the one of the hallmarks of the HS 250h, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it lacks any horespower with it’s first four-cylinder gas Atkinson engine that generates 147 horsepower and a combined 187 total horsepower with the hybrid drive motor, which is rated to go 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds. Not too shabby for a hybrid sedan.
The Lexus HS 250h features four distinct drive modes (Normal, Power, Eco, and EV) that make driving this car very pleasurable in any driving condition. Just like in the 2010 Toyota Prius, the HS 250h has a drive-mode switch that allows you change the mode your in with a simple push of button on the fly. The normal mode features a linear throttle response that gives you naturally progressive power. Power mode is when you want to get more power and quick acceleration like when your trying to merge onto the expressway. In Eco mode, the climate settings are adjusted and the throttle response is optimized for fuel efficiency, which is my preferred mode for driving the HS 250h. The EV (electric vehicle) mode is designed for driving short distance on using only the electric motors. The EV mode is perfect for when bumper to bumper traffic or leaving a parking lot after a concert.
A cool feature of the HS 250h, is the Exhaust Heat Recovery System, that takes the heat of spent exhaust gases to speed the engine coolant warm-up and stop the engine earlier and more frequently when driving. This helps with improving your fuel efficiency.
Like mentioned earlier, luxury isn’t a word you would probably use when describing a hybrid car, but I was pleasantly surprised. The HS 250h may be a hybrid car, but it has all the fine details you’ve come to expect in a Lexus. The spacious front cabin of the HS 250h is trimmed out in supple light gray semi-aniline leather and equipped with heated and ventilated perforated leather 10-way power front seats, that are so comfortable. You’ll really appreciate the heated seats on cool days and the ventilated seats make driving in the summer so much more enjoyable.
The focal point of the interior is Lexus’ exclusive Remote Touch navigation system controller, because it’s the nerve center of the car and how you control all the comfort features. The center stack sweeps rearward to the Remote Touch which is angled towards the driver’s hand over the center console. The Remote Touch is similar to a computer mouse in operation and has adjustable haptic feedback to control the optional navigation system, heating/cooling, audio, phone, etc. All within easy reach. The pop-up navigation is located higher in the center stack for greater visibility and reduced eye movement. I liked the way the Remote Touch was framed out in the same blue color that is used on the hood ornament, which was nice design touch. The center console and Remote Touch is like a gadget lovers dream and very intuitive to use, without the help of the car manual.
When you step into the Lexus HS 250h for the first time, you expect it to have that new car smell, but that’s not the case. The HS 250h doesn’t have that new car smell in the slightest, and that because approximately 30 percent of the interior and trunk are covered in Ecological Plastic. Ecological Plastic is Lexus’ use plant sources as raw material for parts of the interior upholstery, like castor oil in the seat cushions or kenaf fibers behind the seats. The use of these sustainable materials makes the HS 250h, not only fuel efficient, but also helps lower overall emission by not relying on traditional petroleum based plastics.
One feature that is missing in the interior of the HS 250h is the ability to fold down or split the rear seats. The reason for this is because the batteries and electrical for the HS 250h are stored in the rear are behind the back seats. The lack of 60/40 split rear seats won’t be a problem, just as long as your not trying to haul anything that won’t fit in its trunk. The trunk of the HS 250h is quite surprisingly large for a car of its size and can hold quite a bit of luggage in the 121 cubic feet space. You can easily fit several large pieces of luggage and several golf bags inside the trunk with some room to spare.
This isn’t your typical hybrid car and the HS 250h comes loaded with a lot of comfort features that make this car not only enjoyable to drive, but also enhance your attention to the road in front of you.
The standard comfort features include a premium audio system with voice recognition, Bluetooth, integrated XM Satellite radio receiver (with complimentary 90-day trial subscription), USB, and mini 1/8 jack connectors for your iPhone/iPod, multi-informational display and instrument cluster, and steering wheel-mounted controls. The test version of HS 250h Premium I tested came with the following optional features: Mark Levinson Premium 15 speaker surround sound care stereo, XM Nav Traffic, Weather, and Sports, GPS Navigation system, Heads-Up-Display (HUD), backup-monitor, Wide-view Front Monitor, Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Driver Monitor.
One of the features I liked in the interior was the use of the Heads-Up-Display, that displays the cars speed, turn-by-turn navigation arrows, audio settings, and Touch Tracer, on the lower portion of the windshield on the driver’s side. The HUD worked really well on bright days and helps keeps your eyes focused on the road in front of you. The other cool feature of the HUD is the Touch Tracer, which are sensors on the steering-wheel switches the illuminate of the switch layout on the HUD. This is rather genius in my opinion, because no matter how familiar you are with the steering-wheel mounted controls, you’ll still glance down and take your eyes off the road. Just glide your fingers over the switches and you know instantly what your touching, without taking your eyes off the road.
Another comfort/safety feature worth mentioning is the Lane Keep Assist (LKA) and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Driving long distances can be a drag and tiresome on your legs, but that’s a problem of the past thanks to LKA and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. One of the biggest complaints I get from my wife when I driving is that I’m drifting too close to the lane next to me. Lexus developed LKA to alert you if the car is drifting into the other lane, by reading the lane markers on the road and adjusting the torque so you stay in your lane. If you start to drift, the car makes a beeping sound alerting you are drifting out of your lane. Couple this with the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which uses a millimeter-wave radar to measure and maintain a pre-set following distance from a vehicle traveling ahead, and you have a comfortable road trip. You no longer have to worry about drifting over to the next lane or worry about following the car in front of you too closely. This makes for a very comfortable and fuel efficient car ride. I found that by using the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, I exceeded the HS 250h EPA estimated 35 mph highway rating and averaged 38 mph instead.
The dual zoned front climate control system isn’t powered by the gas engine, but by electricity. The climate control system also cleans the air in the car using Plasmacluster ion technology to clean the air of pollen, mold, fungi, and germs. This is a great standard feature, especially if you have allergies.
Overall, the Lexus HS 250h is packed with a lot of great standard comfort features that you’d come to expect in a luxury vehicle from Lexus.
The HS 250h is packed with a lot of safety features and has a class-leading 10-airbag Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) with dual-stage airbags and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags, and front and rear seat-mounted side airbags to protect your rear passengers in certain types of frontal or side collisions.
An optional safety feature available on the HS 250h is the Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Driver Monitor. The radar sensor works like a sonar detecting obstacles in front of the car, and the PCS computer monitors the vehicle speed,and other factors to determine if a collision is highly possible. In such an event, the PCS will alert the driver with audible and visual warnings, preemptively retracts front seat belts and pre-initializes the Brake Assist (BA) so increased breaking is applied the the instant the driver steps on the brake pedal. This is a really nice safety feature to have and would be great option to add to your vehicle.
Noise and Vibration
As the newest member of the Lexus family, a lot of design and engineering efforts were made to make the HS 250h a very smooth and quiet ride.
A couple of areas that were addressed were with engine and wind noise when designing this car. One of the component solutions on the HS 250h was the inclusion of an acoustic windshield glass and optimally placed sound insulation materials throughout the car.
In the engine,dynamic dampers for the engine mounts, dual intake resonators, and optimized muffler capacity were used to achieve a smooth sound quality, that had natural peaks and valleys. The one area where this is noticeable is when you accelerate with the gas engine being engaged or when you switched over to electric motor. The car would make a very even low whirling sound out of a science fiction movie.
Another area where noise is greatly reduced in the cabin was during highway driving. The aerodynamic work that was done on the body of the car which has sweeping lines and smooth transitions between the windshield and roofline, really cut back on the amount of cabin noise when driving at high speeds. Nothing is worse than driving a car on the expressway and you have to shout in order to have a conversation or blast the music on the radio, in order to hear the music. Part of this can also be attributed to the strategically placed seals, barriers, and insulation materials used throughout the HS cabin to eliminate the usual noise sources.
Driving the Lexis HS 250h couldn’t have been a more enjoyable and exceeded my expectations for a luxury hybrid vehicle. The HS 250h has an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 35 mpg city and 34 mpg highway for a combined 35 mpg with regular 87-octane gasoline. During my testing over six days the HS 250h exceeded the EPA estimated fuel economy ratings and gave me an average of 38 mpg highway and 36 mpg city. I think I could have easily gotten the highway average up to 40 mpg. Bottom line is the HS 250h is accurate with its fuel economy ratings and very efficient.
The four driving modes were also really nice feature of the HS, because I could get more power and torque from the gas engine with a simple push of a button. The claims of getting to 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds are accurate thanks to the Power mode which made merging onto highways a breeze. A great feature anyone will appreciate.
The stiff body structure, rigid and compact MacPherson strut front suspension, and double-wishbone rear suspension make the HS very nimble and easy to handle in all conditions. I was really blown away at how smooth and quiet my ride was when driving over the railroad tracks are that I go over everyday on my way to work, which always jar my car. It didn’t feel like I was going over the same railroad tracks at all, it was unreal.
Overall the Lexus HS 250h is a solid luxury hybrid car and shouldn’t be overlooked as a souped up Toyota Prius. The combination of great standard comfort and safety features, excellent fuel economy, make this a truly a luxury hybrid car you don’t want to miss.
Lexus HS 250h Premium Base MSRP $36,970;
$46,547 with the following installed options:
- Wide View Front Monitor with Backup Monitor
- Navigation System (HDD Navigation System, Lexus Enform with Destination Assist, and eDestination, Lexus Insider, Voice Command, XM Nav Traffic, XM Nav Weather, and XM Sports & Stocks; includes 90-day trial subscription)
- Tech Package (Lane Keep Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Heads Up Display, Park Assist w/ Front and Rear sensors, Pre-Collision System with Driver Attention Monitor)
- Cargo Net
- Trunk Mat
- Premium Floor Mats