The Lexus HS250h is an all-new model for Toyota’s luxury brand. Although Lexus is no stranger to hybrid technology, the HS (for Harmonious Sedan) is their first dedicated hybrid. According to Lexus, 60% of entry-level luxury car buyers said they would consider a hybrid in that class if one were available. There is a huge misconception out there that the HS250h is simply a tarted-up Prius, but there is no truth to that. The HS is actually based on the Euro-market Toyota Avensis.
When I do a review of a car, I frequently read reviews from other blogs and publications to get a feel for what people are talking about. I was alarmed at what I found, but to boil it down, the hot topics centered around the HS’s styling, drivetrain, and interior. Not minor stuff, but let’s break the HS250h down.Ã‚Â
Styling is subjective of course. Few people will call the HS sexy, but I found our tester, finished in Black Sapphire, particularly classy and smart. This is a hi-tech car, and the looks suit the HS’s purpose without coming off as nerdy. If the top-line Prius V is Bill Gates in a tux and a $200 salon hair cut, the HS250h is Steve Jobs. Substance with swagger. Size-wise, the HS slots in the middle of Lexus’ entry-level offerings: larger than the sporty IS, but smaller than the more luxurious ES. Stripped of its badging, I doubt anyone would look at the HS and identify it as a Lexus, but the exterior styling is different from anything else out there, which is refreshing.
The HS250h relies on a 2.4L four and electric motor for a combined 187hp, coupled to a CVT transmission. If you have driven a Camry Hybrid, the drivetrain should be familiar to you. Lexus claims a 0-60mph time of 8.4 seconds, with a top speed of 112mph. Driving around town, the HS feels, and operates much like the new Prius. Merging onto a highway, or in a passing situation, the extra oomph of the HS is apparent. I’m still no fan of CVT’s, but I will credit Lexus for making the best one I’ve experienced yet. The ‘power boating’ effect that afflicts so many CVT-equipped cars is kept at a minimum in the HS. When more power is needed, you get more revs, but the Lexus is quick to settle in to a lower ratio. Other publications complained about the drivetrain, but I’m guessing they were constantly flooring it. Not how I anticipate HS buyers to drive their cars.
I did find the ride a touch more firm than I’d expected, which was a pleasant surprise. Still, the HS250h won’t be making the list of sport sedan shoppers. The car exhibited considerable roll going into corners, and with a lack of bolstering in the seats, I often found myself ‘leaning’ in while cornering at what I thought were tame speeds. The steering wheel seems one size too large for the HS, but I eventually got used to it. Although the steering was quick, it offers very little feel. The HS is easy to drive on curvy roads, and did not become unsettled, but if you crave a communicative chassis, keep looking.
Where the HS250h shined was on the Williams’ annual drive to the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts. The Lexus was at all times calm, cool, composed and very comfortable. I found the interior fitments befitting of Lexus-high quality, soft touch. Our tester was the Premium model. The standard HS is very well equipped, but the Premium adds 18″ alloys, heated/vented front seats, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, wood trim, and smooth as butter semi-aniline leather seats. We also had the optional Nav system, which uses a Remote Touch controller for nav/climate control/audio functions. It works just like a mouse on a PC. I feared my little pointer icon going all over the screen as I veered across three lanes of highway traffic trying to change the radio station, but thankfully this wasn’t the case. Moving the pointer icon across the screen, the controller actually has ‘detents’ when you hit a ‘button’ you want to use. If that still makes you uncomfortable, Lexus left enough buttons on the console to make adjustments. After a couple days I found the Remote Touch controller intuitive to use.
Our tester also included the Tech Package, which included Lane Keep Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Heads Up Display, Park Assist, and Pre-Collision System with Driver Attention Monitor. This is a $3,900 option. In my week with the Lexus, I needed none of these. Yes, the Park Assist did speak up if I was in a tight spot, but I relied on me, not the car to park. Safety has its place, and with the Tech Package, Lexus has your back, but unless you are on the road all the time, I don’t see the value here.
With an as-tested price of just under $45,000USD, the Lexus is hardly inexpensive, but it shouldn’t be. This is a very well-equipped luxury car that does a fine job of coddling its occupants, but it does so while delivering 35mpg. Lexus claims the HS gets 80% better fuel economy than the average entry-level luxury car, needing only 87 octane. While critics question a four cylinder Lexus, I counter that BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Acura and Infiniti have all at one point, or currently sell a four cylinder car themselves.
Until recently, the desire to own a hybrid car has meant the equivalent of having to fly economy class. Current offerings may upgrade you to coach, but with the Lexus HS250h, this is your very fist chance to go hybrid and fly first class.