ROCHESTER, Mich. - Lexus continues to broaden its hybrid lineup with the new HS 250h, a sedan that the company says is "the world's first hybrid-only luxury car."
By "hybrid only," Lexus means the car has no gasoline-engined variant like the GS, RX and LS models.
The HS is longer than the IS but shorter than the ES. Because of the smaller size, it is natural to think of the HS 250h as the Lexus version of the Prius, but it isn't. The HS uses a completely different chassis and architecture, and the engine is similar to the one in the Camry hybrid, although it uses the sixth generation of Toyota's hybrid system whereas the Camry is the fourth generation. Lexus is the luxury division of Toyota.
The HS 250h is handsomely styled and luxuriously equipped. It is quiet on the road and is nimble to drive. Fuel economy is rated at 35 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the highway. It is the most fuel-efficient Lexus.
The HS goes on sale late this summer, and pricing will be announced closer to the sale date.
The 2.4-liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine delivers 147 horsepower. An Atkinson cycle engine is more efficient, but less powerful, because it holds the intake valve open longer than normal to improve efficiency. Most hybrids use such an engine. The addition of the electric motor results in a total power output of 187 total horsepower. A second electric motor functions as a starter and as a generator to recharge the battery pack.
All accessories are driven electrically.
The hybrid system has power, normal, eco and EV modes. In EV mode, the car can be driven on electric power for short distances.
The transmission is a continuously variable unit with a shift-by-wire system.
Lexus points out that the HS is not only fuel-efficient, but it also uses ecologically advanced materials, clever packaging and the elimination of waste to minimize its impact on the planet.
Hybrid buyers not only seek good fuel economy, but they are also sensitive to the environment. The HS was designed to make extensive use of a plant-based, bioplastic material known as ecological plastic. The HS uses this new material in approximately 30 percent of the injection-molded, foam and board components throughout the car, including trunk compartment trim, cowl side trim, door scuff plates, seat cushions and the package tray. Lexus said the use of this material accounts for a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions over the estimated life of the vehicle.
Technology is a key element of any Lexus, and the HS is a showcase. For example, the HS has an exhaust heat recovery system that captures the heat of the exhaust system and speeds up the warm-up of engine coolant.
Standard equipment includes Bluetooth technology, satellite radio and iPod connectivity. Optional goodies include a voice-activated navigation system and Lexus Enform, a function of XM satellite radio that will offer automatic collision notification, real-time traffic, weather updates and emergency assist. Sports scores and stock quotes are also available.
A head-up display shows turn-by-turn navigation information.
A rearview camera is part of the navigation system, but there's also a camera mounted in the front of the car that enables the driver to see around the front of the vehicle. The front view is especially useful when pulling out of parking spots and garages.
The HS has 10 airbags, dynamic radar cruise control and a collision warning system that uses the front radar.
Inside, the cabin is very comfortable. The center of the dash extends back between the front seats as a place for the gearshift lever and the mouselike controller that operates the navigation system.
Not available at this time.
Four years or 50,000 miles with a six-year, 72,000-mile powertrain warranty. Hybrid components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles.
There is no "At A Glance" box because this is a preview drive.
2010 Lexus HS 250h
Engine: 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder plus electric motor
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,682 lbs.
Base price: Not available
MPG rating: 35 city, 34 hwy.
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