The HS 250h, a small five-seat sedan, is Lexus' first dedicated hybrid, meaning a model that's not available in gas-only form. It's also Lexus' most affordable hybrid to date. There are no comparable models from luxury brands, so the HS will compete with any other small, efficient luxury car, like the Acura TSX and the clean-diesel BMW 335d.
The HS 250h is recognized immediately as a Lexus, with a more mature evolution of the IS sedan's front end. Based on the European Toyota Avensis, which is related to the Camry, the HS falls between the IS and ES sedans in size. The standard wheels measure 17 inches, and 18-inchers are optional. Also optional are power-saving LED headlights.
The interior exhibits the quality materials for which Lexus is known, and 30 percent of the cabin and trunk are covered in ecological plastics, also known as bio-plastic, which is claimed to produce 20 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than traditional plastic in its manufacture and lifecycle. Ten-way power leather seats are standard.
Technology like Bluetooth, a USB iPod jack and XM Satellite Radio (minus subscription) are included. An optional navigation system adds a pop-up LCD screen and a Remote Touch controller that combines characteristics of a computer mouse with the multifunction knob employed by other luxury brands. The system includes real-time traffic, weather, sports and stock information, plus a backup camera. An additional wide-view front monitor option uses a camera in the grille to display a 190-degree forward view on the LCD. A head-up display, which projects information on the windshield, is also optional.
Under the Hood
The front-wheel-drive HS 250h is the first Lexus to employ a four-cylinder engine, and the 2.4-liter teams with an electric motor for a total of 187 horsepower. The engine runs the efficient Atkinson cycle, which Lexus' other hybrids do not, resulting in disproportionately higher mileage — about 30 percent better than the most efficient Lexus model on regular gasoline. A new exhaust heat recovery system gets the engine warmed up quickly so it can turn off and switch to electric-only operation earlier. The feature should also help decrease engine-on time in colder temperatures, saving fuel.
Standard safety features include 10 airbags, active front-seat head restraints, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. Active-safety options, to help avoid collisions in the first place, include Lane-Keep Assist, which uses a camera to monitor lane markings and can alert the driver if he or she strays; unlike some such features, this one also uses the electric power steering to help keep the car centered in its lane.
The optional adaptive cruise control, called Pre-Collision System, maintains a following distance behind the car ahead and uses its radar to alert HS drivers if they're closing too quickly on an obstacle.