let's look at the vehicle itself and why it's been such a hot
seller in Japan and promises to be an equally great sales success
in the U.S. The 2010 Lexus HS 250h (HS stands for "harmonious
sedan", a very Japanese title) starts at $34,200 – typical for
an entry-level sedan from a tier 1 luxury brand. This is
relative bargain compared to other Lexus luxury hybrid sedans -- the
2010 Lexus GS 450h, priced at $56,550 and the 2009 Lexus LS 600h,
priced at $106,035.
For your money, the Lexus HS gives you
some attractive luxury and eco-friendly features -- Smart Access,
push button start/stop, a HomeLink universal transceiver (can
accomplish functions like closing your garage door), UV-reduction
windshield glass, bioplastics (from sources including kenaf fibers
and castor seeds), an OLED gauge cluster, a 10-speaker premium sound
system, XM radio, LED taillamps and more. LED headlamps, a
backup camera, and a navigation system are all optional
From a performance perspective, the sedan
has 187 net horsepower (from a 2.4L 2AZ-FXE inline-four engine and a
40 hp electric motor). This compares comes favorably to the
Toyota Prius (134 hp combined, via electric motor and 1.8L engine).
0-60 mph acceleration for the small four-door is around 8
seconds. Meanwhile, the sedan's fuel economy of 34
mpg (combined) stacks up between the Prius's
industry-leading 50 mpg combined fuel economy and the Lexus
LS/GS's not so great fuel economies (21/23.5 mpg,
Driving the Lexus HS, the first thing that
popped out was a bit of a negative -- one of only a handful that
marred the experience. The car has one of the smallest
automatic shifter sticks that we've seen. We've seen small
knobs, but this thing was tiny -- nearing the size and average
thickness of a human thumb (though a bit wider at its crest).
In fact, we dubbed it the "fairy stick" due to its
diminutive size. This stick marred the car's look -- we're not
quite sure what the designers were thinking. Fortunately, the
situations in which you have to interact with the unsightly little
stick were limited.
Otherwise the seats were comfortable
(bioplastics and all) and our model came with the LED headlamps,
which were very bright and clear. Our vehicle also came with
the navigation package, and the display was bright enough to be
In terms of on road performance, we averaged 36
mpg over 345 miles, slightly better than the EPA estimates.
While not as efficient as the Prius, this meant that we still weren't
on empty even after a long week of driving. The disc brakes
were extremely responsive and not overly jumpy -- regenerative
braking is usually a low-point with hybrids. Acceleration was
smooth, but is largely a matter of perception. Moving up from
the Prius, it will feel powerful, but for those who have experienced
the LS/GS hybrids, it feels underpowered (but that sacrifice seems
worth it, to us, as the fuel economy is significantly improved).
NVH is very low -- inside the cabin is quite quiet. The car
absorbed potholes on a poorly maintained Detroit street with aplomb,
offering minimal jostle to the passenger.
Overall the sedan
seemed a relatively good value for its price. A couple more
minor complaints were the "feature" auto-dimming mirrors.
For those easily distracted, they may be a good idea, by minimizing
incidental glare. However, for those with good vision, they
prove to be a headache as it's hard to see vehicles at night in them,
particularly those with dim headlights. We'd rather deal with a
bit of glare and retain the ability to actually see what's coming at
us. Perhaps a future implementation can fix these problems.
Our other minor gripe was that the remote unlock on the trunk
did not seem to work (it could have just been our unit) and the trunk
seemed (in general) hard to open. These detractions considered,
we still enjoyed our time with the vehicle and felt that it's
definitely something for entry-level luxury buyers to consider.