By John Addison (updated 3/31/10; original 3/26/10)
Luxury car buyers now longer need to sacrifice mileage. The Lexus HS250h gives you the image of success, luxury features, and a hybrid that delivers 35 miles per gallon. Only four other hybrids offer better fuel economy, none with what Lexus bills as a luxury car. You will notice premium appointments in the leather trim, one-touch moonroof, and the quiet ride resulting from added noise insulation. Basically this compact premium 4-door sedan uses the Camry drive system, but seats 5 with more luxury appointments than available in a Camry or Prius. Use half the gas of many luxury cars. This new Lexus was designed to exclusively be a hybrid; there is no 250 non-hybrid.
Mileage & Carbon Footprint
- 35 miles per gallon (mpg) overall
- 34 mpg highway
- 35 mpg city
- 5.3 tons CO2e carbon emissions per year
- $34,200 starting
- $45,000 if loaded with entertainment, navigation, luxury touring package, and safety technology
Hybrid Drive System
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive engages an electric motor, a gasoline engine, or both to keep you moving with front-wheel drive. The Lexus 250 hybrid incorporates a drive-mode switch that allows the driver to select between four modes: Normal, Power, Eco and EV. Most of the time, you will probably want to be in Eco mode to save gas yet have performance. Touch Power for freeway acceleration or passing a slow truck on a two-lane road. EV mode will let you travel a short distance in silence with only the electric motor engaged, receiving electricity from the NiMH battery pack. Most of the time, both electric motor and the 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine are working together to improve fuel efficiency. In this automatic, acceleration is smoothly managed by the electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). Using a two-motor hybrid system, the HS 250h uses a 141 hp drive motor that combines with the 147 hp gas engine. A second motor in the hybrid system serves as both engine starter and generator to charge the hybrid battery pack.
The greenest feature is the hybrid drive system that delivers 35 mpg. The 2010 Lexus HS 250h lets you touch a button to select the EV Mode to run in electric-only mode for less than 1 mile if the battery is fully charged or ECO Mode to drive with the best fuel economy over a distance. Added fuel savings involves an Exhaust Heat Recovery System that captures the heat of spent exhaust gases to speed engine coolant warm-up and allow the hybrid system to stop the engine earlier and more often in the driving cycle when it’s not needed, giving this Lexus better fuel economy in the city than on the highway. Overall, the system can improve fuel efficiency by as much as seven percent in low ambient temperatures.
Although the Lexus HS 250h looks like a conventional sedan, it saves fuel by being aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of .27, close to the .25 of the Prius. To be more eco-friendly, bioplastic from plant sources is the raw material for parts of the interior upholstery, injection-molded, foam and board components including trunk compartment trim, cowl side trim, door scuff plates, seat cushions and the package tray. Overall, approximately 30 percent of the combined interior and trunk are covered in bioplastic.
As a compact you get good handling and performance, but this compact four-door sedan is a bit snug, especially in the back seat. The Lexus HS250h provides 90 cubic feet of space for up to 5 people, and 12 cubic feet of trunk space.
After selling 18,000 of these Lexus hybrids, production was temporarily stopped during the Toyota recall. This Lexus uses the Prius regen brake system. During my drive the brakes worked fine. The Lexus HS250h uses the Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB2) system with regenerative control and incorporating Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).
For $3,900 an added safety technology package is available that includes a pre-collision system, parking assist, wide-view front monitor, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. This safety technology package requires the optional $2,125 Navigation System includes a GPS navigation with realtime traffic feeds and voice recognition. An optional $350 backup monitor is available.
The Lexus HS 250h achieved almost all , with 5-stars for frontal driver, side driver, frontal passenger, and rear passenger; 4-stars for roll-over. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Lexus HS250h its best rating for front crash test. Other IIHS tests have not been conducted on this new car.
At this March 2010 New York International Auto Show, Lexus is showing off the Lexus CT 200h sportback hybrid. You may be able to place your order in early 2011. This is another hybrid-only Lexus offering. Fuel economy may be better than the 250h, because the 200h uses a smaller 1.8L engine, the same size as the Prius. “The CT 200h is expected to lead the class in fuel economy and deliver low emissions, but the CT 200h isn’t just about being a hybrid, it’s about having fun,” said Mark Templin, Lexus division group vice president and general manager. In future years, plug-in hybrid Lexus models are likely to be introduced. Lexus, a Division of Toyota, could easily incorporate the drive system of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
Other Cars to Investigate
Lexus RX 450h is a premium hybrid SUV with room for 5 people and much more cargo room than the 250h sedan, but starts at over $42,000. For a powerful SUV, it still conserves with 30 mpg and 6.1 tons of CO2e. Unlike the Lexus HS 250 hybrid, the SUV has an AWD option.
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is a smooth riding traditional 4-door midsized sedan that is made in America. It offers more room than the Lexus HS250h, easily seats 5, better fuel economy at 41 mpg city, 39 mpg combined, a number of safety features, premium options, but is likely to price $7,000 to $10,000 more than the Lexus hybrid when orders can be placed in the fall of 2010. Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
Toyota Camry Hybrid has essentially the same hybrid drive system as the Lexus HS 250h and about the same mileage. The Camry has 101 cubic feet of passenger space making it a midsize, bigger than 90 cubic feet for the compact Lexus hybrid. The Camry hybrid also offers a 40/60 drop down rear seat for expanded cargo. The Camry Hybrid prices about $8,000 less than the Lexus HS 250h.