2010 Lexus HS250h - front sideEnlarge Photo
When we first drove the 2010 Lexus HS250h, we were puzzled by it. Neither fish nor fowl, it seemed an uneasy marriage of Lexus lines and luxury with a Toyota Prius-like dedicated hybrid shape and powertrain.
We've just spent a four-day weekend with a glossy black 2010 HS250h, the Premium model with all the goodies. And now that we've spent more time with the car, we find we've warmed up to it. (For reasons we won't go into, our photos didn't come out. Sorry.)
The HS250h is a definite departure for Lexus, and a car you have to take on its own terms--just like the 2010 Toyota Prius with which it shares not only some mechanicals, but a design philosophy.
We think the styling is the least elegant of any Lexus sedan, but in black, it attracted a lot of attention on the street. Parked in Manhattan, it regularly turned heads. The consensus? Good-looking, and good for Lexus for making such a small car.
It's not actually that short (its 185-inch length is only 6 inches shorter than the 2010 Lexus ES350), but it's tall and slab-sided, so visually the 2010 Lexus HS250h appears much smaller. Maybe only in New York City is that a good thing.
Neither of two styling comparisons offered by onlookers will make Lexus happy. One was the 1979-83 Toyota Corolla Sport Coupe, the other was the 2009 Toyota Yaris sedan. On the other hand, those cars were positively viewed by our commenters. Go figure.
We remain on the fence about its styling. But both urban and rural residents seemed impressed by the looks of the 2010 Lexus HS250h. To our surprise, it seems to have street presence. Score one for Lexus.
2010 Lexus HS250h - rearEnlarge Photo
Ride and Handling
Not surprisingly, the HS feels somewhat like a Prius. A very, very well-insulated, beautifully equipped Prius, mind you, but a Prius nonetheless.
From the dash-mounted shift stalk (just "D" and "R" plus a "B" mode for extra engine braking) to the characteristic hybrid disconnect between engine noise and road speed, Prius owners will know right away how to drive the Lexus HS250h and make the most of it.
Its handling is hardly on a par with the sportier side of the Lexus line, and while it holds the road decently, the electric steering and regenerative brakes are number than the norm.
The road roar and crashing from the optional 18-inch tires, which we complained about on our earlier drive, was almost entirely absent. It recurred a few times on particularly rough surfaces, so we're left to wonder if that route just had lots of lousy asphalt.
Because the car is so well-insulated--and a staggering 600 pounds heavier than the 2010 Toyota Prius--it gathers speed deliberately, somewhat like an ocean liner.
That heft means it's virtually impossible to keep the HS250h in the "Eco" operating band when accelerating away from a stop. We did it a couple of times, but we feared for our lives from angry following traffic. And the "Eco" button? Only if you're alone on the roads.
If you really floor it, the Hybrid Synergy Drive delivers enough power to get you out of trouble. To do it, the engine noise quickly rises to a muffled howl and stays there until you let up.
2010 Lexus HS 250hEnlarge Photo
We put more than 500 miles on our 2010 Lexus HS250h, covering interstate highways, two-lane parkways, rural roads, and stop-and-go city traffic. And we kept the air conditioning going most of the time, given the hot sun beating down on our black car.
That left us with a quarter of the gas tank remaining, meaning your bladder will give out before the gasoline does. But despite that, the mileage wasn't stellar.