Lexus was quick to realise the potential of hybrids in its lineup, and it launched the HS 250h back in 2010, its first dedicated hybrid model, with no non-hybrid alternative.
Two years on, the 2012 Lexus HS 250h tries to give consumers the best of both worlds--Lexus luxury and hybrid gas mileage. We say "tries", because the HS isn't as successful in sales or reviews as the smaller 2012 Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback.
With EPA ratings of 35 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined, the HS 250h is certainly efficient for a 2.4-liter car, but it lags behind the 40 mpg-plus ratings of the smaller CT 200h. Nor is the styling as successful as the CT, with an uncomfortably squat look and slab-sided design--and sadly, the back end is the most harmonious and graceful part fo the car. The overall effect is more $15,000 Toyota Corolla than near-$40,000 Lexus.
The 2012 Lexus HS 250h struggles to deliver the comfort levels you'd want in a Lexus, and it can't match the handling of some of the brand's sportier models. Frankly, it leaves us wondering exactly who it is buys the car.
The heart of the HS is a 147-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (as used in the Camry Hybrid), mated to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, including a pair of motor-generators and a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. Total output is 187 horsepower. More than 600 pounds of extra weight, compared to a Prius, keeps the HS 250h at modest performance levels unless you select the “Power” mode. It’s happiest between 20 and 60 mph, and runs out of steam fairly quickly above that level.
Interior comfort levels aren't great. The seats are mounted high in comparison to the car's roofline, restricting headroom for taller passengers in both the front and rear.
The HS 250h is actually rated in the "compact cars" class by the EPA thanks to its restricted interior room, and we're not surprised--it can't match the Camry, nor even the Corolla, for interior space. It does have a large trunk to compensate, but the rear seat doesn't fold down.
The materials are luxurious, but tend toward quiet good taste rather than overt opulence. The HS 250h is a quiet car to travel in most of the time--sound deadening is very good--but when accelerating harder the engine noise can be quite intrusive. It’s much more noticeable given the hush under normal circumstances, and the HS seems far louder and less “Lexus” than almost any buyer would expect.
Lexus has aimed for comfort, rather than fun, with the handling. That's fair enough, as the car isn't advertised as a sport sedan. However, the car isn't comfortable being driven hard, leaning in corners and nose-diving under braking. A Touring Package with 18-inch wheels and retuned suspension is optional.
The interior has a faintly futuristic feel that may be familiar to Prius owners, with a steeply angled center stack and small drive selector. Lexus' Remote Touch controller for the navigation system and stereo is an option, but proves intuitive to use.
Equipment levels are very good, and you can choose from a series of high-tech options too. Just consider the headlights: No other compact offers all-LED headlamps, which are paired with adaptive lighting (they swivel around corners), automatic high-beam dimming, and washers.
Then there’s the Lexus park assist system, adaptive cruise control via radar, a heads-up instrument display, cameras showing both rear- and front views, and lane-keeping assist, which will warn you if you drift out of the lane—and then guide you back in automatically if you ignore it.
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