By on October 28, 2009

hs250h

Every luxury car make seems compelled to explore how low it can venture in the American market without hopelessly devaluing the brand. Mercedes no longer offers the C-Class hatchback Coupe and has shied away from offering the A- and B-Classes in the United States. BMW hasn’t offered a semi-affordable four-cylinder here since the 318ti was sent packing a decade ago. The Jaguar X-Type didn’t cut the mustard on this side of the pond. And Cadillac is still waiting for the world to forget the 1980s Cimmaron. Unfazed by this clear pattern of failure, Toyota for 2010 offers up the Lexus HS 250h. So, shall the ridicule begin?

A key takeaway from the success of the Prius: Americans prefer their hybrids in bespoke sheetmetal. So the HS 250h gets its set from the Euro-market Toyota Avensis. This would be a neat trick, if the Avensis was either distinctive or attractive. But it’s neither. The windshield and backlight are more steeply raked than a Corolla’s, requiring Prius-like little windows in the A-Pillars, and the HS’s exterior dimensions are a half-size larger than the compact Toyota. Trivial details. Most eyes will see a Corolla tarted up with so much of the requisite Lexus chrome trim that it’s clearly overcompensating for either its ungainly proportions or its low birth.

hs250hintThings get better once inside the car. First off, the door sounds very Lexus when pulled shut. The interior design has shades of econobox, but the solid-looking center stack slopes downward stylishly and both it and the instrument binnacle are upholstered. The only other Lexus with any upholstered bits on the IP is the LS 600h flagship. Is the material leather or leatherette? It’s certainly not the creamy stuff slathered all over the interior of the 600h, but is at least a good imitation of basic leather. As in recent Cadillacs, upholstering parts of the IP takes the interior ambiance up a notch or two. This is overcompensation I can live with. Ditto the definitely LS-like semi-aniline leather that trims the heated and ventilated seating surfaces in the Premium trim.

From the start Lexus has earned a reputation for well-sorted ergonomics, and the HS carries on this fine tradition. Logically sized and arranged knobs and buttons handle most functions. Secondary settings and the nav system are operated, as in the RX, via Lexus’s response to iDrive. A comfortable palmrest, force-feedback, and slick graphics provide the console-mounted toggle pad with much of the familiar feel of a computer mouse. Where iDrive is often frustrating, “Remote Touch” (I didn’t name it) can be downright fun. An available 15-speaker Mark Levinson system provides another sign that the HS isn’t a Toyota anymore.

Good stuff continues with the front seats. They’re very comfortably contoured, and provide good support despite being much cushier than any from Germany. The rear seats—not so good. Externally, when compared to the Corolla, the HS 250h is a half foot longer, and inch wider, and 1.6 inches taller. And yet the Lexus has nearly two inches less legroom. Somehow two generations of sluggish IS sales have not taught Lexus that Americans aren’t big on luxury sedans with tight rear seats. You don’t want to go below 36 inches of rear legroom. The HS offers 34.5. Where did all of those extra inches go? I’m guessing those raked windows and the hybrid bits.

I’ve never been a fan of cars with A-Pillars so steeply raked they require windowlettes, and I’m not going to start with the HS. If I wanted to feel like I’m driving a minivan, I’d have a minivan. At least the view over the IP is otherwise good—no sense you’re gazing over acres of plastic. For those times when the guy in the SUV feels compelled to pull as far forward as you are when you’re both trying to turn onto a busy street (as if hhs250hreare can’t see over your car), the Premium-only Technology Package includes a wide-view front monitor. Via an ultra-wide-angle camera mounted in the nose of the car, this monitor gives you a good, long view in both directions, at once. Look closely, though, because objects in this view are very small and MUCH closer than they appear.

The wide-view front monitor is only one of many features that should (but won’t) guarantee that the HS will never trade paint with another automobile. We’ve also got ABS, brake assist informed by a radar-based pre-collision system, TRAC, VSC, adaptive cruise, auto-dimming steering-linked LED headlights, a trio of auto-dimming mirrors, a rearview monitor, front-and-rear obstacle detection, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention (when the warning fails), and a driver attention monitor. In the case that all of this fails (perhaps because the driver is too busy toying with the Remote Touch), a bevy of ten airbags can deploy to cushion the impact and an automatic collision notification system will dial 911.

The HS 250h shares its 147+40-horsepower powertrain with the Toyota Camry Hybrid. I sampled a TCH soon after it was introduced, and hated this powertrain. Rough engine, ropy CVT, non-linear power delivery, non-linear brakes…a whole lot of not good. Well, they fixed it. The HS’s brakes suffer no obvious transition from regenerative braking to conventional braking. And the 2.4-liter gas-hybrid four-cylinder sounds and feels almost normal in regular driving. There’s some scoot off the line, thanks to the assistance provided by the insta-torque electric motor. Acceleration slackens at higher speeds, but never becomes downright slow. Force the engine up towards the assumed (no tach) redline, and you’ll escape a four-cylinder Sonata, if not the four-cylinder sonata. It’ll do for those focused on the fuel economy or the Remote Touch rather than performance.

Performance? What about the HS suggests that the word should even appear in this review? That would be the 225/45WR18 tires. What are WR-rated treads doing on a car limited to 112 MPH? Well, they provide considerably more grip than you’ll find in a Prius, and together with mildly aggressive suspension tuning keep the tallish, ungainly-proportioned HS from falling all over itself in aggressively-taken curves. But they contribute to a much flintier ride than people expect in a Lexus. Overcompensation, again, and this time it harms the car’s prospects even more than the tight rear seat. While the latter will only occasionally become an issue, and even then not for the driver, a jittery, unsettled ride affects everyone in the car, and often.

hs250hcutOddly enough, a Touring package that bundles these tires with a sport-tuned suspension (and a rear spoiler and, wait for it, aluminum sport pedals!) is optional on the base HS but not available on the Premium. Is this suspension an undocumented standard feature with the Premium? It’s hard to believe that Lexus would offer the car with an even harsher suspension.

This being a non-performance hybrid (well, apart from the sport pedals and low-profile rubber), people are going to expect great fuel economy. The 35/34 city/highway ratings are better than those of, say, an Acura TSX (21/30), but are a far cry from those of a Prius (51/48). Good enough? Perhaps for those who do most of their driving in city conditions. But no one’s going to be ecstatic. Toyota might want to figure out how Ford squeezed 41/36 out of the Fusion Hybrid.

In the end, the HS 250h is saved by low expectations. Based on the exterior appearance and specs you expect it to be awful, only to find that the performance and handling achieve adequacy and that some aspects of the car—the interior trimmings, the front seats, the toys—are surprisingly good. Even the bad bits, the cramped rear seat and crunchy ride, will only stunt sales of the car. A luxury brand can survive these disabilities, homely exterior styling, and the confused silliness of sport aluminum pedals and speed-rated rubber on an econo-tuned hybrid. The one thing the HS 250h could not afford to seem, especially with an all-boxes-checked $48,000 sticker ($44,770 as tested), is cheap. And, thanks to the good bits, it does not.

[Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, a third-party reliability and mileage survey site]

Performance: 2 stars

Where else can you spend nearly $50,000 and get only 187 horsepower?

Ride: 2 stars.

Unexpectedly brittle for a Lexus sedan.

Handling: 3 stars.

Not bad = better than expected.

Exterior: 1 star.

Looks like a blinged-out Corolla. More invisible than unattractive. Would rate a little higher as a Toyota.

Interior: 3 stars.

Stylistically struggles to escape its compact Toyota roots. Comfortable front seats, but cramped rear seats.

Fit and Finish: 5 stars.

About as good as you’ll find at this price point.

Toys: 5 stars.

Too many to list.

Desirability: 3 stars.

Lexus materials + toys + 35 MPG, but no wow factor and priced about $3,000 too high.

Price as tested: $44,770

Overall Rating: 3 stars.

Not an embarrassment. The Lexus brand will survive this car.

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79 Comments on “Review: Lexus HS250h...”


  • avatar
    jthorner

    Hmmm, I think I would save $10k and get a fully loaded TSX.

  • avatar

    jthorner: I should add to the review that one thing helping this car is that it has no direct competitors, at least not yet. Because of the frumpy exterior I wanted to bash it a bit more. But if someone didn’t care about driving, but liked fine leather and toys, and also wanted the best possible fuel economy–what else would I point them towards?

    The TSX does come closest. Comparably equipped and adjusted for remaining feature differences the price difference actually works out to about $6k at MSRP, and $5k at invoice:

    http://www.truedelta.com/prices.php

    I’d like to have some quick reliability stats on this car, but this will partly depend on how well it sells. Are there enough people like the one I described above? Know an HS owner? Please send them here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    34 highway! I can acheive 32-33 all day long in my Impala non hybrid with an old fashioned 4 speed automatic and much greater interior room and trunk space. This overpriced near 50K puffed out Corolla left in the sun too long makes little sense to me. It’s priced well over near luxury but is based on non luxury underpinnings. It’s interior space is questionable, especially in the back seat. It’s mileage is worse than a 26k Ford Fusion. It only has 187 HP! Question- wouldn’t a Camry hybrid with leather and toys fit the bill much better for nearly 20K less and give you a more substantial, roomier package with similar mileage?

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    Michael,

    This was an excellent review, very comprehensive. You found the biggest faults of this overpriced tiny hybrid, and they are the bland exterior and especially the poor MPG. There is no Prius-equivalent Luxury car, and this one is lame even in the lux department with its fake leathers etc.

    I am not optimistic about the success of this HS, but then again I am sure not the typical Lexus buyer.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Somehow two generations of sluggish IS sales have not taught Lexus that Americans aren’t big on luxury sedans with tight rear seats.

    Have you been a 3-Series? How about an Audi A4? Both those cars have rear-seat appointments that could charitably be described as “vestigal”. You have to do this in order to get luxury-car-like seats in a compact. Seriously: check the physical size of the front seats and you’ll see where a lot of that room went.

    The only three luxury cars in this price bracket with decent seats are the Acura TL, Lexus ES and Cadillac CTS. They achieve it by being very big cars.

  • avatar

    OVERALL, I LIKE YOUR REVIEW MICHAEL, but, I don’t like that you never talk about the technology in a car except to say how it looks.

    I walk away from this review not knowing how that silly looking mouse compares to the newest iDrive or Command.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I can acheive 32-33 all day long in my Impala non hybrid with an old fashioned 4 speed automatic and much greater interior room and trunk space.

    No, you can’t.

  • avatar

    The hybrid bits do little to aid highway fuel economy. And, as noted, the EPA ratings are underwhelming.

    That said, I found this car much more pleasant to sit in and drive than the Camry Hybrid. Perhaps they’ve improved the TCH since 2007. The Fusion and Milan Hybrids similarly look and feel like much cheaper cars, and some I’ve seen have been shoddily assembled (even if the misaligned bits do tend to stay attached over the long haul).

    We come back to my earlier comment–this car doesn’t yet have any direct competition. But it also doesn’t erect a high hurdle for anyone who might field a competitor.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I would consider a Fusion Hybrid rather than the Corolla Bling Ride. The econobox DNA still lurks beneath the leather.

  • avatar

    Flashpoint, I do have this bit:

    A comfortable palmrest, force-feedback, and slick graphics provide the console-mounted toggle pad with much of the familiar feel of a computer mouse. Where iDrive is often frustrating, “Remote Touch” (I didn’t name it) can be downright fun.

    I can stress that I really like the feel of the thing, thanks to the “force feedback.”

    I also had this:

    Look closely, though, because objects in this view are very small and MUCH closer than they appear.

    This said, I appreciate your feedback, and clearly need to play with the buttons more.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian: I’ve been in all of these cars, and the rear seat in the Lexus IS is tighter.

    With the HS, I’m also factoring in that it is not a driver’s car, WR-rated treads notwithstanding, and that people tend to be less forgiving of tight rear seats in such cars.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    I’d rather have an Infiniti G20. Yes, a G20. or a TSX.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I can acheive 32-33 all day long in my Impala non hybrid with an old fashioned 4 speed…

    Yes, the Impala. GM’s highway mileage queen, designed with an ultra-tall fourth gear and an engine profile that sips fuel specifically to ace the highway leg of the test. There’s a reason for that.

    I could go on about the interior appointments of even the top-trim Impalas, or the rear seat that’s so low to the ground as to be painful for anyone with knee or back problems, but that would be a cheap shot. So I’ll be factual: what’s your city mileage, again? Because I spend a lot of time in rental Impalas and the city mileage ranges from poor (18mpg) to utterly brutal. I’ve managed a consistent 12mpg in gridlock, during which time this Lexus might not even start it’s engine.

    Can we stop with the “My (interstate queen) gets (some number, probably just above 30) on the highway, so (smaller car, which gets about the same) is pointless!”. Unless you do all your driving on an uncongested interstate, it’s not a valid comparison.

  • avatar
    drewpsb

    psarhjinian

    regarding your quote about back seat room i think Michael’s point was that the overall length of the HS is LONGER (185in) than the IS (180in) yet has just as tight a back seat as the IS

    regarding your comparison with the 3er let’s not even go there…the current 3er comes in at 178in a full 7 inches shorter…yet both have about the same room in the back…

    so Michael was just pointing out that rear was probably compromised by the battery bits etc…

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Correction: sheetmetal is JDM Sai, rather than EU Avensis.

    Nice to hear that the HS isn’t a complete fail as some previews made it out to be. Way too rich for me, though, even at the base of $35K.

    Consumer Reports got the same exact overall fuel economy for the Camry Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid, 34mpg overall in a real-world situation. Sounds like EPA’s testing loop still favors hybrids’ EV-modes despite being corrected for that a couple years back.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’ve been in all of these cars, and the rear seat in the Lexus IS is tighter.

    I’ll agree with you. My point was that no car in this class has a rear seat that’s passenger-friendly. The IS’ is bad, but it’s not appreciably bad for the class.

    With the HS, I’m also factoring in that it is not a driver’s car, WR-rated treads notwithstanding, and that people tend to be less forgiving of tight rear seats in such cars.

    Again, BMW (323i) and Audi (A4 base) sell very pedestrian versions of their cars that exist purely on badge appeal. The truth is that if you care about rear passengers at all, you’ll skip this class (excepting the TL, ES or CTS, and even then…) because all of the entries are badge-based DINK transporters.

    Watch what sales reps and real estate agents (eg, people who have to ferry other people) drive. From my experience, it’s ES/TL all the way.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    A lot of the people who buy Priuses (Ed Begley Jr., your high school chemistry teacher) aren’t the type who “aspire” to be in a Lexus. Lexus won’t sell a lot…..but the HS will serve as a nice halo car to raise Toyota’s green cred.

    As for rear seats…..m’eh. How man times have you seen four people in any car (let alone a lux. car) in the past year on the road?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I would consider a Fusion Hybrid rather than the Corolla Bling Ride.

    Just for reference: it’s not based on the Corolla, but on the Avensis/Allion, which is a sort of smaller Camry. It does look like a Corolla from the outside, but it’s very different (and much nicer) than either the Corolla or the Fusion.

    This is one of those mythical small, efficient premium cars that we supposedly clamour for all the time, yet curiously diss when they actually get reviewed.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Michael –

    Nice review. I can think of one competitor for this car, though: BMW 335d, base price $44,000. Now there’s an eco-mobile that delivers the goods performance-wise.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t sell, and I don’t think the HS will either. I’m not sold that luxury car buyers are eco-oriented.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Nice review, Michael. I would propose the oil burner 3′er as a competitor.

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    psarhjinian:

    +100

    Nobody is cross shopping this with an Impala anyway.

    This is a car for people who want a small car, want it to say hybrid on the side, and have money to spend/friends to impress.

    Here’s who you’ll see driving it:

    Women with money who don’t know anything about cars
    Girls with rich-ish daddies
    Old married ladies with money
    Supernerd male engineers/scientists/professors

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    The truth is that if you care about rear passengers at all, you’ll skip this class (excepting the TL, ES or CTS, and even then…) because all of the entries are badge-based DINK transporters.

    Have you ridden in a 2009 or later A4?

    The latest A4 platform (B8, 2009 and up) is considerably larger than the previous ones, especially in rear seat room. It has a longer wheelbase than the TL, for instance. Of course, that may still not be enough for you.

    And those of us who are 5’6″ fully grown don’t really have problems putting people in the back seat. I suppose that if you’re 6′ or taller you might have an issue, but why should I buy a more expensive car when the person driving it is always going to be my height or shorter?

  • avatar
    moedaman

    psarhjinian :
    October 28th, 2009 at 11:56 am

    This is one of those mythical small, efficient premium cars that we supposedly clamour for all the time, yet curiously diss when they actually get reviewed.

    There are, I feel, a few reasons for this.

    1) A lot of smaller, fuel efficient premium cars are just blinged out versions of cheap, fuel efficient cars.

    2) American consumers expect to get as much as they can for as little as they can spend. Small premium cars, at least the ones in this market, don’t meet that standard.

    Now this is just my opinion, but maybe these cars don’t match up very well with most people’s perceptions of what a car like this should be. And that those perceptions will never be meet. So the constant dissing of them is to be expected.

  • avatar

    Similarly optioned the BMW 335d is about $10,000 more. Then again, BMW was chipping in $4,500 towards the purchase. Are they still doing this?

    The 335d will, of course blow this car into the weeds, but the interior isn’t one someone like my wife would find welcoming. So it’s a much different animal–it’s the economy car for us rather than them.

    If BMW would sell one of its four-cylinder diesels here for perhaps $8,000 less than the 335d, the comparison would be much closer.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Good point about short vs. tall folks, johnthacker. Fortunately nearly all cars have individual front seats so it’s ages since I, at 6′ or so, have had to sit on the same bench seat as a 5′ 5″ driver. Most sedans seem to have enough room that the passenger seat can be eased forward a bit for one taller rear-seat passenger.

    My wife was a Realtor for years, and she ended up having prospects follow her in their car from house to house. She felt that this would give them more privacy to discuss things and compare houses; and was quite successful. Also no problems with sticky-fingered kids, smokers etc.

  • avatar
    don1967

    I can’t quite put my finger on what bugs me most about this car. Is it the fact that anyone would spend $48,000 and then worry about fuel consumption? Maybe it’s the mixed message of saving the planet with a hybrid engine while sitting on dead animal skins. Or it might simply be the idea of a Lexus which looks like a Hyundai Elantra with a Ford Focus front end.

    Whatever. As bad as the big-SUV craze was, this is just as silly in the opposite direction. It proves that people really do have more money than common sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Accazdatch

      YA can add to the concept that…

      The Hybrid price tag doesn’t equate to a “value proposition” for as many miles / years someone would drive it.

      People who drive these things…
      Drive them cause its a Lexus.. and or they dont know any better.

      Then again..
      Id also bet that its hard for Toyota err Lexus to sell its cars with the markup **cough LEXUS badge cough** with a deisel in UK / Europe.

      Hence the Hybrid b.s

  • avatar
    PennSt8

    I have a friend that recently snatched one of these up, after coming out of an IS350. Having driven it (over the course of 200+ miles) I found it to be a pretty awful experience.

    Braking was far from confidence inspiring. Upon initial step in the peddle feel was spongy and it seems as if Toyota engineers made no attempt to mask the regenerative braking process.

    Steering was just as bad. Numb, no on center feel, no feedback. With the LKA (Lane Keep Assist) on gradual curves the car basically drove itself.

    Handling was nothing special either. The car rode as if it were on stilts, and while I wasn’t expecting a BMW like ride I also didn’t expect a Toyota Corolla either.

    EV to Gas was not seamless at all. It was rough and lacked any sort of fluid nature.

    Not being too familiar with hybrids so I figured I’d drive a Fusion Hybrid. The entire experience was a lot BETTER for a lot less money.

    I will say this, the fuel economy was great and the new interface Lexus has is pretty slick. The interior was well crafted, and IMO the backseat was a lot more hospitable than the IS.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Michael Karesh,

    Nice review, thanks.

    I disagree with one thing, though, I don’t think it looks like a Corolla. Their overall shape is different and the styling details are sufficiently different that nobody familiar with either car is going to confuse the two.

    When you said, “Toyota (35/34) might want to figure out how Ford squeezed 41/36 out of the Fusion Hybrid,” my immediate thought was, “Ford tests well.” but I looked up the Camry and Fusion hybrids on the FuelEconomy.gov web site and checked the real-world observations and damned if the Fusion doesn’t really have about a 5mpg edge over the Camry in the real world. Way to go, Ford!

  • avatar
    marc

    Good, fair review of a car that, to me, is a step in the right direction, but just doesn’t hit the mark….YET.

    (Lexus has this problem with its hybrids. The RX400h was not quite there, while the new RX450h finally nails it-increased performance, more luxury, and better fuel economy.)

    So the HS250h has the interior appointments and better handling than anyone expects. What it lacks is some outside visual flair (though I can’t see any resemblance to a Corolla, can we drop that cliche’d comparison that just rings hollow), and a better engine.

    I’ll wait for version 1.5 with a mild mid-cycle exterior refresh and an upgraded 2.5L engine/HSD combo, which hopefully will be in Camrys and other Toyotas within 2 years.

    This car will hit its mark when it makes 200hp and gets 40mpg (see above paragraph Toyota engineers). Add a few subtle exterior tweaks (maybe a more distinguished grill, classier taillights, whatever), and you have the car that Prius owners would gladly step up to.

  • avatar

    PennSt8: you describe my impressions of the Toyot Camry Hybrid three years ago. Compared to that car, this one seemed seamless. Perhaps my low expectations got the better of me? It’s like when you think you won’t be able to eat something, then finding that it doesn’t taste awful.

    I haven’t driven the Fusion Hybrid yet. I have sat in one, and compared to this car it is a low-rent experience.

  • avatar

    KixStart:

    TrueDelta has a real-world gas mileage survey that includes variables the others don’t, like driving conditions and driving style. I didn’t attempt a close analysis, but in our data the Fusion Hybrid appears to be a couple MPG better than the Camry Hybrid.

    On the styling–few regular car buyers have the eye for nuance we do. If they’re not distracted by the bling, they’ll see a Corolla, even if this is a larger car that shares no sheetmetal. Like the Corolla it’s a tallish, slab-sided, fairly conventional (aside from the windowlettes) three-box sedan.

  • avatar
    Power6

    I can acheive 32-33 all day long in my Impala non hybrid with an old fashioned 4 speed automatic and much greater interior room and trunk space.

    I call shenanigans! Granted the Impala does get decent mileage for the size. A good portion of that is due to stupid tall gearing, trans programming that races to 4th and locks up the torque convertor at every opportunity while refusing to kick down until the accelerator pedal is mashed to the floor, and the complete absence of any engine braking. So the tradeoff is bad drivability. Maybe Michael can speak to whether this Lexus has any similar designed-in drivability compromise.

    Also comparing highway mileage puts a hybrid in the worst possible light, the advantage is in the city where the wasted energy of stop-n-go can be recaptured. This HS250h would soundly whoop the Impala in that arena.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Maybe it’s the mixed message of saving the planet with a hybrid engine while sitting on dead animal skins.

    Huh – leather is one of the most enviromental choices. The cows are being killed anyway – why waste the skin?

  • avatar
    jmo

    As bad as the big-SUV craze was, this is just as silly in the opposite direction

    yes, but this kind of silly doesnt drive oil prices to $175 a barrel.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I poked around this car at a Lexus dealer a month ago. Small back seat similar to the IS, but perhaps with a bit more shoulder room.

    Small kids could fit in there no problem (not with child seats, though), but I wouldn’t plan on putting grown people back there unless they’re 5’8 or under.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    Toyota of course knows how to make $ off the hybrids better than I do, but if it wants to take MY $, I would never ever pay $50k for this pathetic “hybrid” with fake leather and poor MPG.

    If Toyota offered instead a more upscale Prius III (why do they call it Prius IV??), with leather (already available?), Polished wood etc,

    1. How much more would it have to cost than the reasonable $25-30k prius?

    2. How much less MPG would it achieve than the current, Stellar, off-the-charts, EPA AND actual 50+ mpg?

  • avatar
    JGlanton

    I can’t quite put my finger on what bugs me most about this car. Is it the fact that anyone would spend $48,000 and then worry about fuel consumption? Maybe it’s the mixed message…

    Then there is the $106,000 LS 600h… what is THAT about? Guilt? I have this 438 HP V8 luxury saloon but it’s all OK, my good friends, because I’m stopping global warming by getting 20mpg out of it.

    To me, though, it just says the buyer is extra-pretentious, extra image-conscious, and utterly ignorant about climatology to boot.

    Thanks for the good review, Michael. An enjoyable read

  • avatar
    PennSt8

    Michael Karesh :

    I’ve yet to drive a Camry Hybrid, so maybe this is an improvement. I guess I had lofty expectations for this vehicle, and the only area it delivered was overall refinement and gadgetry. I do agree that the Fusion Hybrid is “low-rent” compared to this vehicle. Then again the HS does cost a great deal more, so the added refinement is expected.

    I respect Toyota for going the extra mile and offering a hybrid specific luxury model, but I feel the execution is off. The toys and cushy interior is there, but for what these things are going for my money would be better spent on a Prius or the Fusion Hybrid I mentioned above.

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’d love to see an affordable four-cylinder RWD sedan with a manual transmission. A resurrected Datsun 510 brought up to modern standards.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    KixStart

    marc wrote, “(described likely improvements)… and you have the car that Prius owners would gladly step up to.”

    Yes and no. I can see Toyota continuing to develop the car as you describe but I don’t think people who bought the 50mpg Prius are thinking about moving “up” to 40mpg. I think they’ll just buy another Prius, maybe with lots of options, and save their money. I think the buyers for the HS will come from other directions.

    But maybe I’m wrong. My next car is likely to be a Prius but I would like a luxury car and a Lexus is not out of the question, someday.

  • avatar

    Oh, the execution is definitely off. I considered going to two stars for the overall rating, but looking at my specific ratings this didn’t seem justified.

    Also, I know it’s a cliche, but I can see my wife happy with one of these for her long daily commute that is often stop and go. She’d like it much better than a Prius or a Fusion.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    I sat in one of these at the OC Auto Show (which was lame) a week or two back and was expecting a Corolla LEh based on the reviews panning the car.

    The interior was surprisingly well-appointed! Just about everything felt squishy or soft or supple, none of the switchgear felt low rent, and the touch feedback and ambient lighting on the mousy thing was excellent.

    The materials and assembly quality felt nearly Audi grade to me even if the car does look like a nerd’s shoe.

    Toyota and Ford hybrid systems do VERY well here in Los Angeles for real world economy. I’d certainly consider an HS250 for a commuter pod if I were well-heeled. The Mark Levinson alone would be enough to knock the Fusion out of the running.

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    A crossbreed of a Lexus and a Prius? I’m hard-pressed to think of anything less appealing to an enthusiast. Even so…

    mtypex:

    +1. I always liked the G20, underpowered as it was. Were it actually possible to find a later model year with low mileage, I’d happily buy one to replace my W-body.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Somehow two generations of sluggish IS sales have not taught Lexus that Americans aren’t big on luxury sedans with tight rear seats.

    I fully agree with this. I went to the auto show in Miami on Monday and sat in the back of an IS and it was downright TIGHT. The BMW 3 series wasn’t much better but at least I could move around back there.

    I am convinced Lexus designed this car to be a coupe and at the last minute decided to add 2 extra doors.

    While I’m not expecting great rear seat room in a car this size (were that the case I’d be going for the ES) why hasn’t Lexus learned this aspect from BMW?…or even Audi for that matter?

    Regarding the HS250, I sooner spend my money on a Fusion hybrid than pony up money for a tarted up Avensis. I see the HS as the small car version of a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. You’re just buying into a name as opposed to the efficiency.

  • avatar

    The Camry Hybrid makes more sense to me. Some friends of mine have one, and while it is in no way an interesting car to drive or look at, it has definite virtues. Reasonably seamless in operation, and the interior feels cavernous, with lots of space for their little kid and his assorted paraphernalia — a Camry, basically, but a Camry that routinely gets 35 mpg in an utterly brutal stop-and-go commute across the San Fernando Valley in which my Mazda3 would struggle to break 21. Theirs has been bulletproof, other than short-lived brake pads and OEM tires that were all done at 25,000 miles. Not a car I would choose, but as a family sedan, it clearly makes some sense.

    I don’t know who the audience for this car is.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Why isn’t this called HS240? 2.4 liters, right? And isn’t there an ‘H’ too many, or does the first one stand for something else?

    This is a pretentious lady’s car: Only the maid, the mistress, the wife, and the daughter will nag Mr. Sugardaddy for this. And that’s fine, as it will put that many more barely used Prius trade-ins onto the market.

    But it’s obvious the whole marketing campaign must explain how this car is not just a slutty Corolla. So I’ll try to help:
    Gadgets, jewelry, and fancy trimmings everywhere;
    3x the price of a Corolla, but similar MPGs;
    Smaller back seat;
    Two bonus H’s, where Corolla has none.
    Well, that really didn’t seem to help at all! What have I missed? Why didn’t Toyota just slice and dice the Prius into a sedan for Lexus…?

    • 0 avatar
      Accazdatch

      Its not a COROLLA…

      In any sense of the word.
      Its called.. AVENSIS.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexus_HS
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Avensis

  • avatar
    stuki

    I can’t imagine anyone searching out a Lexus dealer to get this one. Piggybacking on 600H or GX/LX sales as a fuel efficient 2nd/commuter for an already committed Lexus household, they may be able to move some, as Lexus does derive at least some of their sales from the dealer experience.

  • avatar
    boosterseat

    Saw one outside the Lexus store today. Dorky. Very Dorky.
    It looks like a $20k ride.
    Should have made it a Toyota, not a Lexus. I hope they sit on the lots for a long time.

  • avatar
    T2

    I went to the dealer introduction show here. About 100 people showed. After politely acknowledging the vehicle, most drifted off to other vehicles brought in, notably the GS350.

    It is probably a stretch to assert that Lexus buyers are more technically informed than others. For those that are the problem with the HS250 is that it has little engine tech that the Camry Hybrid hasn’t already been sporting for about four years now.
    Except for some toys, there are no bragging rights here regarding superior powertrain technology. The 2010 Prius, for example, with its electric water pump becomes the first beltless engine in history. Small potatoes to some perhaps but nevertheless a first.

    It would have been nice if Lexus could have equipped the HS250 engine with servo driven camshafts for instance – eliminating the timing chain and all the VVT-i hardware.

    Or perhaps the installation inside the radiator cooling system of electrical resistors for regenerative braking, sized to absorb far more than the 10Kw limitation on the allowable power that can be sent back to the NiMH battery pack – yielding virtual lifetime brakepads.

  • avatar

    34 highway! I can acheive 32-33 all day long in my Impala non hybrid with an old fashioned 4 speed automatic and much greater interior room and trunk space.

    I rented a last-gen 4 cyl Malibu and later on, a 6 cyl Impala. Both of these cars gave no less than 32 mpg on the highway. For all of their faults (the Malibu’s dime store interior and the 3.5l Impala’s lack of midrange grunt), they both gave decent fuel economy.

    So we have a $44k car with $24k looks and hybrid pretenses. Looking at the Prius and Fusion Hybrid, it’s not really worth it unless either you’re a badge whore or Jennifer just wants something with a nice badge on it that gives sub-frugal mileage.

  • avatar
    HarryKarry

    For those who like to argue over real world MPG, take a look at:

    http://sev.prnewswire.com/auto/20090908/CG7212308092009-1.html

    Of interest, the HS 250h outsold the Fusion Hybrid in September 2009.

    http://www.hybridcar.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=743&Itemid=45

    I seriously looked at the Fusion Hybrid but had to take a shower after dealing with the Ford dealership. Ford is sorting out their cars – kudos. Now Ford needs to clean up the dealerships please. Why does Ford offer 3 years 60k warranty in Europe and not here? Lexus – 48 Month 50K, better.

    And don’t start me on Clean Diesel or I will start on Clean Coal. The one thing I do not miss about Europe is the diesel smell in the cities. The new cars are better, but just barely passing the 50 states emissions should be a real indicator.

    Conclusion? Time will tell I guess, we’ll see after the initial surge in sales.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Don’t really mind the way this car looks and I love the idea of a luxury economical compact. I guess I’d be one of Cole Trickle’s “supernerds” if I were smart and had a decent job.
    To tell you how much Hybrid batteries and luxury weighs. My Saturn is about the same size as the HS.
    The ION weighs 2653, the HS weighs 3770

  • avatar
    Accords

    jthorner:
    Hmmm, I think I would save $10k and get a fully loaded TSX.

    Only if ya buy the LAST gen unit, with the turbo 4 cycl, in the blue color.. with some SERIOUS POWER UNDERFOOT. Instead of the current bloated 3.5ltr lump under the hood.

    Michael Karesh:
    I do so appreciate your reviews. This will be another car that people will buy from Lex with no concept of how awful the car is.

    The dash looks perfectly horrible. Last time I checked.. my car isnt a computer, so why is there a giant mouse in the center?

    NTM
    How many shades of silver and black are there?

    I can only recognize 2.
    Black and Silver.

    Another gutless “primer coated” semi-luxo vehicle I have to pass on my way up and down I-95 every single day.. at an average speed of Mach 3.4.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    I really dont trust so called real world numbers reported third party..I trust on some things but not mileage.. I drive different than other folks and when asked to report stuff I am sure that Prius owners like others LIE about their mileage. Everyone wants to say they have great mileage even if it doesnt. I have owned several cars and I drive pretty fast. All have gotten better than their EPA numbers on the HWY (were I drive thank you much). This car looks like an economy car in person and pictures. Yes it does look like a Corolla in person especially if I didnt know anything about cars. My wife ones a Lexus and we go to those revealing parties all the time. She saw this car and asked why was a Corolla in a Lexus show room..I just smiled..

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Guess I’m in the minority here as I like the exterior styling, doesn’t remind me of a Corolla at all. As far as the interior trim and toys that is to be expected at the price point. I’d have to drive it myself to see if I liked it. What I think is definitely lacking is the mpg. It should be more comparable to the Prius. Fact of the matter is potential buyers of this car aren’t considering a Fusion, Camry, or most likely Prius. As much as I like the Prius there is no getting around the fact that it’s ugly, this car certainly isn’t.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Wow talk about expensive. I’m good, probably.

  • avatar
    pennyaraneta001

    I like the styling as well, however, there are cars out there that are already handling fuel efficiency really well and this won’t be a 1st choice in that category. I am actually in the market for a used Lexus but this might not be it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Michael Karesh :
    October 28th, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Similarly optioned the BMW 335d is about $10,000 more.

    And worth every freakin’ penny! :)

    Personally, I think the only thing the HS makes a strong case for is buying a loaded-up Camry Hybrid.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    jmo said:
    but this kind of silly doesnt drive oil prices to $175 a barrel.

    While I am no fan of SUVs, you can’t blame SUVs for that. Oil at $175 was due to the shenanigans of Goldman ‘Vampire Squid’ Sachs traders.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    335d? A 320d will be quicker, better to drive and more economical than this monstrosity. At app. 2/3 the cost.

    @Tosh :
    Why didn’t Toyota just slice and dice the Prius into a sedan for Lexus…?

    What kind of person would pay more for a sedan than for a hatchback?

  • avatar
    Thinx

    I have not driven the car yet, so maybe there is something that I am missing… but 48K seems awfully steep for a car with a cramped back seat, lack-lustre performance, dodgy brakes and unimpressive mileage I saw someone test driving a silver HS250h near our local dealership – the external fit and finish seemed to not quite measure up to a Lexus quality either.

    As the owner of a 2010 Prius, I am interested in how this compares to a 2010 Prius in specific categories? Rear seat room, linearity of power delivery between ev and gas mode, brakes, grip, etc?

    The things I don’t like about my Prius are the brakes and the somewhat tippy cornering feel. Other than that, it is perfectly competent for its intended purpose.

    If they just gave a Prius stronger brakes, improved grip and roll, added some noise-reduction, and a few fancy toys, they may have ended up with a better Lexus prospect…

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Mirko: “What kind of person would pay more for a sedan than for a hatchback?”

    I sense sarcasm in the question, but just in case it’s sincere: Perverted US marketing people think this way, that hatchbacks are economy cars, and sedans are somehow more upscale. Toyota (Yaris) and VW (Golf and Jetta) are more expensive as sedans (although these are not a perfect examples, as those sedans are longer — Mazda3 would be a better example, and here the sedan is cheaper because it’s plainer and weaker).

    The point is that, hatch OR sedan, a loaded-up Lexus Prius in any shape would be more expensive than a loaded-up Toyota (because that’s the purpose of Lexus). So why go to the expense of making a totally new HS when it doesn’t seem that special? Maybe this will be Toyota’s Accord Hybrid sales failure?

    I guess I just don’t get the point of hybrid luxury cars in the first place (except as some kind of halo/saving the planet image thing).

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Sorry Cadillac, but some of us will never forget the Cimarron. Ever. Only car I can think of that made me want to laugh and cry the first time I saw one.

  • avatar
    chanman

    It… doesn’t particularly look like a Corolla at all to me. Maybe more last generation TSX… although I am wondering what that Ford grill is doing on a Lexus…

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    I’ve been trying to figure this car out for the last few days so I called in via my “local” Lexus dealer (while signing up for my LF-A (joking)).

    I asked them if we’d get the HS250h in Australia. No-one was sure, but they said, at least from their dealership they were pushing for the IS hybrid.

    Makes me wonder – it would have been much simpler to offer the upcoming ISxx0h which apparently the UK have also been pushing for too.

  • avatar
    M1EK


    A key takeaway from the success of the Prius: Americans prefer their hybrids in bespoke sheetmetal.

    No, for the millionth time, the looks of the Prius have almost nothing to do with it kicking all the other hybrids to the curb – unless you live in some parallel universe where the new Honda Insight (“bespoke sheetmetal”) is not a sales loser. The Prius won because it was head and shoulders above its competitors, period.

    It whooped the Civic Hybrid because it has much more rear leg room and a cargo space that renders it more than just a daily commuter – it can be a family’s only car. It whooped the new Insight because the new Insight’s mileage sucks in comparison (and it’s smaller to boot).

  • avatar

    Very nice review, Michael. How’s the driver’s leg room? Would the legs of my 6’2″ body stretch comfortably?

  • avatar
    PennSt8

    Michael Blue:

    I’m 6’3″ and I fit just fine, but don’t expect to put anyone behind you.

    In retrospect, I believe this vehicle will do well for Lexus. Not because it’s superbly executed, but because no one else has delivered a hybrid only pseudo luxury vehicle. It still doesn’t excuse the steep price tag, and as I’ve mentioned before “uber premium” interior or not it there is absolutely no reason to buy this over a Prius or Fusion Hybrid.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    If this car has a substantially cushier and quieter ride than the Prius and Camry Hybrid, then that, plus the hight tech toys and superior interior fit and finish & materials quality, will make me seriously consider getting one. I can deal with a slightly dorky exterior, low horsepower, and slightly cramped rear seat (but still 4.5″ more legroom than the popular IS250). But, I cannot see paying a Lexus price for a car that’s got a “flinty” “jittery, unsettled” ride and an engine that is as noisy as a Sonata’s. I’d like to know how the HS stacks up to the ES350 in terms of cushiness & quietness. Also, does anyone know if the HS has an extending sun visor (ie when flipped to the side it can pull rearward) and an extending driver seat cushion? I drove an IS250 loaner car awhile back, and was shocked it didn’t have those basic features, yet stickered in the mid forties.

  • avatar
    Accords

    Jeez..
    Maybe I’m just against this car from the start but an extending sun visor and a extending driver seat cushion,.. those are things ya look for as standard?!

    Those are the kinds of things that are important… on a Lexus badged Hybrid?

    Me,
    Id think the fuel economy would be a factor.
    Or maybe (if I was REALLY vain) the color, providing it wasn’t JUST offered in the usual dozen shades of grey / silver / black.

    Thinx:
    Improved grip and roll?

    They could have made it wider, but I doubt it would have strut bars.. as this car isn’t designed for performance… just hypermiling.

    ————-

    There is a strange world revolving around hybrids.
    In one area performance hybrids (the Fisker and Tesla) are emerging.

    Then ya had the japanese specializing in 3 box car hybrids, with the SUVS / CUVs / just the Camry jacked and on steroids coming first.

    But the Japanese have found a achilles heel. The 3 box car hybrids do decently, as long as its designed for THAT role uniquely i.e Prius and Insight. Whereas the Civic hybrid and Accord V6 Hybrid.. BOMBED. But Toyota is trying to “hybridize” everything, with the RX / Highlander, the Camry, the GS and now the LS.

    Most of the time.. if the cars were run efficiently there wouldn’t be a need for hybrid-ization. I dont need to tell all, that a hybrid RX or a LS makes no sense. Then again, I don’t believe a GS, RX or Highlander does either.

    Now,
    With the domestics focusing on SUV / CUV hybrids (later the Fusion), Escape and its trio, with the Slade / Tahoe / Yukon following closely.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Most of the time.. if the cars were run efficiently there wouldn’t be a need for hybrid-ization. I dont need to tell all, that a hybrid RX or a LS makes no sense.

    Yes, don’t listen to them! My patented Perpetual Motion device will save you instead.

  • avatar
    v7rmp7li

    This is very good review of Lexus HS250h.

    Lexus HS250h: Keep the lights off in the garage
    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-neil30-2009oct30,0,3315693.column

    “I can’t hear you. The ugly is just so loud.”

  • avatar
    SpikedLemon

    Only in America can luxury marques not make a small car.

    Heck: even Canada has a B-class Mercedes

  • avatar
    T2

    - PennSt8
    there is absolutely no reason to buy this over a Prius or Fusion Hybrid.

    Seems some others here don’t see what all the fuss is about. I too joined that club earlier when I observed –
    most drifted off to other vehicles brought in, notably the GS350.

    The problem is that the Prius has been so well executed that a buyer is likely to go directly to a Toyota dealership. Fixing the ‘L’ badge onto this vehicle, knowing that it contains nothing more than the Camry Hybrid powertrain inside is not going to attract a Lexus audience.

    The marketing of power hybrid sedan cars hasn’t worked for any manufacturer so far and this Prius tricked out to a 2.4L engine may be repeating history one more time. Although I would like to see further advances in engine development that is not likely to occur on a completely new model, that is just not how Toyota works.

    As far as I am concerned the Lexus badge offers nothing to the Prius brand with this model. Despite its complexity, or perhaps because of it, the Prius already exhibits superlative reliability and a Lexus nameplate won’t be significantly altering that.

    Timing for the HS250 couldn’t have been worse coming on the heels of the release of the MY 2010 Prius. Remember that that vehicle was a new design also, representing the first redesign of the Prius in almost six years.

    Lexus needs to differentiate the marque and the best way, which I would have thought was rather obvious, would have been to have bring the Prius into the Lexus fold by incorporating AWD.
    An AWD Prius would have attracted a lot of attention I am sure. It hasn’t been done on a sedan yet though the technology of adding an electric transaxle has been proven out on the RX400H for several years now.

    In its current configuration I would say that the HS250, like the LS600H before it, is yet another vehicle that no-one was waiting for.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    The naysayers were right – the HS250h really is a blinged-out Corolla! Here’s proof, on the US Govt’s NHTSA website:

    Go here:
    http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ewr/qb/index.cfm
    Under search criteria, enter the following:

    * Manufacturer: Toyota Motor Corp
    * Report type: Light vehicle production
    * Reporting Period: Year 2009, Qtr 3

    Click the resulting link to see the filings. Click “next” until you see filings for the HS250h. Here’s what you’ll see:

    Make: Lexus
    Model year: 2010
    Model: HS
    Total production: 4564
    Type code: PC
    Platform: COROLLA

    The fully loaded Lexus Corolla runs about $50K, and is available at a dealer near you.


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