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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2010 LEXUS HS Hybrid Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
: 2010 LEXUS HS 250h

SEE ALSO: Lexus HS 250h Road Trip-Video

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

With the introduction of the Lexus HS, Toyota Corp brings drivers the first luxury hybrid sedan to ever hit the auto market. Tagged by Lexus marketing champs as a "unique car for forward thinkers" and "infused with eco-luxury," 25,000 units are expected to sell in its first calendar year when the vehicle becomes available in September. A poll conducted with current Lexus owners stated 60% would consider the luxury hybrid. Although a couple of Toyota dealerships were lost in the recession, not one of the 227 Lexus dealerships closed down. It's a strong brand.

I was able to test drive several models or trims of the 2010 Lexus HS 250h with the Lexus Hybrid Drive technology, which includes a 187-horsepower Atkinson cycle 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission, and a nickel-metal voltage battery run by an inverting power control unit. Price will be announced in August.

The Lexus HS Hybrid is an all-new car concept with numerous technological and eco-friendly attributes, from its plant-based plastics used for upholstery to its five cameras featuring seven different functions for unprecedented road safety. Also, the Lexus HS introduces a whole new safety system called Lexus Enform with Safety Connect – very similar to GM's OnStar.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Lexus HS has a sleeker exterior design made to reduce wind drag, incorporating a grille previously used for concept auto shows. Inside a leather-hooded meter wraps the dash readings – if you like to use the 10-way power seating to sit up high, visibility could be a problem. The Remote Touch device, located in an ergonomically accurate position well below the navigation screen, functions eerily like a mouse – it takes a light touch to move the center knob or ball, sans left-and-right clicking commands. Between this and the Heads Up Display or Multi-Information switches, which allow the driver to digitally view key information on the windshield, Lexus has put a safe spin on the convenience of using technology while driving. Quite frankly, the HS has too many modern conveniences – or better known as technology bells-and-whistles – to cover in one review.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Lexus Enform with Safety Connect offers two sets of services. The Safety Connect has four features: automatic collision notification; stolen vehicle location; emergency assistance buttons; and roadside assistance. Combine this with Lexus Enform for navigation-equipped vehicles, which offers destination assistant through a live Lexus operator and eDestination, or the ability to receive over 200 POI (points of interest) wireless directions. You have five different cameras with seven different functions in the Lexus HS, one of those being an optional Lane-Keep Assist system that alerts drivers though both a buzzer and steering control when a veering outside of the lane lines are detected.

Cost Issues: You'll have to wait until August. I can tell you it's being classified with Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3-Series. It definitely won't be fun to maintain the cost of such modern technology; but don't fault the maker for consumer demands on vehicle trends.

Activity & Performance Ability: Lexus doesn't want to compare the Lexus Hybrid Drive to a Camry or Prius. I felt the 187-horsepower 2.4-liter engine had grip and stance during uphill acceleration – but I'm not a Lexus driver, one of whom is known to choose these vehicle because of a love for high performance V6 engines. The Lexus HS features an EV, ECO and Power Mode like the Prius – I put it to an electric-only challenge and got over 2 miles at under 25-mph speeds in EV Mode. I did get about 36-mpg with my conservative driving, but some other drivers listed about 28-mpg.

The Green Concern: The Lexus HS takes green to a whole new level. The car is produced at a chemical-free factory in Japan; is the world's first vehicle to use plant-based plastic upholstery; can drive longer than 2 miles in EV or electric-only mode under 25-mph; and gets an average of 35-mpg.

It's a simple answer – if you appreciate what the Prius or Camry Hybrid stands for but are looking for it in a much classier car with better technological perks, the Lexus HS 250h is for you.

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2009 Katrina Ramser