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Currently available luxury hybrid sedans are few, but the 2011 Lexus HS 250h delivers with a luxurious cabin and thrifty fuel consumption.
Comfortable, quiet cabin; user-friendly high-tech equipment; safety features; excellent build quality.
Touchy brakes; numb steering; gets pricey with options; less practical than Lexus CT 200h.
Available HS 250h Sedan Models
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The Lexus HS 250h is unchanged for 2011.
When it comes to hybrid vehicles, there are luxury cars and SUVs that are eco-friendly in name only. And then there are some that truly deliver admirable fuel economy numbers. The 2011 Lexus HS 250h falls into the latter group even as it delivers all of the luxury trappings you'd expect from a Lexus -- a unique combination when you think about it.
Despite first impressions, the HS 250h is not a rebadged Toyota Prius. Instead, it features a unique chassis that is bigger than a Corolla's but smaller than a Camry's. The Lexus does, however, borrow its powertrain from the Camry Hybrid, which gives the HS significantly better performance than a Prius. As far as fuel-conscious hybrids go, the Lexus HS 250h is quick, accelerating from zero to 60 mph in only 8.7 seconds. Fuel economy suffers as a result, with an EPA-estimated 35 mpg that falls well short of the 50 mpg delivered by the Prius.
Inside the cabin, the 2011 HS 250h is loaded with plenty of luxury features, surrounding passengers with the fine leather surfaces and wood trim that you'd expect in any Lexus. Buyers should know, though, that tacking on options will make the final price climb fairly quickly.
Eco-friendly entry-level luxury sedans haven't hit showrooms in large numbers quite yet, leaving the 2011 Lexus HS 250h little in the way of competition. The forthcoming Lexus CT 200h will be a hybrid of a luxury car and a hatchback. as it will be a hybrid in powertrain performance. Since it shares its drivetrain with the Prius, it is slower but more economical than the HS 250h. The less expensive Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is a compelling alternative with better fuel economy, a roomier interior and higher levels of standard equipment. A lack of brand cachet and a less luxurious cabin are the Lincoln's downfall, however.
Lowering the luxury standard further provides more alternatives like the Ford Fusion Hybrid (it's related to the MKZ), the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Nissan Altima Hybrid. For the time being, though, the 2011 Lexus HS 250h represents a solid choice for combining both luxury and fuel frugality.
The 2011 Lexus HS 250h is a five-passenger, front-wheel-drive compact sedan offered in two trim levels: base and Premium.
The base model features 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sunroof, heated outside mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, full power accessories, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power front seats (eight-way driver and eight-way passenger), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (with audio controls), dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker audio system with six-disc CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface and Bluetooth connectivity for both phone and audio.
The Premium trim adds 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver memory settings, heated and ventilated front seats, real-wood cabin accents and upgraded leather upholstery.
Options include a rear spoiler, rear parking sensors, a separate front-and-rear parking-camera system, adaptive LED headlights, a Mark Levinson audio system and a hard-drive-based navigation system with traffic/weather/sports/stock reporting. A Technology package (which requires the Navigation and Parking Camera packages) includes a head-up display, lane-departure warning and assist, a driver-attention monitor, adaptive cruise control and Lexus' Pre-Collision system. Some of the Premium's features can be had as individual options on the base trim.
The 2011 Lexus HS 250h is powered by a combination of a 2.4-liter inline-4 that works in tandem with a pair of electric motor/generators. Combined output results in 187 horsepower that is sent to the front wheels via a specialized continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). In Edmunds performance testing, an HS 250h accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, which is quick for a hybrid. Fuel economy checks in at 35 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined, which is about average for a midsize hybrid sedan.
The HS 250h comes standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, side curtain airbags, front-and-rear seat-mounted side airbags and dual front knee airbags.
Included with the optional adaptive cruise control is the Lexus Pre-Collision system, which can pre-tension the front seatbelts and activate brake assist immediately when the driver presses the brake pedal if an impending collision is detected. The optional Technology package includes the Pre-Collision system as well as lane-departure warning and driver-attention monitors.
The 2011 Lexus HS 250h has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) resulted in a perfect five out of five stars in frontal and side impact protection for all passengers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the HS 250h its highest rating of "Good" for frontal offset and side impact protection and a second-best "Acceptable" for roof-strength integrity.
As with any vehicle wearing the Lexus badge, the 2011 HS 250h features a luxurious interior with top-notch materials and impeccable fit and finish. The HS 250h also comes loaded with plenty of high-tech features, and controls are mercifully intuitive. Opting for the navigation system will also get you the "Remote Touch" controller that mimics a computer mouse with haptic feedback to "feel" the onscreen audio, climate and navigation buttons. There's also a hybrid-status indicator in the instrument panel that lets drivers know when they're driving green.
Despite the HS 250h's smaller size, its backseat offers a decent amount of head- and legroom for taller folks. Likewise, the short trunk's wide opening and deep, boxy internal shape allows you to drop a golf bag straight in with no jostling required. The trunk can accommodate up to 12.1 cubic feet, but the rear seats do not fold down and there is far less utility than in the hatchback Prius.
With a focus on fuel economy, the 2011 Lexus HS 250h won't impress spirited drivers as much as frugal owners. Transitions between gasoline and electric propulsion are seamless and smooth, though throttle response is a bit leisurely. Flooring the accelerator results in a slight pause, but afterward, the HS 250h responds with a rush of linear power.
On the highway, the HS 250h provides a smooth and quiet cabin that is free of wind and road noise. Potholes and bumps in the road are readily soaked up by the compliant suspension, which is also pleasantly composed when taking to curves. Behind the wheel, this Lexus feels lighter than it really is, cornering flat with crisp turn-in. The electric power steering is precise, but lacks feedback. Initially, some drivers may note that the brakes feel overly touchy, but after some time it becomes easy to adapt.
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