Full 2012 Lexus HS 250h Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Lexus HS 250h is unchanged.
Among the small number of luxury hybrid sedans on the market, the 2012 Lexus HS 250h is one of the few that puts its emphasis on fuel efficiency. While most others in this niche segment are more costly and tend to place performance over fuel economy, the more affordable and compact HS 250h switches those priorities.
The uninitiated may assume the HS 250h is based on the Prius, but it's not. Featuring a unique chassis that's sized between a Corolla and a Camry, the HS 250h employs the powertrain from the previous-generation Camry Hybrid, which gives the Lexus significantly better performance than a Prius. Though its estimated 35 combined mpg is fairly impressive, it's still well short of the 50 mpg delivered by a Prius.
But make no mistake; the HS 250h is a Lexus and as such boasts a finely trimmed cabin with high-quality leather upholstery and tasteful wood accents. Plenty of luxury features are standard and even more are available, though adding options can quickly jack up the price.
The most direct rival to the 2012 Lexus HS 250h is the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. The MKZ offers better fuel economy, a roomier cabin and more standard equipment. A lack of brand cachet and a less luxurious interior are the Lincoln's downsides. There's also the HS's sibling, the Lexus CT 200h, which provides the increased versatility of a hatchback body style along with sportier handling. As it shares its powertrain with the Prius, the CT is slower but more economical than the HS 250h.
If outright luxury is not a must, one could consider the MKZ's less expensive platform mate, the Ford Fusion Hybrid. There's also the mild hybrid version of the Buick LaCrosse or perhaps even Toyota's all-new Camry Hybrid. All things considered, however, you should be pleased with the 2012 Lexus HS 250h, thanks to its tempting combination of luxury and fuel frugality.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Lexus HS 250h is 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, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker sound system with a 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 (PCS). Some of the Premium's features can be had as individual options on the base trim.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Lexus HS 250h is powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 that works in tandem with a pair of electric motor/generators. Combined output results in 187 horsepower 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, 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 as soon as the driver presses the brake pedal if an impending collision is detected. The optional Technology package includes the PCS as well as lane-departure warning and driver-attention monitors.
In Edmunds brake testing, the HS 250h stopped from 60 mph in 125 feet, an average distance. 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.
Interior Design and Special Features
As with just about any vehicle wearing the Lexus badge, the 2012 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 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 provides up to 12.1 cubic feet of cargo space, but the rear seats do not fold down and there is far less utility than in the hatchback CT 200h or the Prius.
Given its focus on fuel economy, the 2012 Lexus HS 250h won't impress driving enthusiasts as much as it will frugal owners. Transitions between gasoline and electric propulsion are seamless and smooth, though throttle response is a bit leisurely.
On the highway, the HS 250h provides a quiet cabin that is free of wind and road noise. Potholes and bumps in the road are soaked up by the compliant suspension, which is also pleasantly composed when taking 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 find the brakes overly touchy, but that impression fades as they quickly acclimate.