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Test Drive: 2010 Lexus HS250h

Test Drive with the new Lexus HS250 available for now only in North America.

Test Drive: 2010 Lexus HS250h
Starting at $39,900, Lexus’ first “entry-level” luxury hybrid car, the new HS250h, is targeted at “…Canadians who want the ultimate in luxury motoring with a smaller (carbon) footprint,” according to Larry Hutchinson, Director of Lexus Canada.
Notice that he didn’t say, “…Canadians who want to save money on gas.” No, this Lexus is all about being green while being coddled. HS250h buyers want to be able to help save the planet while enjoying the comforts of heated leather seats, 15-speaker stereo, and voice-activated navigation.

According to Hutchinson, sixty per cent of people looking for an entry-level luxury car have been looking for a hybrid-powered option. The question is, will the HS250h meet their luxury aspirations as well as their environmental ones?

Truthfully, I’m not sure. While the HS250h ticks off all the ecologically-friendly check-marks – it offers the fuel efficiency of a subcompact car with the power of a mid-size sedan; 70 per cent less smog-forming emissions than a comparable gasoline or diesel sedan; plant-based plastics for the seat cushions and trunk that reduce CO2 emissions by 20 per cent during production; a dust, pollen and deodorizing filter, and an ion generator to reduce interior airborne particles – the HS250h is a rather plain-looking car with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission and electric motor that combine to offer less power, smoothness and refinement than a typical V6-powered entry-level luxury car in the same price range.

Yes, the HS250h has all the gadgets you could imagine in a luxury hybrid: similar to the new Prius, its hybrid powertrain has four driver-selectable driving modes: Normal Mode, Power Mode, ECO Mode, and EV Mode; inside there’s a pop-up screen that displays various functions like climate control and optional voice-activate navigation via a nifty mouse-like controller on the centre console; leather seats with optional heating and cooling, premium audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, rear window sunshade, and ten standard airbags.

But a luxury car needs to be more than the sum of its features – it should look and feel like a luxury car, and that’s where I’m going to be a bit critical of the HS250h. Its styling is, frankly, unimaginative – it’s tall and slab-sided with a squared-off front bumper, a windshield placed well forwards on the body, and a horizontal rather than wedge-shaped profile. Its tall body makes even the optional 18-inch wheels look small. You’d never guess that the HS250h has a very slippery coefficient of drag of 0.27.

Interior impressions

Just above this display is a green “Ready” light that comes on when the transmission is put into Drive, and tiny green Eco Mode/EV Mode lights that indicate the current driving mode. There’s also a transmission gear indicator.

The shift lever is a small wand-like lever high up on the dash conveniently located close to the driver’s hand. It has Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Braking (for regenerative engine braking which charges the battery), but Park is a button below the shifter. This is confusing at first, but you soon learn to put the shifter in Neutral and then Press the Park button.
Just above the shift lever are three buttons for EV, Eco mode, and Power mode. EV mode runs on battery power only at speeds up to 40 km/h for about two kilometres if the battery is well charged; Eco mode reduces power and suppresses the air conditioning to save fuel; while Power mode allows a more aggressive throttle to improve performance.
A unique interior feature is the new “Remote Touch” mouse controller positioned high on the centre console. It mimics the actions of a computer mouse by moving a cursor around the screen to the desired feature. An Enter button beside the mouse activates the functions.

The eight-inch retractable screen displays audio, telephone, climate control, vehicle information, setup, and optional navigation features, with available voice activation for navi, audio and climate functions. I found the mouse controller easy to use, but as it requires some concentration, it should be used only while stopped.
The HS250h’s standard audio system includes AM/FM/XM satellite radio, an in-dash six-disc CD changer, 10 speakers, auxiliary jack, USB input, Bluetooth hands-free phone, and iPod/MP3 capability. But if you order the optional Ultra Premium model, you get a Mark Levinson Surround Sound Audio System with 15 speakers. This is probably more stereo than any car really needs.

Safety features in the HS250h include ten airbags: dual stage driver and passenger airbags with front passenger sensor, driver and front passenger knee airbags, front seat side airbags, curtain airbags for both rows, and rear seat side airbags. Also standard are active front head restraints to help prevent whiplash, and a first-aid kit.

Driving impressions

Similar to the revised hybrid system in the 2010 Prius, but using a 2.4-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine instead of a 1.8-litre engine, the HS250h’s hybrid powertrain includes two electric motors and a powerful nickel-metal hydride battery. Combined, they produce 187 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. The main electric motor powers the car in stop-and-go traffic or at low speeds without using the engine. When stronger acceleration and higher speeds are needed, a second electric motor starts the engine, which then combines with the main electric motor to drive the car. Once the gas engine has started, the secondary electric motor starts recharging the hybrid battery, particularly when coasting or braking. When stopped at a traffic light, the gas engine automatically turns off to save fuel, and restarts as soon as the driver removes their foot from the brake pedal.

Though this all sounds very complicated, it happens automatically and is almost transparent to the driver and passengers.
Also similar to the new Prius, the HS250h has three driver-selectable operating modes in addition to Normal Mode: Power Mode, Eco Mode, and EV Mode. Power Mode provides up to 17 per cent stronger acceleration than Normal Mode, and is useful for passing or climbing steep hills. Eco Mode improves fuel efficiency by reducing throttle response and suppressing the air conditioning. EV Mode allows the HS250h to be driven on electric power alone speeds up to 40 km/h for about two kilometres, but only if the battery is sufficiently charged. Power is directed through a continuously variable transmission to the front wheels.
The actual driving experience, though basically seamless, includes some noise and vibration from the four-cylinder engine which is accentuated by its sustained high revving when accelerating due to the operation of the continuously variable transmission. In addition, the electric motor emits an audible whine when coasting to a stop.

I found that driving in Eco Mode produces rather lacklustre performance in the quest to improve fuel economy, while EV Mode rarely operates at speeds above 30 km/h and will quickly change to the gas engine unless acceleration is very, very gradual. I had to chuckle when I saw the warning message at 35 km/h display: “Excessive speed – EV mode deactivated”. Still, EV mode is useful in stop-and-go city traffic, or in very low speed situations.

At freeway speeds, the gas engine settles down to very low r.p.m.s (there is no tachometer, so I can’t verify engine speed), and will deactivate when coasting downhill. There is almost no engine noise over level pavement and wind noise is minimal, though there is some tire noise.
During a week of combined city/hwy driving, my onboard fuel consumption display showed an average of 8.1 L/100 km, a long way off the official city/hwy figures of 5.6/5.9. I operated mostly in Eco Mode with the occasional Power mode and EV mode for test purposes.

The front-wheel drive HS250h includes standard traction control and stability control to help prevent loss of traction and stability in slippery conditions. It also includes Hill Start Assist which prevents the car from slipping back on a hill after the foot is removed from the brake pedal before pushing the accelerator.

The HS250h’s variable-assist electric rack and pinion steering felt surprisingly firm and responsive at highway speeds while requiring minimal effort at city speeds, while the car’s turning diameter of 11.4 metres (37.4 ft.) is acceptable but not exceptional. The fully independent suspension felt a tad firm over rough patches, but comfortable on the freeway. Being tall and narrow, the HS250h doesn’t feel particularly sporty when cornering, but it doesn’t lean too much and feels reasonably balanced.

The brake pedal feel from the four-wheel disc brakes with its built-in regenerative braking system felt too sensitive in stop and go traffic, and required gentle pressure to avoid lurching.
At night, the HS250h’s LED headlights swivel with the steering wheel to illuminate the area where the car is headed, useful when unseen pedestrians are walking on the street just around the corner. Coverage is broad and bright. And the automatically-dipping high beams prevent blinding other drivers when travelling over a sudden rise.
Verdict

Lexus’ new entry-level luxury hybrid sedan provides good fuel economy and lower emissions when compared to non-hybrid competitors, as well as a host of luxury and technological features, but it lacks the style and refinement of many non-hybrid entry-level luxury cars.


Author: AL
Source: Autolatest & Canadian Driver


SEARCH IN TESTDRIVE

TESTDRIVE PHOTO GALLERY

Test efectuat la: 10.11.2009 | 06:10 EET

SPECIFICATII TEHNICE TEST DRIVE

Test efectuat la: 10.11.2009 | 06:10 EET

  HS250hpct
MOTOR/ENGINE ENGINEL4 + Electric
DISPLACEMENT (cmc)2400
MAX POWER(hp/rpm)187
Torque(Nm/rpm)
DIMENSIUNI LENGHT(mm)4693
WIDTH C(mm)1785
HEIGHT(mm)1506
MASS EMPTY (kg)
PERFORMANTE V Max (km/h)
0-100 km/h (secunde)
Average Fuel Consumption (liters)
PRET Without taxes (euro)
With taxes (euro)
CAROSERIE Inside Space10
Quality of materials9
Standard Equipement9
Trunk Space10
CONFORT Confort9
Seats front/rear10/8
Air Conditioning Quality10
Sounds10
DINAMICA Engine Rafinement8
80-120 km/h10
Fuel Consumption10
Traction10
Braking10

Other tests

Ultimul test efectuat la: 27.03.2016 | 12:00 EET


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