In Eco mode the throttle actuation on the engine and electric drive motor is reduced relative to the pedal angle to emphasize fuel economy. Never use Eco mode if in a hurry to be somewhere, otherwise your blood pressure will surpass that of a junior stock broker on Wall Street.
I tested the EV mode and it allows the car to be driven short distances at speeds 25 mph or less using only the electric motors. A great feature when stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and creeping along at a turtle’s pace, but press too hard on the accelerator pedal and the car kicks itself out of EV mode.
As with the Prius, the stubby shift-by-wire knob is moronic and too much like a video game controller. Again like the Prius, there is a “big-rig” beep to remind you that the car is shifted in reverse. Annoying but necessary because the physical feeling typically associated with gear shifting is missing with the CVT and electric motor combination.
Lexus buyers expect luxury, reliability, and features, and the HS 250h delivers those in spades. It offers such optional electronic gadgetry as the Mark Levinson 5.1-channel audio system, a heads-up instrument display with an adjustable viewing angle , a front-view and back-view monitor to aid in parking, and adaptive cruise control. More luxury features such as heated outside mirrors with integrated puddle lamps, Bluetooth hands-free system with voice control, and acoustic windshield glass are standard fare with the HS 250h.
The myriad buttons scattered across the dash make the learning curve a bit high, though many are rarely used in the day-to-day. Can’t turn your head to look behind you or see what is in front of the bumper. There are camera views for optional rear and front cameras. Yes, a front camera, which provides a 190 degree view so you can creep up within an inch of someone’s rear bumper when parking.
Standard is a 10-way power adjustable front leather seat for the driver and 8-way power adjustable leather seat for the front passenger. The optional heated and cooled front seats trimmed in semi-aniline leather in our test car were delightful.
We did like the XM live traffic and weather updates with the Lexus Enform(tm) navigation system using casual-speech voice recognition. The nav-system automatically alerts you when traffic problems are detected and allows you to adjust the route. Having the live traffic alerts saved me more than once when it detected major slowdowns on my route due to accidents and road work ahead on the route. Even if I didn’t program a destination into the nav-system, I could view the map and check the traffic flow of my intended path using the color codes displayed on the screen. Almost like having Joe-the-traffic guy in your car alerting of potential slowdowns and traffic accidents.
A big drawback is the HS 250h’s small, 12 cubic foot trunk and only 90 cubic feet of passenger space. This is common to most hybrid sedans because batteries and other hybrid specific parts are located in the rear. By comparison, the Ford Fusion hybrid retains the same cargo space as its non-hybrid brethren with 16 cubic feet in the trunk and 100 cubic feet of passenger volume.
Lane-Keeping Assist: The steering definitely feels stiffer when the optional lane-keeping system is switched on. If you drift onto a lane marker, first it beeps at you, and then it rotates the steering to move you back into your lane. Heaven forbid that you should rely upon LKA in foul weather. We discovered LKA becomes useless on wet roads because the lane markers are undetectable by the camera system.
Competing models to consider, in my opinion, are the Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion hybrids. Like the HS 250h, both have small trunks. But they’re roomier inside, just as quick, and about as fuel-efficient as the HS 250h. Although, they lack the cachet of a Lexus, both come in at about 35 grand fully loaded, the starting price for an HS 250h. Much as I like the HS 250h, it isn’t for budget shoppers.
|Official website for Lexus cars, hybrids, and SUVs – www.lexus.com|
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