2011 Lexus HS 250h Hybrid First Impressions Review

Expert Reviews Lexus

By contributing editor David Colman


  • Highly evolved hybrid system operates almost seamlessly
  • Customary Lexus craftsmanship and detail attention
  • Stealth looks avoid typical hybrid cynosure


  • 225/45R18 Toyo Proxes A20 tires squeal at the merest hint of a turn
  • Middling acceleration can disappoint in the clutch
  • Dash-pad mounted mouse is disconcertingly large, shift lever too small

Lexus introduced this hybrid in January, 2008 at the Detroit Auto Show, some 6 years after the first hybrid Lexus, the RX 330h went into production. The HS is the smallest and least expensive hybrid in the company’s present lineup, with a base price of $34,200. That’s a $10,000 slug more than the parent company’s similar $22,000 Toyota Prius, but as you might expect, the HS, being a Lexus, is a far more luxurious vehicle.

2011 Lexus HS 250h interior
Swing open the door of the HS and you’re greeted with four plush looking front and rear seats with cushions upholstered in “water gray” and bolsters done in charcoal leather. The pleasing two-tone format continues through the cabin, with all panels below the beltline done in charcoal and the headliner and roof pillars done in “water gray.” The futuristic looking dash panel morphs into a flat central spine that appears to hover without visible support between the front seats. This plateau bears a tiny lever to control the forward/reverse gear selector for the CVT transmission, a button to engage “Park” position, and a much larger mouse device to control the computer screen mounted high on the dash.

Most of the functions normally controlled by buttons or switches on other vehicles are subsumed by the dominant mouse-computer GUI. Controlling the HS is like driving your Dell laptop at 60mph. It’s effective, but not terribly involving. The CVT lever, for example, is so small that you’ll find yourself fishing for it unless you’re looking directly at the dash. The same warning applies to that Park button, and the Stop/Start button, which is inexplicably located high up on the right side of the instrument binnacle.

shift by wire

To those conditioned to a gasoline-powered automobile, the HS is a foreign breed. When you push the Start button, you’ll hear nothing to confirm that the HS is running. You’re first clue to its live status comes when you flick the gear lever into Drive and the petite sedan shoots off without a so much as a peep. You can drive it in this silent mode, using only the front electric drive motor if you select “EV” mode from among the 3 choices offered via dashboard buttons. In EV mode you can traverse short distances using only electric power. When that option runs out, you’ll want to rely on the HS’ undersquare (stroke larger than bore), 2.4 liter, 147hp gasoline fueled engine, which, in combination with the hybrid motor, produces a total output of 187hp.

The HS completes the sprint from 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds, but the rate of acceleration is never enough to make you feel confident when passing slower cars on two lane roads. Responsible for the lack of alacrity is the sedan’s 3,682 lb., battery-laden curb weight, which yields a power-to-weight ratio of nearly 20 pounds per horsepower. For comparison sake, a similarly equipped 4 door sedan from VW like the current Jetta weighs just 2,804 lb., makes 170hp, and boasts a power-to-weight ratio of 16.4 pounds per horsepower.

2011 Lexus HS 250h

The hybrid payoff with the HS comes not in its less than sparkling performance or handling, but rather at the gas station, where you’ll be a less frequent visitor than ever before. The HS bags 35 MPG in city driving, 34 MPG on the highway, and makes you feel like a good citizen doing your part in the war against global warming.

2011 LEXUS HS250h

  • ENGINE: DOHC 2.4 liter in-line 4, with VVT-i plus 2 Motor Generators: MG1 drives the generator, engine starter and transmission radio control; MG2 drives only the front wheels
  • HORSEPOWER: 147 hp @ 6,000 rpm (Gasoline Engine); 140 hp (MG2)
  • TORQUE: 138 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm (Gasoline Engine)
  • DRIVETRAIN: front wheel drive
  • FUEL CONSUMPTION: 35 City MPG/ 34 Highway MPG
  • PRICE AS TESTED: $39,993


David Colman has been writing vehicle tests for 25 years. His work has been featured in AutoWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Marin Independent Journal. In 1987, he helped start Excellence, The Magazine About Porsche, which he edited for many years. He has been an active participant in racing and Solo events since 1961. More car reviews written by Colman can be found at autoeditor.com

Lexus HS 250h Photo Gallery

2011 Lexus HS 250h

2011 Lexus HS 250h Specs

LexusOfficial website for Lexus cars, hybrids, and SUVs – www.lexus.com

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  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    Stealth look’s is a plus ?It’s a very old design from the European Avensis and it’s awful.For this crazy money you could own a Volt or a Mercedes E Class Diesel .The Money is not $34,000.00 the Lexus dealer in the bay area sell them in the mid 40k and the mileage is really low at 34mpg compared to 43mpg Jetta TDI which is similar sized and half the price..This is just an out of date Toyota reaching for straws .

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