The first thing you notice when you drive the new Lexus HS 250h is how quiet it is. Push the blue start button on the dashboard and it’s almost impossible to discern that the motor has powered up. And that’s just the beginning of all the new technology you’ll find on this remarkable automobile.
The HS 250h went on sale in the U.S. a little over a year ago and it quickly has become known as the world’s first dedicated luxury hybrid, with its innovative engineering, intelligent design, roomy interior and maneuverability. It also maximizes fuel economy and uses the most ecologically advanced materials.
For 2011, the Lexus HS 250h is available in standard and premium models and has a combined EPA fuel economy rating of 35 mpg — 35 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway — on regular gasoline, a 74 percent better city rating than the average nearluxury sedan.
This Lexus hybrid uses a high-efficiency four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle twin-cam gas engine with four valves per cylinder and Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (the first four-cylinder ever used in a Lexus) mated to the Lexus Hybrid Drive system. The engine has a high compression ratio and peak output equals 147 hp. In combination with the hybrid drive motor the system generates 187 hp.
One of the keys to lower fuel consumption involves heat and, much like the Lexus RX 450h, the HS uses an Exhaust Heat Recovery System that captures exhaust gas heat to speed engine coolant warm up and allow the hybrid system to stop the engine earlier and more often in the driving cycle when it’s not needed, such as in city driving.
Using a two-motor hybrid system, the HS 250h uses a 141 hp drive motor that combines with the gas engine. A second motor in the hybrid system serves as both the engine starter and generator to charge the hybrid battery pack.
The HS 250h clocks 0-60 mph in a not-toshabby 8.4 seconds and is very responsive in highway passing situations, thanks to the instant torque of the electric motor and the ECVT’s ability to quickly find the best gear ratio.
As for styling, the HS 250h has a taller profile and the A-pillars are positioned more forward to give it a sleek, aerodynamic shape and a silhouette line that flows smoothly from front to rear. Up front, the grille is set low without openings for a smooth airflow over the hood. An air inlet below the grille cools the hybrid system and a larger one lower in the fascia cools the engine and radiator.
Base price on the 2011 Lexus HS 250h is $36,970.
Ron Beasley is the automotive editor for Miami’s Community Newspapers. He may be contacted by calling 305-662-2277, ext. 261, or by addressing email correspondence to LetsTalkCars@aol.com.