|Lexus has invented a new design theme
called L-fatness for the car, which is about as inspiring as Camry...
The marketing people of
told us HS250h is the division's first dedicated hybrid car, something
like the Prius of Lexus. It sounds cool, doesn't it ?
Well, depend on how you see it. If you are an existing owner of Prius,
you may be excited with this idea and set your sight on it as your next
upgrade. The green messages it bring is stronger than the existing
"performance hybrids" of Lexus, i.e. GS450h, RX450h and LS600h. These
cars are cleaner than conventional cars, of course, but their hybrid
powertrains bias towards the performance side, with intention to lift
V6 and V8 into the league of V8 and V12 respectively. HS250h is
different. From the engine performance index in its name you can easily
see it has no sporting pretension at all. All it wants to do is to save
fuel... at least this is what Lexus wants you to believe.
However, green image aside, this car is quite pointless. First of all,
we have to question its positioning in Lexus' model tree - where does
it fit in relation to IS and ES ? Size-wise, it falls into the same
segment as IS and ES. Performance-wise, it is much weaker than both.
Price-wise, it slips between IS250 and IS350, and about the same as
ES350. It makes an already embarrassing situation even more
embarrassing. I can imagine many Lexus salesmen will simplify the
choices in this way: "If you want handling, this one. If you want
refinement, that one. If you want green, HS250h will be the one !"
However, in reality customers always ask for the best combination of
all essential aspects. It will be more difficult to explain then.
|Prius+Avensis chassis and Camry Hybrid
powertrain does not deliver what you expect in a Lexus...
It could be even more embarrassing if you know where its ingredients
come from. The front-wheel drive floorpan of HS250h combines that of
Prius and Avensis (in particular double-wishbone rear suspensions),
which is hardly what you expect for a premium car. The hybrid
powertrain is carried over intact from Camry Hybrid. This means a
2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine mated with an electric
and planetary-gear CVT. Combined output is only 187 horsepower. In
addition to the 1700 kg kerb weight, 0-60 mph acceleration is done
leisurely in 8.4 seconds. Again this is not what you would expect on a
car at this price.
This hybrid powertrain is refined by the standards of Toyota, but not
Lexus. Those expecting six-cylinder smoothness from the combination of
a four-banger - even with twin-balancer shafts installed - and electric
motor will be disappointed. The CVT also tends to keep the engine
revving intrusively noisy. This is not helped by the questionable sound
insulation of its cabin. Both engine noise and road noise are more
obvious than in other Lexuses. Moreover, it does not insulate the sound
of regenerative braking and engine on/off as well as it should. "If you
want an unrefined Lexus, this will be the one !"
What meets our expectation - or the lack of it - is the car's ride and
handling. It drives like a Camry with a lot of luggages at the back
(think of that NiMH battery pack in the boot). There is little agility
or fun to speak of. Predictably, the electrical power steering is
muted, and the chassis can be easily pushed into understeer. Even with
18-inch wheels and 225/45 tires fitted, the HS250h is not going to
trouble a Ford Mondeo, let alone its more logical rival BMW 3-series
|"If you want an unrefined Lexus, this
will be the one !"
It lacks a high-quality packaging to compete with those premium rivals
too. Lexus has obviously invented a new design theme called L-fatness
for the car, which is about as inspiring as Camry. Open the doors, you
will see a large piece of hard and gray plastic, tasteless faux alloy
or wood accents and a protruding center console that looks as if lifted
from a Japanese MPV. Is it really a Lexus? To save the game, HS250h
offers a wide range of advanced safety features - but not for free. The
additional costs of hybrid powertrain means it will never be renowned
for value for money.
What HS250h promotes most is greenness, of course. It claims 30 percent
of its interior plastics is made of plant-derived bioplastics, which
should help reducing CO2 a bit. Apart
from the hybrid powertrain, it
seeks lower fuel consumption by reducing drag (Cd 0.27). Other fuel
saving measures include infrared-reducing windscreen (which saves air
conditioning), LED headlamps and exhaust heat recovery system (which
quickens engine warm up). Overall, the car achieves an EPA consumption
of 35 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. This compare favourably with IS250's
21 mpg and 29 mpg respectively. Nevertheless, compared with other
frugal cars it becomes rather ordinary. For example, it can't match
Ford Fusion Hybrid's 41 / 36 mpg, let alone the 51 / 48 mpg of Prius.
Some European premium diesel cars, such as BMW 320d and Mercedes
C220CDI BlueEfficiency, offer better mileage and CO2
stronger performance. Unlike the HS, they deliver these merits without
compromising dynamics and refinement or showing a de-content image.
From this view, HS250h is rather pointless.