Lexus HS 250h – Test Driving a Hybrid Car

By John Addison (3/26/10)
Since Toyota and Lexus have been getting some bad press for acceleration and braking problems, I had to discover the truth. I put on my helmut and accelerated the Lexus HS 250h on to the track at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The production of this premium hybrid had been temporarily halted during the big recall. The Lexus hybrid basically uses the same regen braking system as the Prius and Camry Hybrid.

The Lexus hybrid has four modes – Eco, Normal, EV, and Power. If you are into Eco or if you’re Normal, don’t get on a racetrack with thirty other auto journalists in Viper Coupes, Audi and BMW turbodiesels, Mercedes AMGs, Corvettes, and Mustang Shelby GT500s. Don’t get on a track where the drivers are loaded with caffeine and pumped with adrenaline. If you’re normal, don’t go on a racetrack. Being not quite normal, I touched the Power button.

The Lexus hybrid has plenty of acceleration. As I approach the Andretti Hairpin, I hit the brakes. OK Toyota and Lexus, acceleration and braking work fine. Going through the 180-degree hairpin the hybrid handles well. Smooth, tight, no skidding. As I approach Turn 3, I’ve got to remember what the driving instructor told me: stay to the left, start the sharp turn at the last second, and accelerate through the turn. It worked!

Now I get enough straightaway to accelerate. The Lexus HS 250h picks-up speed well. It is rated 0 to 60 in 8.4 seconds. Using a two-motor hybrid system, the HS 250h uses a 141 hp drive motor that combines with the 147 hp gas engine. Of course, a couple of the adrenaline-pumped guys in their 400 hp race cars pass me. It’s not really the fault of the Lexus; it’s more that I’m thinking how I’d like to survive the next 90-degree turn. I promised my wife that I’d be home for dinner, as opposed to spending the night in the Monterey hospital.

The Lexus hybrid continues to perform well as I accelerate through tight turns. The brakes also work well as I hit them approaching the Corkscrew, a malicious turn that at the peak of a hill takes you 70-degrees left sharply downhill, and then adds more turns. As I enter the Corkscrew, what scares me is that all I can see is the sky. I turn left, aim for the scrawny oak, going downhill I can finally see the road, and complete the turn. I accelerate a little through the next turn and set-up the sequence of turns where the instructor told me that I will not need to brake again. Right. I brake and take the Rainey Curve, then accelerate. I release my death grip on the wheel.

After three laps around the track, each lap with 11 turns including the Corkscrew, I bring the Lexus HS 250h into the pits. Its handling was impressive, the hybrid had all the acceleration that I would want in getting on a freeway, or in passing a slow truck on a two-lane road, and the brakes definitely work.

Luxury car buyers now longer need to sacrifice mileage. The Lexus HS250h gives you the image of success, luxury features, and a hybrid that delivers 35 miles per gallon. Only four other hybrids offer better fuel economy. You will notice premium appointments in the leather trim, one-touch moonroof, and a rich sound system. The base model starts at $34,200. The model I drove had a navigation system, luxury leather and walnut trim interior, sports suspension and 18 inch wheels. It cost $39,993.

If you can afford a Lexus, then you can afford $3,900 for an added safety technology package is available that includes a pre-collision system, parking assist, wide-view front monitor, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. If you care about safety, touch the Eco button, enjoy the ride, and stay off racetracks with hairpin and corkscrew turns.

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability.

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