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Jan 262010

By Clint Williams
Green Right Now

The 2010 Lexus HS 250h doesn’t drive by itself, but properly tricked out it comes pretty close. And the HS 250h does this while getting the sort of fuel economy associated with a much less comfortable, much less elegant, much less golllleee compact car.

Lexus HS 250h

Lexus HS 250h

The HS 250h is a hybrid luxury car designed from the ground up, not a slap-dash modification of an existing Lexus. The Lexus lineup generally offers power and performance. The HS 250h is the first Lexus with a four-cylinder gas engine.

Its Atkinson-cycle engine is mated to a two-motor hybrid system, creating an 187 horsepower vehicle. The power plant also meets the California SULEV and federal Tier 2 Bin 3 exhaust emission standards, which means that it emits 70 percent fewer emissions than the average new car. No small carbon reduction there.

The driver will only notice that the car moves quite briskly. Don’t think you can drag race the BMW 335d (still our favorite green car) in the next lane, but acceleration should never be an issue.

The HS 250h has a drive-mode switch to shift between Normal, Power, Eco and EV mode. Power mode offers a bit more oomph, but not a lot. The EV mode, under certain circumstances allows the car to be driven short distances at low speed using only the electric motors. It’s useful for winding your way through a parking garage or hauling the kids through the neighborhood to the community pool.

The EPA fuel economy estimate is 35 miles per gallon city and 34 mpg on the highway. We got 34.6 mpg in a week of driving, according to the car’s trip computer.

The interior is what you would expect in a Lexus: comfortable and well crafted. The navigation system, climate control and sound system are controlled with Lexus’ exclusive Remote Touch controller, which is part computer mouse, part joystick. It’s fun to play with at stoplights.

The $3,900 Tech Package includes lane assist and dynamic radar cruise control that do everything but steer the car for you.

The HS 250h has 10 airbags, including knee airbags for driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags, and both front and rear seat-mounted side airbags.

Another footprint reducing feature: A bioplastic using plant sources as raw material is used in a number of injection-molded, foam and board components throughout the car, including trunk compartment trim, cowl side trim, door scuff plates, seat cushions and the package tray. About 30 percent of the combined interior and trunk are covered in bioplastic.

This is Lexus’ first dedicated hybrid, and while it is aimed at a luxury market, the company kept pricing in the mid-30s. It is available in standard and premium models, with suggest retail price tags of $34,200 and $36,970, respectively.

Options such as the $3,900 Tech Package, which includes dynamic radar cruise control, can quickly add to the tab, however. The loaded test car had a sticker price of $48,876.

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