The HS 250h is the first Lexus hybrid that isn't an adaptation of an existing model. In a figurative sense, you can think of it as an upscale Prius; in a literal sense, it's a much different vehicle, a technology-laden sedan — it has a trunk — that errs on the side of comfort over hyper-mileage.
Appearance: There's nothing that shouts "hybrid" in the design. (The only clue is a discreet badge on the lower-body chrome trim and the "hybrid blue" background in the Lexus logo.) The sedan has a slightly sporty look with subtle lines. The wraparound LED headlights blend in with the chrome grille for a clean look. And about that three-bar grille: It reminds Peter of the Ford Fusion or, ironically, Honda's Insight hybrid.
Performance: The 4-cylinder mill, the same as on Toyota's Camry hybrid, produces a respectable 187 horsepower, and pulls the car from 0 to 60 in 8.45 seconds. That's plenty for your daily drive, but we suspect most buyers will be most interested in these numbers: 35 city, 34 highway. For a Lexus, that's outstanding. But compared with its cousin, the Toyota Prius (51 city, 48 highway), it's just so-so. Still, in addition to the hybrid technology, there are other features to make the HS 250h more eco-friendly, such as an exhaust-heat recovery system to warm up the engine faster when it's cold, and windshields that block infrared rays to keep the interior cooler. There is a choice of driving modes, from the most efficient EV (which relies mostly on electricity) to ECO (a combination of gas and electric) and Power Mode (push the button when you need a boost of acceleration).
Interior: The HS 250h is loaded with features and gadgets, as you might expect from a Lexus: plush 10-way leather seats, dual climate zones, seat memory. The angled center console makes it easy to see and use its controls. It features a mouse — sorry, "Remote Touch controller" — that controls the cursor on the LCD; no more dial controls or touch screen. We both liked all the gadgetry, such as the Driver Attention Monitor that senses if you are not paying attention and sounds a warning, and the Lane Keep Assist, which warns if you begin to drift. The cabin itself is roomy, with eye-pleasing ambient blue lighting on the controller as well as in the white-on-black gauges. One thing about the two-tone interior that stood out was some of the plastic seems more Toyota economy than Lexus luxury.
Our 3 favorites
Touch Tracer: Shows what buttons you're pushing on the steering wheel controls in the Heads Up Display.
Wide-view front monitor: Let's you see what's around your bumpers.
The "mouse": It's easy to use.
Heads Up Display: Keeps your eyes on the road.
Eco plastics: The plastics in the interior are plant-based, not petroleum.
Automatic sound leveler: Adjusts the volume of sound system to overcome noises.
The bottom line: If you want a little luxury and also want to assuage any guilt that comes with that, then this sedan is for you. The only question: Is the price worth the so-so (for a hybrid) mpg numbers?