More useful when moving is Lexus' improved voice command system, which now responds to more natural commands such as "Take me home" or "Call Jim at work," rather than more formal "Destination, address, San Francisco..." prompts. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the system to respond to our loose requests, such as "Take me to a gas station," "Turn up the heat," or "Make me a sandwich," and we found ourselves reverting to the standard prompts for the sake of getting things done. Fortunately, the system did a great job of understanding all but the most oddly pronounced street names when entering an address, so we still found its performance to be satisfactory.
Turn-by-turn directions are fed through an optional 7.1 surround Mark Levinson premium audio system, but perhaps a better use of the 15 speakers would be for listening to one of the HS' many audio sources. Joining a six-disc DVD/CD changer and AM/FM/XM radio are an analog auxiliary input and a USB port with iPod connectivity. Navigating an iPod's large music library is sluggish, but doable. However, we'd recommend that you figure out what you want to hear before you hit the road for minimal frustration. Standard Bluetooth hands-free calling also brings with it Bluetooth audio streaming. Unfortunately, the Toyota/Lexus system still requires that you pair for calling and audio separately, which can be frustrating. Although Lexus' system is hard drive-based, there is no jukebox function that lets users rip their music to the hard drive.
The HS is available with a number of safety features that are new to Lexus cars, many of which are camera based. In fact, fully equipped, the HS features no fewer than five cameras. For example, Lane Keep Assist uses a front-mounted camera to detect lane markers. When the vehicle sees that it is drifting out of its lane, it nudges the electric power steering to pull the vehicle back in to the proper lane. A second front-mounted camera is part of the Intelligent High Beam system, which monitors the road ahead for headlamps and taillights and dims the high beams so as not to dazzle other drivers. A third forward-facing camera gives the driver a 190-degree view of the road ahead, which is useful for peeking into intersections when your side-to-side view is obstructed. Of course, an optional rearview camera works in tandem with proximity sensors to make parking easier and safer.
An interesting feature is a small camera that mounts on the steering column as part of an optional collision detection package. This camera watches the driver's face to discern whether they are paying attention to the road ahead. If not, the system will intervene in the event of imminent collision or lane drift to grab the driver's attention.
In addition to camera-based safety features, the HS has more conventional safety options, such as blind spot monitoring and radar-guided adaptive cruise control.
With a base price of $34,200, the Lexus HS250h at its cheapest is 50 percent more expensive than the base 2010 Prius. Start adding on features, however, and the price can quickly balloon.
Our HS250h is a $36,970 Premium trim model, which adds a larger wheel and tire package, as well as wood trim, power memory seats with heated surfaces, and the capability to add many advanced tech options. From there, add $2,125 for the navigation package with the Remote Touch interface, $1,580 for the Mark Levinson premium audio, $500 for park assist proximity sensors, $350 for the backup camera, and $750 for the wide view front camera to reach an as-tested price of $43,150 (including the $875 destination charge).
We haven't even added the additional $2,700 it would take to add the Lane Keep Assist system and radar-guided cruise control and collision detection, or the $1,805 for the Adaptive Front Lighting system with its intelligent high beams. Fully optioned, an HS250h runs just shy of $50,000, which is a pretty penny for "entry-level luxury."
|Model||2010 Lexus HS250h|
|Power train||2.4-liter 4-cylinder hybrid synergy drive|
|EPA fuel economy||35 mpg city/33 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||29.1 mpg|
|Navigation||optional, hard drive-based, XM NavTraffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||standard, voice control, audio streaming|
|Disc player||6-disc DVD/CD changer w/ MP3, WMA playback|
|MP3 player support||USB port with iPod support, auxiliary analog input|
|Other digital audio||XM satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming|
|Audio system||15-speaker Mark Levinson premium 7.1 surround|
|Driver aids||rear view camera, front wide view camera, park distance control|
|Price as tested||$43,150 (including $875 destination)|
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