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2011 Lexus HS Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Lexus HS was new.


Performance: 7.7

Most upscale cars, including upscale hybrids, place performance above fuel economy. However, it doesn't make sense to compare the HS' performance to that of other cars in its price range. In that sense, it is more like a Prius than it is like a Lexus ES or an Acura TL. Even that comparison isn't perfect, because the HS represents a different set of trade-offs than the Prius. It's quicker and more athletic than the Toyota hybrid, but doesn't equal the fuel-efficiency of its Prius cousin. Reviewers, then, hesitate to compare it to anything.

Test drivers say the HS would meet the day-to-day needs of most drivers well. Its acceleration is respectable and its handling is fairly sharp for a hybrid, though some say its steering is still a bit numb. Hybrid shoppers will note that its 35 mpg combined fuel economy rating is impressive for an entry-level luxury car, but significantly below the 50 mpg the Prius can claim.

  • "How to describe the HS driving experience? ‘Efficient'? Yes. ‘Soothing'? Maybe. ‘Luxurious'? Mostly. ‘Exciting'? No. It's just not the car's mission." -- Motor Trend
  • "The car isn't just frugal on gas, it's equally parsimonious with emissions: 70% fewer smog-forming emissions find their way out of the tailpipe compared to conventional vehicles, and evaporative emissions are close to zero." --Autoblog
  • "In daily city driving, the HS gets the job done well, relaxed and amply powered in traffic. On hills the CVT powertrain can motorboat a bit under hard throttle, but on the whole the HS is a quiet and refined ride." -- Road and Track
  • "Putzing around Newport Beach in the HS250h, we noticed a canyon of difference between the two modes and a commensurate difference between the resulting fuel economy, as well. Employing our best hypermiling techniques in eco mode for many miles, we eked the HS250 to over 42 mpg-although we assure you we made few friends among our fellow drivers along the way. In power mode, we enjoyed crisper acceleration, of course, but had a hard time getting mileage anywhere above the high 20s." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power:

Once up to speed, the HS250h feels like a luxury sedan. But it takes longer to get there than other luxury cars.

The HS uses largely the same drivetrain as the Toyota Camry Hybrid, mating a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine to a pair of electric motors for a total output of 187 horsepower. But reviewers say the power comes on gradually.

The car has three drive modes - Eco, Power and EV. Set to EV, it is a purely electric car. Reviewers say the EV mode has limited utility - the car can only travel that way for up to two miles at very low speed, but the setting does allow drivers to navigate parking lots without using any gasoline. In Eco mode, the powertrain is biased toward fuel economy and accelerates slowly. In Power mode, the bias shifts, allowing the car to accelerate more like a gasoline-powered sedan but managing less economical gas consumption.

The EPA rates the HS for 35 mpg in city driving and 34 on the highway, but in practice, reviewers have managed much higher and much lower figures by experimenting with the three modes.

  • "In spite of the HS250h's alleged acceleration advantage, the Prius and the HS250h feel virtually identical from behind the electrically assisted steering wheel (which, in the HS250h, unlike in the Prius, is thankfully not ovoid)." -- Car and Driver
  • "Floor the throttle from a stop and it takes about 20 feet before real power arrives. Particularly in Sport mode, throttle response at any speed above a crawl is nearly instant if not particularly strong, making the HS feel lively in around-town traffic...though highway merging and passing power is limited." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The HS never feels slow, not even in Eco mode, which was our favorite and coincidentally the slowest driving mode possible." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking:

Reviewers are typically impressed with the handling dynamics of the 2011 HS. All hybrids use electric steering, which will feel lighter and less communicative than the pneumatic power steering most drivers are accustomed to -- but Lexus has done a good job with it on the HS, and fewer reviewers seem to complain of numb handling than we see with most hybrids. Those particularly concerned with handling might want 18 inch wheels. They're standard on the Premium trim, and available on the base trim with the addition of the Touring package.

  • "After driving it in the hills surrounding Los Angeles, the handling gets a thumbs-up from us. If you get the Touring Package, the suspension is tuned for even sportier handling. And if the truth be known, the package added up to a car that we thought handled better than the rear-drive IS Convertible." -- Autoblog
  • "We recommend the Touring package, which includes larger 18-inch wheels, sportier suspension tuning, a rear spoiler, and aluminum-trimmed pedals. It makes the car handle more responsively and feel better planted, with no loss in ride quality." -- Motor Trend
  • "Body lean is well controlled in fast turns. Steering feels somewhat dead and slow on-center and lacks road feel, but is light for good low-speed maneuverability." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Road feel is pretty much zero, even with the optional 18-inch wheels and 225/45-series tires. However, the steering response is direct and reasonably quick" -- Car and Driver

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