12 January 2009

Detroit show: Lexus HS250h

The covers are off Lexus’s Prius-based luxury hybrid. It’s like an LS600h for small people

Lexus LS250h

Lexus has unveiled what it calls ‘the world’s first dedicated luxury hybrid’ at the Detroit show, the HS250h. If you’re thinking the LS600h did a pretty decent job of being a dedicated luxury hybrid, here’s the difference: the HS250h is  - like the Prius – a standalone model that’ll only be available as a hybrid.

There’s a lot more shared with the Prius here, too. The platform is shared with the third generation of Toyota’s family hybrid (which’ll be unveiled here at Detroit tomorrow). Though the HS250h looks superficially similar to the Lexus IS range, it’s completely different underneath – the HS250h is front-wheel drive while the IS is rear-wheel driven.

The HS250h’s drivetrain is similar to the Pruis, but with a bigger engine for a bit more performance: where the Prius makes do with a 1.5-litre engine, the HS250h gets a 2.4-litre petrol four-pot putting out 187bhp. Combined with the electric motor, Lexus says that – on the US combined cycle at least - HS250h should return better fuel economy than a petrol Smart ForTwo. Impressive stuff.

There’s plenty of clever tech on board, too – a heads-up display and Toyota’s fancy iDrive-style interface, as well as a lane departure prevention system and collision mitigation technology. Phew.

The HS250h will go on sale this summer, and though we’re yet to hear prices, Lexus says it expects to sell around 35,000 units a year. Would you bet against it?

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